Law Firm Websites: Beauty or the Beast?

By Camille Stell and Monisha Yowell

Have you taken a look at your website lately? I mean, really looked at the aesthetics and functionality of your site? For many firms, setting up a website was something to check off the to-do list and has since been neglected. However, as technology evolves and clients become more tech savvy, firms must ensure that their websites are up to par.

It’s 2016 and if your firm’s site still has Web 1.0 elements, you have some catching up to do. Here are some tell-tale signs that it’s time to update your website:

Dark Colors: While this aspect is not going to make or break your firm’s site, it’s important to have some contrast in colors.

Dated Clip art. “You know it when you see it.” Dated clip art is a website killer and you should avoid using this type of clip art on your website.

Unformatted text. Your website should provide a quick snapshot of your practice. Most potential clients will scan your site before deciding whether or not they should contact the firm. Long columns of unformatted text are difficult to scan.

Link overload. Too many links will make it impossible for users to distinguish between what’s important and what’s not. Imagine a web page that has lots of links, all of which appear underlined like this. It’s very distracting isn’t it?

No variety in formatting. If your website looks like a bunch of rectangles stuck together with pictures inserted in the boxes, it’s time to make some changes. Use different styles and font sizes to make your site more visually appealing and place emphasis on your messages.

No or few images. Images are essential to websites. Your website should include professional photographs of all your attorneys. Including photographs instead of stock photos will help prospective clients connect with your firm. Photographs of attorneys will help build brand recognition.

How does your firm’s site measure so far? In contrast to the dated design elements of Web 1.0; Web 2.0 encompasses the latest style and trends. Web 2.0 sites are more modern and more attractive. Here are some Web 2.0 design elements that will take your firm’s site to the next level:

Keep your site bright. We previously talked about the unattractive dark design of the Web 1.0 format. Website 2.0 formats typically have white or light colored backgrounds. The bright colors help create clean, modern sites that are appealing to clients.

A little pop of color works. While it’s great to have a white or light colored background, it’s fine to experiment with colors. Like most things, be sure not to overindulge. Balance is key. Make sure your design elements don’t take the focus away from the message of your site.

Keep it simple. Keep your website design clean and simple. Overwhelming site visitors with too much information and too many graphics will work against you. Does your website pass the “10 second rule?” It should take your site visitors 10 seconds to look at and understand what is on your web page. While drop-down menus, navigation links and topic headers are all great Web 2.0 design elements, they can cause your site to be cluttered and take away from the site content when used too frequently.

Use Navigation tabs wisely. Navigation tabs enhance the functionality of your website. Navigation tabs lead site visitors through your content. However, it’s important to categorize your site topics in a way that doesn’t lead to too many tabs.  It’s recommended that you keep the number of main category links on your firm’s website to seven or fewer topics. However, you can have more than seven subtopics. You, as the site administrator, provide the categories, however, when subtopics are opened, this action is initiated by the site visitor.

More Flash, more problems. Flash is a widely popular type of animated coding. However, many search engines are not able to “read” the code which makes it difficult for sites that are built entirely of flash to get high search engine rankings. It’s imperative that you choose a website format that translates well on mobile devices. Did you know that flash content cannot be displayed on iPhones? Considering the number of people who have iPhones, imagine what a hindrance relying completely on this design element would be to your website’s reach.

Web 2.0 offers design elements that can greatly enhance your current site. We’ve all seen really great firm websites and we’ve also seen examples that need a lot of work. By now you should be thinking about ways you can improve your firm’s site. Why do so many firm websites flop? It’s simple. Firms tend to build sites that they love, without considering the users—their clients.

Your website is often the first stop a potential client makes before they make a phone call. Make the first impression a lasting one by ensuring your website has a creative design, fresh content and most importantly is client-focused.

Camille Stell is the Vice President of Client Services for Lawyers Mutual. Monisha Yowell is the Marketing Coordinator. Continue this conversation by contacting Camille at or Monisha at or 800.662.8843.

The Best Advertising is Free

(Reprinted from Tom’s dated February 25, 2016)

It’s called publicity. When you or your firm gets mentioned in the media, and better if you are quoted, it’s instant credibility. And it’s FREE (unless you hire a PR agency to help).

Regular advertising is less effective IMHO because you are writing the copy and, of course, it is
self-serving. Further it costs you money. When someone else says things about you and hopefully quotes you, it is more likely to be believed.

We all believe what we read in the newspaper or magazine, right?  “If I read it, it must be true” is what Larry Smith and Richard Levick opined (somewhat facetiously I’m sure) in a meditation contained in 365 Marketing Meditations: Daily Lessons for Marketing and Communications Professionals. For more on that meditation look at my post “Publicity vs. Advertising” for the full quote, and for more about the difference between the two.

Actually, we all know better, but there certainly is more credibility given to what someone else says about you than what you say about yourself. You may ask, how do I get this here free “advertising”? Well, you need to befriend a reporter or editor, as I suggest in my “Top 10 Marketing Tips: No. 8 – Take a Reporter to Lunch.” It’s a start and my post gives some suggestions and cautions on how to go about building a relationship with a reporter.

So, it is better if you spend your time talking to reporters and editors rather than those in the business who sell advertising. Accordingly it’s a good idea to get to know and develop relationships with reporters and editors. Your time and (lunch) money will be better spent.

Herb Falk Society Inducts Fifteen Members for 2015

The Herb Falk Society honors those members of the Greensboro Bar Association who contribute at least 75 hours of pro bono service annually. The fifteen individuals inducted for 2015 were recognized at the March 17 member lunch at The Empire Room. They are:

Barbara R. Christy — 95.3 hours

Locke T. Clifford — 76.9 hours;

Robert C. Cone — 144.5 hours;

W. Erwin Fuller, Jr. — 145 hours

Richard W. Gabriel- 103.9

A. Holt Gwyn — 93 hours;

Craig P. Hensel — 105.4 hours;

Afi S. Johnson-Parris — 131.4 hours;

Jennifer L. J. Koenig — 97.1 hours;

Phyllis Lile-King — 153 hours;

Eric A. Richardson – 103

James H. Slaughter — 79 hours;

Daniel F. E. Smith — 181.7 hours;

D. Clark Smith, Jr. — 314.4 hours;

Gerald Walden. Jr. — 178 hours


Honorees Gerald Walden, Afi Johnson-Parris, Locke Clifford; HFS Committee Members Julie Pendleton, Gwendolyn Lewis, Dan Koenig; honorees Richard Gabriel, Craig Hensel, Jennifer Koenig, Erwin Fuller

Beer & Wine Tasting to Benefit Legal Aid of North Carolina

Please Join the Greensboro Bar Association for a

Beer & Wine Tasting
Legal Aid of North Carolina

Featuring Rioja! A Wine Bar

Saturday April 16, 2016
6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Greensboro Science Center

Event Tickets

$50 per person advance
$60 per person at door

Tickets include Beer & Wine Tasting, Dinner, and Participation in our “Guess the Wine” and “Guess the Beer” Contests

Raffle Tickets

$10 per ticket

Prizes include:

1 Weekend-Night Stay at the Proximity Hotel,
including two $25 Gift Certificates to Printworks;


1-night stay at The Durham Hotel
and a complimentary continental breakfast


Email Diane Lowe at and follow the link provided;


Mail a check payable to:

Greensboro Bar Association Foundation

Attn: Diane Lowe
P.O. Box 1825
Greensboro, NC 27402

**If you purchase ticket(s) by mail, please include the name(s) for the ticket(s) and the number of raffle tickets with your check**

Sponsored by:






Benson Brown & Faucher, PLLC,
Cunningham & Company Mortgage Bankers,
Elon University School of Law,
ITG Brands,
Jill Wilson & Marc Isaacson,
Nexsen Pruet, LLC, and Senn Dunn Insurance

Grimsley Rugby Club Giving Back

Patrick Kane, an attorney at Smith Moore Leatherwood LLP, and Isaiah Ashley, son of Bruce Ashley of Smith Moore Leatherwood LLP, are mixing fun, competition, and community service on the rugby field. The result is “ITries,” which raises money for the Salvation Army, a non-profit organization which helps those in need.
Kane coaches and Ashley plays for the Grimsley Rugby Club. Money is being raised for the Salvation Army based on how many points the Grimsley Rugby Club scores this spring.  The club expects to average about 20 points per game.
You can pledge any amount per point.  Assuming that the club plays eight games and scores an average of 20 points per game, below are the donation amounts associated with representative pledge levels:
$0.25 per point: 20 points x 8 games x $0.25 = $40.00
$0.50 per point:  20 points x 8 games x $0.50 = $80.00
$1.00 per point:  20 points x 8 games x $1.00 = $160.00
$2.00 per point:  20 points x 8 games x $2.00 = $320.00
If you want, you can set a minimum level for your pledge,
and you can set a maximum level for your pledge.
As an example, you can pledge $1.00 per point with a minimum of $50.00 and a maximum of $100.00.
If you make this pledge and Grimsley scores less than 50 points during the season, your donation will be $50.00.  If you make this pledge and Grimsley scores over 100 points during the season, your donation will be capped at $100.00 (unless you want to give more!).
Please consider supporting ITries by visiting and making a pledge.

Message from the President – April 2016

Afi Johnson-Parris Headshot

I’ve always loved history, but I’m partial to oral history, the kind that comes in the form of a story. When it’s told in the words of those who lived it and witnessed it, that’s what makes history come alive to me.

Since childhood I’ve been fascinated by the simple daily lives of my family members and tales of the times as they experienced them. I would beg for stories about what I called, “the olden times.”  My 97-year-old grandmother would indulge my early cross examinations with an exasperated, “here you go again with all your questions!” Bless her heart for her patience. I would ask her to tell the same stories over and over again, correcting missed details and teasing more stories out of her as I discovered new lines of questioning.  Perhaps I’m raising future litigators as my children now do the same thing. I’ll admit it was a little humbling to have my son make the same request to hear about “the olden times” from when I was in college.

Sometimes a story is the only connection you have to those who have gone on before us. I’ve reached a point in life where the parents and grandparents of my peers are starting to pass away at an increasing pace. It’s not uncommon to know very little about the deceased, even as you might know the family member quite well. It can be strange and awkward to talk about their loved-one or attend the funeral but nothing cuts through those feelings and sadness like a good story about the deceased. It’s a relief to be able to not just cry but laugh when people share their memories. The best stories are normally reserved for the time after the funeral. In my church, that time of food and fellowship is called the repast and it’s something akin to a funeral after-party. For those few moments over a meal, people visit with old acquaintances and connect over stories of the departed.  It’s a reminder that although no one is here to stay, everyone can remain with us through a good story.

Law makes for good stories and lawyers, notwithstanding areas of practice, are often reliable sources of the very best yarns.  My favorite times with members of our Association are spent in the back halls of the courthouse, or killing time in someone’s office listening to stories about their cases. I also enjoy the memorials that are read at Association member meetings. Most of the lawyers I don’t know, but I love to hear how they were a part of the legal community, the funny anecdotes, how they will be missed, and the impact they made on the profession.  Beyond all of the biographical and academic data that is shared, the very best memorials contains nuggets of good stories that make these departed colleagues come to life.  I strive mightily for that good story of good family, good friends and good work.

In order to tell the story of this Association, for the past seventeen years the History and Archives Committee has quietly and diligently collected the oral history of our older, distinguished members. This project, initiated by former president Larry Moore, videotaped interviews with nearly forty longstanding members of our Association who were lions of the Greensboro legal community.   Many are still living, and some are departed, but through this project, their stories endure.

The importance of the committee’s work was too great to keep it on a shelf in the Association office. Now the committee has endeavored to share pieces of these stories with the membership in a short film during our next member meeting.  Our very special speakers for the April meeting will be the best among us who have shaped our Association and our community.  I’m sure each of us can find value in the stories that were shared in the committee’s interviews.  Join us for an opportunity to learn more about our Association history in this presentation of voices from the past and present.  If you too love a good story about “the olden times,” you’ll want to be there.

Afi Johnson-Parris practices Family Law and Veterans Disability with Ward Black Law