D is for …

A Page on the Web, published in the Solicitors Journal, January 2002


Databases are ubiquitous on the web. There were of course countless databases maintained for publishing, information and sales purposes before the web entered the public consciousness. Many of these same databases are now searchable from the organisations’ websites and many others have been constructed in recent years to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the new medium.

It is also the case that many websites now are almost entirely ‘driven’ by databases. That is to say the viewable web pages are constructed on the fly from data and text pages held in a database.

It is worth bearing in mind, by users and publishers alike, that the web search engines cannot index data in a database; they can only index static web pages or pages that result when a link is clicked. Thus publishers and developers should ensure that additional structured index pages are published sufficient to generate all the information that they wish to be indexed.


One of the more common manifestations of the database on the web is the directory. For the lawyer, as for users generally, web directories enable details of relevant authorities and services to be found much more quickly and reliably than formerly, with the added benefit that the information should (in theory) be bang up to date. The utility of these directories will depend firstly on their provenance (are they comprehensive and reliable?) and secondly on their content and functionality (do they contain the information you want and can you find it easily?). Official directories will in general be comprehensive and reliable, though they may not always contain the information required or they may be poorly presented or not easily searchable. Thus well-established commercial directories will still have a place in your bookmarks.

Following are a number of official directories to note:

Law directories

Of particular interest to you from a promotional point of view are the law directories. You should, of course, have an automatic listing in the Law Society’s Solicitors-Online Directory at www solicitors-online.com, in the Community Legal Services’ Just Ask! directory at www.justask.org.uk/public/en/directory/ if you hold or have committed to the CLS Quality Mark, and in other directories maintained by associations to which you belong.

You will probably also have a free listing in a number of major commercial directories, the leading commercial online law directory at present being Marindale Hubble’s LawyerLocator at www.lawyerlocator.co.uk/.

There are many other online directories of law firms who will be happy to add your details for free, though you are unlikely to get much business from them unless they are well marketed and heavily visited. Other sites may tempt you to pay for a listing or a place on a panel and promise actively to promote your services. Needless to say such services need to be carefully evaluated

Website links

Increasingly, potential clients surfing the web or using the above directories will be interested only in those firms who have an online presence (or at least, fail to be impressed by those that do not). So if you maintain a website, be sure to visit all directories in which you have a listing and check that your site is correctly linked. Some of the commercial directories will charge you for this.

My company, infolaw, has recently completed a review and revamp of our well-established Lawyers on the Web directories at www.infolaw.co.uk – listing only those firms with websites.

In the course of the review, we conducted many thousands of web searches to track down elusive web addresses, checked all links and visited many hundreds of new and suspect sites.

Significant findings were that:

  • Over 1500 firms in England and Wales now have websites (representing about 19% of registered firms).
  • Some 5% of top 500 UK law firms appear not to have websites.
  • More than 13% of sole practitioners have websites – ie not far off the average for the profession as a whole.
  • A substantial number of firms have effectively abandoned former domain names. By all means host your site under a new domain name, but do point or forward requests to the old domain to the new site!
  • Many other directories include many bad and out of date links, including links to non-lawyers.
  • The Law Society’s Solicitors-Online directory includes only a small proportion of members’ web addresses.