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Attorney Website Design Blog

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Featuring Free Consultations on Your Law Firm's Website

Many folks fear the cost of attorneys. They’ve heard horror stories of friends being billed $150.00 for the firm to photocopy a four page brief or others who have paid thousands for an attorney who was neither accessible nor successful.  These stereotypes and general apprehension by prospective clients must be considered with respect to your firm’s website. Many web visitors may be interested in working with your firm but may be hesitant to reach out to you for fear that they will get socked with a large bill for a short consultation (and then ultimately decide not to retain your firm).

Offering free consultations to new clients, and prominently displaying this offering on your website, is one way to get hesitant prospects off of your site and into your office. Displaying this information does not make your firm look less credible nor does it entice tire kickers to call you. Instead, think of it as a way to make your firm look accessible, friendly and open to taking on new cases. Without fear that they will get charged, clients will be more inclined to pick up the phone and ask questions which is a great start to any long-term relationship.   

If your site is getting lots of traffic but not a ton of online leads, it’s time to consider adding information of your firm’s free consultation.
 


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Reflections

As we head into Thanksgiving, a holiday to reflect and celebrate blessings with friends and family, we at Amicus Creative Media have so much to be thankful for.

In the past year, we have greatly expanded our client base. We now proudly serve firms in 45 states across the country. Our new clients include estate planning firms, bankruptcy attorneys, immigration lawyers, personal injury law firms, family law attorneys and criminal defense firms. It has truly been a pleasure working with each and every one of these firms. Thank you for choosing us.  

To our long-time clients and friends, a huge thank you is needed. We are so grateful that you continue to stick with us and spread the good word about Amicus Creative. It is with your support and feedback that we continue to grow and evolve.  

2010 has also been a great year for new partners is the legal community. We have teamed up with new bar associations, large and small, including the New York State Bar Association and Western San Bernadino County Bar Association, just to name a few. We have also continued to strengthen our relationship with our long time partners, WealthCounsel, NAELA, NAEPC and NYCLA. Through these affiliations, we continue to expand our network of legal professionals and have met some really wonderful and talented individuals.

Finally, we are so incredibly thankful for the success of LegalVault, our advanced document exchange and exchange system, in the past year. Hearing all of the buzz and positive feedback about this product from the legal community has totally blown us away. This service is now being used by firms across the country. Thank you to all of our new LegalVault clients; we appreciate your enthusiasm, your feedback and most importantly that you’ve welcomed us into your office. There has been nothing more rewarding than working closely with you to strategize and collectively discover creative ways to integrate this service into your practice.

From our Amicus Creative family to yours, we wish you a very happy Thanksgiving and holiday season. We can’t wait to show you what we have in store for 2011!   
 


Monday, November 22, 2010

Promoting Your Law Firm’s Website This Holiday Season

With the holidays just around the corner, it is easy to put your law firm’s marketing strategy on the backburner. Despite the many distractions of this busy season, it’s important that you use this time of year to promote your law firm’s website. We’ve included a few hints below to help you get the word out about your site and make sure that clients remember your firm all year long:

  • Holiday Cards – Sending out holiday cards to your clients and business contacts is a marketing must. As an attorney, you have a closer relationship to your clients than many other service providers and should take the extra step to personalize each card. In these notes, be sure to include a sentence on checking out your website. If your site is new, this is the perfect time to refer clients and colleagues to it. If the site has been up a while, remind card recipients of some new content you’ve added to draw them in once again.
     
  • Holiday Events – Many firms hold holiday events for friends and clients. If you host such a gathering, be sure to feature the event on your site using the Amicus Creative Seminar Management system which allows individuals to RSVP online. Whenever you speak to your clients and referral sources in the upcoming weeks, make sure to inform them of this event and direct them to your site where they can learn more and register.   
     
  • Holiday Promotions – We know that as an attorney you’re probably not selling something that can be re-gifted but that doesn’t mean that you can’t utilize some of the same strategies used by many retailers and offer discounts on your services during the holiday months.  Showcase these holiday discounts prominently on your website.  If you are an estate planning attorney, you might consider reducing the annual cost of your Maintenance Plan if they enroll before the New Year or if you’re a tax attorney, you might consider offering a deal on your 2011 tax preparation services. Of course, you won’t be turning the same profits but these promotions can generate a substantial amount of business during a traditionally slow time of year.
     
  • Holiday Traditions – One of the most common criticisms of attorney websites is that they lack personality. You will often hear marketing experts say that attorney profiles are too bland and don’t allow website visitors to connect effectively with the firm. The holidays serve as a great time to personalize your site. Try writing a holiday blog post for site visitors. In this post, consider including a personal story—you may discuss your favorite holiday tradition, greatest memory or perhaps even share your family’s best recipe. The holidays allow you to give your business contacts a glimpse into your personal life without compromising the professional feel of your site. Make sure that this post is also emailed to all of your blog subscribers so it receives the attention it deserves.

Traditionally known as the season to give, December is also the ideal season to promote.  So this year as you send your greetings to clients, and plan special holiday events, make sure that your website is an integral part of spreading holiday cheer!
 


Monday, November 8, 2010

Packing a Punch with your Website’s Home Page

If you’ve ever written a novel, thesis or heck, even a college essay, you know that the introductory paragraph or chapter is often the hardest to draft. This language is the first to be presented to the reader and as such must be informative, concise and most importantly, engaging. When developing your website, the home page must contain these elements as this will serve as the introduction to your firm for many web visitors.

A well-drafted home page should be short and to the point and contain the following three items:

Introductory Paragraph: Search engines and readers alike pay great attention to the first few sentences on your home page. Website owners often struggle with finding a balance which should appeal to both. Quite simply, your first home paragraph should serve as a synopsis of your firm; what do you do? Who do you serve? Where do you practice? Be sure to include your main target geographic locations and practice areas. An example of a strong introductory sentence which is effective in terms of SEO and visitor appeal might simply read, “The Sample Law Firm works with families and small businesses throughout Springfield, Massachusetts with Estate Planning, Asset Protection and Business Succession Planning. In one easy to read sentence, you’ve laid out exactly what you’re about and tell the user if they should look any further. Of course, if you have 14 specialties, this cannot be combined into 1 sentence. In that case, you might consider listing just a few practice areas in the first sentence and follow that with a bulleted list of your other services.

Body:  The intro sentence(s) tells visitors exactly what you do and where you do it. The body of the home page should describe what sets you apart from other competitors in the area. Don’t use the generic  ”we are client-focused” pitch (although it may be part of it). Instead tell your story, list particular examples of technology or procedures you use to benefit your clients or even consider featuring a prominent client testimonial. In short, use this space to sell yourself and be creative.

Conclusion: After you’ve talked up your firm, you need a call to action. You might highlight that you have a free consultation available or flexible appointment times. Then be sure to include your contact information or a prominent link to the Contact Us page. If you would like to steer users deeper into the site to check out your firm profile or news stories, you might consider including direct links to these pages as well.

By following the guidelines above, you can be sure that your site has the right stuff to keep visitors interested. Contact us today to learn more about optimizing your home page.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Just Keep Blogging

By now, most attorneys and website owners know that they should be blogging.  Many take to the task with great enthusiasm, writing several posts a week but few sustain this zeal as time passes. In fact, research shows that 45 percent of all bloggers stop blogging within three months.  

Now we know exactly why this drop occurs; in fact, we’ve probably heard every excuse in the book—“with so many clients and court dates, there is not enough time to write blog entries”, “the posts are not generating new business”,  “writer’s block is holding me back.” For these reasons and so many more, attorneys often stop blogging before they’ve even hit their stride and as a result, few see the true benefits of active blogging.

To help you keep your blog mojo, we’ve compiled a list of the top five reasons you NEED to keep blogging. Post it on your desk, make it your computer background or place it on the fridge—wherever it will best serve as motivation to get you writing.

Better Search Results - The more you blog, the better your site will do in the search rankings—it’s that simple. If your site is doing better with Google, you’re going to get more leads from the web.

Showcase Personality & Expertise - In the world of law firm websites, you need something that will set you apart from your competitors. Your informative, insightful and witty blog entries can do just that.  Active bloggers often have prospective clients, fellow advisors and even media outlets engage with them based on blog posts alone.

Stay Connected - Let’s be honest, most practices of law do not lend themselves well to ongoing relationships with clients once the legal work at hand has been completed. In fact, with far too many areas, clients associate their legal experience with a negative time whether it be bankruptcy, divorce or injury. Regular emails to clients with blog entries can actually change this dynamic and keep the relationship intact so that they positively remember your firm when it is time to refer a friend or their next legal matter arises.
 
Strengthen Your Research & Writing Skills - When most of our clients begin blogging, they are concerned with the writing style, subject matter and tone of posts. Blog entries need not be overly formal like law journal articles.  In fact, a more casual tone infuses more of your personality and is less intimidating to readers, many of whom may not be professionals.  The only way to conquer your fear of this more casual approach is to blog and blog often! Overtime, this style of writing will become second nature and may also translate into other areas of practice where personality can be key such as client correspondence.
 
Social Interaction - One of the greatest benefits of blogging, is that it makes you a part of a much bigger social media community. Blogging encourages reader comments and fosters an exchange of ideas which often lead to stronger relationships, online and off. Bloggers tend to actively read blogs with a similar focus so posting regularly can establish you as an authority in your practice area, leading attorneys and advisors from around the country to engage with you and your firm.

As social media continues to grow in popularity and the web further infiltrates daily life (have you heard about Google TV?), you can’t afford to quit blogging. So if you’re struggling, keep at it and remember blogging isn’t a track meet, it’s a marathon.
 


Thursday, September 30, 2010

Multiple Practice Areas--One Website?

It is not at all unlikely for a solo-practitioner or a multiple attorney law firm to specialize in more than one practice area. When building a main website for these multi-practice firms, we are often asked how to present all of these areas on one site. Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut answer to this question.

There are multiple factors to consider in determining whether one site will do the trick or multiple sites are needed to adequately represent all of your firm’s services.

Identify the practice areas you want to showcase
Carefully evaluate your practice areas and ask yourself, how different are these specialties? In some cases, an attorney may practice both business law and employment law. While these are distinct specialties, the connection between the two is apparent to the site’s visitors. However, if you are a solo-practitioner specializing in estate planning and personal injury cases, the connection is not as apparent. If a visitor is looking for a highly specialized attorney for a complex estate planning matter, they may question the expertise of an attorney who splits his or her time focusing on other areas of the law.

Take a look at competing sites in your geographic area
The goal of most attorney websites is to drive business and we all know that if you can’t be found in the search results, the site isn’t going to accomplish much. As such, you must always consider search engine optimization in the early stages of site development. When deciding which areas of practice to feature on your site, do some homework-scope out your competitors sites and narrow down which geographic areas you would like to target.

In certain areas of the country where you have only a few dozen firms to compete with, you may be able to have a more generalized site which lists multiple specialties and still ranks well. However, if you’re in the heart of New York City or Los Angeles with thousands of firms to compete with, it is better to showcase only one practice area (or multiple practice areas that are very closely related, such as family law and matrimonial).

The reason for this lies in the importance of content to SEO. The more content pertaining to one practice area, the better the site will do in the results.  Search engines tend to give higher priority to websites with a narrower focus that is closely associated with the search term because such websites are deemed to be more relevant to the user’s search.   Additionally, there are a limited number of high value “hot spots” within various areas of a website that convey context.  With multiple practice areas, it is difficult or even impossible to place important content in those areas.  In narrowing the number of practice areas, you may actually broaden the reach of your site.

Design Elements
If you want to feature several practice areas on your website, you will have to consider the design. If you practice estate planning and commercial real estate but would really like to feature happy families in your header, you may need to create two different websites with different imagery as happy families may appeal to potential estate planning clients but not to corporate clients. If you do decide to feature multiple practice areas, make sure your website design has broad appeal to your target audiences.

While the idea of designing and maintaining multiple sites can be daunting, more focused sites which highlight just one specialty may be more favorable with search engines and potential clients. If you have any questions about the best option for your firm, contact us today. Our talented designers can ensure that your branding is consistent across multiple sites while our search engine and marketing consultants can work with you to develop highly optimized content and effective messaging on your website.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Summer Successes

With Labor Day on the horizon, we can hardly believe that summer is almost over. While most companies slow down a bit during the warmer months, we’ve been full force ahead at Amicus Creative. In the past few weeks, our team has conducted successful client reviews, written a great deal of new content, and have gotten a bunch of new firms started with LegalVault. And as always, we’ve been working on great new sites for law firms around the country. Here are just a few that we’ve recently launched:

Law Offices of Ronald J. Katter
, New York City Personal Injury Law Firm

The Warshawsky Law Firm, New York City Employment Law and Civil Rights Law Firm

Law Office of Annamelda Paul, PLLC, New York City Family Law Attorney

Law Office of Julie Low, PLLC, Beverly, MA Estate Planning Lawyer

Law Office of Renee J, Tello, New York City Immigration Law Firm

As we transition into fall, we understand that your office gets much busier.  But don’t let your hectic schedule get in the way of creating a powerful online presence which will increase the visibility of your firm and help you retain new clients. We pride ourselves on our efficient site development process where we assist with content and focus on the details so you can focus on your clients.
 


Monday, August 16, 2010

What’s all the fuss about Flash?

Our clients frequently ask about Flash animation; isn’t it bad for SEO? Isn’t it distracting to the user? If implemented correctly, the answer is no and no, respectively. However, we wanted to take a bit more time to explain the benefits, downsides and myths associated with Flash animation.

Flash animation is comprised of a set of moving images and objects created using Adobe Flash. It can be effective for attracting attention to specific practice areas, special expertise or a slogan. If you pay close attention, you will find that a significant portion of the websites you visit throughout the day include some form of Flash animation.

Benefits of Flash:


Aesthetics: One of the most obvious benefits of Flash Animation is, of course, that it enhances the design and adds visual interest to the site. Flash animation allows you to incorporate multiple images and colors into a site which is sure to catch a visitor’s eye.

Informative: With the option to include multiple images, Flash animation enables you to display an array of practice areas within one header graphic. This is incredibly helpful if you offer a diverse group of services. Say, for instance, that you are an estate planning attorney but also assist businesses in your area with corporate law. If you are just limited to one image, you may not be able to accommodate both target audiences without splitting the image and respective messaging.  Flash animation allows you to use a broader “canvas” to showcase a variety of images and messaging within a confined area, such as the website header.

More sophisticated feel
: When properly implemented, Flash animation can portray a more credible and sophisticated image of the firm.

Downside of Flash:

Potentially slower loading time:  While Flash animation is engineered to load quickly, it can take a bit longer to load for users who don’t have a high-speed internet connection.  To mitigate this potential for slower performance, you should avoid using Flash on pages other than the home page.

Compatibility with iPhones and iPads: Unfortunately, iPhones and iPads do not support Adobe Flash Animation.  Users who visit your site using one of these devices will not be able to view animated sequence, although the rest of the site will function as usual.   So long as the flash animation does not include essential information, such as the site’s navigation menu, users will still be able to access the website’s content without issue.

Will Flash Animation harm my site’s ranking?


One common concern many have about the use of Flash animation is its potential detrimental effect on search engine optimization.   This apprehension is justifiable if the site is either done completely in Flash or otherwise displays important textual content in Flash because doing so makes it difficult for search engines to decipher its context and meaning.  However, if your site is using Flash animation sparingly and only in lieu of a static graphic, there is no adverse effect on search engines’ ability to read and index your website.   

With proper integration, Flash animation can greatly benefit attorney websites. Take a look around our website portfolio or contact us to learn how more and more attorneys are utilizing Flash animation to enhance their law firm’s website.


Friday, August 6, 2010

Amicus Creative Teams Up with the New York State Bar Association

Amicus Creative Media is proud to announce its partnership with the New York State Bar Association!  The collaboration benefits all NYSBA members, offering dramatic savings on the setup fee of custom websites. If you are a member of the NYSBA and would like to learn more about this savings program or our services, please contact us.

Read the full release here.


Monday, July 19, 2010

How Google Places Can Work For Your Law Firm

In the past, we’ve written on the necessity of creating local business listings with the major search engines. Today, we wanted to elaborate on one of these services-Google Places.

Formerly known as the Local Business Center, Google Places allows businesses to add a company overview, hours of operation, videos, photos and customer coupons. Seems pretty basic, huh? Well here are a few things you probably didn’t know about this service:

  1. Updates: You can post an update to your Places page at any time right through your user dashboard. This is particularly valuable if you want to highlight an upcoming event or seminar, new promotion or article you’ve written.
  2. Traffic Analysis: Once you’ve verified your firm’s listing, you can easily access valuable data on content and visitors to the page. Through the control panel, you can see the number of times the listing appeared in Google search results, how many people are taking action once they’ve located the listing (Did they go to your website?), top search queries which led users to your business listing and zip codes where users are requesting directions from to find your location. You are probably already using Google Analytics for your firm’s website; this new functionality allows you to also measure the success of your business listing.
  3. Expanded Service Areas: You can now elaborate on the areas you serve so you are not just limited to the town or city in which your office is located. This is particularly helpful if your firm serves multiple states.  If you work from home, not to worry! You can now make your address private but still reap the benefits of having a listing filled with keywords, geographic locations and a link to your website.
  4. Professional Photos of Your Office: Google has always allowed business owners to upload photos of their offices to local business listings but now you can also request a professional photo shoot of the interior of your offices with a Google photographer! While photos will not improve your rankings, inclusion of images has shown to increase click-through rates. This service is only in select cities so be sure to visit Google’s site to learn more, Click Here
  5. Customized QR Codes: For each business listing, Google now provides a personalized QR code. Okay, so many of you are probably asking what on earth is a QR code? Quite simply, it is a bar code which you can place on business cards, firm brochures or an email signature. Many smart phones including the iPhone, Android and Blackberry allow users to scan these codes. Upon scanning, the code will take users directly to your Places page enabling them to see your company details, promotions and URL. Although, it seems rather advanced, it really does remove searching from the equation, allowing users to find you with minimal effort.

Google Places Tips:

  • Categories: Google allows you to add five categories to your listing. These basically allow you to define the keywords you think users will search to find your firm. When typing in the description, Google does provide a set list of suggestions which you may choose from or you may actually create your own categories. We strongly recommend that you include one of Google’s suggestions as the first in your list even if you decide to create four others from scratch. If Google has five categories in their offerings which properly describe your listing, go with these as they are your best bet.  
  • Keywords: In addition to selecting appropriate categories, be sure to also include your keywords in your company description and any updates you may post.


With all of these features in place, there is no excuse not to set up a free Google Places account for your law firm! It is quick and easy to get started. Visit www.google.com/places to learn more.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

What's in a name? Top Six Factors You Should Consider When Choosing a Domain Name for Your Website

Couples expecting a child often deliberate over the baby name for months. Anxious parents read through baby naming books, consult with family members and consider a wide array of factors including religion, popularity, initials and pronunciation in the decision making process. While choosing a name for your firm's website should not be nearly as painstaking, there are a number of factors you should consider when determining the best domain name. Below you will find the top six factors to consider when selecting your domain name:

  1. Search Engine Optimization Value:  The major search engines do consider your site’s domain name so this should factor into your SEO strategy. Your site is packed with keyword and geographic locations, so too should your domain name. If you are a matrimonial law attorney in Flushing, NY, you might consider selecting a domain name which reflects you main practice area and office location such as www.flushingdivorcelaw.com.
     
  2. Don’t Make It Too Long:  You want your clients and prospective clients to be able to easily recall your domain name. If the name is too long, it is more likely that users will forget it and have difficulty finding your site.  Also, steer clear of hyphens in your domain name. These are generally seen as less credible and are viewed with greater suspicion by search engines.
     
  3. Consider the Spelling: Very often firms simply use their principals’ names (in many instances, the firm name) as the domain name for the website.  As we all know, last names can be difficult to spell and many of the most popular ones even have a wide range of spelling variations. If a client hears about you but then is unable to find your firm on the web because they can’t quite figure out the spelling of the domain name, they may give up and turn to another attorney.
     
  4. Make Sure It Accurately Represents Your Law Firm:  Your domain name is a big part of your branding and as such, it should remain consistent with your firm’s mission and practice areas. Quite simply, your domain name should be a (very brief) description of your firm. Keep in mind that this domain name will be included on business cards, advertisements and in all emails from your firm so you should be proud to show it off!
     
  5. The Ending Does Matter: Domain names ending in .com are perceived to be more credible than others ending in .net, .biz, .us, etc. If your dream domain name ending in .com is already taken, it’s probably not the best idea to settle for a different ending which is available. Internet users tend to assume that a domain name ends with a .com so they are more likely to try this at first. If the .com name is already taken, there is a good chance they will be taken to a different website (and quite possibly a competitor).
     
  6. Don’t Go Domain Crazy: We often hear from firms who have purchased 27 domain names and want all of them to point to one main website. If configured incorrectly, multiple domain names all pointing to one site can actually be harmful to your firm’s SEO. When pointing multiple names to one site, search engines see that pages within the several domains actually have duplicate content and refuse to index them.  Worse, search engines may actually index pages from a domain you only meant to have as a supplement and not index your primary domain.  Instead of pointing multiple domains to your server, you should simply redirect the domain names so they all point to one main URL. Using a redirect is preferable because users cannot easily detect the transition from the alternate domain name to the main URL but the search engines definitely take note, recognizing only one site.

If you live in a metropolitan area with many law firms, an available domain with all of these elements may be difficult to find but with a little creativity, you should be able to purchase a great name for your new site. If you have any questions about your firm’s domain name, please feel free to contact us at any time. We are here to brainstorm with you or offer suggestions.


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