One look at most lawyer websites in India and you can see there is a lot that’s left to be desired: designs from the 1990s, unstructured layouts, poor choice of stock images, a lack of simple and easy navigation system and a complete disregard to the fact that websites need to be mobile friendly. On top of that, most websites have poor choices of title tags and content – something that reflects the Indian lawyer’s compulsion of talking/drafting in paragraphs instead of sentences.
Run a Google search for “Lawyers in Delhi” and you will see a list of websites; all poorly designed, difficult to comprehend and usually grandstand. And if you are browsing any of these websites on your mobile phone, it just turns into a nightmare. It comes as no surprise that most lawyers haven’t come to appreciate the importance of a website – because the few who have, haven’t done it right and certainly haven’t benefitted from it.
Let’s take a look at some of the essential considerations that must not be ignored while setting up a website for a lawyer or a law firm. While each of these topics deserve a dedicated post on their own, I am limiting myself to introducing the concepts so it can be used as a checklist if you are looking to put up a website together.
A very important and time consuming aspect of a corporate lawyer in India is to find information made available on the different websites run by the Central and State governments of India and the various regulatory bodies like the RBI, DIPP, IRDA and the like. Government websites are known to be badly designed and structured and do not make it easy to find something unless you know exactly what you want. Because they are equally unfriendly to search engines, many-a-times, one has to go through pages of search results from other independent websites before spotting the PDF or publication directly from the government.
The Google Search Engine as we know it (available on www.google.co.in) indexes and shows all the websites that allow the search engines to crawl and index their pages. What if you could tell Google that you only want it to display results from a particular set of websites – a list of websites you often visit for specific information or a particular type of websites and specifically include websites which you know have no value to your research but somehow, still manage to find a place in the search results?
While I am sure many would already know about the Google Custom Search engine and are using it for faster and smarter research, I hope some of you find this article helpful.
Lawyers in India have either ignored or are not prepared for the digital world. While almost everyone is online personally, their practices aren’t. The few lawyers and firms who do have websites, have mostly failed to capitalize on the opportunities that the internet presents. If you have been looking for reasons why you should get a website for your practice, here are 7 that should help you convince yourself and your colleagues.
As per the rules of the Bar Council of India, we are not permitted to solicit work and advertise. By clicking on the “I agree” below, the user acknowledges the following:
The information provided under this website is solely available at your request for informational purposes only, should not be interpreted as soliciting or advertisement. We are not liable for any consequence of any action taken by the user relying on material / information provided under this website. In cases where the user has any legal issues, he/she in all cases must seek independent legal advice.
This is an example of a standard disclaimer that is used by lawyers on their websites. If you click agree, you can proceed to the website. If you disagree, you are redirected to a blank page.
To understand why the disclaimer is there on almost all lawyer websites in India, we need to understand Part V of the Bar Council of India Rules which explains an advocate’s duty towards one’s colleagues. It specifically prohibits an advocate from doing the following:
“solicit work or advertise, either directly or indirectly, whether by circulars, advertisements, touts, personal communications, interviews not warranted by personal relations, furnishing or inspiring newspaper comments or producing his photographs to be published in connection with cases in which he has been engaged or concerned.”
In October 2008, the Bar Council of India, through a resolution, noted that maintaining a website giving only basic information about the names and number of lawyers in a law firm, the contact details and areas of practice would not amount to “soliciting work or advertise.” What also followed was a Schedule that listed the format for the information. (See http://www.barcouncilofindia.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/BCIRulesPartVonwards.pdf for the complete rules on the issue and the schedule to the website exception.)
Law is a not a kind profession; more so if you are a first generation lawyer. If you haven’t graduated from a top national law school with a decent rank and grade point average, chances are that you may be in a job market that does not want to hire you and you are looking to start a law practice, most probably with a senior counsel. I am not suggesting that litigation is only for those who cannot manage a job – but its certainly not for the faint hearted. A few years pass by and you now feel ready to start on your own – but only if it was so easy to develop a steady clientele!
The biggest problem you face is that you do not have grey hair and age to show for experience; something that acts as a big hurdle in convincing clients that you are more than good enough for the job and that you command a respectable fee for doing it. You obviously cannot bring age and experience on your side; but you can compensate for that by creating a brand out of your practice. It will not happen overnight, but these simple steps will send the right message to your prospective and existing clients.
For every hour of television, we are bombarded with at least 15-20 minutes of advertising. In that time, advertisers are scrambling for our attention with 10-30 second advertisements – thats about 20-50 advertisements every hour of TV. In the days of Doordarshan and remote-less TVs, the viewer had no option but to watch your ad and hence, we still remember several iconic ads from the early 90s. However, with the advent of satellite television and more than 200 channels vying for our attention (and the TRP), it is much more difficult today to get a viewer to remember your ad the next day.
To tackle this, some companies come up with new ads every now and then while some increase the frequency with which their ads are shown. The phenomenon increases when cricket matches are on. I have found myself, on several occasions, annoyed with the same ad repeating 2-3 times during a cricket tournament.
Ads are a way to forcefully get your attention and while they seem to work for big corporations or certain kinds of products, unfortunately many businesses fall in this trap and try to join the so called big league of TV advertisers at any cost.