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January 2002
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Second Opinions

Second Opinions With so much emphasis on Web sites these days, and ever-increasingly sophisticated sites, how can law firms measure the success of a site? How do you quantify your "return on investment." How do you analyze the value of your site?

1. PER CASEY Tenrec Inc.

EVALUATING and measuring return on investment (R.O.I.) for a Web site can be a tricky proposition. The first essential step is in setting and quantifying your site's goals. Try to avoid the abstract benefits like "improved image" and focus on returns you can measure. Some possibilities are an increase in visitor traffic, longer site visits, better lead generation and a greater number of responses to job openings.

Once you've set the goals for the site, quantify them with a monetary value using hard data about the current costs where possible. What is a client lead worth? A summer associate applicant? A unique visitor to the Web site? Try not to be arbitrary about these values.

The next step is setting the baseline. Gather data on the benefits you are tracking. How many client leads typically come in each month? How many visitors does your current Web site get? How many students applied for the summer associate program? As far as the Web site traffic goes, even if you haven't been generating reports each month, the logs are typically kept by the server.

You can buy traffic reporting software, and have it look back in time and create reports for past performance.

The last step is measuring returns as you go forward. This means setting up processes for tracking your criteria over time. This could include building a response form into your Web site, asking whomever answers phone requests to ask new clients how they heard of the firm and even interviewing new clients or hires about how they were influenced by various collateral when making their decision.

An additional R.O.I. area worth considering is revenue. Yes, it is possible to sell through your Web site. Most firms are intrigued by the idea but are leery of following it through. In reality, it isn't that difficult. If it works for your firm and you have a product or products worth selling, put them online. Articles, document templates, even short briefs or advice can be delivered through a Web site.

Take a look at what LawCommerce.com sells. The good news is that, if your site is creating new revenue streams, the R.O.I. statement gets a lot easier to make.

2. LARRY BODINE www.LawMarketing.com

I MEASURE unique visitors and page views, using Net Tracker 5.0. I got sick of the incomplete and inaccurate reports from WebTrends and dropped it (it would fail to read entire days of traffic.) It produced fancy charts and also reams of useless information. Now I use the easy pull-down menus with Net Tracker, which will tell me instantly, for example, that the LawMarketing Portal got 11,478 unique visitors and 167,862 page views for October 2001.

Beyond that, I measure success of my Web site by how many advertisers I have, and how many leads it generates for my Web site usability consulting practice.

3. LAVERN PRITCHARD Pritchard Law Webs

HERE'S A philosophical answer to your question, more so than a quantitative one. Because law firms rarely provide legal services over the Web, the success of most Web sites comes in confirming and enhancing credibility, demonstrating capabilities, and explaining how the firm can indeed perform valuable services that are distinguishable from those others might provide. In short, does it really influence behavior the firm hopes will occur?

Beyond measuring various performance statistics of your own site, analyze:

* How, whether, and how often people initiate contacts with the firm after visiting the site.

* Whether and how often other sites on the Internet send some of their own visitors to your site because of its value.

* Whether and how often your own lawyers and staff, clients, and qualified potential clients consult your site.

* Who visits it and why is way more important than how many people visit it.

* Whether you have repeat visitors.

* Most importantly: Whether your own attorneys accept the site and genuinely integrate it into their own professional lives and marketing efforts.

A Web site that exists in a state of detachment from the firm's actual conduct of law practice will always remain an artificial appendage. A site through which the firm projects itself into the wider world more effortlessly than before will always be a genuinely valuable contribution to the firm's overall success.

A Web site is just a tool. The firm has to know why it is using it and what it expects to achieve. Because firms' goals vary tremendously--and some firms consciously aim low--if they achieve any success at all they are probably satisfied. Firms with more aggressive Web marketing agendas will define success differently and go about bringing it about more aggressively.

While numbers are critically important as feedback and to enable a firm to learn from its site, the numbers help mark the way toward a destination that is not so easily quantified but which is ultimately much more important -- does the Web site genuinely help the law firm practice law better and help it evolve into a 21st century organization capable of serving 21st century clients and their 21st century needs? (The answer to that question is too often "no," but that's another story.)

4. JOE BOOKMAN Ozmosys, Inc.

ONE WAY TO address this question is to try to assess the impact of not having a Web site, or of having a clearly inferior Web site. Consultants are never asked about how law firms can measure the success of their office reception areas, yet the need for a quality Web site has become at least as essential as the need for a pleasant reception area.

The major difference between evaluating Web sites and reception areas is that there are ways to measure Web site effectiveness, if measurable goals are established.

For example: One goal might be to regularly update clients and prospective clients about firm expertise with which the client may not be familiar. An e-mail campaign might be used to encourage clients to register on the site to receive regular updates with useful current information from the firm. A targeted monitoring service can be used to let clients know about important Web site updates and to provide fresh content to the Web site from regulatory sites.

An initial measure of Web site effectiveness toward this goal is the number of people who register for such an update service. When someone "opts in," they strengthen their relationship with the firm.

Next, the firm needs an effective marketing plan that can be measured by new business developed, either directly or indirectly, from the follow up strategy.

Another measure is the increase in traffic following an e-mail campaign. Increased traffic implies that the message generated some interest, but it does not necessarily mean the message was effective. Effectiveness is measured by "opt-ins," or inquiries through e-mails or phone calls as a result of the campaign. It is critical that the firm have a plan to convert opt-ins and inquiries into business. Feedback from clients should be organized in a marketing database for statistical analysis as well as strategic sales purposes.

There are other examples of measurements to judge Web site success: traffic to those areas the firm believes is most important; e-mail inquiries driven by the Web site; or search engine placements for targeted practice areas.

It is important to measure the effectiveness of the law firm Web site or any other marketing effort. However, a high quality Web site is not just an option for a large law firm. In the 21st century, Web sites and reception areas are standard costs of doing business.

5. KEN CONRADT Interdimensions

MEASURING the R.O.I. of a Web system is not only about hits, branding or usage anymore -- it is about time. To be precise, it is about saving time. The legal profession is based upon billable time, and one typical conclusion is that saving time reduces billable time, which is bad if you are a lawyer.

In fact, in the long term, clients expect and will hire lawyers who utilize time wisely. Well-structured Web sites, Intranets and Extranets save time for both lawyers and clients.

But it doesn't follow that any Web development will bring time efficiency -- far from it. What does bring true R.O.I. is solving log jams and inefficiencies specific to your practice, not just advertising your services on a Web site.

The two key culprits in wasting time are content management and communication. For example, mailing and faxing documents is more expensive and time-consuming than exchanging documents via e-mail or an Extranet. In fact, the best R.O.I. for legal sites arguably comes from developing these and other time-wasting activities. Saving time by spending money on well designed Web systems (for your clients and your own staff) is, in essence, the formula for measuring R.O.I.

An operational example is the process of time-tracking itself: 30 minutes per week spent tracking billable hours translates into 25 hours per year, per person. In a company of 200 billable staff that's 5000 non-billable hours. Match these figures against hourly fees and it's clear that time is the ultimate R.O.I. thermometer.

6. TOM O'CONNOR Pacific Legal Litigation Services

THEY can't nor should they. Do firms attempt to quantify ROI on their stationary or their business cards? Web sites are no more than extensions of other firm marketing tools and as such should be handled in a professional manner but not viewed as a capital investment.

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