Articles Posted in Web Sites

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nixon-peabody.jpgWhen creating the “Internet Marketing Attorney” moniker in 1997, I would scour the web for the most innovative law firm websites, eventually rating and ranking them in five categories–design, content, usability, interactivity and intangibles. If you were listed among the 250 largest U.S. law firms, you were then ranked accordingly. Many small and midsize firms from around the world submitted themselves for consideration as well, and while I did not review all of them, I also had the annual Nifty Fifty list of innovative legal website components. But times changed and just like technology, I had to adapt.

There were three key factors that led me to stop presenting the IMAs–as they are known throughout the legal industry. First, the large law firm sites become homogenized. There were so few substantive differences to the sites that it made finding those differentiators quite difficult. I would write the same notes and comments over and over again. Second, my “for-profit” business (HTMLawyers, my law marketing consultancy) did not provide enough free time to properly conduct these evaluations. Because I never solicited those law firms I reviewed, it was a great branding tool but not necessarily a revenue generator. My time was always “sold out”, but it was tough to equate new business with the time needed for the IMAs. Finally, any free time or “down time” is now owned by my children–who do not find law firm websites all that fascinating. Luckily, my monthly contributions to Web Marketing Today allow me to continually monitor and teach best practices for law firm internet marketing.

Which is a long-winded way of introducing this month’s WMT column, Law Firm Websites: A Developer’s Review, where in essence I turn the tables slightly by asking the web site developers to tell me what site they like best and why (obviously, their own handiwork). I invited some of the more prominent names in law firm website development to participate–just give me a site and what makes it special. The end result is a handy tutorial for any law firm looking to identify key components for their next website.

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In this month’s Web Marketing Today column, I discuss the uses and value of video as an Internet marketing tool for attorneys. Video provides both enhanced web content as well as improved search engine optimization results.

Among the things that have changed in video production over the last five years or so is the importance of making sure that the quality is there. Lawyers should not look like they are facetiming each other on an iPad. That is left for my kids harassing relatives with video chat. Getting seasoned professionals to produce, tape and edit is critical.

My column discusses the ABA Golden Gavel Video Awards, created by Infinite PR‘s Nicholas Gaffney. I also talk about web video marketing tools such as those developed by TheLaw.tv and an example of law firms moving often-stilted webinars to a polished video product. The use of video impacts every type of law practice. Brown Rudnick’s Charitable Foundation uses video to enhance the site for their Center for the Public Interest.

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online_reputation.jpgI address an important internet marketing topic in this month’s Web Marketing Today column on “Monitoring your online reputation in 2013.” We spend a lot of money to “get found” on the web with various search engine optimization techniques. But what about the stuff you don’t want getting found? Or what I refer to as “reverse SEO”?

As the web ages and matures, it becomes more and more important to be vigilant about protecting your good name. And the first step towards staying one step ahead is to effectively monitor what I call an attorney’s online portfolio. It is far more expansive than what your law firm posts or what might show up from LinkedIn or Martindale. And it only takes one bad apple in an orchard full of good ones to feel like your name, reputation and business might be harmed.

In an interesting comment posted on my WMT column page is a website developer frustrated that he has encountered situations where a top result on a Google search is “ancient history.” Something 5+ years old that is “totally irrelevant.” This points out the downside about some online reputation “fixers” where a problem is fixed today but could float back to the top after an algorithm change.

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divorce.jpgThe ABA Section of Family Law has dedicated its entire winter 2013 issue of the Family Advocate to the topic of marketing your practice in the digital age. The feature that the publication asked me to author, Finding the Magical Mix for Your Digital Marketing Plan, presents a wide range of options for the family law practitioner–including websites, blogs, use of video, search engine optimization, mobile sites, social media, directories and ratings. In other words, there are a lot of options and a lot to think about.

Among other features in the issue is an article on Common Ethical Pitfalls of Digital Marketing, authored by my ABA LPM colleagues Sharon Nelson and John Simek. While ethics rules should not discourage or hamper an attorney’s involvement on social media and lawyer referral websites, compliance is critical. As an ethics attorney myself, I’ve worked to get a few attorneys out of digital “jams”, not to mention implementing lots of preventive medicine.

Simply noting that the ABA Family Law Section has dedicated an entire one of its quarterly issues to this subject should be enough to wake up any family lawyer not paying attention to the World Wide Web. The bottom line is that like many consumer-oriented practices, competition is fierce and ever-increasing. Family law is such an interesting animal. Perhaps no other area of practice is likely to impinge on life more than divorce–if not directly on your household, indirectly through a relative or friend. In regard to advertising, you are often targeting a more sophisticated client base than might be the case for a plaintiffs’ practice. Visibility is a necessity. No other area of practice is represented more in many of the lifestyle and regionally-based print publications I peruse from the mailbox. The radio and billboards tout family law practices (not so much on television). Facebook is both a contributing cause and effect of many divorces–meaning that a target audience is right there for the taking. The use of mediation and forms of alternative dispute resolution bring in other competitive marketplace issues. A few years ago, I presented a marketing ethics CLE program at the ABA Annual Meeting for the ADR section, with many of the examples coming from issues relating to family law attorneys competing with huge, non-law firm divorce mediation services.

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Thumbnail image for 12-4-08-iphone-omnia.jpgIn this month’s Web Marketing Today column, I address the importance of having a proper mobile marketing plan to accompany your law firm’s Internet marketing efforts. Regardless of a law firm’s audience, practice groups, size or location–“mobile” is a critical component.

Some law firms are still at stage one–trying to get some sort of compatibility for an iPhone or Android device. Others have moved well past that toward development of applications that serve purposes ranging from “marketing” to uses for partner retreats, recruiting and access to files and billing.

The strategies, however, do differ based on a law firms’ audience and clientele. As is the case with a typical website–what you develop for a Baker McKenzie is going to differ from what you develop for Sokolove Law. Although as of today, a quick look at both of those websites on my Droid were not online presences built for mobile. This column features firms that built a solid online mobile presence. It also addresses related issues tied to SEO and online advertising considerations as well.

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blog_image.jpgThis month’s Web Marketing Today column discusses the good, bad and ugly in the world of law firm blogging. As the bumper sticker says, “If you can read this, you must be on my blog.” Anyway, that in itself highlights one valuable element of blogging–in cross-promoting other marketing and publishing efforts.

I’ve selected successful blogs in the small, medium and large law firm categories to highlight approaches and styles–from Silverberg Zalantis, Young Conaway and Reed Smith. In the world of blogs, they are all operating on an even playing field.

One of the ways I know that blogging is still “where it’s at” in cyberspace is simply following the steps of my long-time web collaborator Pavel Ushakov. Between Pavel and Justia’s Tim Stanley, much of the direction and advice I give myself (and others) comes from following their paths. Tim practically shamed me into getting back on the blog bandwagon. Pavel played a pivotal role in my original transformation from “marketing attorney” to an “internet marketing attorney.” We worked together on original website projects for law firms like Morgan Lewis and Simpson Thacher back in the 90s. Remember the 90s man? He was then instrumental in creating the Internet Marketing Attorney website, IMA reviews and Nifty Fifty awards for me. And in developing my original business website and blog. Of course, as one of the true web pioneers, he has bigger fish to fry than helping me–but always responds quickly whenever I shout out for help. But his focus now is on blog development and consulting with Blogconsulting.com–with “little” clients like Adobe, Time Magazine and the Harvard Business School. But he is one of the go-to guys for blogging, and knowing what will come next.

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wmt-logo-24b.pngIn my monthly column on internet marketing for lawyers in Web Marketing Today, I tackle the sticky issue of ethics and compliance for law firm websites. If you had told me when I started teaching ethics CLEs on this subject in 1997 that I’d be this well-versed on the subject–and it would become a niche area of expertise for my practice, I’d have laughed. But lo and behold, the Rules of Professional Conduct have become my Ten Commandments. There are plenty of golden calves and false idols–but I won’t name names. Let’s just say that websites are now the tip of the iceberg in a land of Groupons and “ask the lawyer” sites, getting the disclaimer language right should be child’s play.

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In an upcoming column for Web Marketing Today, I am going to discuss the value of videos in law firm marketing, focused on internet marketing efforts. I’ve had the opportunity to work with people that know how to do them, such as my friends at TheLaw.TV. Last year, as chair of the American Bar Association’s Law Firm Marketing Strategies Conference, we held the first Golden Gavel Awards, recognizing the best law firm and legal industry videos. Nick Gaffney of Infinite PR organized the video awards and panel, with the end result being some phenomenal videos used by law firms on web sites.

This brings me to my own recent work on redevelopment of the HTMLawyers website. I wanted an effective welcome message, but ended up with something that looks like a bad local business ad on cable television. You won’t see this on the business site, but I did marvel at how my eight year old daughter Lily watched me sweat, flub lines and deliver a mediocre performance–only to have her show me how it is done. I’m not sure if she is showing me the way or mocking me, but I enjoyed her performance far better than mine. Lily first appeared on this blog–in the fourth post–when she was born in May 2004, so this is her triumphant return.

 

 

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In thumbing through the September 2012 issue of Consumer Reports, my “thumbing” came to a halt, somewhere between best values on cars (my Toyota Highlander ranked high, as did my wife’s Camry) and televisions (I could have done better), when the monthly money column headline “Legal DIY sites no match for a pro” stopped me in my tracks.

Would CR tell its readership that the do-it-yourself web sites for legal information (not “advice”, because we know they can’t do that) would suffice when it comes to the “simple”–a will, a trademark, forming an LLC, getting a divorce, a real estate lease. Of course, if you are an IP attorney, a real estate lawyer, a family law attorney–you would (and should) take offense at the idea that your practice can be replaced by a cyber-lawyer (and I don’t mean a lawyer doing cyberlaw, I mean an automated machine). And thankfully for most of us, CR agrees. You probably need a lawyer to review and/or draft anything that goes beyond the extremely mundane.legalzoom_logo_site_upper_left.gif

The article leads by saying that for a fraction of what you’d pay a lawyer, websites such as LegalZoom, Nolo and Rocket Lawyer can help you create your own will, power of attorney, etc. ..and those sites are full of pleased customers that have avoided dreaded attorney fees from the comfort of a desktop.

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In my inaugural monthly column for Web Marketing Today (WMT), I discuss how the Internet has changed the legal profession. The article serves as an introduction of sorts to an entirely new audience for me. Many people have come to know me from the Internet Marketing Attorney web site (with the IMA awards and reviews, and the Nifty Fifty lists) that I first started espousing about in 1997. I can’t say that I’ve been reading WMT since its inception a few years earlier in 1995, but it is pretty close. When they came to me and asked if I could serve as the voice of the legal profession on Internet marketing, I thought it would provide a nice change of pace, replacing the IMA site.

There is no cost to subscribe to WMT (you’ll see the subscription box on the home page). And you can find all my columns neatly tucked away on one page. Look for them around the middle of each month. If there is a particular Internet marketing topic (pertaining to the legal profession), give me a shout.