Legal Marketing & Web Design Blog

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Email Addresses on Your Firm’s Website

Not just an annoyance but a downright security threat

Most law practices build websites to be found by prospective clients and generate new leads. With these firms, the main objective is to encourage site visitors to make contact (and come in for a consultation) so naturally they take great efforts to bold the telephone number and prominently display a contact form. We are often asked whether attorneys should also include their email addresses on their respective websites, after all, isn’t that the ultimate sign of accessibility? Our stance has always been no, but in the wake of increased malware email campaigns, our response to that question is a resounding NO.

Here’s why your email address should NOT be included on your firm’s website:

  1. SPAM
    Millions of bots crawl millions of websites each day. Some of these bots are sent from the search engines to assess the quality of your website and add it to their indexes, others are part of data scraping efforts by companies (or individuals) looking for your personal information, especially your contact details. This information will be added to mailing lists and sold to various vendors. You’ll get spam, and lots of it – a major annoyance to the busy attorney who doesn’t have time to wade through a crowded inbox to find the legitimate messages from clients, the Courts and opposing counsel. Once you’re on these lists, it can be nearly impossible to get off and professional help with spam filters (which, by the way, are not foolproof and often present their own issues) will likely be required.
  2. Malware
    Worse than receiving an influx in spam, is that you very well may be the victim of a malware attack. In recent months, hackers have employed increasingly sophisticated methods of infiltrating computers through malware sent via email. With these campaigns, they generally send a rather generic looking email (masked as coming from a trusted sender like the IRS or UPS). These messages contain attachments. When the attachments are opened, malware is downloaded to your computer. This malware is used to collect your passwords and personal information which can then be used to access your online accounts, open accounts in your name and even steal funds from your bank accounts. With so much on the line, why would you ever allow your email address to be public on the web where it can easily fall into the wrong hands?
  3. Disclaimer
    The Zola Creative contact form has a very clear warning to visitors that confidential information should not be submitted through the online form.  In sending an email directly to your firm, will a visitor understand that they shouldn’t send sensitive information or that an attorney-client relationship has yet to be established?
  4. A Poor Understanding of Your ROI
    It becomes incredibly difficult to adequately track leads and determine the ROI of your website if you don’t have all of these inquiries coming to one central location. When listing an email address for each attorney, assessing just how many contact inquiries you’ve received over the course of a month or year can be nearly impossible and as the old business adage goes, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”
  5. Missed Leads
    Even the greatest workaholic has time away from the office for a rare sick day or an even rarer vacation day where email may go unchecked. By utilizing a contact form, you can have all contact submissions emailed to a number of key point persons at your firm, ensuring that every lead gets the proper attention it deserves, even if you are unable to respond.

With the Zola Creative contact forms, all submitted inquiries will be stored in your secure database (and also emailed to you by a trusted source-us) ensuring you are able to safely access these messages and refer back to them when you need to assess your website’s performance. Individuals making contact through your website are not able to upload any attachments, keeping you, and your office’s network, safe from any malware attempts.