In today’s episode I talk about law firm scholarships. Recently, I remember seeing a post where someone raised the question about how to create a law firm scholarship. This individual had seen a lot about them and thought, “Hey, this seems like a really cool idea, and I want to help our local high school community.” So, in essence this scholarship would be a philanthropic tool used to help this person’s small town. I loved that idea!
I’d like to share with that person and then ultimately share with you guys some of the thoughts around these scholarships and how to use them for the greatest good in your law firm.
Tune in to learn more about creating impactful law firm scholarships!
In this episode we discuss:
- Creating a law firm scholarship.
- How creating a scholarship can impact SEO, driving traffic to your website.
- Partnering with local high schools and community colleges to promote your scholarship.
- The benefit of being highlighted as a provider of an asset to the local or national community.
- Considering the rules for your scholarship and the demographic profile required for applicants.
- Determining how to verify compliance to the guidelines for spending the scholarship money.
- Sharing your presentation of the scholarship on social media and everywhere possible.
Allison Williams: [00:00:12] Hi, everybody, it's Allison Williams here, your Law Firm Mentor. Law Firm Mentor is a business coaching service for solo and small law firm attorneys. We help you grow your revenues, crush chaos in business and make more money.
Allison Williams: [00:00:16] Hi, everybody, it's Allison Williams here, your Law Firm Mentor, and welcome to another episode of The Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor Podcast where this week we are going to talk about law firm scholarships. So this topic came up recently. I remember seeing a post that someone raised the question about how to create a law firm scholarship that they had seen a lot about them, they didn't really know why they should be doing it, but they thought, Hey, this seems like a really cool idea, and I want to help our local high school community. And this particular person lives in a very small town, so there probably is only one high school. But they wanted to, you know, essentially use this for philanthropic reasons. And I love that idea. And I wanted to share with that person and then ultimately share with you guys some of the thoughts around these scholarships and how to use them for the greatest good in your law firm.
Allison Williams: [00:01:17] So the first thing that I want to tell you about is the idea of these scholarships where they came from and why. So once upon a time, I remember it was, it was quite a few years ago when the marketing company we were using for my law firm suggested that we create a scholarship. And my first thought was that even though we are a New Jersey-based law firm, that I have a statewide practice, right? So we are located in one particular county. We're in Essex County, New Jersey, but I have a law firm, I have a reputation and I have had a practice that extends all over the state. So it's not uncommon that I will have lawyers on my team be two hours away, two hours south of here, for our child abuse and neglect practice and an hour and a half north of here or our matrimonial practice, right? So New Jersey is a small state, we are a densely packed state. But you know, our, our lawyers go all over. So I was really thinking about it from the perspective of even though we're based in Essex County and yes, we have college students here. We have high school students here that are going away to college or even staying in New Jersey to go to college. Am I really going to be branding my law firm by virtue of using the scholarship? And the, what was surprising to me was that the SEO company leader who is making this recommendation to me said, Yeah, that's not really the reason why we do this. And I said, Oh, OK, well, you got my attention now. Tell me more. And what she ultimately said to me was, Yes, it's great if you are a local based law firm, right? If your practice is local and you can start to spread the word about your law firm by virtue of spreading the word about your scholarship, absolutely use it for that purpose.
Allison Williams: [00:03:05] But that's not the primary reason why I'm recommending as your SEO provider that we do this. Her reason for having us do this was to benefit, ding ding ding SEO. OK. And it was really to drive people to our website. So the first recommendation that she made was that we create a landing page on our website and we post the scholarship and then we advertise to all of the applicable high schools or colleges. We actually chose to give one of each. We decided to do one scholarship for a high school student and one scholarship for a college student. And this was you had to be in your first two years of college, we were going to help you to ascend into the, the junior year beyond, because that tends to be when you're going to be taking on a little bit more, not just course curriculum, but some of the more intensive labs and things like that, depending on your major, that can cost them some extra money. So we, we created both of them and she said, you know, by virtue of creating both of them, we get to advertise to all of these different educational institutions, whether it's high schools or colleges where kids will now know that you have a scholarship and by virtue of that, they will be going to that landing page to apply. And as you may or may not know, every time someone goes onto your website, the indexes, right? The online portals that are in essence, reading your website to determine the content quality and quantity, as well as the popularity of your website. They're getting more information about how popular you are. Your website is, by virtue of how many people are going to it, so it is beneficial for purposes of having you move up the ranks on the search engines, whether it be Bing, Yelp, Google, YouTube, etc. You get more traction, the more people are going to your website. So anything that you can do that will drive people to your website is going to help you.
Allison Williams: [00:05:16] Now the importance of what is on your website, the quality of the content on your website has been taking on more and more significance over the years. And I am not an SEO provider, and I don't even play one on TV, so I'm going to be candid with you. This is a conversation to bring in some of our, our marketing gurus that have helped us over the years with bringing educational content about marketing to, to our community here at Law Firm Mentor. But I did want to at least let you know about that general premise so that you understand that when, when primarily marketing companies are recommending to create a scholarship, it is usually so that you can get the traction off of people going to your website. Now the words that you use right, the, the keywords that you use that will gain you more attention.
Allison Williams: [00:06:05] Have you be considered by the search engines as giving high-quality content is going to vary depending on your practice area to give it, you know, depending on what you are trying to promote by virtue of the scholarship. Right? Because typically the scholarships are designed with a goal of helping someone who wants to go into your practice area or who wants to become a lawyer. Those different ideas, those different thoughts, ultimately need to be fleshed out with a professional. But when you start thinking about the scholarship, the first thing I wanted you to know is that it has a purpose for marketing that is pretty significant and can get you a lot of eyes on screen. A lot of people going to your website that you otherwise wouldn't have.
Allison Williams: [00:06:50] Ok. Now, how to create one? So there's lots of different ways to do this. I do highly recommend that you work with a marketing company so that all of the different tips and tricks that go into creating a scholarship, you can take advantage of it. But if you want to try it on your own, there is definitely some, there are definitely some things that you can do that can make this a positive experience.
Allison Williams: [00:07:09] So the first thing is to partner with your local community college or a composite of local high schools. So the partnership is really to help get yourself some free traction on people knowing about your scholarship. So typically, you want to have some type of connection between what you do and the career path or the stated goal of the person who'd be applying for your scholarship. So it can be like I said before someone who wants to become an estate planning attorney, if that's your practice area or someone who wants to go to law school or someone who wants to work in the local community, like whatever it is that you are tying, you're going to promote your business. So you want to have a nexus between having the scholarship, be a promotion of your business and a furtherance of some goal that you believe in. That partnership in a local community college will typically get you things like attribution on the, the intranet that a lot of colleges have. It will get you postings on boards, physical and electronic at the, at the community college. Typically, you can ask for things like making sure that it's promoted a certain number of times in an email communications that are blasted out to the community. A lot of community colleges now have apps, so are you going to have that information going out on the app and if so, how frequently? So the more that you can do to spread the wealth of actually spreading the word, the more people are going to know about and try to apply for your scholarship.
Allison Williams: [00:08:45] Now, unfortunately, higher education is notoriously bad at promoting all the different available options or scholarships for students. In fact, I remember at one point in time I was helping my cousin. She's now a young woman in her late 20s, but I remember I was helping her to apply to go to college. And one of the things that was astounding to me was the fact that there was an entire service dedicated to helping high school students learn what scholarships were available. And I said, well, wouldn't we get that information when she gets into the different colleges? And the answer was yes and no. Like, sometimes they send you a packet and they send you a link, and that one link will connect you with a web page that has a whole bunch of other links that will lead you to scholarship opportunities. But years and years and years of data suggest that a lot of financial institutions, a lot of educational institutions rather do not promote or advertise all the scholarships that are available right? There is money that goes.. And actually take advantage of the scholarships available because they don't know about them, right? So when you are partnering with the community college, you want to make sure that you have written out for them all of the expectations that are going to come with your agreeing to create a scholarship for their students. And this is not something that is usually going to be a bone of contention, right? It typically is just people don't know what they know, people don't know rather what they don't know, people don't necessarily take the time to learn how to execute these programs. They simply say, Hey, kids want money, they'll look for it. But there's more to it than that.
Allison Williams: [00:10:23] So you want to give your community college officials a call and you want to have a conversation with them and be very clear in writing as to what their level of marketing your scholarship is going to be so that your level of marketing both promotes their community college as a resource for the students, and your communication that they are going to promote, promotes your scholarship as an opportunity because your law firm is concerned about the local community, right? So there you get that win-win. You're, you're both cross-promoting each other.
Allison Williams: [00:10:57] Ok, the next thing that you have to think about are the rules for your scholarship, right? So who is going to be eligible to apply for the scholarship? Do they need to be a particular category of person, right? So when I say category a person, we're talking about demographics and you have to be careful. You don't want to necessarily limit the demographic profile of those who can apply unless there's a high connection to your law firm. So if you are creating a scholarship in the name of a person, it could be in the name of one of your favorite clients who died. Or it could be in the name of a loved one that you cherish. You might want to have some type of tie to that person. The applicant has a tie to the person, so it could be that your sister was an animal rights activist and you want to have only people that have pets apply for your role, right? So that might be one demographic profile. It becomes more challenging when you start limiting based on true demographics, like you said, this must be a female, or it must be a person of a certain religion, or it must be a person of a certain race. You or your entity have a right to create that, but whether or not it's feasible or advisable, or even a concern from an ethics standpoint because we as lawyers have a responsibility to be nondiscriminatory is something you really should check with your bar association on before you launch a very demographically narrow criteria for your position. Right? But you have to think about who's going to be eligible and then you have to think about the covered usage for the funds, right? So if you're giving a $1500 scholarship, are you requiring that that money go toward tuition? Are you going to allow it be used for room and board or books? What if the person does not stay on campus and they simply want to use that as a security deposit for an apartment? Is that permissible? What are the permissible uses? And then you want to think about the proof to be required to confirm that the money was used for a permissible use? Right?
Allison Williams: [00:13:01] So if you say, at college and the person says great, they pick up their check and then it's off to the races. How are you ever going to know if they complied? Right? Does it matter to you if they complied, whether they take the fifteen hundred dollars and they buy groceries in their first month or two at the university or they take it and they put that money into getting themselves a secured individual room on the college campus for next year. Do you really care? Right? You may or you may not. But if you do care, you're going to want to get proof and you're ultimately you're going to want to make sure that the person uses the funds as you have designated.
Allison Williams: [00:13:44] Now, the last thing that I want to say about law firm scholarships is that I want you to think about this the same way you think about other forms of philanthropy, which means you want the person who is receiving the benefit. The person who is going to ultimately win your scholarship. You want that person to be a promoter of your business, right? The same way that if you partner with a local charity, you're going to want them to promote your business. Now, this doesn't mean that you're going to require X number of referrals come in the following year, but you do want to make sure that everyone sees that they're not just going to get your cash, right? That's not the win that you are going to receive. That's their win. But your win is going to be that you are going to be highlighted as a provider of an asset to the local community or if it's national, to the national community of people who have whatever interest you are promoting by your scholarship. So the way that you want to do that is you want to start really putting it out there that whatever is the tie to your business that is going to be advanced by virtue of you're giving the scholarship that people know about it. So you you want to make sure that you put it on social media. And if I were, responders, autoresponders of curated content where you can schedule something to regenerate, so you schedule it to go out once and then maybe it goes out once on Facebook, once on LinkedIn, once on Twitter and once on Instagram. You create those posts, but then there are some responders that will actually repurpose it, repurpose it posted again two months later, posted again six weeks later. Whatever it is, you want it to be filling the timeline over and over and over again, because it's not just that you want people to apply for the scholarship, but you want them to see what you're doing by virtue of it. And to the extent possible, you want to get as much marketing value out of it as possible. That means you want to, if possible, take a picture with the recipient of the scholarship.
Allison Williams: [00:15:48] You want to note what the person ultimately authored. Maybe you want to have as a criteria that they have to apply by sending an essay, and the winner's essay is going to be posted on your website because depending on what they're talking about, there could be some keywords that are embedded there that ultimately could benefit your website as people are searching for content. You want to be thinking about the ways that all of the places around you that promote the good feeling activity that local business does is going to be aware of your scholarship. So that could be the local chamber of Commerce, that could be at the local high school if it's even if it's a community college scholarship, you are a local business that supports the community college. So kids that are coming out of high school that are going into the community college, they ultimately will know to look for your scholarship in the future, right? And the fact that you are promoting the fact that you support high school students in the area tends to engender some goodwill on behalf of your local community that you are a supporter of your local high school kids.
Allison Williams: [00:16:54] All right. I hope this has given you some, some things to consider when you are thinking about creating a law firm scholarship. And if this is something that you have thought about doing before, right, you've thought about the mechanisms of how to create a scholarship, but you just haven't pulled the trigger on that. I want to invite you to reach out to us here at Law Firm Mentor, you can visit us on www.LawFirmMentor.net and schedule a growth strategy call where we can actually help you talk through some of the logistics of creating this for yourselves and determining whether it is the right thing to skyrocket the success and visibility of your law firm to get you into that scalable revenue that you desire for your law firm so you can crush chaos in your law firm and make more money.
Allison Williams: [00:17:37] All right, everyone, I'm Allison Williams. Thank you for tuning in to The Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor Podcast, and I will see you on our next episode.
Allison Williams: [00:18:00] Thank you for tuning in to the Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor Podcast. To learn more about today's guest and take advantage of the resources mentioned, check out our show notes. And if you own a solo or small law firm and are looking for guidance, advice or simply support on your journey to create a law firm that runs without you. Join us in the Law Firm Mentor movement free Facebook Group. There you can access our free trainings on improving collections in law firms meetings, billable hours and join the movement of thousands of law firm owners across the country who want to crush chaos in their law firms and make more money. I'm Allison Williams, your Law Firm Mentor. Have a great day!
Allison C. Williams, Esq., is Founder and Owner of the Williams Law Group, LLC, with offices in Short Hills and Freehold, New Jersey. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, is Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Law Attorney and is the first attorney in New Jersey to become Board-Certified by the National Board of Trial Advocacy in the field of Family Law.
Ms. Williams is an accomplished businesswoman. In 2017, the Williams Law Group won the LawFirm500 award, ranking 14th of the fastest growing law firms in the nation, as Ms. Williams grew the firm 581% in three years. Ms. Williams won the Silver Stevie Award for Female Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017. In 2018, Ms. Williams was voted as NJBIZ’s Top 50 Women in Business and was designated one of the Top 25 Leading Women Entrepreneurs and Business Owners. In 2019, Ms. Williams won the Seminole 100 Award for founding one of the fastest growing companies among graduates of Florida State University.
In 2018, Ms. Williams created Law Firm Mentor, a business coaching service for lawyers. She helps solo and small law firm attorneys grow their business revenues, crush chaos in business and make more money. Through multi-day intensive business retreats, group and one-to-one coaching, and strategic planning sessions, Ms. Williams advises lawyers on all aspects of creating, sustaining and scaling a law firm business – and specifically, she teaches them the core foundational principles of marketing, sales, personnel management, communications and money management in law firms.
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00: 08: 45 (36 Seconds)
Now, unfortunately, higher education is notoriously bad at promoting all the different available options or scholarships for students. In fact, I remember at one point in time I was helping my cousin. She's now a young woman in her late 20s, but I remember I was helping her to apply to go to college. And one of the things that was astounding to me was the fact that there was an entire service dedicated to helping high school students learn what scholarships were available. And I said, well, wouldn't we get that information when she gets into the different colleges? And the answer was yes and no.