How to Reach Non-English Speakers in Your Community
By Noble McIntyre, Esq.
In this guest post, Oklahoma City lawyer Noble McIntyre makes a case for reaching out to clients who speak different languages. At Legal Media Matters, we couldn’t agree more. We provide Spanish translation services for law firm websites and publish Lawyer Tech Review, an apps, gadget and software review site for lawyers and abogados in both English and Spanish.
- Geri L. Dreiling, Esq.
When it comes to lawyer marketing, are you ignoring part of your community? If you're not considering the non-English speaking members of your community, you may be missing out on an opportunity help people who may need it most. People who don't speak English are often taken advantage of or discriminated against. They are more likely to have their rights violated, and they may not pursue the issue out of fear, or simply because they think the language barrier would make things too complicated.
Take the time to reach out to—and help—the non-English speakers in your community.
Know Your Community's Demographics
According to Census 2000, approximately 18 percent of Americans speak a language other than English at home. This is a substantial portion of the population and Census 2010 will no doubt show an increase in that number. Some speak English “very well,” while others speak it “less than very well.” Even those who speak it well are sometimes simply more comfortable speaking their native language.
Finding out about your community's demographics is a simple matter of consulting the U.S. Census Bureau statistics. You can also conduct a little research to find out just how much of your community's population speaks another language. But if you've lived in your community for any length of time, you will have a feel for the other languages that are spoken in your area.
Hire Bilingual Staff
If your city has a good-sized population that speaks a language other than English, it shouldn’t be difficult for you to hire staff members who speak both languages and who also have all the necessary skills to work in a law firm. If you can’t find someone who meets all these requirements, consider hiring a contract translator to assist with cases involving non-English-speaking clients.
It's not just about getting one more client through the door. It's about making your clients feel at ease. Many people seek legal help because they've been injured in some way. Anyone who has been injured or lost a loved one in an accident may already be fearful and traumatized. Having someone available, whether a staff member or a translator, who can speak to them in their own language, goes a long way toward making them feel more comfortable. It increases their level of confidence in your abilities and makes representation easier.
Market Your Services in Other Languages
Consider including legal marketing in languages other than English. Translate Web pages and emphasize the fact that your firm is able to communicate in the language.
If you use advertising methods such as newspaper or magazine ads, or television commercials, consider creating at least one of each in a language other than English. If you're reaching out to a relatively small portion of the population, keep the ad general in focus so you can run it for a longer period of time than you could if it mentioned a current event, like a product recall. This will allow you to reach that demographic while still making a good return on your advertising investment.
Get Involved with Cultural Organizations
Communities with non-English-speaking members often have cultural organizations that cater to the group. It may be a Chamber of Commerce or a simple recreational club where members of the group can meet for entertainment and social events. There may also be churches in your community that cater to the non-English-speaking population.
Make a point of reaching out to these organizations. Get to know their leaders. But remember it's not enough just to make a phone call or pass on a business card. Meet in person and attend functions. If you don't speak the language ask a staff member to accompany you who does. These steps go a long way to show your firm is not only able but is eager to help.
Above all, follow through as this goes a long way towards building trust. Make sure you're offering your non-English-speaking clients the same amount and quality of attention and effort all your other clients receive. You'll not only reap the business benefits of it, you'll know you've helped those who really need it.
Noble McIntyre is the senior partner and owner of McIntyre Law, an Oklahoma personal injury law firm that focuses on helping victims of Oklahoma car crashes.
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