Law Firm Website Maintenance and Security
Verizon’s 2022 Data Breach Investigations Report found that over 800 small businesses were victims of cybercrime events between November 2020 and October 2021. Unfortunately, 95 percent of all cybersecurity breaches are the result of human error. As a law firm, your reputation relies on your confidentiality and client trust. A security breach on your site can cost you time, money, and, most importantly, your reputation. To prevent potential security breaches, you should be updating your website regularly and engaging in safe online practices. Learn about how to maintain your law firm’s website and reinforce your security standards so you can maintain confidentiality and focus on helping your clients.
The importance of regular website maintenance for law firms
Like any other asset, a law firm website requires routine updates and maintenance to ensure it works properly and meets all safety and security standards. A law firm that doesn’t keep its website up-to-date and well-maintained is at risk for three significant issues: loss of money, loss of reputation, and security breaches.
Loss of money
An out-of-date law firm website will cost you. Websites that load slowly or have a dated design, do not support your legal marketing efforts and could hold back your success in everything from search engine optimization (SEO) as well as in helping your clients to connect with you. It influences the perception of your law firm in many ways.
Websites with incorrect information, like an old phone number or previous business address, are also likely to cause you to lose visitors. For small law firms (and large ones), these are costly problems you simply cannot afford.
Google’s search algorithm rewards sites with a secure connection. If your site does not have a secure connection, you are not maximizing your rankings. Where you rank in Google searches has a massive impact on your potential traffic. Therefore, not securing your site can cost you clients.
Loss of reputation
Law firm website design impacts the reputation your attorneys have on new clients (as well as existing clients). If your website looks like it was designed in 2002, that may cause potential clients to question if the law firm is out of touch. More so, if the site is insecure by today’s standards, those who come to your site may receive a warning from Google that their connection isn’t secure. That’s going to turn them away from you. It also makes them question your law firm’s ability to safely handle their personal information. A new website that has exceptional functionality and security is one people want to use.
Risk of security breaches
Hackers prey on older websites, those with fewer upgrades, and that puts your clients at risk. An insecure website also opens up your law firm to data breaches, for which you might be liable. More so, from minor malware to enterprise-level ransomware attacks, hackers will exploit any insecurity they can find on your site to gain access to your information and your clients’ personal information and data.
Ensuring legal and ethical compliance in law firm website maintenance
Prospective clients want the very best attorney to work with, but there is also the American Bar Association, or ABA, that has a few rules you must follow as well.
The ABA considers law firm websites to be a form of advertising, so your website has to comply with their ethical standards for advertising. This includes a prohibition on false or misleading information. Some states take this prohibition extremely seriously, so avoid comparative language. This could include things like “We are the best personal injury lawyers in Atlanta” for example. You cannot guarantee results either. If your website’s homepage makes any claims like this, it puts your business at risk.
You also must be diligent about maintaining client confidentiality when blogging or introducing any information into your content management system. Be sure that even things like testimonials do not jeopardize any type of privacy matter.
Also notable, when it comes to website management and website security, most states will require some specific disclaimers on them. It is up to you to make sure you provide these disclaimers and ensure that your marketing strategy, web pages, and user experience aligns with those expectations.
All law firm websites are required to include a disclaimer that their website is for legal information, not legal advice. Some states require a disclaimer to appear on every page of your website.
Some states require a disclaimer that contacting a law firm online, whether by form or email, does not constitute an attorney-client relationship.
Some states also require a jurisdiction disclaimer about where you are legally able to practice and which clients you are able to represent.
Maintain a professional website by keeping in compliance with all national and state regulations. Failure to do so can result in fines, penalties, and an appointment with your state’s ethics board. If there are any changes to national or state regulations, incorporate them into your new website redesign or next site audit to ensure you remain compliant on an ongoing basis.
Tips for securing your law firm website
What should you be doing with your web development and design? There are a few things to keep in mind.
Perform regular updates
If you are using a content management system like WordPress or GoDaddy, you should check regularly for updates. Developers update these systems frequently to prevent or repair security breaches. Security patches help to keep hackers from accessing your data.
You should also be checking for any updates to plugins and extensions on your site. This includes any plugins for things like social media, Google Analytics, and others. Anything you use to update, manage, and monitor your site must be up-to-date.
Get an SSL certificate
Another core component of your law firm website is the SSL certificate, which helps people to know that your site is secure. This is a piece of code that your web server that creates an encrypted connection. That means that it works to protect user experience and user privacy. It helps people to know your site is secure.
Website hosting is not something to try to manage on your own. When you host your website on your own network, all of your law firm’s data, and that of your clients, is at risk. That’s not just what is on your website.
To minimize this risk, you need to contract with a company that has experience in web security for law firms. Have them host your website. This minimizes the damage done by someone successfully trying to hack into your website, too.
Make a secure backup of your site
Backups are not something to delay. They are one of the most valuable tools you have.
Backing up your website follows the same rules as saving a document: do it early and do it often. By creating a backup of your website, you protect yourself if there is ever an issue with the site. If an update breaks something critical, you can restore to the backup. You also spare yourself the risk of losing elements of your site, such as if someone accidentally deletes pages of content. Creating a backup also gives you a quick method for handling malware that has damaged your site.
Because of these vulnerabilities, whenever possible, you should have multiple backups stored in different locations. Daily backups at multiple locations provide ample protection for most firms.
Enable two-factor authentication
Two-factor authentication is a security measure that requires users who are logging in to provide two forms of identification for access to the back end of your site. This reduces the likelihood of being hacked by making it much more difficult for a hacker to access your site resources and data.
Minimize administrative privileges
Who do you let make changes to your web design? Limit it. The more people who have access to the inner workings of your website, the more risks there are for a security breach to occur, even if you know and trust these individuals. There are also more opportunities for someone, however well-meaning, to unintentionally break or delete something on your site. This exposes your website and your clients to risks.
Provide administrative account permissions to only people working in the background who are familiar with web maintenance and security. Not every employee needs a login, even if they are creating content.
Be choosy about your plugins
Every piece of code you add to your site is a potential source of vulnerability. There are incredibly useful plugins available, but you should be careful when deciding which ones to use. Check their reviews and how regularly they update before installing. Make sure you have an up-to-date backup of your site in case a new plugin conflicts with something else on your site.
Tips for maintaining your law firm’s website
There is a lot to think about when it comes to protecting your law firm practice area website. Here’s how to streamline the process.
Audit your site regularly
Schedule regular audits of your site to keep everything well maintained. Check for any necessary updates for plugins or themes, fix any broken links, and update any outdated information.
Google Search Console (GSC) is a great tool to use during a site audit to check for broken links. Broken links, also known as dead links, are links that lead nowhere. They are typically a result of a website changing URLs or removing the page you had linked. GSC notifies you about any dead links on your site so that you can replace them with live links.
Keep your domain renewed
Your domain name is a critical asset. You will need to renew it on a regular basis so that you do not risk losing it to another person. If you lose it, that can wreak havoc on the site. Know when you need to update it.
Evaluate your underperforming pages
You can use Google Analytics to look at what pages of your site are underperforming. If a page is not getting enough visitors, you can update that page and include fresh information, internal links, and backlinks to gain more traffic. If a page has an abnormally high bounce rate, you can evaluate the reasons and fix the page.
Analyze your bounce rates
Creating a user-friendly site could help with this. Your bounce rate is the percentage of people visiting your site who leave without actually clicking a link, lingering to read the site, or filling out the contact form. The lower the bounce rate is, the better your audience engagement. Low bounce rates tend to correspond to engaging content, good user experience, and clear navigation structures.
When one or more of your pages has a higher bounce rate, that’s an indication that something needs evaluating. This could show a technical issue with a slow load time or a problem with the layout. It could also indicate poor formatting for mobile devices. It could also be due to the content being outdated or not on target for what the reader needs.
Outsourcing website maintenance and security
Let Array Digital do the work for you. We can design a website that is modern, fresh, and designed to be fully functional for your potential clients. We also provide full website development and hosting services, as well as regular site maintenance and audits.
Our team is also well-versed in ABA compliance, which not all digital marketing agencies can say. That means we can ensure that any language used will not violate ethics guidelines.