I know many of our clients are active in community organizations and frequently sponsor, volunteer or support not-for-profit and charitable events. Most of you do it because you want to contribute to a good cause. But, from a purely marketing and practice development viewpoint, does it make sense for you to become actively involved in these activities? Should you be sponsoring and supporting more events … or different ones?
This week I turned to our Public Relations guru, Shari Peyser, for insight on this aspect of your firm’s PR.
Q: Just how important is it for estate and elder law attorneys to get involved with community organizations?
Shari: I can just hear the collective groan. Do we have to? Yes, you do. And you want to also. Here’s why.
Let’s start with the basic underlying premise: every Elder Law and Estate Planning practice needs a steady flow of new clients. Everything you do – from providing great service to clients, sending out informative email blasts and posting great blogs to asking for referrals when the last documents have been completed – is geared to keeping your funnel of new clients filled.
Regardless of their age and stage of life, people today expect companies and professionals they patronize to be involved with their community. This was not the case twenty years ago, but it is today. Many law firms actually require partners and associates to serve with not-for-profits.
Q. So, let’s agree it’s important to be involved. But, there are many more events and organizations than any attorney can afford to support – either with time or money. So, how to choose?
Shari: As an Elder Law or Estate Planning attorney, the most logical organizations for you are those who serve the aging, elderly and special needs communities.
Part of your research as to which NFP to become involved with should include an examination of the NFP’s board of directors. If the organization already has five lawyers on its board, find another one where there aren’t quite so many of your colleagues.
Next, is it a local chapter of a national organization? Sometimes being active in a chapter can vault you into regional and national spheres that will really boost your visibility. In other cases, a local organization may put you in closer contact with neighborhood organizers and community leaders.
Q: Shari, it’s a sad fact of life that not every organization posing as a not-for-profit is legitimate. How can you be sure everything is on the up-and-up?
Shari: Dig deeper – visit the Foundation Center or GuideStar for financial information. If they do not appear on either website, ask their development office for details. If they don’t have a development office, speak with the Executive Director. Your reputation is important –only align your practice with a well-run, legitimate organization.
Q: Great information, thanks Shari! So, what types of support should attorneys be giving to these organizations?
Shari: Please be aware that simply writing a check isn’t what we are after here. Involvement with a not-for-profit serving the aging and elderly in your community will further deepen your understanding of the population you serve. Devoting a day to host an Elder Law clinic for a local social service agency will widen your perspective and bring new energy for you and your associates. We don’t care how many years you have been practicing: you will always learn something from the seniors you help.
Q. Okay, this may sound crass, but I’m going to ask anyway, how will being involved with these types of efforts help the law practice?
Shari: You mean, is it possible to do well by doing good? Absolutely! Just consider some of these benefits:
- It will give you a nice warm fuzzy bit of news to share with current, past and prospective clients in your email blasts, blog posts and if appropriate, press releases to local media.
- Depending upon the activity – a golf outing, an awards dinner, or a legal clinic – you will have an opportunity to meet face-to-face with your clients, their parents, their children and/or people they know.
- If your client base is made up of wealthy couples, you will likely run into their peers, who also serve on boards and/or committees.
- If your client base is more middle-income and working people, you will meet the professionals who serve them, local elected officials and other influential members of the community.
A final thought on community involvement: would you rather do business with a vendor who you see at local events and who you know to be an active and engaged member in your town, or someone who stays in the office and you’ve never met? Your clients, referral sources and prospective clients feel the same way. Doing good is good business.
Thank you so much, Shari. This is great information our clients can use to evaluate their own community sponsorships and participation. Let us know if you have other questions you'd like to ask Shari about public relations for your law office.