Whether you’re just getting started in your legal career or are looking for new business opportunities within your specialty, taking a closer look at your local community can reveal big clues about its legal needs. By learning what is important to, needed by, and possibly 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 are 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 Oklahoma City has a large Spanish-speaking population. Using this knowledge, we translated portions of our website into Spanish, and also emphasize our staff’s bilingual capabilities. It has opened up a whole new market to us.
Accident, injury, and crime data can also 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 like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to understand the prevalence and nature of those injuries. Crime statistics, like 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 any type of wrongful death suit. The presence of large medical or mental health facilities might also signal a higher number of clients in need of legal services related to pharmaceutical use, like babies who were harmed when their mothers took the antidepressant Paxil during pregnancy. A firm that specializes in on-the-job injuries would want to be aware of which local industries produce the most worker 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 allow 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.
The important point to take away is that there are many ways of viewing your local community and assessing its legal needs. Once you have that information, you can decide how to best tailor your legal services, and focus your marketing efforts.