Dolan Media Newswires
Your local community can reveal big clues about its legal needs. By learning what is important to, needed by and/or lacking in your community, you can tailor your services to meet residents’ needs and open up new opportunities for your firm.
Potentially rich sources of information include the various government, nonprofit and business organizations that collect data about the people in your community.
For example, you can look to the U.S. Census Bureau for data about household characteristics such as income, languages spoken, education levels and age distribution. Because my firm focuses on personal injury law, it is helpful to understand what percentage of the population is elderly and might experience problems in nursing homes. Conversely, if the birth rate is high, there may be a higher number of birth injuries or auto accidents involving children.
In some cases, official data won’t be necessary if you’re familiar with your community. For instance, we know that my city is home to a large Spanish-speaking population. Using this knowledge, we translated portions of our website into Spanish and emphasize our staff’s bilingual capabilities. It has opened up a whole new market to us.
Accident, injury and crime data also can reveal much about your community’s legal needs. In the personal injury field, many of our clients are victims of motor vehicle accidents, so we monitor drunk-driving accident statistics, as well as crash reports in the local news media.
Our firm also handles dog-bite cases, so we look to organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control to understand the prevalence and nature of those injuries.
Crime statistics such as homicide rates are important to criminal attorneys, but are also of interest to personal injury specialists who handle wrongful-death suits.
Another way to look at your community is the through the lens of its large employers and industry sectors. In the field of personal injury, we monitor the local hospitals, medical and health care facilities that might be involved in medical malpractice, failure to diagnose, or another type of wrongful-death suit. The presence of large medical or mental health facilities also might signal a higher number of clients in need of legal services related to pharmaceutical use; for example, babies who were harmed when their mothers took Paxil during pregnancy.
A firm that specializes in on-the-job injuries ought to be aware of which local industries produce the most workers’ compensation claims. You can get a bird’s-eye view of your community’s industrial sectors by looking at its industry classification codes, while the Chamber of Commerce or local business directories offer a closer look at individual businesses.
Local government and social services organizations can provide information about your community’s legal needs as well. As first responders, police and fire personnel may uncover dangerous conditions that require the attention of social services or local code enforcement. It is helpful to know, for example, whether a landlord’s negligence was responsible for an apartment fire, or if there are signs of abuse in a nursing home. Likewise, child and family protective services may provide information about the numbers and types of cases they address locally.
Volunteering is another great way to gather information about your community while also giving back. My firm is committed to addressing hunger among our community members. Last Thanksgiving, we worked with a local hunger agency and several other law firms to provide boxes of food that fed nearly 3,000 people. The community response was overwhelming, and it gave us a chance to talk to people and hear their concerns. Our staff was thrilled to be of assistance, and the firm received positive media attention as a result.
In summary, there are many avenues and viewpoints from which you can assess your local community and its legal needs. Once you gather that information, you can much more easily and effectively tailor your legal services and focus your marketing efforts.
Noble McIntyre is the founder and principal of McIntyre Law in Oklahoma City and is president of the Oklahoma Association of Justice