How to Merge Websites when Lawyers Join Forces
Lawyers are social animals — specifically, social butterflies. Throughout their careers, most will find themselves switching firms, practices, and focuses more than a few times. According to the American Bar Association, just 1% of all law school grads start a solo practice immediately after law school – but about a quarter are solo practitioners at some point. A longitudinal study out of Harvard estimates that the average lawyer in their first 12 years of practice changes firms or moves from a solo practice to a partnership or larger organization every two to three years. That makes lawyers (especially younger ones) nearly twice as mobile as their peers (according to statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics).
This certainly reflects what we see, as a web design and online marketing firm specializing in websites for lawyers. Right after splitting sites when partners go separate ways, merging sites when lawyers join forces is among our top services.
Merging sites and digital assets might seem daunting. But experienced web developers can help. They'll make sure that you end up with a website that doesn't just cobble together bits and pieces from your old pages, but instead supercharges your web presence.
Two Scenarios for Merging Websites
There are two approaches to merging your web presences:
- Keep and expand one of the existing websites
- Create a totally new website from scratch
In either case, you'll likely choose to reuse existing material (e.g., bios, articles, pages covering your practice areas, blog posts – even entire blogs, with years of posts, can be migrated to a new site).
Having a body of material to draw on is always a huge benefit. But it's important to understand that "reusing" existing content is more than just copy-&-paste. Old content will need revision, not just for accuracy but to ensure that voice, style, and depth all match and support each other.
OPTION #1: Keep and Expand
Keeping an existing website and expanding makes a lot of sense, provided the following are all true:
- One of the existing websites ranks well with search engines
- That site looks good
- The site is current with technology, security and compliance standards
- That site is on-brand for the new practice
Keeping one of the sites and adding to it simply because it's the better of the two (or only one partner had a site to begin with) doesn't usually work out well – for the same reason that scrawling "& McGill" onto your "Jackson, Jackson, & Green, Attorneys-at-Law" letterhead doesn't work out well. Either it ends up looking cheap or needs so much careful touching up that it would have been more cost effective to simply scrap the old site and start over.
But when you have a solid website to build from – one with good search engine visibility, aesthetics that reflect your practice, and a name and identity that encompass your entirely new practice – expanding that site can work wonderfully. You and your web designers will work together to strategically weave in content from the other lawyer’s sites and then update page navigation to include the new attorneys and their specialties.
One note: be sure that all the lawyers in the newly combined firm end up presented on the same footing. That usually includes email addresses, social profiles, business profiles, and bios, and may mean getting new headshots. It looks dodgy if your website is at JacksonvilleLawPartners.com and one partner is "simon@JacksonvilleLawPartners.com" while another is "firstname.lastname@example.org" and the third is "MrBaseball666@hotmail.com". Likewise, if two of the headshots were clearly shot by the same professional photographer, it will make the third – clipped from a group snapshot at the last company BBQ – really stick out.
OPTION #2: Create a New Site
Even if one or more of the members of the newly formed firm have a good website, it's still more common to choose to create a totally new law firm website when merging practices.
In this case, you and your web team can still draw from the best of the content currently spread across their various sites and profiles. But it will all be revised and rewritten by experienced copywriters, then brought together under a totally new domain name – one that best reflects the new firm – with new branding and web design.
What Should Now-Defunct Law Firms Do With Old Domains After Merger?
As we've discussed in the past, it's extremely important that lawyers and law firms hold on to old domain names – even if they are no longer needed at all. This isn't just a good marketing and business practice, but also a matter of security. (For a complete discussion of this issue, check out this post covering best practices for handling old domains safely.)
When merging websites, everyone should hold onto their old domain names, even if they aren't being used to host the new site. Your web design provider will adjust settings so that these domains automatically redirect visitors to your new domain name and website.
By working with an experienced web developer who knows how to properly make these transitions, you'll preserve your standing in the eyes of search engines. In fact, because you'll have several old valid domains pointing to the same new one – and thus, in essence, granting this new site their "authority" on legal topics – it's likely that the new site will see an SEO boost, making it more visible to search engines and potential clients than your old sites.
Your web developers or email hosting service can likewise help you make sure that all old email addresses redirect to new valid ones, automatically forwarding mail for the foreseeable future.
Handling Third-Party Digital Assets
The one hiccup in all of this are business profiles hosted on third-party platforms, like Google Business. In most cases, these cannot be merged. If Makenzie Castillo joins Martin Amaya and Mya Norris in their practice, the only option is to retire the existing profiles for "The Law offices of Makenzie Castillo" and "Amaya & Norris, PLLC," then start over from scratch with "CAN Law Partners."
That said, Google (and some other platforms) let attorneys have individual Google Business pages for themselves (as attorneys) in addition to the page for the firm itself. So, "The Law offices of Makenzie Castillo" could convert their Google Business page to "Makenzie Castillo, Attorney" and indicate they work at the new "CAN Law Partners."
LinkedIn is similar. You can make a new LinkedIn business page for CAN Law Partners and have each attorney update their personal profiles to indicate that they work for CAN Law. They can then add a final post to their business old LinkedIn page (if they had one separate from their personal profile) indicating that they've joined forces and formed CAN Law Partners.
Presenting Your New Firm to the World
Merging sites and digital assets can seem daunting. But experienced web developers can help. At The Modern Firm we've built our entire practice around making sure that lawyers can put their best foot forward online. That's included countless web-presence mergers. Need some help getting your websites squared? We're happy to help.