Human hands working on custom UI, UX, website design.

In 2024, almost every law firm needs to have a website. Your website conveys who you are, what you do, why clients should choose your firm, and how to connect with you. For many visitors, including prospective clients and opposing counsel, your law firm website creates the first impression of your firm. It’s not an exaggeration to say that a bad website can cost you business.

That's why it’s important to get that website right.

Key Takeaways

  • A law firm website that matches your brand is key to attracting the right clients
  • Work with a web designer who understands law firms’ particular marketing needs
  • Purely template-based sites are cost-effective, but lack distinctiveness
  • Fully custom websites require a significant commitment of time and resources
  • Hybrid website design offers the best of both worlds: uniqueness and efficiency

Building A Website the Resonates with Your Potential Clients

“A poorly thought-out website can really backfire,” according to Kristin Lay, Director of Website Design and Service at the Modern Firm. “Think of family law. That’s always a good, easy example to understand. On one side, you’ve got your aggressive, pit bull divorce attorney. On the flip side of that, you’ve got your collaborative, mediation-focused, ‘keep everyone on good terms’-type of family law attorney. If you’re the mediation-first family law attorney, and you end up with a pit bull divorce attorney website, that’s sort of a disaster: the clients you get aren’t going to be happy with what you suggest, and the clients you want are never going to call because the website sends totally the wrong message.” 

That makes sense. So how do you get a law firm website that resonates with the clients you want? Traditionally, most web design firms have either offered fully custom websites, or relied on a generic template-based process for cranking out websites quickly. There are pros and cons to both approaches, but often, neither one fully meets a law firm’s needs.

Fully Custom Website Design

The benefits of a custom law firm website are obvious: the site is built from scratch and designed to your firm’s specifications, usually after extensive consultation with your team. The cons are also fairly obvious—customization can involve a significant investment of time and resources. If your law firm has plenty of both, and the website achieves the firm’s goals, that’s no problem.

Unfortunately, your investment in a custom website may not pay off if your web designer doesn't understand the unique needs and constraints of online marketing for law firms. According to Diego Aguirre, Creative Director at The Modern Firm:

“A lot of clients end up coming to us after having a custom website fully designed and coded and taken live by other agencies. At first glance, it’s an impressive site, incredibly flashy, aesthetically slick, with all the trendy bells and whistles. But as somebody who spends every single day wireframing websites from scratch for clients, I can immediately tell when something has been done just because that designer was following web design trends, versus a thoughtful decision being made to suit the needs of a law firm. There’s a big difference there.”

A custom website might capture your firm’s personality, and even speak to your ideal clients. But it won’t necessarily perform well over time or convert the quality leads you need for your law firm to grow.

Template-Based Website Design

The primary alternative to a fully custom website is a template-based website. In this scenario, the web design firm offers you a selection of pre-fabricated layouts. You pick one, fill out a form or questionnaire, tick some boxes, and supply them with “collaterals” (e.g., an image of your logo, photos of the lawyers on your team, completed bios, etc.) The design firm then tweaks the colors on your chosen template, swaps in some fresh stock photos, plops in your collaterals, and you’re good to go.

The final product of a template website tends to be consistent and lower in cost than custom websites. Provided the templates the company uses are built according to best practices (in terms of aesthetics and performance), the result can be satisfactory. In some ways, a templated website is like a fast-food meal: good enough if you’re in a hurry, but far from distinctive, and probably not good for you in the long term.

“Fifteen years ago, a pick-a-number, template-based website was fine,” Kristin Lay points out. “Not everybody had a website, so just being online was certainly good enough. But (those sites are) embarrassing if you look at them now, and often don’t perform well in terms of search visibility or digital marketing. It’s really become much more important that you have some of your own personality and meaningful brand integration in your websites—that the website says something about you.”

Hybrid Website Design for Law Firms

The Modern Firm has decades of experience building law firm websites, working predominantly with smaller firms and solo practitioners. In that time, The Modern Firm has grown to embrace a hybrid approach to website design. A hybrid design process borrows the best elements from both a fully custom web design process and a templated design process, preserving the advantages of both. 

The Modern Firm designers take a custom approach to important elements of branding and messaging while strategically deploying from our in-house library of customizable design elements that they know will work reliably.

“For example,” Kristin Lay explains, “We like to be more custom when it comes to the homepage. One way that Diego has described the homepage, which I like, is that this is the cover of the book. It needs to clearly communicate what your firm is about, just at a glance. So we want to have ultimate flexibility there, because it needs to suit the firm and their clients. But as Diego said earlier, we have a lot of experience specifically building websites that work great for lawyers. We’ve established many best practices that we know work, and encapsulated them in our own library of elements that we can reuse and know will perform.” This approach streamlines the website creation process, controlling expense without sacrificing the site’s individuality or function.

Collaborating with The Modern Firm

The Modern Firm’s hybrid design approach is collaborative and completely tailored to the client. It begins with an onboarding meeting that’s entirely focused on branding and messaging. The goal of the call is to really understand the law firm’s core values, approach to practice, and ideal clients. Knowledge gained in the call is distilled into a branding platform document that ensures The Modern Firm’s designers, developers, and writers are–literally–on the same page as they prepare to build a site that authentically represents the law firm to its target market. 

With that understanding, The Modern Firm’s designers can bring together website design elements—some from our library of reusable elements, others entirely custom-made—to ensure that the website will best support the firm’s goals and reach its preferred audience. They then put their heads together with the client to tweak mock-ups of the site until they are just what the client wants

At the same time, and in the same collaborative way, The Modern Firm’s writers draft and revise written content with the client’s input. Busy attorneys can have all of their written copy—from the homepage, to the attorney profiles, to the practice areas—written by The Modern Firm’s writers, all of whom are or have been attorneys themselves.

Unlike many law firm website design firms, The Modern Firm doesn’t expect lawyers to furnish their own finished, ready-to-publish pages. Nor do they rely on AI-generated text or copy churned out by “content mills” with no understanding of the law.

Take the Next Step to Develop the Best Marketing Plan for Your Firm

The Modern Firm helps firms manage every aspect of their online presence and digital marketing, from creating or updating a website to ongoing advertising and SEO campaigns. Using a calculated combination of both templated and customized elements allows us to help clients achieve their goals efficiently and cost-effectively. As Kristin Lay says: “We will always do what’s in the best interest of the client.” 

As the saying goes, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” If you want a law firm website that showcases your unique firm in its best light, we can help. Please contact us or email to start the conversation with our team.