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Law Firms in the Business of ... Charity?

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By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on December 01, 2015 11:57 AM

When people think about law firms, the word 'charity' is not the first word that springs to mind. And these days, it looks like most firms aren't feeling very charitable.

But attitudes can and should change. It's better for the community and it's better for the firm's reputation. Charity work can be an opportunity for a law firm to get noticed in the community and capture good sentiment from would be clients. Here are a number of ideas your firm could consider next time charity is discussed. Don't worry -- it's cheap.

Real Life Examples

Dixon Law Office, a general practice Illinois law firm recently sponsored a local event this last Thanksgiving Day. Each participating runner in the La Grange Rotary Club's 3.14 Pie 5K (get it?) received a pie to take home and enjoy with their family that night. The event attracted approximately 2,000 runners; and the proceeds of joining the race went to benefit local charities dedicated to mental health and public education.

Now the 3.14 Pie 5K is a pretty big event, and 2,000 pies sounds like a pretty big arrangement. But law firms should fight the temptation to simply write a check and go about their usual business of non-charitable activities. Even small charitable events can be a great opportunity to market. Think of it: Dixon can lay claim to at least some of those Thanksgiving pies. Is that marketing or what?

Charity and Marketing: Win-Win!

Consider the benefits of charitable giving and volunteering:

  • Networking: Getting involved in local charities has the advantage of getting your firm's name out in front of many people, and can provide your firm's lawyers a chance to rub shoulders with local politicians as well as potential clients. Charity events attract politicians like flies to carrion (or bees to honey). Additionally, your firm will benefit by being associated with community involvement -- a boost of local morale.
  • 'Limited' Advertising: The use of the word 'limited' is deliberate because a donation to a charitable non-profit entitles your firm to be listed in the non-profit's annual report. Sometimes, the minimum sum can be as little as $500. However, one should consider that this marketing is limited only to those who typically go to charity events, the YMCA, animal shelters, and other social events. Sponsoring a local fundraising dinner can also be another way to ensure that your firm's name ends up on the mailers of that event.

How to Find Opportunities

Google will be one of your first stops for finding local charity opportunities, but one of the more tried and true ways of getting eyeballs is by signing up your firm for a weekend community service events. Go straight to the source and call local charities. Believe us, they are in constant need of help and should be very amenable to your offer to assist. In speaking to them, they should have all the information pertaining to larger local events that will allow you a chance to interact with locals and to prominently display your firm's logo.

The cost should be low, to almost zero. Ideally, the real costs, should be opportunity-cost of working on client files. But if the charitable gambit pays off, then the goodwill and reputation dividends will have more than offset that "investment" of time. Don't feel bad about getting some marketing out of the deal -- without it, you certainly wouldn't have the opportunity to volunteer your firm's time and effort.

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