5 Tips for Lawyers to Build Their Community Presence

paul-bknSummer is here, and it is a great opportunity to build your community presence. Lawyers who want to build a bilingual solo practice should get out, meet people, and get involved in what matters to the community. Not only will this give you exposure, but it will also convey a positive message about your solo practice, one that says that you care about your community and are here for the people. Building your community presence is the most effective legal marketing strategy to greatly bolster your firm’s visibility. Once the people in the community begin to notice your commitment, newer conduits will open up, such as invitations to conduct seminars and workshops. End result: Lots of positive attention and plenty of business.

Community work doesn’t have to be dreary or tedious. There are plenty of exciting and fun ways to be involved in the community.

Tip #1: Volunteer for Small Businesses

Volunteering to mentor and help small businesses is one of the best and most rewarding ways of building your community presence. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, in 2010 there were 27.9 million small businesses in the U.S. By mentoring these small businesses, conducting seminars and workshops for them,  and serving in a leadership role, you get to help the community as well as promote your business. You also get to meet like-minded entrepreneurs. Lastly, by volunteering for small businesses, you will gain recognition and respect in the business community. For more on volunteering for small businesses, see www.SCORE.org.

Tip #2: Host a Charity Event

Hosting a charity event and helping with fundraising efforts is another effective way to get involved with the community. Not only are you doing something positive, getting involved with charities gets you noticed and truly shows that you care. It is important to be perceived as a compassionate business as many people have jaded views about lawyers. So get out with your team and walk for a cause, collect unused toys for less-privileged children, host an event and donate proceeds to your charity of choice, or you may choose from a multitude of other options. You can get your clients involved too, by making an announcement in your newsletter, website or facebook page. Consider using an online fundraising tool, such as www.DonationTo.com.

Tip #3: Volunteer for a Not-for-Profit Organization

There are over 1.5 million non-profit organizations in the U.S.A. You can choose to be a part of any of these organizations and help address some really relevant issues for the community. Not only does it let you build a great lawyer community presence, but it also helps you meet some like-minded people and build your firms’ values. You can volunteer for community service projects that fit your interests or your firms practice area. For instance, help conserve the environment, plant trees, and support the use of recycled paper. Support your local senior center, paint a community center, refurnish a library, and so much more. These can be immensely rewarding on a personal level and can also serve as a team-building exercise for your staff. Volunteer opportunities can be found through www.volunteermatch.org and www.idealist.org.

Tip #4: Volunteer for your Church, Temple, Synagogue or Mosque

Churches, temples, synagogues, mosques and other faith-based organizations have historically been leaders in getting their members to give their time and get involved with the greater community. If you are a member of a faith-based organization, you can take part in their volunteer opportunities. Members of your religious organization, may feel more comfortable coming to you for legal advice.

Tip #5: Join a Court Sponsored Volunteer Attorney Program or Pro Bono Program

Perhaps the best way for lawyers to get involved with their community is through court sponsored volunteer attorney programs or pro bono programs. The benefits of volunteering with these programs is that you can build your legal expertise and gain CLE credits, get to know other lawyers and court personnel, and you can volunteer on a schedule that is convenient to you.

An Example of a Lawyer Building his Community Presence Through Community Involvement

Being a part of any of the above initiatives can really help you develop a humanitarian image and make others realize that your firm cares for the community and its people.  A case in point is Damian Vargas, a lawyer who became quite a success by building a strong lawyer community presence through community involvement. Find out how Damian has taken effective steps in his community in this excerpt from an interview, where he shares his story and offers tips to lawyers regarding community involvement.

Q. How did you find the balance between serving the community and running your practice successfully?

A. As a law student, two goals I set for myself as a lawyer were to service my community and to run my own practice. Even on paper those two goals seemed to run contrary to each other. If I run my own practice, I need to focus on getting clients and earn a paycheck. If I focus on community service, I won’t have time to focus on properly running my practice.

Being Mexican-American, I decided to primarily focus my practice in the areas of law of most concern to immigrant communities. Therefore, I focused on immigration, civil rights and personal injury.

Q. So how did you go about doing volunteer work?

A. I started volunteering by mentoring immigrant high school students with the Mexican American Student Alliance/Mexican Education Foundation a couple of days a week. My time volunteering with MASA/MexEd exposed me to other community based organizations focused on immigrant rights issues, but also exposed these CBOs to me as an attorney. Eventually, my volunteer work evolved into providing free legal services in the form of workshops for the community and free non-profit legal advice for the organizations. As a result of my volunteer work in the community, I now serve on the Board of Directors of MASA/MexEd and other CBOs, serve as “of counsel” to other CBOs and the Mexican Consulate on immigration and civil rights issues, and serve on a community board in Queens.

Q. How do you think the volunteer work helped your practice grow?

A. As a result of my work and ties to the organizations above, I have not had to spend much time or money actually marketing myself or my firm. My volunteer work doubles as my marketing. Today, the majority of my clients are referred to me by the organizations and groups I volunteer at and counsel.

Q. What, in your opinion, is the one crucial thing that a lawyer must do to achieve remarkable success?

A. In my opinion, the most important thing to do when starting your own practice is to identify a niche market and focus your practice on that market. Once you have identified the market, identify characteristics that the market values or that set you apart from other lawyers in that market.

Damian Vargas graduated Rutgers School of Law-Newark in 2009 and is currently partner at Berkowitz & Vargas, P.C., where he heads the firm’s immigration practice. dvargaslaw.com.

Let’s continue the conversation. How have you built your community presence? What are you going to do this summer to build your community presence?

All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.

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