If your law firm does not have ownership of your website, you are very likely paying much more than you should to keep the site up. Large website companies like Lawyers.com, FindLaw & Dex like to keep control over your site because the perceived difficulty of transferring your domain name and setting up the site again is just enough motivation to keep you paying their monthly invoices.
Owning your own site typically means that you have control over your domain name and hosting space with a company like GoDaddy. There are hundreds of services provided by thousands of companies large and small the can help your website. Obviously, I don't have the time to detail all of those, but the actual hosting space (meaning, where your website is hosted) and your domain name typically cost about $100 per year. If you are paying more than that and do not understand what a company is doing other than keeping your website up, you should seek an explanation immediately.
First, you should be realistic about how much you actually update your website. Nearly every law firm I've worked with has had the best intentions about keeping their site fresh with new content, practice area descriptions and news about the firm. Most of those same firms end up actually updating their website less than once a year. That said, you do need a means to quickly and easily update your website. I suggest that you have someone available to update your website on an hourly basis so that you are only paying when you are actually receiving service. You can also buy software that will allow you or someone in your firm to make updates to your website.
Many law firms use content management systems like Wordpress. While they do provide a convenient way to update your website, they come with some tradeoffs. I encourage law firms to be realistic about how much they're going to update their websites before making these tradeoffs. Even without a content management system, it's easy to make text-based changes to your site through GoDaddy. They have a nice system where once you are logged in the interface is similar to a word processor.
Several of the sites I have built are FindLaw template sites that cost between $700 and $1,200 per month. Taking an average price of $800, the annual cost is $9,600. In most cases, I sell these sites (template designs, less than 15 pages) for $3,000. The hosting plan costs roughly $100 per year. So the cost of three years owning your website totals $3,300. Keeping it with FindLaw for those three years will cost you over $25,000.
If you're currently paying a large company to host your website, get familiar with both your contract term and the details about what you own. The most important element is the content on your site as it's the hardest thing to replace. Some companies will let you re-use the design that they prepared for you. If you have questions about how to move forward and take ownership over your site, feel free to contact me and we can put together a plan.