Where do people start on your legal website?

Many legal aid and court groups build their website with the assumption that people will start at the home page. But that might not reflect people’s actual journeys through your website.

Where do people start on your website?

If most of your visitors are coming from Google Search, they are likely being sent to where your detailed content is. Google Search will try to match their search query with the page and content that has the substance that will help them. That means Google Search may be sending them to your pages with FAQs, guides, tutorials, and other areas with high amounts of specific, detailed substance.

Unless a person is searching for your organization by name, Google Search is likely not sending them to your home page.

So what does that mean for your website design? Of course, still invest in a great homepage with clear messaging, design, and support. But on your sub-pages, especially those with lots of detailed content, then be sure to have links, navigation tools, and other important resources there on those high-traffic, detailed pages. For example:

  • Putting other common documents and pages that people with this problem might have Google Search may have put them in the deep-end. Could you give them more context and links, that might give them other context and tools.
  • Adding in an off-ramp to Legal Aid phone numbers or intake processes
  • Emphasizing the jurisdiction of the site, so that the person coming to this page knows if it applies to them or not.
  • Signaling the authority of the site so that the user knows that it is trustworthy, free, and authoritative.

Even when people are starting at the “end” — by going straight to the detailed resource end-point rather than the starting home page — your design can support them wherever they land.

Design Reviews

Designing a Landing Page for Legal Help

What should the landing page of your legal help website look like? What should it say, and what’s its purpose?

Our team has been working with courts and legal aid groups to design websites for the public. From this experience, and reviewing other groups’ websites, we have a few guiding principles for putting together a good landing page for a legal help website — especially one that is serving a variety of different legal issues.

Here is a discussion of the design choices we made on the Virginia Legal Aid Guides website, to discuss the important design/legal principles we were following to help our users.

Watch Video

This video walks through design principles for a good Legal Help webpage design. It covers:

  • Flagging Jurisdiction frequently, to communicate which people the site is for — and who it’s not for. We use frequent references to the state jurisdiction that this site is for.
  • Signal reliability and free accessibility by highlighting the common, known concept of “Legal Aid” and references to the trustworthy group that runs it — in this case Legal Services of Northern Virginia
  • Providing a Bird’s Eye View of the scenarios that the website can help a person with. Many people won’t know whether their life problem will be covered in this website. Give the main categories of scenarios your site can help with, plus some of the most common specific scenarios people might be searching for help with
  • Give Off-Ramps to human services (with phone numbers to call, offices to visit, online intake to fill in) for people who don’t want to be using online guides. Also give off-ramps to other jurisdictions, so they can find help in other places.

Get legal schema markup on Drupal

We have had many requests from our colleagues on the Legal Help Online Cohort, about how to get schema markup onto their Drupal website.

Here is a first way to do get key Schema markup onto your homepage. We’ll share future step-by-step guides for getting page-specific markup to indicate your jurisdiction and issue area to search engines.

Putting Legal Schema onto your homepage

  1. Make Legal Schema Markup on our free generator here, by filling in a form and creating json code. Save this code as a txt file, or have it ready to copy for step 7.
  2. Download the markup module here:
  3. Upload markup module using Extend(admin/modules) -> Add new module button
  4. Then click enable newly added modules link or navigate to /admin/modules
  5. Search for Structured Data JSON-LD module and enable it
    – navigate to content page (admin/content) and click to edit home page
  6. Click shortcuts link on top left panel and click Page Json button
  7. Add generated markup to the Json field without script tags like below:
      “@context”: “”,
      “@graph”: [
          “@type”: “LegalService”,
          “name”: “Legal Lab”,
          “url”: “”,
          “logo”: “”,
          “description”: “asdasdasdasd”
  8. Update url field to hame page link (like /node/1)
  9. Submit and it’s done!

Keyword research tools for improving legal help outreach

How do legal professionals know what people are searching for online? This is important, so they understand their needs, phrases, and ways to engage them.

One way to do this research is through SEO-oriented tools, called Keyword Research tools.

The Also Asked keyword research tool

 Keyword research tools like Also Asked, People Also Ask,, Answer the Public and Question DB are meant to help website administrators find the ways that people are talking about the topics that these administrators have offerings around.

Answer the Public takes the 1-3 keywords entered by the user, and then combines them with various prepositions or suppositions, enters them into Google search boxes, and records the AutoComplete suggestions that Google provides.

Also Asked & People Also Ask takes a similar approach, but records what Google Search presents in ‘People Also Ask’ boxes on the results page. QuestionDB searches popular forums, like Reddit, Quora, and Stack Exchange, for any questions that have these keywords or their variations.

They list back these posts’ titles, text, and original links.

Legal help experts & website administrators can use these SEO research tools to find keywords that will help them connect with possible users. They can use these keywords to connect people with FAQs, guides, and legal aid numbers. At the link, you can find keywords we’ve found for legal queries in the past.


How to search online for legal help

If you are having a legal problem, it can be hard to know who can help. If you turn to Google, which sites should you click on? Which sites can help you?

How to Use Google to Find Legal Help – Watch Video

The above video walks you through the basics of how to search the Internet to find quality legal advice.

Some of the key points:
1. Make sure you look for local, nonprofit legal aid groups that can help you. Every part of the US has a free legal aid group that can help people with housing, family, work, and money problems.

2. Check what the jurisdiction of the site is. For many legal issues, the law changes from state to state, or even from county to county. You want to get your advice from local experts, who know your region’s rights, deadlines, and forms.

3. Look for 4 things: Your Rights, Your Timelines, Your Options, and Your Service-providers. A good legal help website will give you specific information. These pieces of info can help you make a strategy and figure out your next steps. The website should help you understand what rights you have in your situation. It should let you know if there are deadlines, time windows, or other things to know about when you have to do things. It will tell you the menu of options you can take. And it can connect you with local, free groups who can help you do things.

There is a lot of good legal help information out on the Internet. But sometimes you have to dig around on Google or other sites to find it. Use these tips to find more reliable & helpful information online to deal with your legal problem.


Putting Schema markup on legal help websites

As part of the Legal Help Online Cohort, our group at Stanford has been making lots of new schema markup for legal aid groups. What’s Schema markup? It’s computer code that lives on the backend of a website. It tells search engines (like Google) about what’s on a website, and why it should be shown to certain people.

We’ve built a tool that makes it easy for others to make markup for their sites.

And here is a video walking through how to make this markup:

How to Get Started Creating Schema Markup – Watch Video

Here’s an example of markup that we’ve made for a legal help site. This is for Indiana Legal Help, a site that provides free help for people who have civil justice needs.

You can create json code like this using the tool above, and then work with your developer to put it on a ‘hidden’ part of your website. That could be in the ‘header’ part of the homepage code, or across all pages on your website.

<script type="application/ld+json">
  "@context": "",
  "@graph": [
      "@type": "LegalService",
      "name": "Indiana Legal Help",
      "url": "",
      "logo": "",
      "description": "Indiana Legal Help is a project of the Coalition for Court Access. It offers lo and no-cost legal help in Indiana. It has forms, information, and referral information. It also has volunteer opportunities for legal professionals.",
      "email": [
      "knowsLanguage": [
          "@type": "Language",
          "name": "English",
          "alternateName": "en"
      "knowsAbout": [
      "address": {
        "@type": "PostalAddress",
        "addressRegion": "IN"
      "areaServed": {
        "@type": "AdministrativeArea",
        "name": [

Legal quizzes to build knowledge

What makes for a good legal help website? We’ve been talking about this in our Legal Help Online Cohort. One of the big indicators of success is building people’s knowledge about their rights and the law. Hopefully a person will know how the local law might play out in their situation, and they have a sense of what their options are in the system.

To that end, some websites have put interactive quizzes on their website. These quizzes show a written scenario or a short animated video with fictional characters (sometimes cats). It’s a fact pattern of a life problem — like a grandparent wanting to see grandkids, or an employee worried about the safety of the company truck who then quits.

The quiz asks a multiple choice, yes/no question to the user. Can they apply the law to the person’s situation?

The quiz lets them know instantly if they’ve understood the law correctly, and if they can apply it to a situation.

These quizzes can play a few different beneficial roles:

  1. They help a person build their legal capability. By applying the legal information the website has tried to convey to them, the person will exercise the knowledge — like if they were playing a navigator to a friend. Applying knowledge is a key way to making it stick. Even if they get it wrong, they’re much more likely to retain the knowledge!
  2. They help the website administrators track success. Does the person not just ‘like’ the page — but actually benefit from it? Knowing that they’re getting the quiz questions right is a key indicator that the website is doing its job of building legal capability.
  3. They make the website more lively and engaging. Games and quizzes are enticing — a nice break from paragraphs of text. And they can help make a person feel smarter and more confident, that they know something & are affirmed in this. They might now have more confidence to take on their own justice issue, if they know they can help others.

Measuring a website’s performance

The 2018 report, “Measuring Online Legal Resources: A Framework
Inspired by the Drake Equation
“, by Laura Quinn & Joyce Raby lays out a standard metric by which to judge whether a legal help online resource is effective or not. Mainly, the metric is about whether the ‘funnel’ of attracting the intended audience is functioning properly.

Are people in the jurisdiction, who have the given legal problem, actually finding, using, and moving forward on their justice journey because of the legal resource?

This measure doesn’t look at the benchmarks of what makes a legal resource actually improve its discovery, engagement, or empowerment. Rather, it’s about the overall indicators that would show the resource is performing well.


Legal terms that confuse people

In our recent Legal Help Online Cohort meeting, we asked the question: what are legal terms that people often get confused? Where they say one term-of-art, but actually mean another situation?

These high-confusion terms are important. People could rely on the wrong information if they are visiting web pages or following guides for the wrong term.

Here are the legal terms that people get confused by:

  1. guardianship vs conservatorship
  2. joint custody vs legal custody
  3. parenting time vs visitation
  4. expunction vs expungement vs record-sealing vs record-masking vs clearing a record
  5. separation vs divorce
  6. restraining orders vs protective orders
  7. custody vs legal decision-making vs parenting time

Do you know other terms that confuse people? We’d love to hear them — so we can devise strategies that help people learn what their situation is actually called.


Strategies for better legal help language access

How can more legal help providers get more of their information & guidance into more languages?

There is a huge language access problem in legal services. So many people who need help have issues with Limited English Proficiency. It would be better to get these LEP users to articles, guides, FAQs, and services in their own native languages. But there is not enough funding, staffing, and capacity to provide robust information & services in all languages needed.

Especially since each jurisdiction or organization is having to do language access on their own — it becomes a huge budget & capacity issue.

A 2013 report for the Legal Services Corporation, “Can Translation Software Help Legal Services Agencies Deliver Legal
Information More Effectively in Foreign Languages and Plain
by Jeff Hogue & Anna Hineline (pdf at link), outlines different strategies that legal aid groups can use to increase the capacity & accuracy of language access efforts.

(c) Jeff Hogue and Anna Hineline, page 5 of report

They outline various tech strategies that could increase this capacity to serve in multiple languages:

  1. Machine Translation (like a variation of Google Translate), in which a computer program is receiving the text, and proposing the translation
  2. Human Translation, in which a person is proposing the translation based on their knowledge of language & the situation
  3. Translation Memory, in which people record their translations into a database, and then when there is a new text to be translated — they draw on this existing database for the translation

This third category — of a shared database of translations and glossaries — could be a powerful solution to get to scaled, accurate language access. What if legal aid groups & legal help websites shared their multi-lingual (and plain language) translations of paragraphs, sentences, phrases, and words?

If there was a collective, open-source effort to create a Translation Memory database, this could spread the costs out among many groups. Instead of each group translating their content, they could share their past translations and allow other groups to draw from this.

This can also avoid the potential harms of a machine translation solution. In that setup, the providers are hoping that the machine (and its algorithms) can provide accurate & understandable translations. They might have a human to help review this. But the Translation Memory approach prioritizes the expert human translation from the start, and then uses technology to make that approved, hand-crafted translation more accessible and replicable.

The authors of the report highlight that this shared Translation Memory approach could be valuable but costly. Here are some of their recommendations:

  • “The amount of time and effort that needs to be put into developing and maintaining a high-quality glossary and translation memory is non-trivial. We recommend that the Legal Services Corporation convene a group of leaders from legal services providers, plain language experts, and court leaders to adopt or discard this approach.” (page 23)

They also recommend gathering a similar group of stakeholders to explore what is ethically & technically possible with combining machine translation with human review or specialized legal glossaries. Could there be an effective way to build on top of Google Translate or Microsoft Translate? It would be important to have a group of stakeholders and expert reviewers decide if this is possible and ethical.

For either a Translation Memory or Machine Translate + Human Review approach, having a shared database of glossaries is a key step. Our team at Legal Design Lab has started gathering glossaries that already exist, to start building an open-source database of legal help-oriented translations.

Please feel free to write or share if you want to work on this project with us! We hope to push language access forward with this infrastructure work, that can lay the groundwork for more accessible and scalable legal help efforts.