In order for a Lawyer Referral Service to properly serve individuals who speak a language other than English, two things are crucial: awareness and accessibility. Below are contributions from the Atlanta, Houston and Oregon State Bar Lawyer Referral Service programs on what their programs are doing to better reach the Spanish-speaking population in their areas.
Atlanta Lawyer Referral Service
The Hispanic population in the Atlanta Metropolitan area increased 103.6% between the years of 2000-2010. In response, The Atlanta Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral and Information Service began efforts to recruit Spanish-speaking attorneys who could meet the legal needs of this population by allowing members of the Hispanic Bar Association to join the Atlanta Bar LRIS panel for the same membership price as its own members. When Spanish-speaking callers contact the LRIS program, they are met with a friendly Spanish-speaking representative.
With the legal resources in place to meet the public’s demand, the LRIS expanded its outreach activities to include:
- Brochures printed in Spanish that are distributed throughout the court system, to local libraries, and placed with many organizations within the Atlanta community;
- Spanish translation of our website with just a click of a button;
- Advertising on the Atlanta local train and bus systems, which affirms that the LRIS has the means to help Spanish-speaking clients;
- And, most recently, an ad campaign with weekly ads displaying in the local Mundo Hispanico newspaper, as well as their quarterly legal magazine.
To further assist the Hispanic community, LRIS provides monetary support through its grant program to aid the Latin American Association’s UAC (Unaccompanied Immigrant Children) initiative. As this population continues to grow, LRIS will continue to ensure that it is a viable legal resource to this community.
Houston Lawyer Referral Service
A lot has changed since 1958 when the Houston Lawyer Referral Service first began making referrals to the Houston area. The once small, mostly English-speaking community has grown to be the fourth-largest city in the nation with one of the largest populations of Spanish-speaking people. In order to reach this often underserved community, HLRS has worked to make sure all the services we offer are available in the Spanish language. Today, the HLRS has two full time Spanish-speaking intake staff, and nearly 20 % of our panel attorneys speak Spanish or have Spanish-speaking staff. In addition:
- All written materials are translated into Spanish, including our website.
- HLRS reaches out to our co-sponsoring bar associations to recruit Spanish-speaking attorneys, and requests the opportunity to present the value of our services to the attorney and the public, expressing the current needs of the organization regarding attorney specialties and geographical area.
- Additionally, this information is posted on the co-sponsoring bar associations’ membership communications to members. This approach not only helps fulfill HLRS’s needs but also increases awareness of our services to attorneys—our top referral source.
- Being aware that the Spanish-speaking community accesses the Internet primarily through their handheld devices, we have ensured that our Spanish language website content is prominent on the mobile version of the HLRS website, and we plan to spend the majority of our Spanish language marketing investment on advertising primarily targeting mobile devices.
- The HLRS has reached out to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and plans to partner with the organization to reach an even larger segment of the Spanish-speaking population. In the initial meeting with the organization, it was determined that although they were vaguely aware of the HLRS, their presumption was that HLRS was a just a list of attorneys instead of a service that assists with a referral to a screened, experienced attorney.
- HLRS plans to be present at chamber functions to give brief educational presentations on immigration and small business needs.
Currently, HLRS has nine co-sponsoring bar associations in an effort to reach as much of the legal community as possible to promote our services. Two of the co-sponsoring bar associations are the Mexican American Bar Association of Houston and the Hispanic Bar Association of Houston.
Oregon State Bar Lawyer Referral Service
The Oregon State Bar (“OSB”) is in a unique position nationwide due to the fact we have a well-established LRS with no competition. We are well known to stakeholders in the judicial system, as well as organizations that cater to immigrants, so to an extent we have other people marketing for us. In fact, even our state court rules mandate that all state Summons contain information on how to obtain an attorney through the OSB LRS. To build awareness, the OSB LRS has engaged in the following:
- In 2013, LRS staff embarked on a grass-roots marketing campaign that included mailing LRS posters and business cards to a variety of organizations, with part of the goal being to increase awareness among immigrant communities.
- In 2014, we started Craigslist and Google ad campaigns to draw more traffic to the OSB website where there is a trove of information for the public, as well as a link to our online referral request form. Visits to the LRIS home page grew from 22,136 in 2013 to 70,593 in 2014— an increase of 219%.
- We also launched a campaign to bring awareness to the issue of notario fraud amongst the Spanish-speaking community through outreach to various immigrant-rights groups and information on our public website.
To increase accessibility, the OSB LRS program does the following:
- The OSB public website (www.oregonstatebar.org) has the capability to translate our web content into 90 different languages thanks to Google Translate. Here is a handy secret—this is a free program!
- Our LRS also has devoted Spanish language phone lines with instructions in Spanish, and we currently have four employees who are fluent in Spanish to assist with these callers (we also have LRS staff who speak French, German, Portuguese, Italian, and American Sign Language).
- In 2014, 2,974 out of 70,000 callers (5%) used the Spanish lines. The OSB actively seeks Spanish speaking employees for the LRS and offers additional hourly pay as an incentive.
If you have any questions, please contact the contributors to this article!
Carla Brown, LRIS Director & Paralegal, Atlanta Bar Association LRS
Karen Ramsey, Executive Director, Houston LRS
Eric McClendan Referral and Information Services Manager