The irony of WordPress as a content management system is that it powers 37% of all websites and yet many businesses have a tough time getting it right.
And of all the industries that struggle with a professional web presence (think real estate developers, brokers, physicians, dog groomers, and many car dealerships) law firms lead the way when it comes to websites that are just plain bad.
As Above the Law said all too well – There Are a Lot of Terrible Law Firm Websites.
Law firm websites are often:
- Riddled with stock imagery
- Missing SSL certificates
- Poorly designed
But here is the problem – law firm websites, at least the ones that are done right, are often very expensive. This doesn’t mean a firm has to pay $1,000,000 to get a professional web presence, as some Great Jakes clients pay, but hiring a good developer can cost a pretty penny, often well in excess of $10,000.
Firms that don’t have this kind of budget may do well to consider modifying an “out of the box” WordPress theme rather than hiring a budget developer or “SEO for cheap” style agency.
We see firms all the time who try to do a “custom” website for a reduced price but end up with a clunker that undermines their brand. In short, budget WordPress developers often do shoddy work.
The out of the box WordPress theme, while it will require some customization from someone who knows HTML, Java, and CSS, can offer a polished look for an attractive price. For example, our agency can customize a handful of WordPress themes for between $2,500 – 4,000 dollars.
Findlaw uses basic WordPress installs
The reality is that many of the biggest providers of legal marketing services already take this approach and then mark up their cost of development astronomically.
For example, Findlaw websites, which I have reviewed previously, use WordPress as a CMS, and then wraps the most basic and uninspired of designs into the WordPress theme. Findlaw clients pay for their WordPress site, sites that usually shouldn’t have cost more than a few thousand dollars, as part of their monthly contract, which often results in overpaying by tens of thousands of dollars over the course of one year.
And even though I am throwing some shade Findlaw’s way, at least they use WordPress. Agencies that build imitations of widely available open source CMS’ pass off the cost of “reinventing the wheel” to unwitting clients.
Options for out of the box WordPress installs
So, having established that many in the legal marketing industry are not capable of delivering high quality websites, and armed with the knowledge that somewhere around 60-70% of law firms have an unprofessional web presence, usually due to a design or development flaw, what is the solution when budget is an issue?
When we advise clients on selecting a WordPress theme, we almost always point them in the direction of Genesis and StudioPress.
StudioPress offers a host of out of the box WordPress themes built on the reliable Genesis framework, that run the block editor, are fast, secure, and have a strong code base, with many active prominent contributors.
Yes, you can build very expensive custom sites using the Genesis framework, and we have done this many times, but you can also select from a handful of existing themes and make small customizations that will result in a professional, polished look for a fraction of what you’d pay Findlaw or Scorpion.
This leaves room to invest in content, which if done right, should still be a big piece of most law firm’s marketing campaigns.
Best “out of the box” WordPress themes for law firms
Below, I will offer thoughts on a few StudioPress themes that could be easily customized for a law firm.
#1. Authority Pro
Why do I like Authority Pro? For a smaller firm, or really just a firm that wants to center their initial brand impressions around one attorney, the out of the box layout makes it easy to demonstrate Expertise, Authority, and Trust (“EAT”).
The “hero area” at the top of the site allows for the insertion of an actual attorney photo, rather than a stock image, and the “as featured on” tier just below is a ideal place to highlight professional associations and awards.
At first glance, you may be thinking the Navigation Pro theme looks a bit outdoorsy for a law firm, but that is really driven by the stock imagery. Changing out the Grand Canyon picture with a group shot of the attorneys in the firm would instantly change the way the theme looks. From there, the structure, which is built around guides accessible by email opt-in could work well for a firm wanting to showcase thought leadership with a series of white papers on a niche legal topic.
The guides could be stripped out altogether and used instead to highlight practice areas, or offices.
#3. Altitude Pro Theme
Altitude Pro theme is another example of an out of the box theme that is structured in a way that most law firms can work with. For example, the large hero area is easily customizable just by dropping in new photography, so adding a picture of firm attorneys is an easy change. The theme is probably a little thin on text by default, which means that if it’s to be used almost exactly as is, the styling here would benefit a firm looking for a simple brand upgrade, rather than one serious about driving traffic from search. Yes, I still like to see a nice amount of content on the homepage for law firms. Not content for the sake of content, but copy that helps a user understand who the firm is, what they’ve achieved, who they help, and how long they’ve been in business.
Downsides of an out of the box theme for lawyers
As the saying goes, “you get what you pay for.” While a good development team can customize an out of the box WordPress theme for a competitive price, it likely won’t have the ultimate polish that you see with a custom designed site.