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Attorney Website Design

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

NYCLA Presentation: Building An Effective Law Firm Website

Last week, our CEO Fred Cohen gave a presentation on Building an Effective Law Firm Website to members of the New York County Lawyers Association (NYCLA). The event explored the main ingredients for a successful attorney website, including:

We had an awesome turnout and great participation from the attorneys in attendance. A big thank you to all who joined us and to NYCLA for hosting a great evening of online marketing discussion!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Including Client Photos on Your Law Firm’s Website

Finding good photos that accurately represent your firm can often be one of the most challenging parts of the website design process. Many attorneys struggle with finding appropriate images that make the firm seem professional and successful, yet still approachable. One solution that is often utilized is the inclusion of photos that depict attorneys working with clients.

These photos can enhance the site but generally only if they look photojournalistic and not posed. They also tend to work best in transactional/service oriented firms and are not as relevant for litigation disputes or matters where there is an adversary.  Of course, criminal defense firms should steer clear of such images.

An example of site that successfully incorporates such images can be seen by visiting www.bradley-law.com. As you scroll through the practice area pages of the site, you find various images which include attorneys working candidly with clients and colleagues.

As with all elements of your firm’s website, there are a few things to consider before including client depictions:

  • Does your state have ethics rules on including photos of clients or models acting as clients?  The State Bar of Texas, for example, explicitly prohibits the use of actors to portray clients.
  • Are your clients comfortable being shown on your website? Will you make all featured clients sign a consent form?
  • Do you have a photographer who has experience shooting candid office photos?
  • Will these photos appeal to your entire target audience? If you work with individuals but also serve as counsel to large corporations, it might not be the best idea to prominently display a photo of you reviewing a will with an elderly couple.

If you decide that client photos aren’t the right approach for your firm, you should still include a quality photo of all of the attorneys (and your staff) on the About Us page. It seems like a simple solution but can go a long way in making you seem more approachable to a website visitor.  

Friday, January 21, 2011

Contact Us…but how?

For the most part, law firms create websites to increase visibility and get new leads. Many firms find the latter objective to be more difficult to achieve. Once a visitor makes it to your website, how do you get them to contact your firm? The answer to this question is multifaceted but we are going to focus on one of the most essential yet underutilized pages on most attorneys websites—the “Contact Us” page.

Whether it is labeled, “Contact Us”, “Connect” or “Call Our Team”, all effective websites have a contact page. Visitors expect it and most will look for it if they want to reach out to your firm. Make sure it is incredibly easy to find. Don’t hide it in the footer or simply link to it on one page in the site. Place it in the navigation menu or prominently include the important details in the header design.

On the contact page, include multiple ways for the visitor to contact you. This information should contain the firm’s phone number, fax number, address and a form which they can quickly complete and submit directly through the website. Many firms also like to include an email address. This can be beneficial if implemented correctly but if not, it can also be dangerous.  Email addresses listed within the text area of the page can be picked up by “Bots”, which search engines send out to review your site, and you may start to receive a ton of spam mail within months. If you do decide to include your email address, make sure to include it in a graphic as these cannot be read by search engines.

Also, be sure to include directions, special contact information or other details that might be helpful to a visitor. If your firm prefers to be contacted via email, specify that here or if your usual turnaround time for web inquiries is one business day, make that clear. Setting expectations for prospective clients is always a positive thing.

When creating this page, don’t forget that you are still trying to get users to contact you. Just because they have made it to the contact page doesn’t mean they’re sold yet so use this space to further sell your firm. If you’re available for evening appointments or will travel to meet patients in the hospital, showcase those details; these are the little things that make you seem approachable and client-centered.

Just like all other pages throughout your site, the contact page must be user friendly and optimized for website visitors. To learn more about designing an effective “Contact Us” page, contact us today (please note the handy form to your right and the prominent Contact Us page in the menu bar above)!  

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Artistic Integrity: A thing of the past?

The development process for each new law firm we work with is unique. Some firms have a very clear vision for their new sites: the colors, the imagery, the logo—they’ve got it covered. Other firms have more of a hands-off approach. They leave it to the experts and we rely on our creativity and knowledge of the firm’s background and marketing goals to create that ideal site. As graphic designers, there is nothing that we enjoy more than the creativity and collaboration of the development process and nothing that makes us prouder than the customized websites we create for our clients.

Over the past few months, it has been brought to our attention that some of our site designs have been replicated by other attorney marketing groups. Seeing these “copycats” really peeves us for a few reasons. Of course, there is the obvious—we’re artists and this is our work.  We’re proud of it and we’ve worked really hard on it. But as disheartening as it is to see your work copied by a less skilled artist, that is not our primary gripe. The reason these copycat groups anger us is because it’s just really not fair to our clients or theirs.

If you advertise custom designs, they should be CUSTOM. Our clients pay good money (albeit often less than our uncreative counterparts) to have an original site design and with us they get that. But then just a few weeks or months later, there is a duplicate design on the web. It’s really just not fair.

Then there are the firms that work with these copycat groups. They often pay thousands for what they too think is a unique site design when in fact there is nothing unique about it. So if your law firm is in the market for a new website, let this post serve as a “buyer beware” warning of sorts.

Before engaging a design firm, check out their portfolio and check out the portfolios of their competitors too. You may just find that some designs are far from original. For instance, one of our counterparts Integrity Marketing Solutions, seems to have taken a liking to some of our work and use our designs as templates for their “custom websites.” By checking out our portfolio and theirs, you would find that one of their sites, http://temp.estatestrategist.com/Josh/IMS_Custom_1/ is strikingly similar to one of our sites, www.katterlaw.com and another one, http://www.nyjuris.com.previewc40.carrierzone.com/ was modeled after one of our masterpieces, www.myattorneynow.com.

Beyond comparing portfolios, be sure to read testimonials and contact current clients about the design process. Ask questions about the designers’ creativity and whether or not templates were used. Speaking to current customers will give you greater insight into any limitations or flaws of the design group so you can make certain that you are making the right choice.

With Amicus Creative Media, you can be sure that your custom design really is customized for your firm, not “borrowed”.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Basic Ingredients for a Successful Attorney Website

Just like recipes, legal websites have ingredients that must be included for good results.  Below you will find the basic building blocks of a successful law firm website:

A Professional Design - It sounds like a given, right? Right, but it’s astonishing how many attorney websites we come across each day which are quite simply a mess. The designs are outdated, misaligned or just plain ugly. If you want prospective clients and advisors to take you seriously, you need a professional graphic designer to help you. With your web presence serving as a cornerstone in your marketing campaign, a design by your neighbor’s nephew just won’t cut it.

Search Engine Optimization - This too should seem pretty obvious. Without SEO, your site won’t get noticed by the search engines or web users. Make sure your site has unique title tags, backlinks and fresh copy to keep it optimized. And again, you should consult an expert since they are up to date on current trends in SEO.

Intuitive Navigation - If your site looks nice but web visitors can’t figure out how to navigate around it, you’re in trouble. It’s important that your navigation menu is functional and intuitive to all users, regardless of how internet-savvy they are or what browser they’re using.

A Well-written Home Page - Many site visitors will enter through the home page so you have to make sure it’s good. This recent blog entry highlights the basics of drafting an effective home page.

Attorney Profiles with Personality - Every good legal website features attorney profiles. These “bios” should include the facts that prospective clients are interested in knowing: Where were you educated? How much experience do you have? Equally important, this copy should be infused with some personality. Don’t just give clients a bulleted list of your strengths. Instead, tell your story! Why are you an estate planning lawyer? What do you do outside of the office in your free time?  You should include a PROFESSIONAL photo and even consider having a video to accompany each profile so the attorney’s voice can literally be heard by the visitor. The more web visitors can relate, the more likely they are to feel comfortable with you and reach out to your firm.

A User-friendly Contact Us Page - A contact page is really quite useless if it doesn’t encourage web visitors to contact your firm. Your “contact us” page should of course contain your address, phone number and fax number. It should also contain an online contact option; ideally, this should be a form which users can fill out with their information and inquiry and submit directly through the website. An interactive map which displays your office location(s) should also be available, allowing users to obtain directions and even get a satellite view of your building. This page can also include information on your office hours, whether you are available to meet clients at their homes or in hospitals and even types of payment accepted.

In addition to the “contact us” page, it’s also a good idea to include a contact form on every page to ensure that users can easily reach out to your firm regardless of where they travel throughout your site.

By including the six items listed above, you can be sure that you have a good foundation for a successful attorney website. To learn more about building your professional presence on the web, contact us today.

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!

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.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Website Redesign Services

If it’s been a few years since you last updated your site, you probably have a lot of catching up to do. Technology evolves very quickly and as such, website design, technology and search engine strategy must too.

Many of our clients are taking advantage our redesign services and are improving their sites dramatically. We recently completed two major redesigns for the Lennington Law Firm, a Twin Cities estate planning firm and also for the Law Offices of Keith Codron, an Orange County estate planning law firm. With both sites, we revamped the flash animation, adding prominent links to the flash sequence, updated the search engine optimization strategy in place and added interactive tools for new visitors and clients.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Next stop: Orlando, FL!

As a partner of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, Amicus Creative is heading to Orlando this week for NAELA's 2010 Annual Meeting.The event, which is being held at Disney's Yacht Club & Beach Resort, will explore developments in Special Needs Law, Tax, Trusts, VA, Medicare, Medicaid, Practice Development, Social Security and Health Care Reform.

If you are interested in learning more about our services, please visit our exhibit where representatives will be on hand to give you a demonstration of our attorney website system and our state of the art document storage and exchange system, LegalVault.
If your firm already has a site with us, please stop by and meet some of the members of our team. We always love getting the chance to catch up with our clients.
We look forward to seeing you in Orlando!

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