Marketing of Legal Services
to an Immigrant Population:
A Lawyer Coach Answers the Question,
"Does It Work?"

by Roy S. Ginsburg

Whenever asked by attendees at one of my marketing CLEs or by my lawyer coaching clients whether they should market their services differently because of what they perceive as “unique circumstances,” I am always somewhat amused.

Usually, my answer is no. With the exception of a handful of practice areas geared toward individual clients, marketing for most practice areas is based on personal relationships with potential clients or referral sources. Rarely is there a situation that warrants a whole new playbook.

The same thought crossed my mind when I was asked to write this article about how to effectively market legal services to an immigrant population. Here, of course, the hope was that I would be able to offer some pearls of wisdom for this “unique circumstance.”

Well, I hope my answer does not disappoint. I can offer hints and practical tips about the subject matter but my advice relies heavily upon the usual playbook. There is no magic formula.  Marketing to an identified population group involves the same basic “block and tackle” marketing tactics that any lawyer would use for any relationship-based practice area.

Bear Bryant, the legendary football coach of the University of Alabama, once said, “If you are going to be a successful duck hunter, you must go where the ducks are.” As an attorney coach, I subscribe to a similar theory:  determine where your clients or referral sources “hang out,” then put together a marketing plan that places you in situations that enable you to “hang out” with them and develop personal relationships.

Over time, these potential clients and referral sources will learn what you do and, eventually, you will land on their short list of attorneys to hire or to refer to. Sound simple? As they like to say here in Minnesota, “You betcha.”

If it’s so simple, then why do so many lawyers fail to properly execute their marketing plans? In my experience as a lawyer coach, lack of discipline is by far the number one reason. Attorneys know the importance of “hanging out,” are fully capable of “hanging out,” yet inevitably seem to find an excuse not to “hang out” enough. It is a curious phenomenon.

When compared with most, attorneys are a pretty disciplined bunch. However, for some odd reason, the discipline that is so important to practicing law disappears when it comes to marketing.

When “hanging out” with certain immigrant or other population groups, must one have a similar background in order to be successful? As we lawyers like to tell our legal clients, it depends.  In most situations, it certainly helps. The legal profession is a “comfort and chemistry” business. It is simply human nature that, for most people, it is easier to “connect” with people who are like them -- whether that involves your heritage, where you grew up, your socio-economic status or some other factor.

However, I don’t mean to suggest that one cannot successfully market to people outside your own heritage or background. What I am suggesting is that it is usually easier when you share something in common.

Another reason that “it depends” is that - for certain legal problems within certain immigrant groups - there are times that marketing to one’s own may actually fail.

Over the years, I have talked to at least two dozen lawyers from various immigrant groups about marketing their practices. I have learned that, in some small and insular groups, everyone seems to know everyone else’s business.

As a consequence, a person with a serious legal problem may not want to confide in an attorney from the same close-knit group. Although the attorney is ethically obligated to keep the relationship and the information disclosed confidential, many clients nonetheless fear that confidentiality could be compromised. Rational or not, that’s how many clients feel, to the detriment of the immigrant lawyer.

For most matters, however, the “comfort and chemistry” dynamic remains dominant - and should be maximally leveraged. The first step is to compile a list of contacts who could be potential clients or referral sources that the attorney already knows within the immigrant group and start networking. No one within the target population can hire or refer you unless people know what legal services you provide. Networking is usually the best way to accomplish that objective.

Inevitably, the list of contacts will be exhausted. Then what? That is where the “hang out” theory comes into play to meet new people. Is there a neighborhood association you can join? What about a non-profit board that serves your community? What about the religious organizations within the relevant neighborhoods? Don’t forget social groups. By the way, don’t waste your time joining an organization unless you intend to become active. How are you going to meet new people unless you attend activities?

Can you use this approach if you do not share the background or culture of the group you are targeting? Yes, but developing relationships will not be as easy when compared with those who belong to the same group. Developing “comfort and chemistry” is definitely possible; it simply will likely take more effort and time to demonstrate your sincerity and accomplish your goals.

Marketing legal services to certain cultural ethnic groups does not involve any particularly innovative tactics. Attorneys seeking to expand their practices will be well-served by sticking to the basics.

Roy S. Ginsburg is one of the most experienced attorney coaches in the Twin Cities area and also has an active solo practice in legal marketing, ethics, and employment law. He is a frequent CLE lecturer on the best practices and ethics of marketing and client service and his programs have been sponsored by numerous bar association nationwide. You can reach Roy at 612-812-4500 or