Never Let a Friend or Relative Design your Website

This is a cautionary tale for lawyers who are considering having a friend or family member design their law firm website. Unfortunately, time and time again I see these types of arrangements go about as well as Johnny Depp & Amber Heard. This article is filled with the observations of over a decade of experience in law firm website design & SEO.

Granted, I don’t typically get to hear the success stories, but that’s because they’re few and far between.

I Know Why You Want to Hire Your Friend or Relative

I get it… you might not have a large budget. They can really use the business. They could really use you in their portfolio. You’d love to invest in a friend rather than a stranger. They work at, or even own a digital marketing agency, and they may produce very nice websites – you’ve seen their work and you know they have the ability. You might feel like you want to foster a good relationship and have some level of obligation to give them a shot, but this is one area where you should not let your compassion or loyalty drive a critical business decision.

Any promise they make that their feelings won’t be hurt if you fire them is predicated on the assumption that they will successfully meet your goals. Unfortunately, feelings are bound to be hurt if they feel they’re doing a great job and you don’t. This is a reason why an arm’s-length relationship with a vendor can be valuable. If you’re relationship sours with a marketing agency you can take your business elsewhere without emotional baggage. This becomes exponentially more complicated when it involves a friend or family member.

Do You Expect Your Website to Bring in Clients?

If this seems like a really dumb question, it is. Of course you expect your website to attract new clients, otherwise why have a website? If you have an expectation that your website should bring in new leads regularly, the website needs to have visibility on Google. For that goal, you need someone who understands law firm SEO, and can prove it.

If for some reason you don’t have an expectation that your website should be an effective marketing tool, skip to the section below called “When is it a Good Idea to Hire Friends & Family for Website & SEO Work”.

People Who “Do SEO” Often Have no Idea What it Takes to Compete Against Law Firm Websites

I’ve heard all the variations of this: “our websites are SEO ready“, “we build the website with SEO in mind“, “content is king, that’s what really matters” – All of this is bullshit if there’s no ongoing SEO strategy. I’ve even seen agency owners where their whole website touts their ability to do successful SEO, but their website is not found for any search other than their name. Unfortunately, since there’s no marketer’s code of ethics anyone can make any claim they like when it comes to SEO.

When you’re competing against lethally effective & highly experienced law firm SEO professionals, who know what works and what’s puffery, there’s virtually no chance you’ll get to page 1 of Google in front of your competition for business-producing phrases.

Often times agencies & professionals who heavily rely on “selling the sizzle” based on website design and aesthetic appeal don’t really understand SEO, but they know it’s something clients want & need, so they throw in the verbiage on their website and use a vendor who likely doesn’t know about the competitive landscape of law firm SEO. OR, they undercharge to win your business and cross their fingers that it works.

The Discomfort of Accountability

Lawyers need to hold their marketing vendors accountable for results. This becomes particularly uncomfortable if you’re going to see that person on Thanksgiving or at a social event. How do you hold a niece, uncle, or high school friend’s feet to the fire when you have a personal relationship with them, especially if there’s a power dynamic at play? For instance, here are some troublesome circumstances: they’ve helped you financially in the past, you’re getting pressure from another relative or friend, they’ve told you that they need your business to survive.

It will be hard for you to hold someone accountable if a third party that you love & respect will be upset if the relationship sours. Emotions and personal relationships make all of this a terrible idea.

When is it a Good Idea to Hire Friends & Family for Website & SEO Work?

There are some instances when a lawyer might not really “need” a website to draw in new business, and in these circumstances you’d be just as well to hire a friend or family member:

  • You are semi-retired and are happy to take whatever interesting case lands at your doorstep;
  • You only really care if people find you on Google when they search your name (to validate that you’re still in business, and/or your experience);
  • You are in a geography or practice that is non competitive (I’ve only encountered this once and my service only lasted 3 months due to visibility saturation).

This list is not exhaustive of course, but you should really know what the priority of your website is: business development or basic presence. If you just need a basic presence any website designer can help you with that.

Getting “Friends & Family Pricing” May Cost You Business

There’s an old saying that goes “the bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.” This is true when it comes to website design and SEO. A friend or family member may be able to offer the homie-hookup, but if no one is responding to your website and no one is retaining you, how much money did you really save? How much money did you lose?

Most agencies rely on recurring revenue, and that obligates them to perform. If you don’t invest properly and at a rate that motivates performance you likely won’t get the attention and results that you want.

About The Author

Doug Bradley
I work with law firms to increase their presence on search engines through website optimization. Marketing a law firm hasn’t been “like it used to be” for a while now and the only guarantee is that it will continue to change. Learn more about my experience here.
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