Find the Legal Needs in Your Community

Clear & Convincing Feature Article

Make Contact Information Work for You

If you've added a new legal service to your practice but aren't sure what that service should be, your first step should be to analyze the people and businesses in your community. The next step is to determine their legal needs and then to decide which of those legal needs you wish to satisfy.

A good place to start is with the information available from local, state and federal government. The U.S. Census through the American Community Survey provides data on household income, age distribution, education levels and languages spoken and information on area businesses and geography. These facts can help you decide what areas of law are needed. If the population is aging, elder law may be the right choice while a rise in birth rates could foreshadow more family and juvenile law needs.

If your area has many immigrants such as Spanish speakers and you want to attract their business, you might add a bi-lingual lawyer and translate a portion of your website to Spanish.

To find your community's business needs, check your local Chamber of Commerce directory for local listings. Businesses wishing to use an assumed name must file with the County Clerk who periodically posts those new business listings online. If your community has several new businesses, it may be you want to focus more of your legal practice on their issues, such as taxation, business plans or other business transactions. If there are several writers or publishers, adding intellectual property could bring in new business.

If new industries are coming into the community that will hire more employees, there could be a need for an employment or worker's compensation lawyer. Crime statistics are important to those wishing to practice criminal law.

When there are several local, county, village and city communities in an area, there is a need for a municipal lawyer who can help with a wide range of issues, including everything from police power, zoning, education policies, and property taxes. A look at the map of your area and a check on the websites of the municipalities will give you the information you need.

Volunteering at local events, sitting on Boards of corporations and non-profits or doing Pro Bono work through your local Legal Service organizations is a way to give back and learn more about your community. Listening to the citizens will enable you to learn of their concerns.

Whether you plan to add a new service or are just starting out, researching the composition your community and assessing the resultant legal needs will enable you to make well-reasoned plans for 2016.

Roberta GubbinsRoberta Gubbins has served as the editor of the Ingham County Legal News. Since leaving the paper, she provides services as a ghostwriter editing articles, blogs, and e-blasts for lawyers and law firms. She is the editor of Briefs, the Ingham County Bar Association e-newsletter, and The Mentor, SBM Master Lawyers Section newsletter.

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