Web design

This is the next post in my Website Options for Law Firms series. I’ve previously discussed whether law firms should use Google’s Blogger platform. In this article I’ll be evaluating Justia as an option for your firm. In the end, I can’t justify a recommendation for this company.

My experience in evaluating Justia as an attorney’s website option

Justia is a company that offers free legal information to the public on a wide variety of topics. The company has another arm that deals with attorney online marketing. Before discussing whether it is a good option for attorneys I would like to discuss the steps I used to evaluate the company.

I called Justia on January 14th, 2014 and a representative named Dante answered the phone. I informed him that I was a writer for this blog and that I was evaluating Justia as part of the instant blog series. He told me that he “was not privy” to information regarding things such as pricing, terms of the service, or the website design process, and that he would have a representative call me back. At no point did I receive a call back. On January 15th, 2014 I called and Dante answered the phone again. I explained I was preparing the article and that I would like to speak to someone regarding a series of questions. He again told me that he could provide me with no information and that he would “pass along my message.” Personally, I found the lack of responsiveness to be somewhat disturbing. Given that he told me no representatives were available, I am also assuming that attorneys calling to speak with a salesperson would also not be able to speak with anyone.

I also sent the company’s CEO two private messages through Google Plus in which I expressed a desire to speak with him regarding the instant series. I received no response.

Over the last month or so I have received feedback from three different attorneys who are customers of Justia and they shared some of their experiences with me. I also analyzed multiple Justia sites from a technical and SEO perspective and reviewed various pieces of literature about the company.

My review of Justia’s attorney website services

Lawyer writing blog postI feel the need by starting this review by discussing Justia’s customer service. As mentioned above, the company was unresponsive in my requests for information and apparently no representatives were available during the two times I called. This lack of responsiveness, combined with the company’s failure to answer my other requests, makes me wonder what level of responsiveness an attorney would receive from the company.

I have had discourse with three attorneys who have been clients of Justia long-term. One described his being quite happy with the service. The other two painted a very different picture; one described Justia’s representatives as being hostile and difficult to deal with and the second went a step further by telling me how he was screamed at by Justia staff. Combining this feedback with my experience leaves me weary of Justia’s customer service policies.

The SEO potential of Justia sites

I engaged in a fairly extensive analysis of three different Justia sites. The number of SEO errors I found led me to the conclusion that this is not a good option if you wish to have a website that performs well in search.

Two of the three sites I looked at had very low page loading scores, along with a number of reported technical errors, when tested through Google’s Page Speed Analysis. These low scores mean that Google sees these sites as potentially loading slowly, which is important in search. Given that Google’s opinion is the one that matters in search, we always adhere to the big G’s speed guidelines when we take on a project as part of our attorney website design and SEO packages. On the modern web this is a big factor.

Website Development CycleAll three of the sites I looked at had problems with Meta descriptions being an inappropriate length and/or formatted incorrectly. These sites also had incorrectly formatted SEO titles and were either missing or had a poor structure of <H> tags. Whether these errors are made by Justia or an attorney managing their own site is irrelevant in my opinion; the fact that the errors are in place means that Justia is either building a site with errors or there is not an appropriate system in place, for attorneys building their own sites to ensure that these errors do not occur. When these findings are combined with other errors that I found, I was left concerned about the potential of Justia sites to do well in search engines.

I conducted a series of Google searches for each of the three sites I reviewed. These searches were in the locale and practice areas of particular attorneys. As with my analysis of other web options, I searched using terms typically used by the general public for an attorney in a given area. It must be noted that the three sites I looked at are all older and older domains tend to do better in search.

I did get two first page results out of 21 total searches (not a good percentage). All-in-all I found these sites difficult to find through the search terms likely used by potential clients. Again, these sites were older and older sites have an advantage in search.

The cost of Justia’s legal marketing services

Given my inability to speak with anyone at the company I was not able to get a breakdown of Justia’s price structure. While a few attorneys did tell me what they pay for their sites, I have not been able to find, through Justia or online, a detailed description of their service tiers or a price structure. I have read several accounts online which describe Justia as being a “pricey” option.

Justia’s ease of use for attorneys

Given the lack of information Justia provides on their website, as well as their not responding to my requests for information, I could not evaluate this option in terms of ease of use.

Justia websites and the changing web environment

The sites I looked at did contain a responsive web design, which is good for mobile devices. I did note, however, that one of the sites was using flash in its desktop version. Given the extent that flash is being phased out of the web, which includes the desktop, I found this a concerning. All-in-all the company does appear to be attempting to optimize for mobile.

My conclusions as to whether attorneys should utilize Justia for their website

I simply can’t recommend Justia as a website provider for attorneys. I was alarmed by the customer service examples I was given by two of the three attorneys with whom I conversed. Combine this with my inability to reach anyone and there is enough here for concern. Combine this with what I see as low SEO potential, balanced against a “pricy” cost structure, and I believe attorneys can find a much better option.