By Ally Kennedy, Founder of Amiga
Though it may seem counterintuitive, hosting a free legal clinic is a way to boost business. You may already participate in community-organized legal clinics as a way to give back to the community and contribute your legal services to those in need, which is a wonderful and altruistic act. However, from a business perspective, volunteering in legal clinics does not usually translate to a steady stream of new business.
By hosting your own free legal clinic, you will attract people who are interested in you and your services specifically. You will build goodwill for your business because it will be branded by your law firm. Additionally, it has the dual benefit of serving people in need while at the same time increasing your business.
Here are some tips on how to successfully organize a free legal clinic:
1. Get the timing right
Who do you want to attract to your legal clinic? This is an important question to ask because the day of the week and time of day are critical to making your legal clinic a success and should be based on your Ideal Client's schedule.
For our firm, we have found Sunday from 6pm-8pm to be the best time for a legal clinic.
2. Find an easily accessible place to host the clinic
If your office has ample parking and a large waiting area and conference room, then that may be the right place. However, if, for example, your elevators only have key card access on the weekends or the setup isn't right for allowing multiple people to wait at the same time, you may have to seek out another location.
The local library can be a great location because they often are centrally located and allow you to reserve conference rooms for free. Churches are another great option, however sometimes they impose certain requirements and/or limitations which may not be the right fit. (That is for you to evaluate and decide.) It is ideal to avoid having to pay for a space if possible, so these are two (usually) free options that you can check in to.
3. Promote the Clinic Widely
Your firm's Facebook page is a great way to spread the word. (In fact, I have used my firm's Facebook almost exclusively to promote any of my free legal events.) You can also contact local radio stations who target your Ideal Client to ask if they could mention the free legal clinic and/or invite you on to discuss it. Passing out fliers and posting posters in local establishments where your Ideal Clients frequent is another way to let people know of the clinic. (with permission of course)
You will have to experiment with how much time you need to promote the clinic to have a good turnout. Because my Facebook page is quite active, I promoted exclusively on my Facebook page with 2 weeks notice and had a great turnout.
4. Have a System for the Day-Of
You need a way to make sure the day of the event runs smoothly. You need to be prepared to do fast consultations in a high volume. Here's a system you can use. It involves the attorney plus two other people, in our case we had a legal assistant and the business manager.
Step 1- The legal assistant is seated at a registration table and greets people as they come in. She provides them with a very detailed intake sheet that asks the majority of the screening questions. It is important to ask these detailed questions on the intake sheet because of the fact that if you have a good turnout, you will not get to spend more than a few minutes with each person.
Step 2- When the person returns the intake sheet, she numbers the sheet to designate the person's spot in line.
Step 3- When it comes to the person's turn, the legal assistant walks the person back to the attorney.
Step 4- The attorney reviews the intake sheet and asks pointed questions. When she determines eligibility, she very briefly describes an overview of the relief for which the person is eligible, then walks the person over to the business manager. The attorney takes notes on the intake sheet and notes what the person is eligible for.
(Alternatively, if the person is not eligible for anything, then she briefly explains his/her rights and provides him/ her with a business card and some other marketing item, such as a refrigerator magnet.)
Step 5- The attorney tells the business manager what the person qualifies for. The business manager then explains to the person the pricing and provides a quote sheet (link here) with the prices along with a list of all of the required documents to get started. He presents the quote sheet in a folder that has his business card, the lawyer's business card, a marketing item (like the magnet), and on the font the firm's name and address. If the person would like to get started on the case, he schedules a time for the person to come in. Otherwise, the person leaves fully informed and armed with what s/he needs to begin a case in the future.
Then, the following business day:
Step 6- The legal assistant prepares a thank you post card that she mails to every person who attended the event.
Step 7- Within a week, either the business manager, attorney, or legal assistant calls each person who was eligible for legal assistance to ask if there are any additional questions and/or schedule an appointment to come in to sign up for the case.
As you can see, this is a very simple yet effective system that gives all attendees a personalized experience. It is well-branded throughout because everyone receives your business card, a branded folder, and branded information about their legal options, so it helps raise awareness of you and your law firm. It is a win-win for all involved.
Give this a try and report back on how it works for you!
About your Ally in Life, Business and Law:
Alexandra "Ally" Kennedy is a national award-winning attorney and the founder of AMIGA Lawyers and Alexandra Kennedy Immigration Law.. After becoming a mother, and in a matter of 3 months, Ally transformed her practice from earning in pesos to earning 6-figures and she is passionate about teaching attorneys how they can do the same. Ally empowers lawyers to be the CEOs of their law firms with her weekly blog, webinars, and conferences where she teaches step-by-step how to do the work they love while running a profitable legal business. Ally lives outside of Seattle with her partner and their 5 children.