Historically, law firms have faced an interesting dilemma when it comes to their websites.
At their core, most law firm sites — be it a firm with two attorneys or 2,000 attorneys — used to more or less be the same. There would obviously be a homepage that gives a high-level overview of what the firm does. There would be a specialties page. There would be biography pages that feature the backgrounds and expertise of each attorney at the firm.
Photo by Samuel Zeller
Because of the similarities in content, many firms would purchase the license for a proprietary content management system that was built specifically for law firms. This type of CMS would include the common elements required for a law firm website.
The setup makes sense. So, what’s the dilemma?
The licensing fees.
We’ve heard from clients about licensing fees that cost upward of $60,000 a year. That is a lot of money just to get the ability to operate your website. At some point in the past six years or so, a change began to happen. Law firms began to move away from the proprietary CMS structure and instead opt for an open source platform like Drupal or WordPress. The firms are then taking the money that would have gone to licenses and invested it within the open source platform to improve user experience or integrate their website with their database.
This new approach is a far better investment for firms over time.
Beyond the cost, opting for an open source platform makes sense because it allows the firms to benefit from thousands of developers around the world who are constantly refining the platform. Changes are quicker to market on open source platforms like Drupal, for example, because developers are continually contributing to Drupal.org. With a proprietary CMS, you have to deal with developers who have their own schedules and are beholden to what the proprietary systems’ developers determine is an appropriate queue for updates.
If a law firm decides to make the jump to an open source platform, the next decision to make is between WordPress and Drupal. A lot of firms opt for WordPress because of the ease of setup or because it has more out of the box functionality. In the last few years, though, we’ve witnessed more firms lean toward Drupal for a couple reasons.
First off, while law firm websites historically were pretty static, more and more firms are now producing content-driven websites. At Duo, we feel WordPress websites can’t handle content-heavy sites in the same way Drupal can. Beyond that, Drupal offers substantially more integrations into other best-of-breed systems, like email marketing or internal databases. What this means is that Drupal can give a small firm with only a couple of attorneys the foundation and functionality that firms 100 times their size leverage every day.
One example of this is work we recently did for a leading law and government relations firm that primarily serves the high technology industry. Using Drupal, we made it possible for the site to automatically collect news stories related to specific services the firm offered. Every other hour, the module we used scans the Internet based on certain criteria and a cluster of keywords provided and pulls relevant news articles directly into the site. So rather than needing someone to create a new web page that links to an outside story about someone or something at the firm, that can now be done automatically.
That same type of content integration could easily be adapted to pull in stories about specific attorneys or cases related to a firm.
In addition to an increase in content, law firms have gotten more concerned with — and knowledgeable about — website security. Historically, one of the reasons firms went with the proprietary systems was because they thought it was more secure. In reality, that’s not the case. Every system is vulnerable to a certain extent, but with Drupal, because there are so many developers spread across the globe, bugs are plugged faster than any other system. When there is a security bug in Drupal, it also tends to be far less severe than bugs that impact either WordPress or proprietary systems.
In 2009, the Executive Office of the President of the United States relaunched Whitehouse.gov on Drupal. If the White House can feel satisfied about Drupal’s security, law firms can too.
I mentioned that law firms can use the money that would have gone to proprietary licenses to invest in unique customization options with open source platforms. At Duo, we’ve recently built a variety of upgrades and integrations for law firms big and small.
We also leverage the knowledge gained from building websites for more than 20 law firms to develop DuoLaw, a fully customizable Drupal 8 installation. This foundational tool is based on tested research and offers prebuilt elements, which means we are able to build law firm websites faster and at a lower cost than ever before.
DuoLaw is not a template; it’s a starting point that takes into account the common needs and elements for a law firm website. With DuoLaw, we are able to speed up our discovery process and focus exclusively on the unique needs of your firm. We’re focused on customizing from the start, as opposed to building a website from scratch. And no two sites built with DuoLaw need to look the same. We can provide unique functionality, layouts and treatments based on your specific requirements.
Is your law firm ready to take advantage of all that Drupal has to offer? We’d love to talk and see how we can help give your firm a website it can be proud of.