It shouldn’t come as a surprise that there has been an absolute explosion of start-ups in recent years in every facet of legal practice. One thing they all have in common is that to survive they all require market share and thus, deploy aggressive marketing campaigns to enable traction.
Recently we started work with a legal practice on every aspect of their brand, design, marketing and technology who unfortunately got caught up with an agency that over-promised and under-delivered and ultimately folded. Sure, nothing spectacular about that, but what was a major nightmare for this firm was the fact that the agency left this firm high and dry, not to mention with no access to key functionality and brand assets that were developed over the relatively short period.
How to Minimise the Risk
An obvious starting point before engaging is to ascertain how long in fact the agency, start-up or software product has been around. The next of course is to request to talk with current clients or users of the software.
Whilst this proactive response will likely elicit some warning bells, how do you safeguard against this from happening if you’re already tangled up?
There are a few things that you can do.
Protecting Your Law Firm’s Website
Your law firm’s website is the mother ship! We recently had a situation where we were engaged by a firm to take over the marketing, including the website hosting and maintenance issues. Once the other agency was put on notice that they were going, at the expiration of the current month (which was 5 days from notification) they terminated the hosting. So, in effect, on Friday the firm had an active website, but on Monday they didn’t.
But it gets way worse! When this occurs, invariably we’re able to liaise with the hosting company and either have the website reactivated or at the very least, the files handed to us so we can migrate to our server and launch. However, on this occasion, the former agency took it upon themselves to delete all files on the hosting company. Now, most hosting companies hold backups, but oddly on this occasion, there was nothing. A very long story short, the law firm took this agency on and had them rebuild the website from scratch (pulling data from the internet archive) to the standard it was prior to deletion. It took over 3 weeks and despite it being re-built when we inherited it, it was a mess.
You can mitigate this risk by having the website hosted independently from the agency. But choose the hosting company wisely. At Fast Firms, we have our own hosting company and can help if needed. You need to ensure the hosting is not only super secure but is speed optimised as website speed is a massive factor in getting ranked well in the search engines. It’s also our preference from a SEO perspective that the website is hosted in the country the firm operates.
If you’re going to host with the agency, make sure you have the logins and peruse the hosting agreement to ensure that there is a backup regime. You could also ensure that hosting is never terminated unless your firm is given sufficient notice.
Minimising Software Integration Risk
In relation to software, similar recommendations mentioned at the outset of this article are worth carrying out. Ask any law firm the pain involved in the integration of a practice management system and the pain to have it disentangled and another integrated. The latter is an awful experience. You can get a measure of the hurt for your firm by simply asking yourself how reliant upon this software will we potentially become. If not too dependent, then the risk may be minimal, but if it is substantial, do your homework prior to integration.