Adding a Contact Page to Your Website

by Barb Cashman on February 17, 2012

What is the contact page? It is the info@yourdomainname.com contact sheet that allows potential clients, or PCs, to take the next step with Internet communication and actually get in touch with you.  All of us have a pretty good idea of how to talk to PCs on the phone, how to return a phone call, and what we are comfortable with information-wise in the telephone context – so how does this translate to the contact page?

I’ll start at the beginning.  Before we started this project I took a very informal survey (it was more than seven people, people I didn’t otherwise know) about concerns solo and small firm attorneys had about getting websites up and running with full features. Concerns included spam from listing your email address, getting your website hacked, and general security issues.  There is some fear and trepidation out there, so let’s talk about how the contact page can keep the wolves outside your door and let the PCs politely knock if they are so motivated.

The contact page is an important step in Internet lead generation.  It is a first step, and the contact tool or request for more information needs to be subject to follow up in appropriate ways.  Perhaps you’ve had the experience of going to a promising website asking for more information only to be ignored and then dropped to some e-newsletter mass mailing recipient status.  Well, I think it’s safe to say that as solo and small firms attorneys, we aren’t quite as  likely to have that concern about our own contact pages. The point of that was to remind folks that if you are going to maintain one of these pages, make sure you check that mailbox and respond in a timely manner.  You are the one (or perhaps an assistant under your direction) who will respond to the inquiry, so don’t miss the opportunity.

So what does a simple but effective contact page look like? Check out another WordPress site you may have already seen as part of this project: Marie Drake’s website.

If a PC wants to send an email he or she must type their name, email address, the subject of the inquiry, along with the actual message. Keep in mind that at the top of that contact page you will want to list your physical address (and maybe show a map of your location) and phone number, like Marie’s does.

As you’ll see in the screencast below, Matt Willson will show you how to set up a contact page on your website.

Some  websites list two-page-long Terms of Use, which – naturally – the person submitting the inquiry agrees to abide by.  Some of these terms can include legalese disclaimers to cover a multitude of sins such as  no legal advice given; no attorney-client relationship created; not confidential communication; no tax reliance (our old friend IRS Circular 230); attorney advertisement disclaimer (no guaranteed outcome, results, etc.); and a privacy notice about the information submitted by the PC.

By now the form and function of these contact or information requests are pretty standard, so you won’t have to reinvent any wheels.  Some websites have these placed in sidebars or footers to make contact easier (one less click away).  But you might wonder, while they might be great at generating leads, they don’t give the attorney much information about detail and they might require some finesse to filter.  You may want to consider that someone’s request for more information (read: free legal advice) may also be a tip-off that the PC is most likely a “tire kicker.”

So, you can see the contact page has advantages and disadvantages to both the site’s owner and the site’s visitor.  You may want to be sensitive to the golden mean here when you are considering how much information, of what type, and whether you may want to have different types of intake forms (valuable if you have a private area or secure site where you can maintain that virtual law practice and clients do not use email to communicate).  Colorado doesn’t have much legal guidance about Internet marketing and advertising, but you will want to look at Ethics Opinion 122.

The contact page also can serve as useful protection for you.  Another tidbit about your contact page: remember that your website should contain legal educational information only. Make sure you mind your P&Qs when writing your FAQs – don’t be too provocative about the law or answer questions in a misleading ways. Information on lawyer websites is generally considered advertising and can’t be misleading.  Yep, lawyers have gotten in trouble for this – check out In re: Trenton John Oubre decision by the Supreme Court of Louisiana.

Keep in mind that even though you have the disclaimer on your contact page, you are still governed by rules applicable to PCs, specifically Rule 1.18 protecting confidentiality of prospective client communications.  Just as you would be careful in a telephone inquiry context, so do you need to be circumspect in the website/email context by controlling the features on your site that invite communication.  Once a discussion with a PC has occurred, keep in mind that 1.18(b) prohibits the use or disclosure of that information gleaned from the discussion without the PC’s informed consent.

A good disclaimer can go a long way, but the lawyer disclaiming obligations and protections must not act inconsistent with the disclaimer.  Read: don’t shoot yourself in the foot.

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