As a practitioner in the field of elder law, you should make it a point to speak publicly or run a seminar program every two months.
I have found that public libraries offer an excellent venue for such programs. Local libraries frequently provide programs to help seniors protect themselves and know their legal rights.
You can also offer seminars to church groups, unions, and groups such as the local branch of the Veterans of Foreign Wars or local chamber of commerce. The community groups benefit by having a no-cost event, which provides useful information to its members and improves its standing in the community.
Co-sponsoring or association with a respected non-profit group generates goodwill and free advertising for your event—and for your practice. No store would permit a flyer to be posted if it said “Use Atty for Wills” or if it was an attorney-only program. Speaking engagements are a great way to meet potential clients and demonstrate your knowledge. While you will not get new clients immediately, your name gets around and business will result. You can only win. After the seminar, I add the names of those who attend to my mailing list. More broadly, these free programs also can help the image of attorneys as people providing valuable free advice to the community.
Organizing the Program
I organize many of the events and programs myself. I send a letter to local libraries and nonprofits advising that I am in the process of scheduling wills, power of attorney, and probate seminars for the year. I also advise that I have served as a speaker for senior citizen and adult school programs on wills and estate administration in my county. If your area has a formal series of community/adult education programs, contact organizers and volunteer to set up seminars on topics such as “Wills for the Middle Class.”
Seminars require you to review and update your knowledge of the law. Use your smartphone and practice for public speaking by recording parts of what you plan to say. Listen back to your proposed talk and try to improve on the presentation. I later add the video to YouTube.
To help the venue or sponsor promote the event, you should draft a press release and later send it to weekly newspapers (after you have approval from the sponsor). A published press release provides more free publicity for the event, its sponsor, and you as the speaker. Also print and post flyers.
Three hours before program, prepare three “seminar bags.”
Bag 1: Brochures and Cards
When putting the brochures in this bag, start with #15, so when the bag fills up, item #1 (Will Brochure) is on top and item #15 (Plastic Brochure Holders) is on the bottom.
- Will Brochure (100 each)
- Power of Attorney (POA) Brochure (100 each)
- Living Will Brochure (100 each)
- Elder Law Brochure (100 each)
- Probate and Estate Administration Brochure (100 each)
- Trust Brochure (50 each)
- Real Estate Brochure (50 each)
- What to Do in an Accident Brochure (50 each)
- Website Brochure (50 each)
- DMV Points Brochure (50 each)
- Car Insurance Brochure (25 each)
- Working with Your Attorney Brochure (25 each)
- Personal Injury Brochure (25 each)
- White Business Card (25 each)
- Plastic Brochure Holders
Bag 2: Newsletters, Evaluations, Calendars
- Estate Administration Newsletter (100 each)
- Blank Seminar Evaluations (with spaces to fill in name, mailing address, e-mail address, and phone number and an offer of a free consult if scheduled within 30 days)
- Calendar (25 each)
- Folder Signs for Seminar
- Rubber Bands
- Plastic Business Card Holders
- Transparent Tape
Bag 3: Miscellaneous Items
- Blue Ballpoint Pens (10 each)
- Folder with Lecture/Speech
- Program Folder
- Senior Citizen Law Points (10 each; this is a booklet given out for free by the New Jersey Bar Association)
- Name Placard
- Small Flag
- Water Bottle
- Name Tag
- Yellow Pad
- Scrap Paper
- Extra Plastic Business Card Holder
You should arrive at the event location at least 65 minutes prior to any senior citizen program and 35 minutes prior to a library program. Bring a copy of the flyer so you know where to go! Wear court attire.
When you enter the venue, ask for the person in charge and introduce yourself. Ask in which room the program will be held, and position a table near the entrance door to put out materials. On the table place all the brochures (items #1-13), along with the Estate Administration Newsletters (item #16), the Blank Seminar Evaluation forms (item #17), and the Calendars (item #18).
Keep half of each bundle of materials rubber banded together, with the other half stacked loose on top. Keeping some rubber banded makes it easier to pack up at the end of the program, but loose brochures are also needed because some seniors can’t get the brochures out of the rubber bands.
If allowed, hang up signs for the program, including a sign saying, “Take One of Each” over the materials, at least four feet up.
Don’t put pens out at this time. Distribute them at the end of the event so attendees can fill out an evaluation. Before an event I sometimes ask if anyone needs a pen to take notes, but if I were just to leave the pens out, a person might take all of them.
If you find yourself waiting for people to arrive and you have nothing to do, read each of the brochures, starting with the Will Brochure (item #1).
Seniors usually arrive early, so stand by the table and tell them to take one of each brochure. Start them off by handing them the Will Brochure (item #1). This is a good way to meet people.
About 25 minutes prior to end of program, hand out to all attendees in their seats the Blank Seminar Evaluation forms (item #17, along with pens, item #23, if requested). Make sure you hand them out individually—don’t just leave the evaluation forms on the table or give the entire stack to someone else to pass around the room. Ask attendees for their recommendations to improve the program. Offer them a free consult and a free booklet or informational flyer if they fill out the evaluation form with their name, mailing address, e-mail address, and phone number. “Free” is a magic word.
About five minutes prior to end of program, stand in the back of room, collect the evaluation forms, and answer any non-legal questions. Don’t forget to collect those evaluation forms! Look them over quickly as you collect them. If any do not provide an e-mail address or phone number (or if it’s illegible), politely ask the attendee for this information to obtain a free consult.
Before you leave, use your smartphone to take a photo of the person in charge and any other speakers. Get “head shots,” not body shots. To get a close-up, just walk closer to the person in the photo, don’t use zoom. Add the photo to your Facebook legal page, blog, LinkedIn page, and law firm website.
After the Program
Send e-mails to everyone who supplied an e-mail address. No need to add their name in the e-mail, but do send each separately. If the e-mail doesn’t bounce, I will later add it my Constant Contact database. If no e-mail but a phone number is provided, call the attendee to schedule a free estate planning consult. If you receive no response after one week, contact them again. And don’t forget to send a thank-you letter to the organization that sponsored the seminar.