Practice Development for Medical Expert Witnesses
Beryl Vaughan, Consultant
Nationwide

Email go@forensicexpertpro.com or Call (415) 302-9589

You Need a Website and Here’s Why

By Beryl Vaughan

You Need a Website and Here’s Why

By Beryl Vaughan

A Website Is the Most Sophisticated Business Card in the World

  • A website is a CV–literally and in expository or readable form.
  • A brief bio delivers credentials “at a glance.”
  • Your writing provides a “guidebook” to your field and knowledge mastery, delivered by you.

There is no better online vehicle under your control to communicate who you are as a professional and what you have to offer as an expert witness or consultant in a legal setting. You can also communicate:

  • How you convey your findings and communication style (application to testimony and written reports)
  • Objectivity: Tenor and word choices

Unlike you, your website doesn’t take a break. It is read by attorneys all over the country, all day, every day.

This saves you time in phone calls repeating yourself when a link to your website will do.

In short, the digital world adds power and depth that a paper business card never will.

The Website is Part of the Big Marketing Picture

A website is not a solo marketing tool. It isn’t the only destination for clients but enhances a marketing strategy that provides links to that website on multiple fronts. Without it, some of your claims of expertise will produce silence online.

A website is one crucial and essential element to an effective overall marketing strategy.

We Expect to Find a Website

When we all look for something about which we don’t know, we expect to find a website. Inadequate results or no results at all mean we have to spend more and more time scanning about for the solution to our questions and needs. Attorneys are no different.

Alan Newman, M.D. made an excellent point in our AAPL Annual Conference Workshop: Most attorneys have been in practice for 20 or 30 years and use the internet. They will expect to find results there, they will use those browser tools. They aren’t using the yellow pages!

Companion Article: An Expert Witness’ Guide to a Great Website. (Focus, med-legal, psychlegal, forensic psychiatry)

What you’ll find in this article:

What will attorneys learn about you online?

How does a website benefit you?

The function of a website in the medicolegal / expert witness realm

Website content and user experience tools that demonstrates a site’s benefits. 

Leveraging the power of data

Let’s put on lawyer shoes and see what your potential clients will see.

Searching for Nemo: an Internet Audit

The “Site-less” and the “Sited”

How can we know if you can be found by attorneys?

I recommend starting with an internet audit to know if your practice is “findable” and what attorneys are in, fact, finding.

Before I have a first call with a physician expert witness, I search for them online.
  • Do you have a digital footprint?
  • If so, what is or is not working?
  • Is there anything to deter attorneys? What is a positive?
  • Who pops up under common search terms for your field in a medicolegal context?
  • Is information accurate or inaccurate?
  • Are your address and phone # front and center?
  • Name-alikes. Does someone else appear who happens to have your name? If so, is that ok?
  • Reputation flags–trolls posting one star reviews on Yelp, for example.
Image Search

Google your name and click on Images. Attorneys want to know how you look and who you are. Some will use the Images search and a recent photo of you in that search which links to your website. That is a good result, if the image shown is a contemporary image of you and not someone else.

If results are not you, click on them and see who else has your name or if the photo of you is old, click to see where it is and pursue having it removed.

No matter what you do, images you place on your website will eventually take center stage in such a search.

Cautionary tales:

1. My grandfather is Isaac Asimov? I searched my grandfather’s name. He is a distinguished writer. A photo of Isaac Asimov popped up. My grandfather is not Isaac Asimov.

2. I don’t speak Welsh and I’m not 104. I searched myself. Two Beryl Vaughans popped up. One is an advocate of teaching the Welsh language. The other appeared in a 1940 film “Girls Under 21.” Yeah, not helpful for my practice. My website immediately explains I am not them.

3. To young to know enough. When we first started out, I searched a client of mine. All I could find was a photo of her in her first year of residency. She was now 8 years further in practice, Fellowship-trained and Board-Certified in her medical specialties. The 20-something photo worked against our message that she was erudite and experienced.

Now, if you search for her, you see photos from her website including recent portraits in a variety of settings. All come from her website and other online platforms like her LinkedIn profile, directories in which she is listed, etc. Google has populated those photos by finding them through data scraping. Without the website, the residency photo would still be her only visual introduction.

A Website Encourages Repeat Business

New cases from lawyers you already know

A site can reinvigorate your relationship with an attorney who retained you in the past.

Being pigeonholed is a big problem for many experts and limits their forensic practice.

Attorneys who retained you for a case in the past may not know your expertise reaches in additional directions.

A website is, perhaps, the only place you can describe the breadth and nuance of areas in which you testify as an expert witness.

Compare and Contrast

The sites of your colleagues and competitors

Will attorneys search for someone like you and find someone else instead? In my audit phase, I also search for colleagues with similar credentials to yours. I use terms relevant to your practice and others practicing geographically near you. If attorneys are finding another doctor, we need to know why. If they have a website for an expert witness practice, we will have to do a better job than they.

You already have a website for your clinical practice. Is that good enough?

Clinical Site vs. Forensic Site

Almost every doctor asks me if they can use their existing clinical website to generate forensic work. It’s a slippery slope.

The focus of a clinical site is to appeal to patients–new and existing. Commonly there are treatment portals, intake forms and appointment tools.

Lawyers don’t use those tools and they aren’t informative for their purposes.

I’m not a fan of the two purpose site. They must work double time to navigate patients to patient care information, and attorneys to forensic material.

Also, patients may become confused or even misinterpret your intentions and services. Words like “litigation” and “testimony,” taken out of context, could lose you patients.

It is essential the content be separated, whether on a dual site or by having two sites. Topics are distinct and different and that has to be clear to your readers.

A Website’s Forensic Bio vs. A Clinical Bio

Another problem with a dual site is that you usually have one bio and it might not be the same for the forensic practice as it would be for patients.

This also applies to the website of your day job and that won’t likely serve your forensic practice.
“I teach at a university and they have my bio on the faculty page.”

“I serve on the Board of Trustees and they have my bio on their website.”

“I am on the treater panel for a few clinics and they have a bio on their website.”

Your self-crafted website bio is different from a CV or bio on a site outside of your control.

Faculty bios on academic sites, for example, emphasize research and university affiliations in your past.

Forensic expert witness expertise will not appear. Neither will be a focus on relevant areas of law.

That’s the role of your own site.

Your About page on a dedicated site can serve the forensic practice by emphasizing types of cases for which you are qualified to serve as an expert witness, and your experience as an expert witness or consultant. Forensic training can be emphasized.

An About page you write helps the attorney learn about you more quickly with less hassle:

  • Attorneys save time on a call; they can verify on the site whether you’re legit.
  • The conversation can skip straight to the meat of the case. (This saves you time too.)
Information That Matters to Attorneys

On your About page you can include the logos of schools you have attended, professional organizations to which you belong, and other visual cues that support your qualifications. This is not actually a method used on clinical or academic sites to visually and immediately describe the legitimacy of your education, for example. On forensic sites it is  a common method that respects the attorney’s time by creating a visual shortcut.

Every hospital bio or faculty page emphasizes your education and specializations. Background is buried in words, words, words.

Someone else’s website is not a substitute for your own.  They have a focus and agenda of their own.

Information That is Wrong

A website allows you to respond to negative or mistaken information.

Roughly 80% of the time I find doctors are only represented online by hospital or clinic jobs, some of which may very well be ancient history. The provided address/phone will land an attorney on a hospital switchboard lost in the land of “click 1 for… click 2 for…”

Outdated Information

The internet is full of wrong information like an office address from years ago, or a phone number that no longer works.

Don’t Lose Control of Your Practice

Any site may own your online footprint, if you don’t take control.

This can occur because NPI contact and/or taxonomy info is inaccurate, or a prior employer “owns” access to your information via Google Business. Some sites autopopulate a listing for you with information “scraped” from public information.

Your site is one tool to counteract negative or inaccurate results. In at least one place, information will always be accurate and current.

Discrediting an Expert: Anticipate The Attorney’s Due Diligence Research

A decent opposing counsel will look to diminish an expert witness’ testimony, or even have them disqualified before trial starts. It’s standard operating procedure.

They — or a paralegal — will start with a Google search. The internet is low-hanging fruit to find “dirt” and therefore it is a natural go-to. What if they are unhappy to learn you actually are a solid expert witness? A website helps all counsel know there is no dirt or there are more positives than negatives about you.

If counsel finds something negative, it will definitely come up in your first deposition as they try and rattle you. They’ll start by putting you on the defensive. This is law 101.

Does a website make you look like a mercenary?

It’s a legitimate and common question.

“I don’t have a website because I’m afraid it will seem like a sales pitch.”

The APA has a website. Family physicians, hospitals and your colleagues have websites. It is not uncommon or untoward.

It’s not a sales pitch unless you make it one. 

Your message and tenor are serious. You studied for many years and will continue to learn for the rest of your life, to serve jurisprudence. This is what your website conveys. 

But you aren’t a volunteer.

“Activity that supports or provides active encouragement for the furtherance of a cause, venture, or aim.” (Definition of “Promotion”, Oxford Languages). 

You do have a venture. And you want to further it. You have aims. You have fees.

You do not have a price.

Is it true that any website is better than no website at all?

Yes and No.

If it does more harm than good, it hampers your practice.

Feedback from colleagues and clients–a second set of eyes–can help determine that.

Even a basic website can be beneficial.

Elements of a Minimal Website

Contact info and specialization is front and center

Legitimate and true facts of your expertise and experience are provided

It is visually neutral or attractive

Best results derive from a site that has depth, breadth, and relevance, combined with engaging design. It is a bigger investment with greater return. It is a different animal than the “basic website.”

A website that does more harm than good:

Content is conjecture

You express personal opinion

You discuss that which you are not qualified to address

Implication of bias 

It doesn’t meet best practices and ethical and professional guidelines

If you don’t know your way around such nuances, stick to the basics. It has practical value to an attorney who needs your phone #. 

Yadda Yadda Yadda Effect

If negative or inaccurate information about you exists online and counsel is trying to nail you about it, avoid the “yadda yadda yadda” effect. This is where you must continue to explain that information, clarify mistakes or misrepresentations and generally spend time off topic.

In testimony, the stakes are higher. Explaining a misunderstood internet result is to be avoided in a deposition or on the stand. A website is one workaround.

Imagine This Scenario In a Deposition

Opposing counsel asks you: “Doctor, isn’t it true a review on Yelp describes you as a quack?”

What if your answer is a long explanation about how you worked at that clinic for 10 years but then it was sold and now you don’t work there and the bad reviews aren’t about you?

You can proactively correct that information head on if you have a website to do so.

Under fire in that depo, replace “yadda yadda yadda” with “no” and, if appropriate “the information is inaccurate. My website describes my current practice.”

Give Them Something to Talk About

Your website is a forum for you to voice what is important to know about you. If you do not have a website you have no way to “tell the story” of your serious professional acumen.

Don’t Give Them Something To Dismiss You

The absence of knowledge-based content, has an unconscious result: it suggests emptiness of your acumen, which you must then defend on the stand through a jury-numbing list of credentials and testimony defending your credibility–which is truly the job of defense counsel. Let’s not be one-sided: defense counsel wants to communicate to a jury that you have something worth listening to.

Lastly, a defensive posture is unacceptable for a successful medical-legal expert. The tenor of your writing on your website can reassure Plaintiff and Defense attorneys that you are able to communicate findings with confidence and objectivity. You can stick to the topic and stay in your lane.

Your writing is also where you communicate you can be smart and accessible to any listener or demographic of a jury.

Do Your Colleagues Have Sites? If So, What Do They Reveal?

I have reviewed hundreds of sites of your colleagues, and continue to do so daily. Successful sites employ proven techniques with a contemporary design, valuable content and user-friendly behavior.

Frankly, most forensic expert witnesses–especially psychologists and psychiatrists–don’t have a website at all.

A few have terrible sites. Bad sites=less calls=lower forensic income.

Do your own search. If you look for your colleagues, some will be impossible to find online–even by name! It isn’t hard to turn this to your benefit.

Turn a Serious Website Into a Marketing Tool

Education: “Content is King”

Content is just another way of saying “information.” It encompasses visual material including photos and graphics, as well as text.

Meaningful content is where website marketing is most effective.

Your bio, articles that address varied knowledge, FAQs and a thoughtful, forensic-focused contact form can all serve your practice goals.

Breadth. For example, if you are a forensic child psychiatrist, visitors to your site should find something different than if you work in criminal psychology. If you know about both, then both should be addressed on your site.

Big Time Google Rewards

Search engines like Google and Bing rank informative sites  higher than sites that don’t provide something of value to the user. This is how you outperform content generated by AI (ChatGPT, etc.) which delivers bland regurgitation of widely available content.

Keep it Fresh. Google ignores static sites. E.g., content remains unchanged, there are no new articles, imagery or design, performed on a regular basis.  Google will assume if the site isn’t updating, you probably retired, died or are irrelevant, from their perspective.

Mobile Friendly. People, and Google, give preference to a site that can be read and navigated easily on a phone. Any website must perform on mobile. That doesn’t mean that’s how attorneys will read it, only that Google cares.

User Experience 101: User Experience (“UX”) is just what it sounds like: how the user interacts with the website. 10 seconds and they leave? 7 minutes to read an important article? Easy access to your phone number? A link to verify your credentials? All of these can make the website investment pay for itself with forensic income.

Bad UX. Have you ever gone to a website, been confused or turned off — leaping off to another website that is more helpful? You have had a bad user experience. Note what turned you off. On your website: don’t do it.

UX Tips and Tricks

Do
  • Information is easy to find in an online search and on your site itself.
  • Text is easy to read. (Light grey text on a medium gray background is one of my pet peeves.)
  • Clickable links go to the right place.
  • Contact info. appears on every page. People shouldn’t have to work to find out how to call you once they’re intrigued to do so.
  • Get a second set of eyes. Ask someone else for feedback because you are not the best judge of your own website.
Don’t
  • Be visually bland. Imagery should support the text’s meaning and be on point. Stock photos should be used with care; unique images work better than ubiquitous images.
  • Confuse what you do and know. Communicate your forensic practice clearly and specifics about your field; distinguish it from your clinical practice.
  • Don’t break the nomenclature of website function. Navigation, for example, includes universal clues to access content. We have come to expect and understand the nomenclature of websites:

3 horizontal lines on a phone means it is a menu.

A menu always provides an About Page and Contact Page.

Contact information is found in headers and footers.

Icon or words instantly convey your area of medicine or psychology.

Let’s dispel a few myths about websites:

Myth 1: Keep it Short

People actually are capable of reading for more than a few seconds. The myth is you must keep writing short and catchy. That isn’t true if the readers are attorneys, the writer is a doctor, and the stakes are in six figures.

Truth: 1100-2000 words is the most effective text length*. You’re an expert in your field as applied to law. Your website is all about text.

There are big benefits to weighty content.

Keep it Worthy: Defeating AI

Google is scrambling to develop an algorithm that outsmarts AI content. The key: AI content is bland and repeats what everyone writes on a subject.

You, however, can offer the information and perspective of a specialist and currently that is the gold standard for Google results.

Keep it Long: Defeating the Wall of Text

A 2000 word article doesn’t mean you force your reader to face the dreaded “wall of text.” Design is the solution to help readers parse the valuable material you provide into an easy read.

Visual cues unfold the content and break up the text.

To make your important content hold the reader’s attention add imagery, move topics around the page and use graphics to break up the text. Read more.

On this page I employ color, borders, layout and graphic elements. Every time I come to this page, I change it. Let me know what you think can be better!

Myth 2: Mobile-friendly design is more important than desktop design.

Yes and no. Starting in 2020, Google intrroduced to its algorithm a requirement for mobile-friendly sites.

Truth: You know from the calls you get that many attorneys, junior associates and paralegals tasked to find someone like you, do so from a desktop computer.

It is a mistake to craft a website only for mobile, though you must do so in some fashion because browsers factor in mobile-responsive sites in prioritizing results to a search.

Another factor is disability access which Google prioritizes–so be sure your font is visible to low-vision readers on desktop and mobile, for the SERP results alone. (SERP=Search Engine Results Page–which is no longer a “page” but still describes the position your site holds on the results to a search.)

Both desktop and cell phone design have to function. This is accomplished with “responsive design,” meaning whatever your site looks like on a desktop, it is coded to rearrange itself into a smaller format for a smaller screen.

Myth 3: More traffic means more success.

The amount of traffic to your website is not the measure of success.

Truth: 10 visitors is better than 2,000. In fact, a $20,000 case may come from one call. If there were 10 visitors that day and one was the case you got, then 10 visitors is just fine.  Add the word “blockchain” to your site and you’ll get lots of useless traffic.

Myth 4: Social Media is a necessary evil.

Truth: LinkedIn: Yes.  Facebook, Instagram and “X”: Not so much

Social media and their icons may sneak onto your website. If you don’t want to supply a Social Media destination for attorneys (besides LinkedIn) make sure Instagram doesn’t pop up in the footer — this can happen if you’re using a website template that is e-commerce-focused which may auto-populate linkable icons for “X” (Twitter,) Instagram or Facebook.

Unlike Facebook and Instagram, LinkedIn is specific to professional topics. This is called B2B or Business-to-Business communication. I encourage my clients to put a LinkedIn icon on their website because it has produced cases for them, when used properly. Read more about LinkedIn.

FAQs About Building a Website

Who builds a site?

A website developer and a content developer together create the back end and backbone of any website.

The developer writes the code that makes the site behave the way it does.

The content developer …curates content. For me, this is usually identifying topics and creating prompts to inspire my client to write about areas of knowledge they bring to the expert witness table.

You must be able to defend your words on the stand, so you must write it. I help make sure the topics answer questions I know attorneys ask.

Sometimes my client has a website designer already. If so, it is essential to employ a site developer who understands your forensic practice. Buyer beware: many designers are trained in commerce sites or clinical sites but that can create serious problems for your forensic practice.

How much does it cost?

Return on Investment (ROI) is what matters. If you spend $1,500 and make $0, it was a waste of money. If you spend $15,000 on a weighty site and get $100,000 worth of cases from it, which was the better use of funds?

A rubber stamped theme site with a Home page and a Contact page may be $1,500 but it won’t grow your practice. The Return on Investment model has taught me that it is a  waste of time and money to apply a “lowest bidder” mentality to website development costs.

How do you know if your website is working?

Access and Leverage the Power of Data

Data is the how we determine if a website is doing its job. I use some universal and some specific tools I have found effective. Here are their costs and benefits:

Google Analytics (Free).  Google Analytics, aka “GA,” is the only way to learn which search words or phrases were used to find your site.

(If you have a site, check the data that’s been collected before your decide your next steps.)

Web-Stat. With this service, a client sets up their own Web-Stat account which is necessary for it to track the data properly. Web-Stat reports specifics about the user’s location geographically and date and time they visited the site. It notes if it is the first, second or repeat visit. It shows how long users stayed on a given page. E.g., 20 people visited the site that day. 90% stayed less than 40 seconds. 10% stayed at least 5 minutes to read an article-and Web-Stat tells us which one. This drives future content choices.

GA and Web-Stat both show traffic and user behavior over time. How many people visited the site, when spikes occur, the bounce rate (those 40 second visitors who “bounced” out of the site) and much, much more.

CrazyEgg ($24/month, which I absorb). Code in the back end of the site enables Crazy Egg to record a user’s behavior in a video. It shows how fast the reader moved through the page, if they skipped data–perhaps because it was boring–and the moment they left the site. This is all useful to fix the site to make it better.

Making the Data Work: A Case Study
  • Who reached out to you? You receive a call from a lawyer in Tampa, for the first time.
  • What can the data tell us about the journey to calling you? Web-Stat tells me a visitor from Tampa accessed your site the day before at noon and a week before to a different page. Web-Stat and Google Analytics reveal the Tampa visitor spent 10 minutes reading your article about IMEs. GA tells me they arrived at the article from a Google search.
  • The caller never mentions your website. People rarely remember how they heard about you. That’s ok. The data will help us parse it out and maximize the site for the future.
  • What did they think they were looking for? Google Search Console (also free) tells us the search terms being used that day to find your site.
  • What other sites came up before they called you? this data comes from taking the search term Google Console gave us and plugging it into 3 browsers (Google, Bing and Firefox.)The attorney will typically see something like Wikipedia or an NIH article. Eventually we may see your site and that of a few of your colleagues/competitors. I like to read the early results of a search, to find out what the attorney finds. It might provide ideas for new content!
Value Driven by Data
  1. Functioning. You can tell if your site is functioning. Traffic information shows us whether visitors exist and, if so, what they are doing. Traffic does NOT tell us if the site is getting you work. Calls do.
  2. Fixes. Is the site on the SEO radar at all? If not, something is wrong and the fix is sometimes simple.
  3. Assumptions are factored into parsing the data. One doctor client of mine gets almost no traffic yet she tells me most of her callers come from the website. This means the content on her site is adequately compelling and the quality of user is more important than volume of users. Another doctor gets significant traffic but most callers state they learned of him elsewhere.
  4. Relevant “High Value” Users. The “High Value” user is simply someone you want to hear from: usually an attorney, but anyone who might retain you in a medical-legal case.
  5. “Low Value” Users. A person who does not want to retain an expert witness but instead may want to know more about what they face in an IME or even the meaning of “IME.” I don’t call these “irrelevant” users because their curiosity might be associated with a legal matter and their visit sometimes causes them to tell their attorney to call you. On the other hand, if they are looking for a healthcare provider, or acting pro se, they are not your target “high value” user.

Google Incognito: Let’s Put Your Sited or Siteless Practice To The Test

Use Google’s Incognito feature to stalk yourself

I begin by going “incognito” — a Google feature that allows me to conduct a search and strip it of my own browser history or geographic markers in their algorithm.

Would a website change anything?

Did websites of colleagues appear? Did anything appear related to you?

If you have a website, did it make a difference to the attorney’s search for someone like you?

If not, might a website engage and inspire attorneys to pick up the phone and call you?

*Online marketing guru, Neil Patel, cites 3 different studies that put the “sweet spot” for a website article at between 1500-2000 words. “How long should your blog article be?” Blog is just another way of say content, by the way, but it has some negative connotations for a professional site.