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legal.online, Column No. 40, June 1998
Copyright 1998 Robert J. Ambrogi
You Asked For It!
A Look At Readers' Web Sites
By Robert J. Ambrogi
Our e-mail in box is always brimming with messages from readers asking, "Why don't you review my Web site?"
Well, OK, you asked for it. At the risk of losing a few readers, let's turn a critical eye to some of the sites you have submitted.
Reviews are listed in order of their ratings, from five stars for highest to one for lowest, and alphabetically within each level.
Damon Key Leong Kupchak Hastert, http://www.hawaiilawyer.com. The front page of a Web site, like the reception room of an office, says a lot about a firm. Some take the minimalist approach; others seem cluttered and haphazard. This 23-lawyer Honolulu firm's front page offers a variety of information, presented in a format that is interesting and elegant. The design is like a magazine cover, with a lead article, an index of what is inside, teasers about important alerts and significant articles, and pointers to information about the firm. Like a well-designed magazine cover, the page draws visitors in. Once inside, the site is rich in useful, practical information.
Law Offices of Carl Shusterman, http://www.shusterman.com. For sheer content, the site of this four-lawyer Los Angeles immigration firm stands out, with more than 400 articles on immigration law and a library of downloadable forms. The firm updates the site several times a week, adding news and recent developments. Shusterman is the "immigration expert" for MCI Telecommunications, and the site includes links to three bilingual MCI sites featuring immigration information for Indians, Chinese and Hispanics. The design is busy, with a front page crowded with bulletins, menus and other information. But this also eases navigation, with links on the page to the entire site's content.
Mallesons Stephen Jaques, http://www.msj.com.au. This Australian firm -- with 650 lawyers worldwide -- has a superior site, attractive in its design, useful in its content, and easy to navigate. The main page features a distinctive array of buttons that lead to each of the major content areas. A separate "Client Access" button describes the firm's plan to provide clients with secure access to an internationally accessible "extranet" that will allow them to follow work in progress and obtain firm updates. Visitors can search for a lawyer by name or browse lists organized by expertise and location. A library of newsletters covers 11 practice areas. The entire site or any single section can be searched.
McGuire, Woods, Battle & Boothe, http://www.mwbb.com. A reader wrote to suggest this site, commenting that it "knocks the socks off" other sites. "It's just been redesigned, is attractive, functional yet relatively low bandwidth," the reader explained. "No annoying frames, and incredible links and publications online." We couldn't have said it better. This 450-plus lawyer firm, with offices throughout the world, has a site that is elegant and rich in content.
O'Melveny & Myers, http://www.omelveny.com. With more than 600 lawyers worldwide, this Los Angeles-based firm is a giant. It describes its site as "a gateway to the legal minds, resources and services" of the firm, and the site lives up to that promise. Its design is clean and sophisticated, its content rich, and it is extremely easy to navigate.
Parsons Behle & Latimer, http://www.pblutah.com. This Utah firm's site could serve as a template for designers, incorporating key elements in a simple but professional presentation. It includes complete information on the firm's attorneys, with biographies, photos and e-mail addresses. A library of newsletters contains substantive articles covering major practice areas. A standard navigation bar assists in moving around the site, and the entire site can be searched.
Randy B. Singer, http://www.mother.com/~randy/rbs.html. Some lawyers' Web sites are for potential clients, others for existing clients, but Singer's site is for us lawyers. This San Franciscan has woven a web of sites united in their goal of making the practice of law a little easier. Singer's is actually four distinct sites:
Ablondi, Foster, Sobin & Davidow, http://www.ablondifoster.com. This 15-lawyer business firm, based in Washington, D.C., makes effective use of hyperlinking in its site design, tying substantive content to general firm information. The heart of the site is its library, which consists almost entirely of articles from the firm's newsletter. The site uses the library in a way that makes it seem even more substantive than it is, providing links into the library from various areas. It takes awhile before you realize that these various pages all link to the same articles. A weakness is the lack of a search engine.
Gillespie Young Watson, http://www.gywlaw.co.nz. This small New Zealand firm proves that although the Web is worldwide, it can be an effective marketing tool in your hometown. The focus is local; that is made clear through statements such as, "The firm has a long association with the Hutt Valley (where it is located). Six of our nine partners are Hutt Valley residents." Its featured offering is "The Home Buyers Internet Roadmap," a guide for local home buyers that not only explains the legal process, but also provides links to local lenders, local interest rates, mortgage calculators, and even local realtors.
Puff & Aimino, http://www.puff-aimino.com. Some lawyers fear that offering free advice on the Web can be self-defeating. This four-lawyer New Jersey firm proves that a little advice can go a long way in establishing good will and a solid reputation. It offers a selection of informative primers that answer everyday questions, such as, "If I fell in the local mall, am I entitled to compensation?" and "What are the landlord's obligations with regard to the security deposit?"
Sadi Abdin Law Firm, http://www.abdin-lawfirm.com. Based in Amman, Jordan, this firm has created a site that is deceptively simple and strikingly effective. The front page provides a concise profile of the firm, its practice areas and the partners. A minimum of links provides basic information about Jordanian intellectual property law. The home page can be viewed in any one of six languages.
Severe, http://www.concentric.net/~Severe1. Devoted to Social Security disability law, this site is the product of David A. Bryant & Associates, Chicago. For lawyers who practice in this field, this is a soup-to-nuts site, with the text of all laws and regulations, downloadable forms, the Social Security litigation manual, a listing of impairments, and current news.
Bricker & Eckler, http://www.bricker.com. With more than 100 lawyers, this is one of Ohio's largest firms. Its site includes most features one would expect -- practice-area descriptions, directory of lawyers, firm history -- but is lacking in content. There is a page for articles and publications, but it remains "under construction." The site's initial page leads to a second, index page; both are simple and attractive. But the remainder of the site suffers from an inconsistent layout. There are no standard navigation buttons and some pages do not even identify the firm. Font styles and background colors vary. Some pages use frames, others do not. A link to "Technology Services" has a surprise -- a page promoting Web design services by the firm, featuring green, red and black lettering against a bright blue background.
Law Offices of Joshua T. Heard, http://www.lawofficesjth.com. Here's a twist: free legal advice. This Los Angeles solo invites visitors to e-mail a question or problem to him and he will answer it according to California law. His nicely designed site also allows downloading of law office software he developed.
U.S. Visa News, http://www.usvisanews.com. From a design point of view, this site, of a Florida immigration firm, is like plaid pants. But for substance, it is jam-packed, delivering immigration news culled from a variety of sources. A recent visit found stories current to the day. Beyond the headlines are discussions of various aspects of immigration law and other practical information.
Ford Marrin Esposito Witmeyer Gleser, http://www.fmew.com. This site, that of a 25-lawyer New York City firm, has little to recommend it. The page opens with a paragraph intended to describe the firm philosophy, but that is so long and winding as to be incomprehensible. The overall design is unimpressive. The site is redeemed by its collection of articles written exclusively for the site on various topics of Internet law.
Adams & Wilson, http://www.adams-wilson.com. When this two-lawyer, Everett, Wash., firm unveiled its site, it posted an article explaining why. One reason, it said, was to introduce strangers to the firm. This the site accomplishes, in a simple but attractive format. More importantly, the article continued, the site would provide a forum to communicate with clients. The article promised reviews and synopses of important court decisions as they were released, articles on significant cases, and various topical articles. To date, the firm has posted only a two-paragraph description of escrow and an announcement regarding a staff member -- no case reports, no synopses, no other articles. Never make promises you cannot keep.
Robert J. Ambrogi (firstname.lastname@example.org), a lawyer in Rockport, Mass., is editor of the Internet newsletter legal.online, http://www.legalonline.com. Past installments of this column are archived at: http://www.legaline.com.