FindLaw Pulls the Plug on its Free Firmsites
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FindLaw Co-founder Offers Free Alternative

When Thomson-West purchased FindLaw in 2001, the Minnesota-based legal publisher promised in a press release announcing the deal that, "Our plan is simple: we're going to build on the formula that made FindLaw what it is...everything that exists on FindLaw today -- from caselaw to career services and Continuing Legal Education will remain. And we'll invest in the content and services to make the site even more powerful."

While they have stayed mostly true to the "letter" of that statement, many feel that West has fallen short of its spirit. Links to free features such as the ability to search California case law decisions back to 1934 and the LawCrawler legal search engine moved from prominent places on the site's home page to pages located deeper (and harder to find) within the site.

Similarly, when the site was run by co-founders Tim Stanley and Stacy Stern, FindLaw offered free Web space and site building tools that allowed attorneys to create and host a simple Web site for free. After the aquisition by West, the link to creating free sites became nearly impossible to find, but the service was still offered. Later, the ability to create new sites for free ended, but exisiting sites were maintained and owners of free sites could update their sites with fresh content. Now, West is discontinuing the program completely.

Earlier this month owners of those free sites received an e-mail from Chris Fontes, Findlaw's Senior Director of Strategic Marketing explaining that, "For the last several years, FindLaw has been hosting a Web site for you at no charge... Because of technical and business constraints, we are no longer able to provide this service. We are writing to inform you that this site will be removed from our servers on August 1, 2005."

Co-founder Stanley, apparently still believes that budget should not be an impediment to attorneys having a professional-looking Web presence. Almost from the start, his new venture, Justia, has offered free Web templates, devlopment tools and Web space so attorneys can create their own sites (for free). Justia's SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Blog also offers handy tips for free FindLaw site owners to save their existing sites and information on how to create a new free site at Justia.

For more information about creating and maintaining an effective Web site for your practice, see:

For more information about Findlaw and West, see:

 

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