How safe is your law firm website? When it comes to the safety or security of your law firm website most lawyers don't know the critical role their choice of website hosting and professional website management and maintenance support plays. Why would you? You’re a lawyer not a software engineer.
Protecting your law firm website and ensuring it is functioning properly all the time is so much more than calling with the odd problem or slapping some pages up on the internet and thinking your website will maintain and secure itself. It is not a set and forget option, if you think it is, then regardless of the size of your law firm you might want to reconsider.
Australian law firms are literally asking for trouble with inadequate website hosting, security and maintenance. In this article, we show how it can hurt you, your reputation and your hip pocket.
A slow or insecure website will cost you work
Hosting and maintaining your law firm website is a complex animal and requires an ongoing investment of time to ensure the day-to-day technical operations of your website work as they should. As a lawyer, your focus should be on managing your legal practice and doing your legal work with the hosting of your website best left to the experts.
Your reputation and that of your law firm relies heavily on the quality of your hosting services. Your website is often the first interaction a client has with your brand and therefore should create a positive first impression. The last thing you want is to drive marketing traffic to a website that is down due to a server crash, has broken pages because of plugin issues, performs slowly and frustrates your visitors, or has hacking or security issues.
Upgrade to a professionally managed hosting service
With cybercrime, spamming and viruses on the rise, internet security is of paramount importance, particularly if your law firm captures client details online, has online forms or uses client portals. That basically covers every law firm website. If your website doesn’t contain these elements, then it may well be hopelessly out of date and behind the times anyway, and in need of upgrading.
Unlike the most basic hosting services a fully managed hosting service provides extra layers of security and technical performance enhancements designed to make your website faster.
Managed hosting maximises the uptime and productivity of your law firm website as their monitoring technologies consistently scan for irregularities or potential failures. Ensuring the availability of your website is maintained at a high level is crucial to the success of your marketing efforts and business growth.
There is very little point in spending money on marketing if your website is regularly down and your visitors are unable to access the information they are searching. You may have the very best high-quality content on your website, but if it’s inaccessible to your clients or visitors, it’s of no value because your visitors will close your site and look elsewhere.
Managed hosting providers standardise their practices and implement analytics and automated management, allowing you to benefit from a much more efficient service than you could achieve in-house. By choosing a hosting provider that specialises in services dedicated to the legal profession, you can be assured that solutions have been customised for that specific industry, based on their experience as to what customers are looking for.
Upgrading your law firm’s website hosting to a professionally managed service:
- provides round-the-clock system monitoring to identify possible threats or risks, ensuring significantly high levels of security are maintained.
- allows you to focus on your core competencies whilst they focus on theirs.
It’s one thing less you need to worry about.
Benefits of a WordPress website
WordPress is the world’s largest website platform with an astonishing estimate of 34% of the world’s websites, if you only count sites using content management systems the figure grows to an unbelievable 60%. The advantages in being with a powerful provider are numerous but for law firms we highlight just two that we believe are most relevant:
- From a law firm’s perspective, it is easier to get staff who can help with small day to day website amendments or small tasks that need to be done because so many people have WordPress skills or can learn them quickly; and
- From a hosting and security perspective, it is a much safer platform to host a website. Why? Because every day with cybercrime estimated (in 2018) to reach $1.5 trillion in profits someone somewhere is trying to develop strategies to breach security that can spread like wildfire. Therefore, you need the security of knowing that a large company will have staff permanently providing updates, patches and plug-ins to help keep your site secure.
Additional layers of security are also provided by a professionally managed WordPress hosting services. For law firm websites that we host and maintain, all of them WordPress, we perform daily secure database backups, network monitoring, routine critical updates and regular updates of plugins and programs. This keeps a firm’s website up to date with the latest protection and security measures.
Written monthly reporting
Until recently the issue around website hosting and security has basically been ignored by lawyers. Treated as an intangible service, never front of mind or even considered by lawyers other than when their website was built, and it needed to be hosted. Problem solved, or so it was thought.
To make this issue more tangible, we can provide all clients whose websites we manage with a monthly written Maintenance Report, indicating what we have done over the preceding month including daily secure backups, network monitoring, routine critical updates and regular updates of plugins and programs. We do this to make the intangible, tangible. Will lawyers read it? Probably not, but that’s not the point, because at least they can check if they want to, or if they need to.
To increase security and performance we recommend you use industry leading website infrastructure which provides advanced, simple, fast and secure hosting and service availability of 99.95% up-time, calculated on a monthly basis. This is the measure by which we run our hosting.
If you currently don’t have these features or commitments as part of your hosting service, ask why. If this is beyond the scope of your current hosting, it might expose the fact that your hosting is not up to scratch or acceptable to your insurer, should an issue arise. Not insured? Well that’s elevated the risk even further.
The speed at which your site loads is critical for two main reasons:
- Search engines favour quick-loading sites, thereby positively influencing your search engine rankings; and
- Quick-loading sites improve user experience. Your visitors love fast sites. The only thing that is more frustrating than a slow-loading website, is a website with out-of-date or irrelevant content. In short, a slow-loading website will drive visitors to your competitors.
By upgrading your hosting, your law firm website will benefit from the advanced hardware and cashing technologies implemented by your service provider. These sophisticated technologies retrieve data at lightening-speeds, ensuring your website loads as quickly as possible.
A caveat to this, however, is that your website must have been designed correctly in the first place. A professional hosting provider can assist you with efficient website design too, providing optimal loading speed.
Cybercrime is on the rise and affects all law firms
Regardless of size, law firms today are now targeted by fraudsters. Theft of confidential information or cyber vandalism is clearly on the rise. Want proof? Solicitors in Victoria entitled to claim under their compulsory professional indemnity policy now face a double excess when a claim arises from any payment or EFT made based on a purported instruction or authority, where the law practice failed to take reasonable steps to verify.
Want more proof? Insurance experts say that currently an insurance policy protecting you against cybercrime might cost you about $3,000 but they predict that in ten years that same policy will cost you ten times that sum.
In many ways, the smaller the firm, the weaker the defences and the greater the risk of a ‘break-in’. This is illustrated by the ease with which a conveyancing firm lost control of its comparatively tiny network and its clients lost hundreds of thousands of dollars late last year.
As if this isn’t enough, privacy class actions may be looming on the horizon exposing firms whose cyber security measures are not up to scratch to actions from classes of affected clients.
Investing poorly in your website hosting is unlikely to address these risks, so if you are only paying $10 per month you should act now and start asking questions. It is highly likely you are currently at risk with that risk continuing at an alarming trend. The Law Council of Australia Cyber Precedent website estimates the average cost of an attack at $265,000.
We place considerable importance on a firm's website hosting, maintenance and security which are ever increasing issues for all law firms. The ongoing security, speed and optimum performance of the websites we build and maintain, collectively impact on your firm’s reputation, ability to attract clients online and the value that is provided to the firm by their website.
Proper hosting offers real-time security threat detection, protection and additional speed.
Upgrading your hosting can be done with one phone call. A professionally managed solution gives you peace of mind. If you want to know more contact us on 0407 018 109 or email [email protected]
About the author
Peter Heazlewood is a management and marketing consultant, he specialises in helping law firms develop their practices using business planning marketing and performance reporting techniques refined in his own successful law firm. Peter lives in Sydney with his wife and is the father of five adult children.