Melnichenko R.G. USAGE OF THE INTERNET IN LAWYER'S WORK // "Law and Economics", 7, July, 2006.Interpreter: Semenova Olga
Internet as a rapidly developing means of communications is getting a more important place in lawyer's work. Usage of this resource for advertisement, setting up a PR-campaign and analysis of the market of law services turn to be a necessary condition for the functioning of a modern law firm. The newly discovered capabilities allow law firms to generate additional income from the usage of the Internet. For instance, making online legal consultations, filling up legal documents online and legal analysis of the client's documents can result into a substantial financial gain with marginal costs.
Besides, the longer the attorney is advertised on the Internet, the more popularity he gains and as a result, he enjoys more prominence. It would be enough to spin the advertising mechanism of the internet in the right way, for the name of the attorney to get a good coverage on the information resource site without any interference by the attorney himself.
TYPES OF LAWYERS' SITES
One can outline the following types of lawyer's websites: a personal site of the attorney, law firm website, official attorney's website, and specialized lawyer's websites.
A personal attorney's website is the so-called "presentation-site". This type of website presents the general information about the lawyer. It usually covers such information as: a slogan of the attorney, his area of expertise, contact information (address, phone number, fax, e-mail, and directions), attorney's photo, and the name of the law firm - his place of work. The website indicates lawyers' achievements: academic degree, rewards, publications, and the lawyer's position.
The goal of this website is not mainly in attracting new clients, but in delivering to already existing clients additional information about the attorney and his practice. Internet address of the personal website is indicated in the business card of the attorney and a client, using the internet, is getting more substantial information about his attorney. The existence of a personal website impacts positively the image of the attorney.
A personal website, as a rule, contains one page. There are two ways of opening of the above-mentioned website.
The first one is thru registration of a personal Internet-address (IP address) with the following development of your own website. The merit of this way is circumstance that the website would be drawn in the attorney's personal style (colors, structure of the website and so on). Besides, the existence of the website would depend solely on the attorney. The substantial shortcoming of this type of a personal website is a necessity in financial costs for the initial jumpstart the project. Moreover, before you even start a website opening project, the attorney should already have his set-up personal style.
The second way is registration of a personal web page on a specialized lawyers' website. There are a number of specialized websites that offer the service to attorneys (advokatus.ru, legis.ru, jurgorod.ru). One should register on the website and fill out an electronic form. After the information is checked by the administrator of the website, it is added to this online specialized site. The merit of this way is a total lack of financial costs and the simplicity of registration (a personal page can be opened in several minutes). The shortcomings of this way are: 1. no possibility to follow the attorney's personal style on the webpage, and 2. the possibility of publishing only the information that is sanctioned by the administrator.
From the popularization point of view, the creation of attorney's personal website is a necessary requirement. Moreover, the more web resources have the information about the attorney, the more rapidly the above-mentioned process would develop.
The website of a law firm belongs to the category of corporate websites. Corporate website is an effective instrument of marketing. It helps creating an image of a firm, networking with clients, and keeping legal services sales up. An attorney's personal website is considered to be a "representation" of a law firm on the Web, an operational source of information and a way to actively communicate with potential and existing clients. Its structure depends, first of all, on the strategy of a law firm, its tasks and goals.
There are two approaches to the creation of the law firm's website: "website-product", and "website-process".
"Website-product" is a static-undeveloping and unrenewable structure, that was created to solve some concrete problem. "Website-product" can be of two kinds: corporate lawyer's presentation website and leaflet website.
Corporate lawyer's presentation website is a rare occurrence in the modern Internet. Its mediocre size can't accommodate all the necessary information about the law firm. The creation of this kind of website is possible as a temporary measure.
Leaflet website differs from the previous kind of website in size of the accommodated on it information. It is supposed to have solely "representative" functions, be presentational in nature and has as its goal to give the client the most important information about the law firm. These kinds of websites usually contain 5 to 10 pages. More often, it copies a law firm's presentational leaflet in structure and can consist of several chapters.
"The main page" is an electronic business card of a law firm. It accommodates: the name of a firm, logo, legal status of a firm, the status of its attorneys, and the philosophy of a firm and so on.
The webpage "firm's lawyers" contain information about qualifications, specialization, academic degrees, a position in the firm of every attorney and their photographs.
The webpage "Practice" describes areas of law the firm specializes in, special offers for clients, and attorney's advice in some cases and examples of successful cases won by the firm's lawyers'.
The webpage "Partners" contains the most well-known clients of a firm (with their consent), partners of a firm and other legal establishments.
There is a possibility for visitors of the website to leave their notes and suggestions on the "Guest book" webpage.
The webpage "Contacts" contains all the contact information.
This kind of the corporate website demands financial costs mostly on the initial stage of its creation. It demands minimum service during its existence (changes in the list of employees, changes in address of a firm and so on.)
"Website-process" presupposes the usage of the website as a one of the business instruments of marketing. Accordingly, the main parameters here are constant renewals, development, and expansion, discovering and finding a solution to the new problems. Website-process demands a permanent flow of organizational and financial resources and is a working instrument for evaluation of its effectiveness with a simple system of management, and a tendency for repeated visits (visitors' return to the website), with a huge number of employees of a firm involved in the process of training and a systematic renewal of materials. It usually includes all the above mentioned sections, and forums, conferences, news sections and other means of communication with clients.
Official lawyers' sites. The most well-known website is a website of Federal Lawyer's Chamber of RF advpalata.ru. There are also websites of lawyers' chambers of the RF subjects. One can find useful information for attorneys on these websites. Some websites contain registers of lawyers of RF subjects. Only official websites contain corporate acts of the Lawyers' Chamber, and also the analysis of disciplinary acts of Qualification committees.
The most informative are specialized lawyers' websites. But high-quality specialized lawyers' websites are not so numerous. They are represented by the above mentioned websites: advokatus.ru, legis.ru, jurgorod.ru. The essence of these websites is the allocated in them register of attorneys. Let's analyze the possibilities that specialized websites open up.
All of the above mentioned websites give the attorney a chance to open up their personal business card type website. Some websites, like jurgorod.ru, publish attorney ratings, based on the information flow that they have. These ratings impact the participating attorney's image, despite the fact that criterion of these ratings are quite conventional.
Some websites create archives of publications about attorneys and their work. The visiting website attorneys can leave their remarks on the problems discussed in these publications.
The website service in finding clients for attorneys. They usually indicate the price for service of a certain attorney, his/her specialization and an invitation to make an agreement with an attorney for a future communication with him/her.
These websites can send out newsletters to their client-attorneys. There are, depending on a website, new information about attorneys and their work, a number of visitors of a concrete attorney's webpage, and a ranking of an attorney on the site.
Specialized websites offer services in attorney and their firm's online advertising. A number of these services are offered free of charge, such as: opening up a business card webpage, and allocating a firm's name on the website. The allocation of attorney or his firm's banners on all web pages of a specialized website is for a fee.
The practical use of attorney's website resources
Giving virtual legal services and personnel selection services count for a practical use of an attorney's website.
Virtual legal services are legal consultations, drafting legal documents, and a legal analysis of documents.
Nowadays, the competition on the market of virtual legal services is already quite high. Many attorneys give free legal consultations on their web pages, for popularization purposes of the website and their name. But even this kind of a free consultation can be the first step to making an agreement between an attorney and a client.
Drafting legal documents is technically a more complex service in reality. The thing is that in comparison to the legal consultation, drafting legal documents demands a dialogue between an attorney and a client, since for drafting a legal document, an attorney needs information the necessity of which, the client can't even imagine. Attorney websites solve the problem in several ways: initiating the correspondence; creating an online questionnaire, answering the questions of which, the client gives sufficient information for drafting a legal document.
In his legal analysis of the document in its online version, an attorney looks thru the client's charter, agreement, and a receipt and then gives his/her written verdict.
Personnel selection for a law firm. To turn a lawyer's website into an instrument for personnel selection, one should follow some procedures.
First, one should publish detailed information about the firm on the Website. This information should be attractive for potential candidates and describe advantages of this particular vacancy in this particular law firm.
There is a section, called "Employment" on the lawyer's website. One should indicate in this section the idea of pay, the possibility of growth in qualification, in career and so on. Besides, one should describe every vacancy in detail.
If the candidate finds the vacancy offered by the law firm interesting, he should be offered to fill out the questionnaire. Besides, one should remember that a very detailed questionnaire may scare candidates away. A candidate can attach his detailed resume to the questionnaire. Candidates lacking a resume alternatively can be offered a more detailed questionnaire.
Let's point out that the use of the global system of the Internet by attorneys nowadays is on its initial stage. That's why the use of this resource by proactive attorneys would give them later a sizeable advantage.
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