The world has gone digital and there’s no turning back. Technology has already completely rewritten the rulebooks for how we live our lives and run our businesses, and it’s just getting started. Here at Lexicata, we are big believers that technology will make you a better lawyer, and that leveraging the power of software is key to building a successful law practice. The better you understand technology, the easier it will be to unlock the immense benefits technology has to offer. So we put together this list of 30 technology terms every lawyer needs to know to help you improve your tech savviness.
Digital Marketing Terms
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again…if you don’t understand the basics of law firm marketing, you will have a hard time implementing a marketing plan.
These digital marketing terms will help familiarize you with some of the foundational concepts you need to find success.
In digital marketing, “engagement” is a general measurement of how much attention your marketing messages receive. It’s especially used to analyze social media posts and videos on platforms like YouTube.
There is not exactly a formula for measuring engagement. It’s more of a relative assessment to compare the effectiveness of different social posts, ad campaigns, or videos.
You can measure your engagement by looking at the number of likes, shares, comments, retweets, pins, video plays, impressions, clicks, etc. that a particular post, ad, or video receives.
An impression is a measure of how many times an online ad, article, video, or other piece of content is viewed (i.e. loaded in the browser or requested) by a user.
Similar to engagement, monitoring your impressions is an important part of measuring the effectiveness of any online advertising or social media marketing campaigns.
Impressions are most often measured in terms of CPM, or the cost per 1000 impressions. The goal is to achieve the lowest possible CPM in order to maximize the reach of your campaigns.
A keyword is a word or phrase used to search for information online in a search engine like Google, Yahoo, or Bing. It could be something as simple as “lawyer” or something much more precise such as “wrongful death attorney near Chicago.”
Understanding how keywords work will help you develop your website content. You should always have a target keyword or phrase in mind when writing page titles and articles for your website, since the better your keywords match up with people’s search terms, the more likely your website will be displayed in the search results.
You can use the Google keyword planner tool to learn more about what keywords people search for and how frequently.
SEO stands for “search engine optimization,” which is a very in-depth topic and an entire industry of its own.
Generally, performing SEO means making specific changes to your website in order to improve its ranking position in the search results, and thus attract more website visitors.
Targeting the right keywords is one important aspect of SEO, but there are many other ranking factors that come into play. No one truly knows exactly how Google’s algorithm works, but you can check out our law firm SEO guide to learn more about basic optimization techniques.
In digital marketing, the word organic essentially means free or unpaid web traffic/impressions. Much like organic produce is more natural and grown without any pesticides, organic traffic occurs naturally online without buying advertising.
The goal of doing SEO and improving your engagement on social media is usually specifically to drive more organic website traffic, which is effectively just free marketing for your business. When things “go viral,” that essentially just means they received a massive influx of organic traffic.
PPC stands for “pay-per-click” and CPC stands for “cost-per-click.” Both terms refer to a paid online advertising model where you get charged every time someone clicks on one of your ads.
There are other advertising models as well, such as CPM (paying for impressions, regardless of clicks) and CPA (paying for more meaningful interactions, such as acquiring an email address).
The best advertising model depends on the specific goals of an individual campaign, but PPC/CPC is one of the most common. It’s particularly used in search engine marketing (i.e. Google ads).
CTA stands for “call to action” and it is one of the more common terms you’ll hear in digital marketing. Any marketing asset, from a Facebook ad, to an email newsletter, to your website homepage, should have a prominent and clear call to action.
The CTA is what encourages someone to take the next important step in your marketing funnel, whether that means signing up for a newsletter, filling out a contact form, replying to an email, scheduling a consultation, etc.
A good CTA uses compelling language and is prominently displayed, maximizing the likelihood that someone will interact with it.
CTR stands for “click through rate” and is a measure of the percentage of people who clicked on a link after viewing it in an ad or marketing email.
CTR is a very important metric for digital marketing. The idea is always to optimize content in order to maximize your CTR because a higher CTR will yield a higher ROI from your marketing budget.
Just about every online advertising platform, like Google or Facebook, as well as email marketing products like MailChimp should give you a CTR metric by default. Pay attention to it, and strive for the highest rate possible.
9. Bounce Rate
A “bounce” occurs when someone visits a page on your website and then immediately exits without visiting any other pages. The bounce rate is simply the percentage of visitors who bounce out of all the total visitors within a certain time period. If you use Google Analytics, your bounce rate will be measured automatically.
A high bounce rate is a bad sign for your web marketing. It means your web visitors are not taking the desired action, such as contacting your law firm for more information.
So the goal should be to create an engaging and informative website in order to minimize your bounce rate. See our post about law firm web design tips for ideas about how to do this.
In digital marketing, a conversion occurs whenever someone completes a key action in the marketing funnel. It might be signing up for a newsletter, filling out a contact form, or something else.
The great thing about online marketing is that there are a ton of tools available where you can define goals, track conversions, and generate valuable reports with your data.
To truly get the most from your marketing, you must optimize your strategy constantly, and it’s only possible if you can systematically track data at each point of the conversion funnel.
Web Design & Website Terms
A great website is the cornerstone of just about any online marketing strategy. Having a professional, modern, and intuitive web design can make a world of difference when it comes to landing clients.
Understanding the following web design terminology will help you “talk the talk” with any web development company you may hire and help ensure that your website keeps up with the latest standards.
UI stands for “user interface,” which quite simply is the things you see and interact with on the screen when using a website.
This would include buttons, fonts, images, background colors, navigation bars, menus, links, footers, banners, and anything else you see on the page.
The UI is one of the most important things to focus on when building a website. People make judgments about the quality of a business almost instantaneously when they land on the company’s website, so it’s imperative that your site looks sleek and professional to create a strong first impression.
UX stands for “user experience.” It’s closely related to the UI, and the two concepts pretty much go hand in hand when it comes to web design.
The subtle yet important difference between them is that UX is more about the interactions and the flows users go through when navigating a website, whereas the UI is specifically just the appearance of items on the page.
The UX describes what happens in response to a user’s interactions. A good UX should be intuitive and smooth, and it should seamlessly funnel users toward taking the desired action without making them feel lost or confused.
A browser is a software application on a computer or mobile device that is used to access the internet. Modern popular web browsers include Google Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.
Today’s browsers are becoming powerful software programs and have the ability to offer additional functionality through the use of “extensions” or little mini apps that can perform tasks for you when you use websites.
It’s important to keep your browser up to date because the web is constantly changing and using an outdated browser is likely to cause problems accessing modern websites.
HTML stands for “hypertext markup language.” It’s one of the very most fundamental aspects of the internet because it’s the language that every website uses to display content on the page.
Everything you see on a website, from the images to the text to the empty spaces between the sections is encoded using HTML format.
It isn’t really necessary to be able to read and write actual HTML code, but you should at least know what HTML means and understand that all websites use the same, standardized building blocks whether they are built in WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, or they are custom developed web software applications.
CSS means “cascading style sheets,” and along with HTML, it is one of the basic foundations of the world wide web. These two technologies work closely together to create the UI/UX, or the look and feel of the website.
HTML is used to define the raw blocks of content, and CSS is used to style them and arrange them on the page. It’s what creates the colors, the size, the layout, and the spacing of all the things you see on the page.
Once again, you shouldn’t concern yourself too much with the actual syntax of CSS, but know that the reason something appears blue is because there is a CSS rule written somewhere defining that element’s color as blue.
However, it is an actual scripting language that is capable of performing complex logic and operations, unlike HTML and CSS which exclusively create the appearance of a website.
Responsive is a term used to describe a website that has been optimized to work well on all different screen sizes.
In previous times, mobile websites were often developed and hosted separately from desktop versions. So you would actually end up having two completely different websites to maintain, which added additional costs and complexity.
These days, the trend is to have a single website that can “respond” and adapt its appearance to fit the specific device that is being used to access it. Mobile devices account for 50% plus of all web traffic, so having a non-mobile friendly website is not an option anymore.
Hosting refers to a service that enables people to make their websites available online. Web hosting companies operate web servers and allow their customers to rent those servers and upload their website files so that they are accessible on the internet.
Popular web hosting companies include GoDaddy, HostGator, Bluehost, InMotion, Rackspace, and others. These days, there are also a number of do-it-yourself website builders that allow you to both host and design your website with an easy-to-use editor that does not require help from a developer.
Our recommended DIY website providers include Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, and LawLytics, which is specifically for attorneys.
CMS is an acronym that stands for “content management system.” It’s essentially a tool that allows web publishers to create and manage the content on their websites.
Popular CMS systems include WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla. WordPress is the most popular and powers up to 30% of all websites and blogs on the entire internet.
Using a CMS like WordPress is an easy and effective way to build a content-driven website that is designed for SEO and driving organic traffic. Check out our getting started with WordPress guide for more info.
A domain name is essentially just a string of text used to look up a website on the internet. For example, our domain is Lexicata.com.
A domain name is purchased and registered with a service called a registrar, which is basically an agent that works with ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). ICANN is the organization responsible for maintaining the entire domain name architecture of the internet.
Once registered, a domain name points to a specific IP Address (see below), which directs a computer to the correct server when someone uses it to access a website. Domain names are useful for humans because they are much easier to remember than a website’s IP Address.
21. IP Address
An IP Address is a numerical identifier assigned to each device that accesses the internet.
IP Addresses function similarly to property addresses in the physical world. It tells computers in a network where other computers are located, just like property addresses are used by people to locate buildings.
Since IP Addresses would be very difficult to remember for humans, we use domain names as a more memorable and recognizable system for identifying web properties.
URL stands for “uniform resource locator” and it’s basically the address for a specific resource in a computer network. It is most commonly used to access a specific page on a website, but you can also use URLs for email and file transfers.
A URL consists of a protocol (such as https or ftp), a host or domain (such as lexicata.com), and a filename, such as “blog” (the full URL would be “https://lexicata.com/blog”).
When you input a URL into the browser, the computer knows exactly where to go to look up that web page. And that’s how we “browse” the internet.
SSL stands for “secure sockets layer” and is one of the most fundamental security protocols used on the web. It is basically a system for ensuring that data remains secure and private as it is transmitted between two computers in a network.
SSL converts data into a format that is unreadable by a human so that even if the data is intercepted during transmission, it would be useless. These days, the majority of professional websites have SSL enabled, which is what gives them the “Secure” label which normally displays next to the URL in the address bar.
Check out our post about how to secure your website with an SSL certificate to learn more.
Web Software Terms
Web software is gradually taking over and replacing old offline or locally installed software systems. Web software is typically much more affordable, easier to maintain and update, and easier to use than legacy solutions.
Any law firm hoping to keep up with modern technology should expect to use web based software, so here are some web software terms to get familiar with.
Cloud computing is a system where data is not stored locally on your own machine, but instead hosted on servers distributed around the world and accessed over the internet.
A fundamental shift in the way we use software and store data is currently underway, with more and more technology services being offered via the cloud. The cloud offers more affordability, greater accessibility, and easier maintenance compared to on premise solutions.
Everything from email, to case management software, to CRM software is moving to the cloud these days. And both small businesses and large enterprises are making the shift.
Although many people early on had security concerns, the cloud has proven that it’s here to stay. Check out our list of top cloud software for law firms to learn more.
A server is a type of computer or computer program designed to perform certain functions for other computers in a network. These functions typically include things like storing data and running computations.
Servers work with clients (see below) in a “request-response” model. The client makes a request over the web which hits the server and tells it what to do. The server performs the requested operation, and issues a response back to the client.
Servers are a key component of any web based software system because they host data and perform the operations and computations you need to get value from your data.
A client is a computer or software program that is used to access functions provided by a server in the client-server model of computing. The most common type of client that we’re all familiar with is a web browser.
When you use software on the web, your browser acts as the client. You click around on the interface, input information into forms, and make requests to submit or retrieve data from the server.
The server has code and software programs running which can respond to your requests and issue back an appropriate response. That response will normally update the client interface, e.g. by displaying a success message or retrieving some data for you.
API means “application programming interface.” In today’s highly integrated, cloud-based software world, APIs are becoming one of the most important technologies to understand.
An API is effectively a set of standardized rules that define how to communicate with a software program from the outside. API’s enable different software companies to build integrations with one another and allow for data to be transferred seamlessly back and forth.
We are seeing a shift away from the old days where companies used one all-encompassing, single software solution for everything. Today’s software is more narrowly focused, which makes it easier to use, and it will typically only solve a single problem or several related problems, but do it very well.
By using software with integrations to other systems, you can implement a cohesive software stack of different tools that all work nicely together, communicate, and send data back and forth with ease.
A database is usually run on a server, and it’s the place where software programs store data for the users.
A client (e.g. a web browser) is used to submit and retrieve data from the database whenever a user makes a request. The database itself can be visualized like a spreadsheet, which various tables containing columns and rows for all the records.
Multiple tables can interact with one another in what’s called a “relational database” in order to structure the data in a way that is most useful for serving whatever purpose the software application is designed for.
A framework is basically a standardized structure that makes it faster and easier to develop software. There are a wide variety of frameworks used on both the server and client side, and they are used to implement both large and small aspects of the software’s functionality.
Frameworks can significantly speed up development times because they can handle many common processes right out of the box. Most cloud software companies rely heavily on frameworks to build their code.
Popular frameworks that are widely utilized on the web today include Ruby on Rails, Django, React, Angular, etc.
3o. Open Source
Open source refers to a type of software where the code is made publicly available and licensed in a way that other developers can use it and modify it freely.
It may seem counterintuitive that companies would spend significant resources developing code, only to then share it for everyone else to use for free, but this is exactly the trend we’re seeing in today’s technology landscape.
Major companies including Google and Facebook have poured billions of dollars into the development of open source projects. The general idea is that building open source code moves the entire technology ecosystem forward and ends up benefiting everyone because it becomes faster and easier to make progress when everyone can collaborate and work on projects together.
Blockchain projects like Bitcoin are also open source, and we’re seeing increasing interest in these new types of decentralized technologies from the best developers around the world. So the trend appears to be here to stay.
Technology is reshaping the world around us every single day. The better you understand technology, the easier it will be to use it to build your law practice and provide a better experience for your clients.
So we hope you found this list of 30 technology terms every lawyer needs to know useful and informative, and that you can improve your tech savviness as a result of learning about them.