• Area of practice descriptions
• Recent matters handled, verdicts or
• List of representative clients
• Attorney biographies
• Press releases/media reports
release competitive terms, or even terms at
all, when presented with a new prospect.
If a Web site provides a list of representative clients and/or recent cases–verdicts
–transactions, law firms must assure that it
provides an accurate representation of the
firm. If, for example, a firm only lists its
largest verdicts for its largest clients, the
firm may leave an impression that that is the
• Copies of press/media releases
• Links to articles published by firm
• Listing of seminars/presentations con-
ducted by firm members
• Listing of any branch offices and ancil-
Web sites stamp an impression in the
mind of an underwriter that an application
cannot. Thus, the areas listed above give life
to a static application. Above all else, an
underwriter will look for consistency
between the application and the Web site.
An underwriter verifying the areas of practice, number of firm attorneys or branch
locations could be skeptical if the application and Web site are not consistent.
For example, a law firm’s site may list an
area of practice that has no accompanying
gross revenue on its application. Although
there may be a rational explanation for
doing so, underwriters are typically wary of
firms that “dabble” in practice areas outside
of their recognized areas of expertise. Law
firms marketing themselves as capable of
handling any legal issue may also be willing
to take on any paying work, even if that
greatly enhances the probability of a malpractice claim. This alone may prevent a law
firm from receiving terms from a carrier.
On the other hand, a Web site consistent with the application that presents
essential firm information in an organized
format is likely to leave a favorable impression. With a favorable impression, an
underwriter is better inclined to release
As noted, underwriters may spend a significant amount of time reviewing the practice area descriptions on a firm’s site.
Applications only typically ask for a percentage of gross billings devoted to each
particular area, but do not ask for a description of the work undertaken.
Often, this is best conveyed by listing
representative matters handled by the firm.
Generic practice descriptions that could
apply to any law firm, or descriptions
loaded with superlatives about how “
diligent,” “experienced” or “respected” a firm
is offer little to an underwriter, or even
prospective clients. Absent complete information, an underwriter is not likely to
terms are even
only type of work it undertakes. Not only
does this skew the firm in the eyes of an
underwriter, but it may scare away prospec-
Similarly, law firms must assure that their
client list remains up to date and accurate,
as an underwriter may draw adverse conclusions based on outdated information. An
underwriter’s terms may reflect a perceived
higher exposure, for example, if a Web site
continues to list former clients that are currently being investigated for fraud or are in
bankruptcy. In short, Web sites that provide
representative matters and/or client lists
should be regularly updated, perhaps in
anticipation of their annual lawyers professional liability application process.
In addition to those items already men-
tioned, law firm Web sites should also con-
• A history of the firm
• Descriptions of any firm-wide profes-
In summary, Web sites are valuable tools
for underwriters. When evaluating a potential new account,
the impact of a law firm’s Web
site may determine how competitive an underwriter’s
terms will be, or whether
terms are even offered. Even
when renewing an existing
account, law firms should
consider that an underwriter
may put some value on a
firm’s Web site that may affect
Law firms that foster communication between firm management and/or administration and their information
technology professionals are
best positioned to have a Web
site that is up to date, accurate
and informative. With a thorough Web site, law firms place
themselves in a win–win situation—they are better positioned to draw in
prospective clients while assisting under-
writers in evaluating the firm.
The impact of a law
firm’s Web site may
will be, or whether
1. 433 U.S. 350 (1977).
2. Id. at 385.
3. See The Bloom Group, The Effectiveness of
Professional Service Websites—A Research Study on
Websites as Lead Generators (May 2006), at
5. This article does not address the legal and/or
ethical issues that arise when using the Internet
to attract clients or convey legal advice. Law
firms are encouraged to review current caselaw,
Rules of Professional Conduct and local ethics
opinions and bar opinions. See generally David A.
Grossbaum, Don’t Get Caught In The Internet—
The Opportunities of the Internet Come With New
Risks for Lawyers; Anthony E. Davis & David J.
Elkanich, eLawyering and Technology in Law
Practice: Risk—Or Risk Management Solution?
For additional information on these articles, contact attorney David Grossbaum at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“How Your Underwriter Views Your Law Firm Web Site,” by Todd E. Cusano, 2008, LPL Advisory Newsletter, 11, p. 3.
Copyright © 2008 by the American Bar Association. Reprinted with permission.