Archer & Greiner">Archer & Greiner

Buchanan Ingersoll">Buchanan Ingersoll

Dechert Price & Rhoads">Dechert Price & Rhoads

Fox Rothschild">Fox Rothschild

Hill Wallack">Hill Wallack

Jamieson Moore Peskin

Morgan Lewis Bockius">Morgan Lewis Bockius

Pellettieri Rabstein ">Pellettieri Rabstein

Reed Smith Shaw">Reed Smith Shaw

Saul, Ewing, Remick">Saul, Ewing, Remick

Smith Stratton Wise">Smith Stratton Wise

Stark & Stark">Stark & Stark

Smaller Firms

Corrections or additions?

This story by Barbara Fox was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on May 19, 1999.

All rights reserved.

Legal Eagles Who Once Soared, Now Surf

Attorneys aren’t expected to have hot Internet sites.

Just a quiet Web presence — an electronic brochure — would

seem sufficient. Yet one central New Jersey-based firm, Stark & Stark,

has hosted live chats and a Philadelphia firm with a Carnegie Center

office, Saul Ewing, has a website with a two-minute video complete

with jazzy music.

Swing through the home pages of Princeton’s legal firms and you will

find everything from a total gap (still too many to mention, including

some of the big Philadelphia-based firms), to an electronic brochure

(Hill Wallack), to eye-popping technology (Dechert Price & Rhoads,

among others).

"Law firms may have fallen behind on the use of technologies,

but many in the last few years have caught up," says Gerry Genna,

a Princeton-based technical consultant for legal firms. "They

are smart enough to realize the Internet is the future, and that a

home page is like their front store. They have embraced the Internet.

They have gone full bore ahead in what they have accomplished in the

last couple of years."

If you were going to judge the personality of the firm from the homepage

design, you could conclude that Reed Smith Shaw & McClay is ultra

traditional (decorated only by a very faint Greek column) whereas

the law practice of Hanan Isaacs (with its snip-snap scissors and

moving compass needle) is just the opposite.

Most of the designs feature a theme photo (often a close-up of eyeglasses

on a legal pad) or a series of buttons representing different practice

areas. They range from bright yellow (for Kenneth Vercammen) to warm

brown (for Pellettieri, Rabstein & Altman).

The most obvious function of the legal website is to serve as the

electronic brochure. Law websites are particularly good for indicating

the breadth of experience — the areas of law — that the practice

has. All of the websites have the firm’s profile, attorney biographies,

directions or maps to a location, practice areas, and press releases

(mostly about attorneys who have joined the firms), and newsletter

articles or other professional articles.

Nevertheless, the most important function of a legal website can be

for recruitment. "Recruitment is an important aspect of any law

firm’s website; you want to be able to make sure that the young people

who do everything on the Internet are able to find out about your

firm and express interest in working for it." says Jamieson Moore’s

Patrick McCormick.

A side benefit of an extensive website is that its content

gets indexed by the search engines and could attract new clients.

Each attorney typically has a biography page, and each practice area

also has a separate page. So when you search on "employment law"

and "Princeton New Jersey" you will get at least some of the

firms with this focus. "We have received major new representation

as a direct result of our website," says Rudy Garcia, the webmaster

for Saul, Ewing Remick and Saul.

Useful information attracts repeat visitors. Kenneth Vercammen, for

instance, offers a simple chart of questions and answers on various

topics. If you liked what he said about what to do with your traffic

ticket you might return for advice on wills and trusts. Get very specialized,

and even other lawyers will visit your site. A firm’s website can

be a place to do research — by using papers written by the attorneys

of that firm or by using that firm’s gateway links page. Morgan Lewis

& Bockius, for instance, has an unusual searchable database on antitrust

regulations.

How "savvy" a website seems can affect how prospective clients

view the law firm. "If you want to attract sophisticated clients

you have to be as technically capable as they are," says Claudia

Freeman, webmaster aka marketing director for Stark & Stark, one of

the first Princeton firms to have a website — it put the first

one up in February, 1997, and has revamped it twice since then.

Ease of use, says David Rizzo, president and founder of the Kearny-based

Lawyers Homepage Network, is of primary importance. "One of the

things that most people cite is that they can’t find what they are

looking for. Most consumers are looking for the basics. Make it easy

to use and more often than not they will come back."

U.S. 1 decided to analyze legal websites after being asked to judge

the website contest for Technology New Jersey (results to be announced

on June 17). Out of more than 75 entries to this contest, Saul Ewing

was the only law firm entry. We decided to look at other legal home

pages but on a smaller scale. The Technology New Jersey contest had

a 15-point evaluation, whereas we have just four categories plus bonus

points for savviness. In judging these websites we made allowances

for the smaller firms. Large multi-office firms should certainly be

expected to have classier websites than smaller ones.

The U.S. 1 rating criteria:

Currency. How often the site is updated and how the updates

are labeled. Fresh ingredients are always appealing.

Ease of use, with good organization and effective internal

links. A good search engine is worth five points.

Content. Is there more than a brochure? Lots of useful

papers? A good link page?

Design and readability, not from the technical viewpoint,

but from the viewers’ perspective. Short lines are better than long

lines. Dark typeface on light background is better than the reverse.

Top Of Page
Archer & Greiner">Archer & Greiner

Http://www.archerlaw.com.

Nicely designed in avocado and deep purple, with the requisite

"theme photo," this page is distinguished by its timeliness.

"Updated" flags show what’s new since you last visited the

page, and each page is dated.

The site offers lots of informative legal papers. It inspires confidence.

If you went to www.lawyershomepage.com you would

find Archer & Greiner’s information included on a relational database

— a marketing tool.

Currency 10

Ease of use 5

Content 10

Design 10

Total score 35

Top Of Page
Buchanan Ingersoll">Buchanan Ingersoll

Http://www.bipc.com.

If you wanted information from the firm’s glossy brochure, you

could get it here. The site is easy to navigate, partly because the

content is minimal. Rather than pointing to useful legal information,

the links page showcases the websites of clients and friends. The

plain vanilla design is appropriate for a white shoe law firm but

the text is difficult to read because it spreads across the page rather

than using more readable narrow margins. It has a good map. Based

in Pennsylvania, the Princeton office is on College Road.

Currency 8

Ease of use 5

Content 6

Design 7

Total 26

Top Of Page
Dechert Price & Rhoads">Dechert Price & Rhoads

Http://www.dechert.com.

Designed in bright green and blue, the slogan of this Philadelphia-based

site is "setting the precedent" and if precedents are being

set here, expect other traditional firms to step more lively.

Dechert.com takes the prize for surprises. Each time you open the

"What Matters" page, a different colored symbol dominates

the screen. Sometimes it’s an airplane or a doll but other times it

is a tick. Each symbol represents an important case and acts like

a "turned page" when your cursor lands on it.

The "bells and whistle" tricks play upon old-fashioned curiosity.

You really can’t guess why the page would feature a tick symbol. Then

you find out it pertains to a biopesticide case.

The most far fetched symbol is the "nice suit" which has nothing

to do with the garment industry and everything to do with a law suit.

Dechert earned top marks from Red Street Consultings reviewer last

fall, who noted that the "What Matters" section "is by

far the most unique, effective, and impressive method we’ve yet seen

for presenting the firm a new way. The attorney directory is also

top-notch; the directory can be searched by law school, first or last

name, practice area, and even what city the lawyer practices in. We

would have liked to be able to read the articles listed under `bylined

articles’ but that just leaves room for improvements."

Currency 10

Ease of use 8

Content 8

Design 10

Bonus for savviness: 5

Total 41

Top Of Page
Fox Rothschild">Fox Rothschild

Http://www.frof.com.

An excellent search engine produces specific dated articles

plus introductory paragraphs. However, the search engine is tucked

away on the business resources page so you might not find it. Another

good resource is a Y2K information center. Based in Philadelphia,

the Princeton office is on Lenox Drive. The site was developed by

Net Plus Marketing.

Currency 5

Ease of use 8

Content 9

Design 8

Total 30

Top Of Page
Hill Wallack">Hill Wallack

Http://www.hillwallack.com.

This Carnegie Center-based firm is noted for being technologically

advanced; each attorney is computer literate and the law library is

contained on stacks of CDs. Perhaps the website is an initial foray

into cyberspace. Designed by Princeton Internet Group, the front page

looks like that of a multi-city law firms, but the content is not

competitive. It has no search engine and the journal articles are

indexed by date, not by title.

Currency: 5

Ease of use: 3

Content: 3

Design: 8

Total 19

Top Of Page
Jamieson Moore Peskin

Http://www.jamiesonmoore.com.

This Princeton firm has made a good start — the current

website went up last year and represents the first phase. "Initially,

we want to deliver some value, to put up articles and client advisories.

Also we want to make sure we are ready for the next phase of what

the World Wide Web can be used for, in delivering services to clients,"

says Pat McCormick.

Among the recent posted articles: "Is Municipal `Hospital-ity’s

Still Alive and Well in New Jersey?" and "The Right to Privacy

and Your Bank Account."

One internal person spends an hour or two a week keeping the site

up to date — posting a position or adding a paper. This firm has

its headquarters in Alexander Park, and the site developer is IBS

Interactive in Cherry Hill.

Currency 7

Ease of use 5

Content 5

Design 8

Total 25

Top Of Page
Morgan Lewis Bockius">Morgan Lewis Bockius

Http://www.mlb.com.

Here is a good example of how one law firm can further the cause

of law research by putting up useful information. The web page for

this company that just expanded to the Carnegie Center has a searchable

database of letters interpreting the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements

Act of 1976. More than 300 people — attorneys, investment brokers,

educators, economists, and government administrators — have registered

to use the site. Three pages of links to other legal sites are useful,

and new items are indicated on each page. The designer, the Minnesota-based

West Group, effectively put promotional case examples in the margins

by each formal explanation of practice areas. New items are indicated

on each page. In the just-for-fun arena, there is a link to the official

site of major league baseball. Based in Philadelphia, the firm has

an office at the Carnegie Center.

Currency 9

Ease of use 10

Content 10

Design 8

Savvy points for database: 5

Total 42

Top Of Page
Pellettieri Rabstein ">Pellettieri Rabstein

Altman

Http://www.pralaw.com.

This brand new site has lots of photos but needs many more internal

links. The index page touts a Fen-phen site that consists of one slim

tip and a tollfree number. Meanwhile the site has a good article on

Fen-phen (the controversial diet drug) that could have been linked

effectively. The attorney bios have no links to the articles they

have written. Look for the reprint (with some information deleted)

of a Times of Trenton story by Joseph Dee on how Edward Slaughter

Jr. won a $14.3 million settlement for a car accident victim. The

headquarters is in Nassau Park.

Currency 5

Ease of use 3

Content 7

Design 5

Total 22

Top Of Page
Reed Smith Shaw">Reed Smith Shaw

Http://www.rssm.com.

This very laid back site, designed in tones of gray by the H2

Design Group, has useful information in client bulletins and a really

good search mechanism and navigation plan. Based in Pennsylvania,

the Princeton office is in Forrestal Village.

Currency 5

Ease of use 10

Content 5

Design 8

Total 28

Top Of Page
Saul, Ewing, Remick">Saul, Ewing, Remick

Http://www.saul.com.

Alone among the law sites reviewed, this has a two-minute video

sequence, with jazzy music. In his entry for the Technology New Jersey

website contest, the webmaster, Rudy Garcia, wrote that the website

"has brought our firm to the attention of millions of potential

new clients, helped our current clients learn more about us, facilitated

our recruitment of new lawyers, provided articles and answers to legal

questions as a public service, enhanced our reputation as a technically

savvy firm, and generated substantial new business." Garcia claims

that all of the files, programming, and graphics "were designed

and created by a lawyer in his spare time."

One mark of quality: the text version is as good as the glitzy one,

which has a JavaScript powered address book directory of lawyers.

The navigation map image is a legible and appropriate file drawer.

Thanks to the firm’s "golf course" practice it has a good

excuse to link to lots of golf pages. Surely golf-minded web surfers

will run across this law firm, based in Philadelphia, with an office

at the Carnegie Center.

Currency 9

Ease of use 10

Content 9

Design 10

Savvy bonus: 5

Total 43

Top Of Page
Smith Stratton Wise">Smith Stratton Wise

Http://www.sswhb.com.

This is an extensive brochure designed in subdued grays and

blues. Except for some smart links to Martindale Hubbell (the law

directory) that few other sites took advantage of, nothing distinguishes

this home page. "It’s really low key. We like it that way,"

says Christopher Tarr. The year-old site was done in-house without

out-of-pocket expense. Some glitches need to be improved, such as

the promise of hand-outs without a click through to get them.

Currency 3

Ease of use 5

Content 4

Design 5

Total 17

Top Of Page
Stark & Stark">Stark & Stark

Http://www.stark-stark.com.

Princeton’s largest law firm wins the web prize for interactivity

— it offers a two-day response for any question you want to ask

an attorney and has a good search engine. Weekly "tip sheets"

ranging from bicycle helmets to sexual harassment are archived, so

that if you had some kind of legal question you could go to this site

and get basic information.

Like many other online hosts, Freeman found that the same participants

kept showing up for the online chats and the bulletin board, so those

pages have gone inactive. But the Legal Question section (ask a question

and get an answer within 48 hours) draws about two responses per day.

Freeman says her biggest challenge is in finding the time to post

all the articles that her firm’s lawyers produce.

Lots of white space adds to readability. When you search, you get

no summary of the story, only the linkable web address.

Currency 10

Ease of use 8

Content 10

Design 10

Savvy bonus 5

Total 43

Top Of Page
Smaller Firms

Law Offices of Robert Kenny CPA PLLC. Http://firms.findlaw.com/taxdefender/

Kenny is the crusader against tax bounty hunters and — according

to his website — he lost the most recent appeal. That hasn’t stopping

him from putting everything pertinent about the subject on his home

page, ready for easy research. The links are good.

Currency 3

Ease of use 10

Content 8

Design 3

Total 24

Hanan M. Isaacs Esq. Http://www.webaffinity.com/hananisaacs

With this site, what you see is lots of energy and atypical

glitz (atypical for an attorney). The bells and whistles include a

compass with a quavering needle on the directions page and scissors

that snip on the press release page. The site map is a more traditional

stack of law books. Isaacs is known for mediation and alternative

dispute resolution, and the site has some good articles on the subject.

He also gets a plus for posting his fees, The site was designed and

hosted by Web@finity Inc., Isaacs neighbor at Princeton Professional

Park. (After this was published we were notified that the current site is http://www.hananisaacs.com and is hosted

and maintained by Weblications Inc.)

Currency 3

Ease of use 5

Content 5

Design 6

Total 19

Catherine A. Ross. Http://www.divorcenet.com/nj/ross

Ross, based on Lakedale Drive, has effectively used a larger

website for self promotion. She has posted many good family law papers

on this site, and each one links to her small bio, illustrated with

a pen and ink drawing. Her web address may be clunky, but those who

surf the web are going to find her as a result of their web browser

searchers.

Currency 5

Ease of use 3

Content 7

Design 2

Total 17

If you agree with this survey, the top websites are Stark &

Stark and Saul Ewing, tied for first, with Dechert Price & Rhoads

and Morgan Lewis Bockius in second, followed closely in third place

by Archer & Greiner. In the fourth tier would be Reed Smith, Fox Rothschild,

Buchanan Ingersoll, Fox Rothschild, and Robert A. Kenny.

Bottom line: "The legal industry is still lagging behind, and

the urgency has not been shown yet, but the Internet is not going

away," says Rizzo of Lawyers Homepage Network. Courts are posting

court calendars on the Web and soon will require documents to be electronically

filed. "If lawyers don’t embrace the technology their practice

is not going to be there in the years to come. Clients will require

it."


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