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Elder Law Website Design and Creation Tips – Expert Interview Video with Tom Ahrens

by Sep 25, 2019Growing Law Practice, Law Firm Marketing

For this month’s expert interview, we spoke with Tom Ahrens, owner of Ahrens Technologies / Legal Directives.

Through these two companies that he runs, he helps Elder Law and Estate Planning firms across the country.

You can learn more about Tom and his work at Ahrens Technologies / Legal Directives by visiting his website here.

Elder Law Website Design and Creation Tips – Expert Interview Video with Tom Ahrens

Video transcript as follows:
Jim: Hey, here’s another one of our Expert Zoom Interviews. I’ve got Tom Ahrens, owner
of Ahrens Technologies and Legal Directives, and wanted to introduce him to
everybody that’s watching this video right now. Learn a little bit more about the
two companies that he runs, and how they can help elder law and estate planning
firms across the country. So thanks for joining us, Tom.
Tom: Yeah, hey thanks, Jim, it’s a privilege.
Jim: Awesome. Well I know the majority of today’s conversation is going to be
discussing law firm websites, which is what you guys specialize in. You know, we
don’t do websites here at Bambiz, you actually created our Bambiz website, which is
awesome, and thank you for doing that for us, but you do also own another company
called Legal Directives. I did want to touch on that for a second if you just want
to let people know like the little elevator pitch for that company, because I know
that it would relate to their firms.
Tom: Yeah sure, so Jim, we met each other a few years ago, but I was actually a
licensed attorney, still am a licensed attorney practiced in elder law and estate
planning, and really, going back about 12-13 years ago, I saw a need for that
boutique, for that small estate planning firm, that technology need. There were
some gaps in what was out there. So our first company that we started was a company
called Legal Directives, and it’s a real thriving, it’s a wonderful company serving
really about 600 law firms across the nation, and it literally just stores advanced
healthcare directives on behalf of this firm’s clients. It delivers a wallet card
to them, and then gives them that special relationship with their client, with us
providing a little service in the middle. So if anyone has any interest in that,
we’ll kind of park it, but that’s and I’d even tell
your audience, your listeners, if anybody wants to connect with us through this
conversation, we’d offer anybody coming through you with 10 free accounts just to
let them try it out, get started, and see how they can add to their client care
package with Legal Directives.
Jim: Definitely, well thank you for that offer. I know that a lot of people take you
up on that when we go to live events. They rush your table, and they want to get
involved, and we have a lot of our clients that partner with Legal Directives, so I
definitely wanted to not just pass over that and let people know “Hey, this is an
option that’s out there for you.” But more on what we want to talk about today,
websites, because we get a lot of questions about websites, and honestly, that’s
just something– I mean, I know about websites, but that’s not something that I
want to deal with, or Bambiz wants to deal with, we want to focus on marketing,
kind of direct-response marketing online, we don’t want to focus on building,
maintaining, and updating websites. So one thing that’s really awesome about Ahrens
Technologies is that you guys, not that you’re only working for elder law and
estate planning law firms, but the majority of the clients that you serve are elder
law and estate planning firms. I know you touched on it, but you’re a prac– Well
you’re not practicing right now, but you had been practicing. But why do you choose
to focus on the elder law and estate planning market?
Tom: Yeah, it’s interesting, when we first started in the Legal Directives world, it
didn’t take but a few months before we started serving some of our friends and
colleagues that we knew, and we’d always been, even as attorneys, really collegial,
so if I had a colleague in Boston, I’m practicing here in Charlotte where I’m
sitting, and I was always eager to help people, and I always received a lot of help
from colleagues. So it’s kind of that collegiality that drew us into the technology
to start helping these firms, and then it really wasn’t six months into Legal
Directives before some of these firms would say “Hey, “you really have to help us
with our website. “You understand our business, you understand “how we want to talk
to our clients.” So really going back to 2009-2010, we told a few firms “If you’ll
be patient with us, we certainly have “the expertise, but we’ve told you’re client
1, “you’re client 2, you’re client 3.” That’s how we got into it, was really a
desire to serve, and I think that’s what has kept us focused on estate planning and
elder law attorneys. We kind of understand their heartbeat, we understand their
mission, and in a weird way, we kind of joined in that mission. We get a little bit
of joy seeing them succeed, because we know that means they’re helping families. So
that really is, you mentioned, it’s probably still 80% of our business. There’s
probably another 10% which is non-profits, which is a little bit of that same
heartbeat, and then another 10% which is just small business. Throughout the
country, they find us, so.
Jim: Yeah, like us.
Tom: Yeah, exactly, and it’s almost like a one-off somebody’s brother, somebody’s
wife, somebody’s husband asks us to jump in, and we’ll do different business
throughout the country.
Jim: Yeah, I mean the funny thing is, obviously I know you because my wife was
involved with some different organizations that focused on elder law and estate
planning education, and then after Bambiz was started, some of the clients that we
started generating on our own, we found out that you were running their websites,
and it ended up being almost like a little– I said “Oh, we know Tom!” “How do you
know Tom?” “Oh this is great!” So, a lot of our clients, without even us trying to
solicit that business for you… You work with a lot of our clients, and our
clients are your clients, your clients are our clients, there’s just a lot of
harmony in that.
Tom: Yeah, for any of your viewers or listeners, my first introduction to Jim was, I
had known his wife very well just from being in the other law world, and met him on
a few occasions, and then we were actually up working in-house with a firm up in
the Boston area, and a gentlemen said “You’ve got to come in here, I’ve got to show
you something, “there’s this guy that’s killing, he’s hitting it “out of the park
for our firm.” And he says “Look at this, look at this activity “on Facebook, look
at all these people signed up “for our workshops.” And I said “Well what’s his
name? “I want to meet him.” And he says “Well it’s Jim Blake from Bambiz.” I said
“You’re killing me.” And it’s been great to, as you mentioned, just bump into you
maybe not every day, but each month, each quarter, with a common client, or the
ability to even recommend you to somebody that we know needs to grow their
business through your marketing, so it’s been great.
Jim: Right, right, and then we have the same thing, it’s like “Okay, well I want to do
this type “of Facebook marketing”, or getting people to sign up for workshops,
people are downloading resources, they’re getting busier, and then they have a
website built with Angelfire. For those of you that don’t know what Angelfire is,
it’s something from like the 90’s, it looks like a little tiny kid made a website,
and it’s like you’ve got to update that, right? That’s kind of where I wanted to
lead into, the problems and stresses a typical attorney, before they give you the
phone call and say “Hey Tom, make us a website”, what problems are these elder law
and estate planning attorneys going through that they finally, they have to take
action now and get something done?
Tom: Yeah, that’s funny, I was actually going to bring that up, and ask you if it was
okay, but kind of tying into why we do what we do, even within our business model,
when I was a busy estate planning attorney, the last thing I wanted to do was try
to figure out a website, and I knew if I just jumped at the first person that
showed up at the bar association or the first email I answered from somebody
marketing to me, I thought “Well, how will I know, and I don’t have time “to figure
it out?” The pain that people go through before they get to us, they really are
typically in one of two camps: they’ve either done nothing, or they have just kind
of a static website that’s put up on the web, or they’ve been churned by a larger marketing company, and they’re exhausted, and they’ve spent they’ve spent figures
each year for years for no results, kind of hoping that next year, results will
come. And so one of the joys we have, and again, kind of going back to that idea of
being collegial, and caring about our community, it’s great, Ahrens Technologies,
we really try to focus and stay in our lane. We have terrific web designers, we
have terrific web developers, our job is to make that website really polished for a
law firm, but we’re not stepping out and saying “Hey, we can help you with your
Facebook marketing.” Or “We can help you run workshops or seminars.” Because the
minute we start adding things that we’re not great at, I feel like it just
diminishes our value in things that we probably are great at. So that’s, we talk
about pain points, nine out of ten clients that come to us from the legal
community, they’re exhausted from either inaction, and that opportunity lost, or
they’re exhausted from a 12 month contract where they just paid 18 grand. I was
surprised to know.
Jim:  I feel like both of our companies have that same hurdle sometimes to jump over.
Where it’s like, that’s why we don’t, we don’t want to have to deal with contracts.
We want our clients to come work with us, and if they hate us for some reason, or
just our personalities don’t mesh, or whatever it is, we want them to feel like
they can just walk away, right? No harm, no bad feelings, no anything like that,
because there are a lot of companies out there, marketing companies, technology
companies, whatever, that do put these people into very long contracts that are not
very favorable, and so when people have a very bad taste in their mouth, when they
come, “I don’t want to do a new website “because I did a website, and it didn’t do
anything for me, “and like you said, I paid last year five figures “on this
website, that I think I might’ve gotten “one phone call, and it was somebody “that
was my current client who just needed “to get our number or whatever.”
Tom: And again, another pain point is, what they often realize is, because they paid
for a package, they often times don’t own their content, so they’re almost like–
Here it is Thursday, when we’re doing this work on Monday morning, we talked to a
firm, and they realized through the conversation, they don’t own any of their
content on their website. So again, once you get past that grieving process, it
really, the time is now to start getting your content on the web. Get it out there,
get it indexed, start growing your own firm’s reputation.
Jim: Right, and making that content is easy, I mean this video is content, right? And
it’s going to be on my website, and it’ll have your own organic self-created
content that you own moving forward, and an attorney can do the same exact thing.
They can make a video, they can transcribe some voice memos, they can make their
own blog, now is the easiest time basically in history to be able to produce your
own content which will make your website thrive.
Tom: Yeah, and what makes it unique, even in the estate and elder laws, so many of our
colleagues, they’re already at the community center teaching, they’re already at
the public library giving a presentation, or they’re at their local high school
giving a presentation, so it’s like you mentioned, it’s so easy to simply take
those presentations, transcribe ’em, and you’ve got your content.
Jim: Right, and it relates to their audience more. If I’m an actual, if I live here in
the Orlando area, and somebody’s Google searching me, and they find the website,
and they see that I’m actually doing a presentation in the local community, that
means a lot more than the canned content that you’re paying thousands of dollars
for that’s on everybody that’s paying that particular contractor for.
Tom: That’s right, that’s right. Yeah, we always talk, at law firms, your friends and
neighbors, they know. They know when they read that website if it’s yours, or if
you bought it off of a shelf.
Jim:  And that kind of leads me into one of the topics that I really wanted to go over
with you that we find, the attorney thinks that the website’s going to solve all
their online problems, and so by having, by creating a website, by having it, the
more expense I pay for the website, or whatever it may be, that’s going to solve
their problems, where in my mind, and maybe you’re the same, maybe you’re not, I
feel like the website itself provides validation. It’s almost like the online
version of a business card for the attorney. How do you feel, am I on the right
track in my thoughts of what you think the website is for an attorney?
Tom: Yeah, you’re exactly right. There’s no silver bullet, there’s no secret. If there
was, we’d tell you. We’ve done about 400 sites in the past few years, still hosting
hundreds of them, so this isn’t something where we think we know. We’re pretty
confident that a successful law firm website is going to just have some of the very
basics done well. It’s important to put some communication tools on that website.
When we talk with people… You know, you have to have a mobile website. And again,
it seems like okay, everybody does, but actually a lot don’t, so if you’re
listening to this and your site isn’t mobile, that’s okay, it’s just time to get a
mobile site put in place. The reason for that is, over 50% of the views of a
website are on mobile devices now, so chances are, even if it’s a senior client,
they’re looking at it on their phone or their iPad, and oftentimes, talk about this
credibility, their children, so when mom or dad call and say “Hey, I’m going to go
get my estate planning done.” They’re often going to trust that adult child. First
thing that child’s going to do, the first thing I would do when my dad calls and
says “Hey we’re having a new professional “come out to the house.” I’m going to
Google him up and take a look. I want to see a hometown website, I want to see a
professional website, so I want that validation. So what I was looking for
mobile… Some of the basics, so most law firms… Can I talk about some of the
communication tools I think should be out there?
Jim: Sure, yeah.
Tom: So if you have an estate planning website, you need to have a contact form on
there. Seems like a basic, but again, just a phone number’s not enough, because
people need to have that instant connectivity to you as a firm, and as long as they
can login, see your contact, and leave you a message, they’re going to get that
affirmation that they communicated with you. So again, do you have a contact form
that’s being used often? It could be buried on your site, you need to make sure it
can be found, and then we simply connect it to an email address so you get a
notification when it’s used. We’re also looking at things like blogs, and
newsletters. So most of our successful law firms have a blog page and/or a
newsletter that they’re using in connection with their website. We don’t advocate
blogging on a daily basis. If that’s happening, you’re probably just paying for
someone else’s content, and it’s not going to feel like you’re a firm, so we only
advocate blogging three or four times a month, and for most of our firms, we talk
with them and show them how you can actually go in and put content in and schedule
it for delivery. So if you spend an hour, budget an hour a month take fifteen
minutes each, write three or four articles, and then they can be published
throughout the month while you’re just out there working. And then, you can even
talk about this, Jim, but the whole idea of event management. Most of our
successful firms are doing some version of events, and whether that’s client
appreciation events or pure marketing or outreach through education events through
the community. And when they’re doing that, we want to make sure those events are
represented well on the website as well.
Jim: Yeah, I definitely agree with that. Just to touch on a couple things that you
just went over. Mobile. We don’t really tell our clients this, because it doesn’t
make any difference, but about 80% of the registrations and downloads for their
materials through our marketing come through mobile. iPads or iPhones or Androids
or whatever that is, mobile, 80% of that traffic is coming through those devices.
So to have an optimized mobile website is going to be key, because they’re looking
at your stuff on mobile. At least on our side with our marketing, when they’re
browsing, they’re on mobile. The second thing that I wanted to touch on, is kind of
what you were saying, like having a call to action clear on the website. A lot of
the marketing that we do, it’s just about, I want to get them to do what I want
them to do. I don’t want them to sit on my website all day, I want them to call me
so they schedule an appointment with me and they can become a client of mine. And
so, to have that contact form on there, to have a place on there where they can
easily make an appointment if it links to a calendar or whatnot for an event. Some
people, like with the marketing that we have, maybe they see our marketing on
Facebook, or wherever that marketing is, if it’s the newsletter or whatever, and
then they don’t register. Our ads are only going out, they’re paid ads, so maybe
they don’t see that added yet. If you have a website that has your event
information on it, even though they saw with our ads, maybe they didn’t register
with our marketing, but then they go to your website and they see that they can
still register for it, they have the ability to register for it, and they do, you
still actually ended up getting that registration through your marketing.
Tom: You captured that lead there you captured that prospect.
Jim: And then finally, on the website, I always tell people that you want to do
basically what you’re doing if you’re doing live events or workshops, is you kind
of want to teach them why they need you, and not the actual, not the legal
information that they think that they need to know. You want to teach them the why,
so that they actually do click on the call to action, do pick up the phone and call
you or whatever that is. So I don’t know if you have different examples or anything
like that where you have one client that wants to put like an encyclopedia on their
website, and then you have another client that just puts the basics and the heart
and the feeling on their website and then the kind of results that you see on
those, but that would be interesting to know.
Tom: Yeah, I’ll tell you, we were just in our office, we just launched a site this
week that was a, something that’s funny, every time you launch one, it becomes your
new favorite, right? What I love to see is so many times, attorneys, we’re used to
listing our practice areas, it’s almost like it’s ingrained in you, you pass the
bar, and you register for the local bar, it says “Well what division do you want to
be in?” “Well I’ll be in the real estate division, “or the estate division.” So
then, when we create our websites, we put real estate, or business, or estate. Our
most attractive websites are when our clients, when we kind of partner with them,
instead of saying estate planning, instead of saying house or protection, it could
say things like “I’m here to help you plan for your family.” “I’m here to help you
plan “for your children’s inheritance.” And so I guess our best websites, again,
instead of having three or four practice areas, it’s three or four “I’m here
because”, and then people will click and drill down. And then very much instead of
the attorney, in fact, our favorite one, we just launched it this week, the
attorney spent a lot of time talking about their firm’s values and their values
were compassion, things that don’t immediately register with lawyers, but they
wanted to help kind of touch the heart of that website visitor so they would be
confident to click and schedule an appointment. And as you mentioned, a strong call
to action, a website can often be connected directly to the client’s contact
manager, whether that’s Outlook or whether that’s Clio, or something else they’re
using to manage their firm. Or oftentimes those websites so that the firm has
immediate access to that contact information and can immediately get an email out
and say thank you, your contacts were all received, looking forward to meeting with
you. So really becoming more of a communication hub than just a billboard.
Jim: Definitely, and it’s kind of like the same thing I always tell people with our
paid advertisements. If I can get 30 people to see your ad, and all 30 of those
people click on it and download your material, or click on it and sign up for your
workshop, then I would call that a successful ad, even if 30 people saw it. Same
thing goes with your website. In my mind at least, if you only get 30 people to see
your website, but all 30 people that actually see your website click on the contact
me, fill out your form, and give your office a call, it doesn’t matter if tens of
thousands of people are viewing your website if nobody’s calling, or if nobody’s
sending in a contact form, if nobody cares. If people click on it for 30 seconds
and then they go off and they find another website.
Tom: Yeah Jim, and that’s so important in estate planning and elder law, because that
is such a referral business. Sometimes in our office, we’ll have a new employee or
a new team member who doesn’t come from an estate planning background and they’ll
often say, they’ll get off of a design call with a client, and they’ll say “Hey
Tom, do you think “that firm’s going to be successful?” And I say yes, because, and
the reasons I’ll say is because I can already tell they’re connected to their
community, and they understand that their job is to kind of receive those
referrals. Again, whether they’re coming off of a Facebook paid ad, whether they’re
coming from a local nursing home, whether they’re coming from a local financial
planner, or a satisfied client, but if they’re going to receive those well on their
website, and with their communication, we kind of know that they get it, they know
how to communicate.
Jim: The one thing I hear a lot is “How much time does your marketing– “How much time
is it going to take our office to do this? “Are you going to need a lot of
resources “to implement these things?” And we try to make it as easy as possible
for them so they don’t have to worry about it. So somebody’s going to have you
build a website, have you manage the website, how much time does a typical firm
need to dedicate every month to just making sure that it’s running as smooth as
Tom: Yeah I would say honestly about under an hour. With all of our, and we host
hundreds of estate planning websites, and have for going on 10 years now. Everybody
within our practice has an account manager here at our company, they know on a
first name basis, so everybody we work with gets, as a part of their hosting,
training on how to , you know, if you need to log in and make a change or an edit,
or add an event, or a blog post, and to that extent… It’s a new employee, or
there’s a turnover, or it’s been two months, and you’ve forgotten the actual steps,
our phone will ring all day long with somebody saying “It’s Joe from Tampa, can you
help me with this?” And it’s done. And I can’t tell you how relieving that is,
because so many times firms will say “I’m going to schedule this afternoon to work
on my website.” Well you don’t need an afternoon to make a couple edits. So again,
I’d say just about an hour a month. But we’re doing a lot of that behind the
scenes, so we’re putting in that hour, but it’s an efficient hour, so everything’s
running smoothly.
Jim: Awesome. I’m trying to think if there’s anything else that I’m missing here. I
always ask this one question to everybody who’s on these Zoom calls, and that’s
“What’s the number one piece of advice that you would give “an elder law or an
estate planning attorney today “if you could do so?”
Tom: It would be, and this will sound canned, but just don’t focus on perfection. You
need to, again, whether it’s our company, or a local company, or whatever you’re
comfortable with, really today’s the day to get your website out there. If you’re
waiting for that perfect opportunity, it’ll never show up. Especially in the world
of the web, that cost of inaction keeps stacking up because your online reputation
as soon as you start it, the more you reap the benefits. And if you wait ’til the
fall because it’s a good time, or the winter because you’re busy in the fall, you
just don’t know how many eyeballs looked at your current site and said “Not a good
fit.” So again, I would just encourage some of you to take action, move that to the
top of your list.
Jim: If somebody was interested, how long, if they got on the phone, they call you up,
they want to do it, how long does it take from the time that they start with you
til the time that everything’s up and running on average, and they can see the
resulting website?
Tom: If somebody comes in to us, it’s really three to five weeks to get their website
launched, and that really depends if they are going to have a week where they’re on
vacation, or a week where they’re busy, but three to five weeks they’re up and
running. And again, with all our firms, it’s not a hand it over, go away. Even once
it’s launched, we’re here, we’re still in that relationship. As far as seeing
results, it’s almost immediately, I mean one of our greatest joys is launching new
firm websites. Somebody graduates the bar, somebody gets a second career, somebody
goes out on their own after working for a larger firm. It’s really day one they get
results, because they’ve got that great web on their business card, they’ve got
that great website they’re able to broadcast throughout their social media, and
start getting those views, and getting that reputation.
Jim: Yeah, I can definitely vouch, I mean the websites look great. The clients of ours
that are using you guys, there aren’t any complaints about anything, I mean our
website runs smooth. We have one of our team members is the one that’s managing it,
they go in the background, if we have any questions about anything, we just reach
out to your team and your team takes care of it, so it’s pretty easy, and just like
you, the attorneys that are watching this, at the beginning of it, I pushed back. I
was like “Oh man, do I need an updated website?” We hadn’t created our own website.
And then we finally just said “Hey, you know what? “that’s something that we just
need to get off “of our plate, and we need to have somebody else “manage that for
us that can do it better “than we can do, and then let us “focus on what we’re good
at.” And Tom and his team did a great job, so thank you.
Tom: Yeah, honestly thank you, I appreciate it.
Jim: And finally, did you have anything for the attorneys that are watching this? I
know we like to give away stuff. I didn’t know if you had any give-aways or special
offers, or anything like that that they can take advantage of. If it’s Ahrens
Technologies site or Legal Directives?
Tom: Yeah
Jim: Not to put you on the spot or make you give away the bank or anything.
Tom: So on the Legal Directive side, we would always, if you connect to us and say
hey, I heard about you through Jim and Bambiz, we will get you set up at no cost,
and your first 10 accounts will be free, and on the website side, your first six
months of hosting and support will be free.
Jim:  Well there you go.
Tom: And again, the though ton that which we do that from time to time is it takes, if
there’s a better time in the future, well let’s get your website out there now
anyway. And again, same thing, if you’re watching this and connected with Jim, just
mention that, and we’ll honor that six months of hosting at no charge.
Jim: Awesome, well thank you so much for that, Tom. I appreciate your time that you’ve
taken out of your day to get on here and talk with us, tell us a little bit more
about law firm websites and how it’s beneficial to them to take action now, and
that it’s not as hard and complicated as they probably perceive it to be, and there
is really no need to be in any type of crazy contracts or have canned marketing
messages done for you, that’s kind of almost like an inflated part of the
experience that just doesn’t need to be there.
Tom: That’s right, that’s right.
Jim: Awesome, well thank again, if you need anything else, reach out to Tom, and we
look forward to seeing you on another one of these marketing Zoom calls. Thanks.
Tom: Thank you.

In Conclusion

You can learn more about Tom and his work at Ahrens Technologies / Legal Directives by visiting his website here.

At Bambiz, we work with elder law and estate planning firms and have extensive experience in developing social media marketing strategies unique to your firm, location, and potential client base.

To learn more about how we can help grow your business using online marketing, schedule a free 15-minute call with us


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Jim Blake

Jim Blake

Founder/CEO Bambiz

Jim’s mission with Bambiz is to help Elder Law and Estate Planning attorneys get more clients and grow their business.  He was awarded the Tampa Bay Business Journal Top Up and Comer Under 30 and is a Certified Digital Marketer.  Jim is also passionate about running and fitness, having completed over 26 full marathons in three continents.