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Website review

13 December 10

Review of the Law Society of Scotland's relaunched website

by Iain Nisbet

Three in a row, then. Another brand new site to review and this time it’s the website of none other than the Law Society of Scotland itself.

Law Society of Scotland

www.lawscot.org.uk

I will assume a basic working knowledge of the website and, as much of the content remains the same, will concentrate on the new features.

The purpose of the new-look website is to “provide easy access to information about the Society and the solicitors’ profession” – so says Lorna Jack on the new front page. As a starting point, a statement about the site itself – rather than about the Society and what it does – isn’t brilliant, but is forgivable for the first wee while. Maybe in due course the message will tell visitors to the site what the Law Society of Scotland is all about (or indeed what solicitors in Scotland do).

The site boasts two improvements which help it to achieve its aim: refreshed design and improved navigation. The design is certainly new and indeed very attractive, simple, clean and uncluttered. As for improved navigation, I’d say there’s still some work to be done. For example, one of the site’s major headings is “Becoming a solicitor”, but on clicking that heading you are greeted with the following: “Welcome to the new lawyers section – for students, trainees and those up to five years qualified.” How is the five years’ PQE lawyer supposed to know that these pages contain information relevant to her (or him)? And if it is in fact the new lawyers’ section, why not just call it that?

Also, much of the content on the site can only be reached through the search function or by browsing the A-Z rules & guidance section – not even by using the site map! There’s nothing wrong with an A-Z directory, but I would prefer to have it as a backup or alternative to an ordered scheme of navigation, rather than the only option. For one thing, it’s not always obvious what you should be looking for, or under which letter: e.g. you can look up “notepaper (headed)” under “N” but not “headed notepaper” under “H”. Having said that, the right-hand column providing suggested “Related Pages” works very well and is a useful supplement to an otherwise not bad (overall) navigation system.

The familiar URL (www.lawscot. org.uk) is used again for this new website. The Society has also acquired the longer www.lawsocietyofscotland. org.uk, but typing this takes you directly to the “Find a Solicitor” page. I’m not sure why that should be, but it is the page I visit probably more often than any other on the site. It is also probably the page which is most used by members of the public.

The search function for finding a solicitor works quite well. It is particularly useful to be able to search for firms by area of work and also for accredited specialists (but not at the same time). A couple of suggested improvements: the location/postcode search filter is too precise. Having typed “G51”, if there is no firm of solicitors matching the description in that exact postcode, then no results are returned. It would be better if it listed the nearest firms, like the SLAB equivalent does. It would also be nice if the results returned allowed you to click directly through to the firm’s website (like SLAB’s does).

In fact, with the current emphasis on savings through shared services, my fervent hope is that the Board and the Society can knock their databases together and come up with one integrated search engine for solicitors in Scotland with all the best features of both. This would be a real boon to ordinary customers looking for a lawyer. How about making that a new year’s resolution?

I am perhaps reviewing the site too early, as I am promised that in December 2010, a “log-in section” will go live. This will allow solicitors to check their details and book (and pay for) Update events – with further developments including completing quarterly trainee reviews and renewing practising certificates online promised thereafter. These sound like they will prove to be very useful and innovative developments.

The Society’s online presence is not limited to the website, however, and tiny icons at the bottom of each page allow the user to connect with the Law Society of Scotland on Facebook (www.facebook.com – search for “Law Society of Scotland”), Twitter (@lawscot) and LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=2057106). I’m not on LinkedIn, but the presence on Twitter and Facebook could fairly be described as “sporadic” rather than “prolific” – may be worth a “follow”, “like” or whatever it is you do on LinkedIn nonetheless.


Who writes this column?

The website review column is written by Iain A Nisbet of Govan Law Centre email: iain@absolvitor.com

All of these links and hundreds more can be found at www.absolvitor.com . Absolvitor is also now on Facebook: http://bit.ly/absolvitor and twitter: twitter.com/absolvitor

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