Creating a Website for your New Practice

Starting a law practice requires having a website.

Apart from giving clients your contact information and a bit of information about the services you provide, a website can also include a plethora of resources to help people resolve their legal problems or recognize the need for a lawyer. Although word-of-mouth is still the greatest source of clients for most Ontario lawyers, it goes without saying that web-marketing is also an important way to attract new clients. A website is really only one piece of developing a strong “web-presence”, which can also include podcasts, blogs, and facebook and twitter accounts, among other things.

I chose to create my own site rather than pay to have one made by a professional web designer. It isn’t as difficult as one might think, especially with the help of a good web-editor and the willingness to set aside your free time for a few weeks/months to develop the content and design of the site. For this site, I’ve been using Rapidweaver on an Intel-based Macbook. There are still a few bugs, but having created this site from square-one means that I’m usually able to modify the design and navigation with relative ease.

Here’s a few lessons that I’ve learned while developing this site:
  • Having user-friendly navigation is essential: early on, I was using another editor (iWeb), which didn’t easily allow for the creation of collapsible navigation menus. After creating more than a small handful of pages, the importance of a collapsible navigation sidebar became obvious and prompted a switch to Rapidweaver.
  • Create a blog: blogging is a great way to add content to your site and share interesting information and experiences with other lawyers and readers. It’s also a good way to stay on top of developments in your practice area. When I hear about an interesting decision or concept, I add it to a growing list of items to research and blog about.
  • Test your site in different browsers: in different browsers, the text and other elements of the page will show differently. Make sure you’re using web-safe fonts. Experiment with different layouts too, as a theme or layout may turn out slightly different in each browser.
  • Don’t use legalese: even if some of your pages and blog-posts are intended for an audience of lawyers, using plain English will help make your site more accessible for everyone. If you need to use a technical term, include a definition. You could also include a glossary, such as this real estate law glossary.
  • Avoid excessive sales pitches: if your site or blog posts are styled as information resources, it’s probably a turn-off to include things like testimonials, examples of your successful decisions and other promotional content. People are usually more likely to read and share your articles and blog posts if they include useful information on practical issues rather than blatant self-promotion.
  • Use your site to differentiate your practice: although your site should not glare of self-promotion, it should be part of an overall marketing strategy that is designed to differentiate your practice from other law firms. Although how you do this is a matter of personal choice and business strategy, your website can help establish an identity and offering of services that sets you apart from other lawyers in your practice area. Easier said than done, of course.
  • Optimize your site for search engines: so far, this has been the most difficult part of creating a website. Optimizing your site for search engines (known in the industry as Search Engine Optimization (SEO)), is about creating your site so that search engines, such as Google, Yahoo and others, display your site at the top of the hit list when someone searches for particular keywords (i.e. “North York employment lawyer”). SEO is difficult because search engines don’t disclose how they determine which sites show up first in a keyword search. To do so would allow unscrupulous developers to exploit the search engine’s method so that irrelevant (i.e. advertising-laden) sites appear as the top hits. Thankfully, there is a healthy community of website designers who are willing to share their thoughts and experiences about optimizing their own legitimate sites. Although I’m still a novice, learning and contributing to this community has been a particularly interesting part of my web design experience.

I’m always happy to share more about my experiences in web design and starting out as a lawyer -- if you’re a lawyer or other professional starting a practice and/or website, please feel free to
contact us.

Elections and Time off to Vote

With municipal elections coming up on October 25, 2010, employers and employees should be aware that workers are entitled to time off to vote.

On election day, polls are open from 10:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. The Municipal Elections Act requires that employees have at least three consecutive hours of time off from work in order to vote without any loss of pay. If an employee’s shift would not allow for three consecutive hours during the day in which to vote, the employer must allow for time off, without loss of pay.

If the employee’s shift already allows them three consecutive hours in which to vote, then the employer is not required to provide any additional time off. This means, for example, that if an employee is scheduled to work from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., he or she would already have three consecutive hours off to vote (from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.) and the employer would not be required to provide any time off.

If an employee’s shift is from 10:00 a.m. to 6 p.m., however, they would only have two consecutive hours off to vote (at most), from 6:00 p.m. until 8 p.m. In these circumstances, an employer would be required to provide time off so that the employee has three consecutive hours off in which to vote.

The law allows an employer to determine when the employee is given time off. This means that the employer can allow the employee to take three hours off in the middle of the day, or can allow the employee to come in late or leave early so that he or she has three consecutive hours off. In the example above (shift from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.), it would make most sense for the employer to allow the employee to leave early (at 5:00 p.m.), since this would allow for the least time off.

To be eligible for time off to vote, an employee must be a Canadian Citizen, resident of an electoral district in Ontario, at least 18 years of age and not otherwise prohibited from voting.

For more information on the Municipal Elections Act or other election-related leave, please
contact us .

Getting a Home Inspection

Why get a home inspection?

Because a trained eye can point out problems with a home that a typical homebuyer wouldn’t detect on casual observation. With this information, you can make a more informed decision and have an estimate of the required repair expenses, if you choose to purchase the property.

Even when buying a new home (newly constructed), it is still a good idea to get an inspection. Firstly, builders can and do make significant mistakes, which can be identified before the defect results in damage or injury. Secondly, a home inspector can also identify smaller problems that might otherwise go unnoticed (for example, where a builder used the wrong materials, such as the incorrect insulation grade).

Who performs a home inspection?

In Ontario, qualified home inspectors are members of the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors (OAHI) and have obtained the Registered Home Inspectors (RHI) designation. The OAHI also hears complaints and can discipline home inspectors who have breached the Association’s by-laws, Standards of Practice, Code of Ethics or Code of Conduct. The OAHI’s website allows people to search for home inspectors by name, company and region of Ontario.

What does a home inspector do?

A home inspector does an examination of a property's structure and amenities, including the heating, air conditioning, electrical, plumbing, roof, insulation, walls, ceilings, floors, doors, windows and rainwater drainage. An inspection may require an inspector to climb into the attic and tight corners of the home, as well as onto the roof. An inspection will typically not require pulling up the carpet or other flooring, or opening walls. Depending on the property, you may want to ask prospective inspectors whether they inspect for mould, termites, asbestos or the presence of harmful chemicals or environmental contamination (these may be outside of the scope of a typical inspection and may require an inspector with additional training).

The physical inspection will usually take about three hours and the inspector will produce a report outlining any defects in the property and an estimate of the cost associated with repairing it.

How much does a home inspection cost?

Typically, an inspection will cost between $200 and $400, depending on the company and the home’s age, size and amenities.

When should I get an inspection done?

It would be very costly and time-consuming for a buyer to have every prospective home inspected before they made an offer. Instead, a buyer can insist on including a condition in the Agreement of Purchase and Sale which makes a satisfactory home inspection a condition of the deal. This ensures that the buyer can make an offer on a home with the satisfaction that they will not be obliged to follow through with the deal if it turns out that the property is riddled with hidden defects.


When buying a new or resale home, it’s always a good idea to get a home inspection.