As a group, history-minded people are more well-educated and financially secure than the average person. People involved in their local history are deeply rooted in their respective communities, and are often its leaders. They comprise a group of potential clients that may be desperately in need of like-minded representation under the law.
As any practicing attorney or law firm knows, retaining a lawyer is an exercise of trust. This means a lawyer’s stature and reputation are critical to his or her success. In New England, history can be a means of increasing the perceived stature and reputation of your firm.
The study of history is the study of context, just like the study of case law. How did an event happen? Why? What was the context? Who was involved? How were participants shaped by their history and the times they lived in? What does it all mean? What can we learn? How should we respond? Lawyers and historians both ask these questions, and share a common intellectual curiosity.
By "historians," we don’t mean exclusively the professors and researchers engaged full-time with history. There is a much broader market, especially here in New England, for historical lectures, tours, books, or films. These people value the thoughtfulness, wisdom, and deep knowledge the law represents.
Historians value people who value history, and distrust those who don’t. Winning the trust of the historical community requires participation in the activities they value. Once you have their loyalty, you have won the support of a group that is more tightly-knit than you might expect.
How can you win clients within the historical community?
People love a good story. Reflect an understanding of your own law firm’s history, and incorporate the information into your marketing materials. What are the stories you can tell? They may be family stories, “firsts,” company anniversaries, or ties to important local historical events.
• Fundraising support.
You can always write a check to support a local history event, and that’s helpful and appreciated. But for more impact, you need to select carefully to create opportunities that will work for your firm specifically. Once you do, you can co-sponsor a lecture with your historical society or museum on a local legal topic, or sponsor an annual event. Such activities can become signature events that brand your firm as “history-friendly” within the historian community. If proceeds of the event go to the historical society, museum, a local history teacher or student, you will be a hero!
• Preservation support.
People who live in historical communities love their history, and they don’t want to see irreplaceable architectural treasures destroyed. Is there a local preservation project you can support? You can be a hero by promoting the project on your website, funding printing costs, or sending an associate to serve on the committee.
• Honoring great minds.
Is there a particular person or historical event with a connection to your community’s legal history that could be honored? A famous judge, lawyer, politician, case, or movement? There are all kinds of ways to do this. You might fund a statue, plaque, or exhibit. You might create an annual award or lecture series. By doing so, you would give both the subject and yourself prominence, creating synergy that will win hearts and minds.
• Holiday events.
Many holidays have a legal angle. Patriots’ Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Independence Day, to name a few. To celebrate, you might host a barbecue. You might write an op-ed piece for your local newspaper. You might sponsor an event.
By lending your intellect, reputation, and time to local history initiatives you will attract attention, clients, and the gratitude of your community.
You will also leave behind a legacy.
2010 © Bonnie Hurd Smith and Thea Grace Morgan
History Smiths works with service-oriented businesses to use history — their own and their community's — to achieve customer loyalty, referrals, and high status. Subscribe (above, right) to our free Ezine, Connections, where we share ideas and examples of businesses embracing history to achieve business goals.