Preserve Your Law Firm’s Web Site

Anna Massoglia has (another) great 50 state chart of lawyers’ obligations to preserve their Web sites to meet their state professional rules.  I was surprised at how many states require that lawyers keep copies of their web sites as they change over the years.

It may not be obvious how to preserve your site.  As Anna says, once you have a policy in place, you can put it into action.  You can print off the pages of your web site but if your state offers the option of saving it as HTML, it can be a simpler way of keeping the files.

Some Web sites are created using individual pages and others use databases to store the page content.  If your law firm uses WordPress, for example, the pages are created using a database.  Web sites consisting of individual pages can be downloaded using file transfer software (FTP) like Filezilla on a periodic basis.  That can be the cleanest.  But if your site relies on a database, there are some useful tools to help you download the actual pages as they appear to visitors.

One that I’ve used is Blue Squirrels’ Webwhacker.  It’s representative of the category of tools you want to look for – known sometimes as offline browsers or offline readers – because they all do a similar thing.  They download the files on a Web site and preserve their arrangement in relation to each other.  When you open a downloaded page, it should look as if you’re on the actual site and links to other pages should work properly.  These tools can grab Web sites other than your own – for example, if you’re trying to preserve information you want to refer to later but aren’t sure the site will stay online – in addition to regularly saving your own law firm web site.

I use HTTrack‘s free desktop app and also it’s Android version, so that I can grab sites directly from my tablet.  Blue Squirrel’s Webwhacker has an interface worth paying for but HTTrack is a rough-and-ready utility for grabbing sites.

Whatever tool you use, you will want to test its ability to grab your site properly.  For example, the tool will usually follow links down into your site and could potentially follow links from your site to other places on the Web.  Rather than downloading those, you will want to tweak the settings of your offline browsing to limit it to your site.

Once you’ve tested it and saved your test, you can rerun the settings to meet your Web site collection policy.  Like any data backup, you will want to make sure you don’t overwrite previous downloads.

One way to avoid this would be to review the copied Web site when the collection is complete, by clicking on the downloaded version on pages that you know have been updated to make sure the changes are there.  Then you can save the entire downloaded site as a compressed file.  Locate the top folder containing downloaded Web pages and right click on it, in Windows.  Click Send To > and then Compressed Folder to deposit the folder and subfolders into a single .zip file.  You can name that based on whatever firm wide naming convention you have and save it with your other backed up data.

Anna’s post is a great reminder that, with the prevalence of lawyer and law firm web sites, there is an obligation to keep track of your changes.  Hopefully your site is changing frequently and, while generating new and repeat business, is being preserved just as often.

Originally posted on LinkedIn

David Whelan

I improve information access and lead information teams. My books on finding information and managing it and practicing law using cloud computing reflect my interest in information management, technology, law practice, and legal research. I've been a library director in Canada and the US, as well as directing the American Bar Association's Legal Technology Resource Center. I speak and write frequently on information, technology, law library, and law practice issues.