A Cheap Website Could Cost Your Firm Millions of Dollars

Consultwebs, Legal marketing

Lawyers know the value of hiring an experienced, successful lawyer for representation. An inexpensive lawyer that has a small, inexperienced staff and lack of resources may cost less initially, but the long-term results could be disastrous.

Web marketing is the same.  While cheap websites are plentiful, the return on investment (ROI) will be minimal since the cheap website will not compete favorably with the large number of Internet competitors.

Is low-cost Web design really a bargain when the Internet is outpacing every advertising medium in growth?  Below are some examples and considerations.

The Cheap Website Looked Like a Pretty Good Choice

Consider a typical, small Personal Injury practice we talk to on a daily basis. Let’s call it “Sample Law Firm.” The marketing director at Sample Law Firm researched website developers and selected what he thought was a good deal. The contract terms probably appeared to offer quite a bargain: maybe the low-bid vendor waived a few “standard” fees and set up the website for low or no cost, based on an annual contract of $2,000 per month for maintenance and SEO services.

A year or two later, Sample Law Firm has seen a $6,000 monthly return from the new, inexpensive website. The budget-minded marketing director celebrates his success, feeling like he made a rather smart investment.

And it would be hard to argue, right?

ROI Matters When Considering Your Firm’s Website

Let’s consider how Sample Law Firm might look today if its decision-makers had considered investment ROI when deciding on a Web vendor.

A competing legal Web marketing company with a strong reputation in the industry counseled Sample Law Firm to devote a larger budget to develop a more robust, more compelling Web platform that included many additional methods of obtaining clients. The catch was, “doing it right” required a $5,000- to $12,000-per-month additional investment for search marketing and audience development initiatives via social media, strategic paid advertising, public relations, outreach, and community involvement.

After the first year, as Sample Law Firm invested $5,000 to $12,000 per month, their average monthly return was $60,000 to $200,000 above their investment.

the high cost of a cheap website

Choosing the cheap website, Sample Law Firm garnered about $4,000 per month profit on its $2,000 outlay. In contrast, had the firm’s leadership taken into account the ROI potential of a tightly targeted but higher monthly expenditure, the firm would have netted $127,500 each month on its $8,500 investment, depending upon the competitiveness of the market, aggressiveness of the campaign, and other factors.

The “inexpensive” website cost the firm $123,500 per month, or $1,530,000 over the course of a year.

inexpensive law firm website

Law firms achieve a strong investment return on their websites when they give Web visitors an immediate sense of trust in the firm. A well-designed website establishes trust by revealing that the firm is professional, credible and experienced, and has a human touch. Highly talented legal marketing vendors have the experience to make sure a site delivers this experience and converts visitors by immediately earning their website visitors’ trust.

What Does a Bigger Website Investment Buy Me?

Many Web vendors “sell” their service but do not back the sale up with support.  They provide template reports and periodic brief meetings, but do not provide the proactive marketing assistance that is needed to be successful; there is no long-term plan in mind.

Most people researching legal issues online—your potential clients—will visit more than three or four law firm websites before they select one to contact. A strong site engages its visitors through great design, high-quality videos and photography, and overall user experience. Ideally, the site’s users will be greeted by a knowledgeable, compassionate receptionist in the form of a chat operator.

Reputable Web vendors excel at search marketing, making sure that your firm is represented on the first page of search results, which is a time-consuming and ongoing investment. Investing enough and investing it wisely will earn visibility in organic, local, and even pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns.

Let’s not forget the mobile experience. In some market areas, 30 to 50 percent of Web visitors use a mobile device.  Good Web development incorporates responsive design to convert clients on mobile devices, just as they do for desktop users. Prominent legal marketing companies will include mobile development, which is lacking in cheaper alternatives.

The Internet is rife with competing lawyers. A firm needs not only to invest enough to build a high-quality website, but to invest marketing funds wisely. As mentioned above, the best campaigns incorporate creative search marketing solutions with long term growth in mind by developing great assets for content marketing, scholarships, webinars, podcasts, and special campaigns that give the firm a quality “unique value proposition” (UVP). A low investment simply cannot fund the type of marketing efforts needed to rise above the competition.

An experienced law firm Web marketing company will tie together all the requirements for a successful legal website. Good keyword rankings, backlink profiles, local presence, citations, and strong technical SEO will increase search visibility. Compelling listings—good titles and meta descriptions—are fundamental.

A well-designed site connects with prospects when they land on the page, conveying trustworthiness, professionalism, ability, care, and concern. The successful website offers a good experience to the user, flowing smoothly between subjects and providing helpful information that instills trust in the knowledge, expertise, and abilities of the attorneys at the firm.

The Importance of Conversions

After all that, a page must move the client to contact the firm, and then the intake process must be handled smoothly, quickly, and efficiently so that the prospect feels cared for and well served from the beginning of the relationship.

Finally, a successful Web presence will foster loyalty and renewed business from clients and will include social interaction and positive online reviews—the word-of-mouth of the 21st century.

Every step in the process, from connecting with prospects to the ongoing relationship with clients whose cases have been resolved, requires technical expertise. The best legal Web marketers have a talent pool of expert staffers and vast resources to ensure that each step is handled professionally. Web development is a complex process that requires a team of specialists.

A single high-dollar case justifies a considerable investment in a high-quality online marketing strategy, which is relatively inexpensive compared to many traditional marketing vehicles. If your firm does not land that lucrative case, your competitor (who is doing everything right on the Web) will.

Successful law firms know the difference between a $4,000 and $200,000 ROI and they make marketing decisions accordingly. You do not want to leave millions of dollars on the table because of a “bargain” that looked too good to pass up.

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DOJ Settlement Suggests Push to Expand ADA Coverage to All Websites and Apps

Morgan Lewis logo

The chance of future DOJ investigations justifies companies’ reviews of customer-oriented websites and apps for accessibility.

As consumers continue to use the Internet and their smartphones for their shopping in astonishing numbers, especially on this Cyber Monday, a recent Department of Justice (DOJ) settlement agreement raises questions and potential serious implications for any company with customer-oriented websites or mobile applications. The settlement agreement requires Ahold USA., Inc. and Peapod, LLC (Peapod) to make the www.peapod.com website and Peapod’s mobile applications accessible to the disabled, including persons with vision, hearing, and manual impairments. The settlement agreement demonstrates that the DOJ is reviewing and/or monitoring websites and mobile apps for accessibility and remains aggressive in its push to extend the requirements of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to all websites and mobile apps—even when the sites are unrelated to actual physical places of public accommodation. According to the settlement agreement, the DOJ concluded that www.peapod.com was inaccessible to the disabled after initiating a “compliance review” authorized by Title III and its implementing regulations.[1] Peapod, however, contested the DOJ’s conclusion that www.peapod.com and Peapod’s mobile apps were not ADA compliant.

The settlement agreement is particularly noteworthy because www.peapod.com is a purely online grocery delivery service, unrelated to a “brick and mortar” physical place of public accommodation. Most courts considering application of the ADA to websites require a website to have a “nexus” to a physical place.[2] In the past, the DOJ has required websites and mobile apps to be accessible—for example, in a March 2014 consent decree with H&R Block. However, unlike the H&R Block consent decree, which involved a website and mobile apps with a nexus to physical places, the Peapod settlement agreement requires that a website and apps with no nexus to a physical place be made accessible to the disabled. The Peapod settlement agreement therefore shows that the DOJ’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), which is expected in March 2015, may require—in the words of the Abstract for the DOJ’s NPRM—the websites and apps of “private entities of all types,” even “[s]ocial networks and other online meeting places” to comply with the ADA.

The settlement agreement also indicates which standards the DOJ’s regulations eventually may require websites and mobile apps to meet. The settlement agreement requires www.peapod.com and Peapod’s mobile apps to comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, Level AA (WCAG 2.0 AA). The DOJ has required compliance with the WCAG 2.0 AA in the past, including in the H&R Block consent decree. The Peapod settlement agreement further requires Peapod to designate a Website Accessibility Coordinator to coordinate compliance with the agreement; adopt a Website and Mobile Application Accessibility Policy; post a notice on its home page on its accessibility policy, which would include a toll-free number for assistance and a solicitation for feedback; annually train website content personnel on conforming Web content and apps to the WCAG 2.0 AA; seek contractual commitments from its vendors to provide conforming content, or (for content not subject to a written contract) seek out content that conforms to the WCAG 2.0 AA; modify bug fix priority policies to include the elimination of bugs that create accessibility barriers; and conduct automated accessibility tests of the website and apps at least once every six months and transmit the results to the government. The settlement agreement, which stays in effect for three years, additionally provides that every 12 months, the Website Accessibility Coordinator must submit a report to the government that details Peapod’s compliance or noncompliance with the agreement. Peapod is not the only entity that will conduct testing under the settlement agreement. At least once annually, individuals with vision, hearing, and manual disabilities will test the usability of the Web pages. Notably, however, the settlement agreement does not impose damages or a civil penalty on Peapod.

There is a chance that the DOJ’s eventual regulations will differ from the standards to which the DOJ requires Peapod to conform. The settlement agreement accounts for that possibility. It states that if the DOJ promulgates final regulations on website accessibility technical standards during the term of the settlement agreement, the parties must meet and confer at either’s request to discuss whether the agreement must be modified to make it consistent with the regulations.


[1]See 42 U.S.C. § 12188(b)(1)(A)(i) (“The Attorney General . . . shall undertake periodic reviews of compliance of covered entities under this subchapter.”); 28 C.F.R. § 36.502(c) (“Where the Attorney General has reason to believe that there may be a violation of this part, he or she may initiate a compliance review.”).

[2]. See, e.g.Nat’l Fed. of the Blind v. Target Corp., 452 F. Supp. 2d 946, 953–56 (N.D. Cal. 2011).

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USCIS Has a New Looking Website with Enhancements

Greenberg Traurig Law firm

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) launched its new-look website late last week.  Visitors to the website will find a cleaner looking page with better navigation tools than before.  The mobile device version of USCIS’s website has been updated with an enhanced Case Status tool that allows visitors to get updates on pending cases, including case history, next steps and more detailed case-related information than before.  The updated home page also makes finding USCIS news, outreach events, educational webinars, and other services easier.  Additional updates from USCIS are expected in the upcoming months as part of the agency’s effort to allow visitors to obtain more and more information online, rather than spending hours on the phone with USCIS Customer Service or visiting a local USCIS District Office.

Article by:
Ian R. Macdonald

Of:
Greenberg Traurig

How to Build a Lead Generation Machine Online with Content Marketing (Part 2 of 2)

If you struggle with creating quality content for your website or blog, I’ve pulled together 8 best practices for content marketing to guide you.  If you missed the first four in the series of eight, see yesterday’s blog post here.

These are the second 4 of 8 best practices in content marketing:

Best Practice 5: Use video to give visitors a sense of who you are. Video is one of the best ways to improve your website conversion rates. I highly recommend you record several videos for your website: an overview of each major practice area your firm offers, a few case studies of typical clients you want to attract, a video introduction for each attorney, and reasons why people should hire you versus a competitor. You can also add videos from seminars or presentations you make to add more content to your site.

Best Practice 6: Take a position on a topic and frequently update your blog. When you begin a blog, you need to make sure that it is a topic you feel passionate about. Make sure that you will still be energized to write about the topic in six months or a year. You also need to make sure that there is an audience for your blog.

In order to keep your website and blog at the forefront of Google’s mind, you will need to post regularly. The most successful lead generation blogs post every day. If you aren’t willing to post new content at least a few times per week then you should seriously consider hiring someone to do the writing for you. In a survey of over 7,000 small businesses, Hubspot.com found companies that blog 15 or more times per month generate five times as much traffic as companies that don’t blog!

Best Practice 7: Add social media to your website to make it easier for people to share your content online. Most major websites people visit have fully integrated social media-whether its Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter you want to make it easy for people to share your content with their friends and colleagues.

Best Practice 8: Keep your content consistent with your brand. If you’re an estate planning attorney, write about estate planning and rarely about anything else. Professional blogs need to remain professional. The tone, content and focus should demonstrate the type of attorney you are. If your office is more relaxed and friendly, then try to convey that in the tone of your blogs. If your firm is more traditional, that too should be apparent in the tone of your piece.

Your content also needs to stay relevant. If there is a major change in what area of law you practice in, then you should be discussing it right away on your blog. If there is a big ruling in your practice area that is causing a lot of questions or anxiety for clients and prospects and you are the last person to mention in on their website or blog, then chances are the readers will have moved on to someone who is more on top of things.

Conclusion. Content marketing is one of the best ways to build targeted traffic to your website and become recognized as a thought leader. However, it is a long-term strategy so set your expectations appropriately. Depending on the level of competition in your practice area, how well-established your website/blog is, which key terms you are targeting, and how frequently you update your blog it may take several months to start seeing some significant results.

Content Marketing

ARTICLE BY
Stephen Fairley

OF

How to Build a Lead Generation Machine Online with Content Marketing (Part 1 of 2)

The Rainmaker Institute

If you are looking to drive more high quality traffic to your law firm’s website, one of the best ways to do so is via unique, high quality content on your blog.

lead generationIt is estimated that 95% of law firms already have a website, but too few attorneys are consistently generating quality leads from their online presence because they lack great content.

Google has made it increasingly difficult to rank high without putting a lot of quality content on your website.  If you want to continue ranking well on Google, which drives more qualified traffic to your website so you can generate more online leads, you must put more and more content on your website.

Here are the first 4 of 8 best practices in content marketing:

Best Practice 1: Create content prospects will connect with and will want to read. If your website is the first to pop up in a Google search, but a potential client reads your home page and finds it littered with meaningless legal jargon, then chances are they are going to move on to website number two. People hire attorneys they feel a connection with. If the viewer doesn’t connect with your website, then chances are they aren’t going to call you.

By creating content that viewers find informative and relevant, easy to digest and in multiple formats (like audio or video as well as written) you are encouraging them to spend more time on your site. By filling each page with informative and easy-to-understand language, an attorney is boosting their visibility on the web and converting browsers into believers.

Best Practice 2: Know the critical keywords prospects use to search. While Google is making sure the context fits the keywords, websites still need to focus on certain keywords. Start by making a list of at least 20-30 terms you believe an interested prospect might use to search for your kind of services. Then do your research.

I recommend two sites: Google Keyword Tool and WordTracker.com. You can find the first one simply by searching on Google for it. The terms definitely emphasize Google’s pay-per-click model, which is why I strongly recommend double checking your findings against the results from WordTracker.com. Use only one or two key terms per blog post and do not post duplicate content.

Best Practice 3: Make sure your blog is on the same domain/subdomain. I used to recommend having two different sites: your primary website and a separate blog site. Due to the recent changes in Google I now recommend keeping your blog on your website (use ABClaw.com/blog instead of blog.ABClaw.com). If you already have two separate sites don’t combine them unless they are less than six months old.

By integrating your blog and your website in one place, you can increase your rankings by adding more content via your blog. Topics for your blog can include recent cases you have handled, commenting on current events or stories in the media, answering frequently asked questions, and discuss aspects of the law.

Best Practice 4: Create geo-targeted pages. You need to write several pages for each city you want to target. For example, if you are a business litigation attorney in the East Valley of Phoenix, you want to have several pages of content focusing on each of the following cities: Phoenix, Tempe, Chandler, Scottsdale, Mesa, Gilbert, etc.

Do not make the mistake of only targeting Phoenix because every single other attorney is doing that. Put as many pages of content up there for the secondary cities. Even though you will not receive nearly as many hits for those cities the competition to rank on the first page of Google will be significantly less.

Come back here tomorrow where I will share the last 4 of 8 best practices for content marketing.

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OF

Block Your Valuable Brand from .XXX

XXX Sunrise Period for Non-Adult Industry Trademark Owners to Begin the 7th of September

The launch of the new top level domain .XXX is drawing near at which time .XXX domain names will be available for registration with the ICM Registry through accredited registrars. The introduction of .XXX is pertinent not only to the individuals, businesses and organizations currently engaged in the adult sponsored community but to all intellectual property holders with trademark rights.

The .XXX Registry is providing an opportunity for trademark owners (not involved in the adult entertainment industry) to apply to opt-out of .XXX and protect their valuable brands from cybersquatting in the .XXX space. This “Sunrise Period B” of fifty-two (52) days scheduled between September 7, 2011 and October 28, 2011, will allow trademark owners to block the registration of their brand in the .XXX domain. In short, trademark owners may opt-out of .XXX by reserving names identical to their existing registered trademarks effectively barring any potential person or entity engaged in the adult entertainment community from registering a .XXX domain name for that particular mark. A registered trademark is required and submitting an application does not guarantee that your trademark will be blocked by the registry.

However, a successful application to block a .XXX domain name registration will eliminate the domain from the .XXX registry for at least ten years (for a one-time fee of $225 per domain name plus attorney time to prepare the application). The blocked domain will then resolve to an informational page stating that the domain has been reserved and further prevent other interested parties in acquiring and/or using it. Once the Sunrise period ends, if a brand owner hasn’t taken advantage of the opportunity to block its trademark from the .XXX registry, all members of the adult sponsored community will have the ability to register .XXX domains, even if those domains include a valuable or well-known brand. Other rights protection mechanisms will be available (such as the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (“UDRP”)), but proactively participating in the Sunrise period may be a more cost-effective and pro-active approach.

© 2011 Bracewell & Giuliani LLP

Embracing Technology of Tomorrow

Posted in the National Law Review an article by Kristyn J. Sornat of Much Shelist Denenberg Ament & Rubenstein P.C.  on what innovative technology will be available in the next five years or by the end of the decade. 

 

Think of what new platforms have become available for marketing in the past ten years —social media sites (including YouTube, Facebook and LinkedIn) and the smartphone/tablet with mobile applications and paid search tools, such as Google AdWords. It makes it hard to imagine what innovative technology will be available in the next five years, let alone by the end of the decade. Plenty of gimmicky technology with a significant “cool” factor will be developed by the year 2020; however, the more important trends to watch involve the transformation of legal marketing staples.

CRMs Will Be Easier to Use

Not only will CRMs be more useful, attorneys will be required to use them! By the year 2020, there will be no more excuses as to why attorneys cannot use their firm’s client relationship management (CRM) system to support business development efforts. The most common complaints I hear about our CRM are the following: “It’s too hard to use;” “The process of entering and maintaining my information is too cumbersome;” or “I don’t have time to learn it.” However, I’ve noticed that since the economic downturn (which necessitates working smarter and harder on business development) it has been a lot easier to get the late adopters on board. However, these users still struggle with the functionality of the product.

Over the past decade, software providers have made great strides in improving the user interface of CRM products, and they have gotten smarter by incorporating it into what attorneys do every day — check email. The leading CRM providers in the legal market now allow attorneys to access their products via their email client. Companies like CRM4Legal developed their product with this in mind while others, such as LexisNexis InterAction (with version 6.0), have finally integrated the majority of their main product functionality into Outlook. This integration will make future CRM versions much easier to use. Over the next decade, these companies will take this trend a step further. Not only will using the product be more intuitive for attorneys, but the amount of information automatically pulled into the system will be greater than ever before. In addition to looking up who at your firm “knows” a client, you’ll be able to see what the client was billed in the last year, what practice groups were utilized, where the growth opportunities are and which of your other non-internal contacts have a connection to the client. There may even be access to “personal” preferences for the client (like music and food), and best of all, attorneys will not have to enter this information into the database themselves. Firms have used portal technology to facilitate bringing information into one place, but CRMs will differ from portals by tapping into third-party resources, such as LinkedIn, Facebook and news sources, to deliver unprecedented, one-step access to information that can be useful in pitching a prospect or servicing a client.

The Demise of Email Marketing

In the year 2020, firms will have shifted their efforts from mass email marketing campaigns to other online distribution channels. The effectiveness of email marketing is already on the decline, and over the next decade email clients will become even stricter about the types of information they allow through their spam filters. Compounding this issue, users are now relying on tools like social media, RSS feeds, blogs, search engines and other resources, rather than email, to find the information they need. Firms will no longer have the luxury of knowing they can inform their clients of emerging legal issues just by sending a monthly newsletter or weekly alert. They will need to find new ways to get this information to clients and prospects, preferably through a myriad of distribution channels. To prepare, firms should concentrate on using search engine optimization (SEO) for their websites (especially on pages that tend to get a majority of visitors from email distributions) and encourage attorneys to use social media to proactively share their articles and experience in specific practice areas.

Also, targeted online advertising, such as on LinkedIn and paid search, can be used to promote practice groups and help supplement the lack of exposure for these groups through email alerts. For example, firms can advertise their healthcare practice group to LinkedIn users in the healthcare industry, who have General Counsel as a title and live within 50 miles of the geographic area to which that practice group targets. Another paid search tool that may be useful is Google Remarketing, which allows firms to target ads to users who’ve previously visited their websites. Through this technology, users that find healthcare articles on a firm’s website through Google would later see an ad for the firm’s healthcare practice as they visit other websites or check their Gmail accounts. Legal alerts will still be written, but firms will rely more heavily on searchable syndication services, such as Martindale.com’s Legal Library or The National Law Review’s searchable database. Firms would be wise to prepare themselves for the inevitable by scaling back now on the amount of information they send to contacts through mass email messages. They should start tracking article clicks, opens and other performance data and use it to eliminate contacts from mailing lists. For example, if a contact only opens healthcare alerts or clicks on healthcare articles, a firm should only send them email distributions having to do with healthcare. In the future, if a firm wants anyone to open their email messages, they will need to condition their recipients to expect relevant information in every distribution.

Design for Mobile First

Mobile devices are everywhere, and they are fast becoming people’s primary access point to the Internet and email. In the past five years, although mobile devices have been a consideration when firms design websites and email messages, it hasn’t been a necessity to design for them first. By 2020, mobile devices (including tablets) will play the role which PCs do today. It’s important that firms start preparing for that shift now by creating a pared-down mobile version of their websites if all the pages of the site are not already mobile-friendly. Firms working on a website redesign should make sure they are giving mobile devices and PCs equal consideration. For example, if there is a search section for articles, more search buckets with dropdown choices should be created so that mobile users will have to rely less on typing in search terms. If Flash is utilized to emphasize important information on the website, there should be an alternative way to get that information across to iPhone users, who cannot view Flash animation. Although designing for mobile may inhibit creativity, it is better for mobile users to be able to see and use a highly functional website than to become frustrated by (or unable to view) a beautifully designed website. Mobile apps (currently a hot topic in legal marketing circles) will also be important, just not the way we think of them today. Many firms that have taken advantage of this new technology have focused on providing information that is already accessible on their websites and in other places. In the future, successful law firm apps will have two purposes: to aid users in things they are doing every day and to provide better service to clients. For example, Latham & Watkins has already realized this trend and released a useful app that allows people to search a glossary of legal, business and financial terms. How will apps help firms better service their clients in the future? They may allow clients to view hours billed and balances due, or search a firm’s attorney experience database based on specific criteria for a new matter. As firms develop ideas for apps, they should keep usability in mind so they don’t end up with an app that clients download out of curiosity, but then fails to entice them to come back again.

Website Overhauls

Websites will be vastly different by the end of the decade —not only will they be designed with mobile devices in mind, but they also may incorporate technology that delivers a different homepage experience to each user based on past visits. For example, tailored article and event feeds might display, based on previous visits to practice group descriptions, attorney bios or the user’s past site searches. Other website areas that will be affected will be attorney bios, practice group descriptions and resource centers. Firms should begin thinking about attorney bios more like social media profiles (maybe even connecting LinkedIn profiles with attorney pages), because the lines between websites and social media will be even more blurred. Video will be as important as text in getting marketing messages across on practice group pages, and firms will use articles and descriptions of experience to show practice group expertise rather than just “say”they have it in a lengthy practice group description. In the resource area of the website, firms will add more information that is useful to visitors. CLE webcasts may be a way to drive users to the website, much as articles do today. However, the trick to adding CLE resources will be figuring out how to give people their credit and comply with ethics rules for each state. Firms need to start preparing for what is to come in marketing technology — by 2020, tactics and processes will have evolved into a connected, mobile machine. To embrace this technology of tomorrow, firms should keep an eye on trends involving CRM systems, email marketing, mobile technology and websites, while maintaining caution from being distracted by a high “cool” factor that may not deliver real value to the firm or its clients.

This article was first published in ILTA’s June 2011 issue of Peer to Peer titled “Law2020TM: One Year In” and is reprinted here with permission. For more information about ILTA, visit their website at www.iltanet.org.

© 2011 Much Shelist Denenberg Ament & Rubenstein, P.C.