Family Law Cares is a service of the Family Law Section of the State Bar of Texas. In the words of Sherri Evans, past chair of the Section, it is “our marketing arm,” organizing and promoting pro bono activities for Texas attorneys interested in providing legal services to the poor. No Bar section had ever taken on such a daunting task, but none had such a stake in the outcome. The Texas Supreme Court was about to approve forms that allow individuals and couples to divorce without hiring attorneys. Family Law Cares was meant to show that attorneys, especially family attorneys, had a better answer in pro bono representation.
ABOUT FAMILY LAW CARES
Family Law Cares is an initiative of the Family Law Section of the State Bar of Texas to organize and coordinate pro bono legal services in divorce and other family law cases for indigent Texans. Its purpose is to show Texans that divorce lawyers matter.
Family lawyers in Texas were facing an outright assault on their abilities and intentions when they decided to hire a marketing and PR firm to address the problem. Today, several million Texans need legal assistance and can’t afford it. Most of the legal cases are in the family courts, seeking divorce and litigation of child custody and visitation matters. Government won’t take on this problem, so the Texas Supreme Court decided to approve the use of forms that indigent Texans can use to get divorces and settle difficult child issues. Some family lawyers saw chaos ahead. Others saw people not hiring them in droves.
Family Law Cares is the vehicle attorneys are using to publicize their solution to this problem to their fellow lawyers and others. The thought is simple; there are plenty of attorneys in Texas who are willing and able to handle the pro bono situation in family law. We only need to organize the technology and market our solutions to the family law community. Family lawyers understand this. The task for Family Law Cares is merely to inform them of the program and how to access it. In dealing with the public and other members of the Bar, the problem is the suspicion that divorce lawyers are just trying to hold on to their turf, that they see any interference in their practices as competition.
HOW TEXAS LAW MARKETING HELPED
It’s a classic branding campaign, and we employed the tools needed to brand Family Law Cares in the minds of Texas attorneys and the public. This is a serious problem, but we took a playful attitude. We know that if you make something fun, Texas attorneys will come running. It began with the logo of a dove-like bird hugging a lone star – we in the family bar embrace those Texans who can’t take care of this situation themselves. Our color scheme of light green, gold and gray is about as far from a law firm look as you can get. From that, we printed up Family Law Cares tee shirts for members of the Family Law Council to wear at statewide and regional meetings.
Working with officers of the Family Law Section and the State Bar of Texas, we developed the Family Law Cares website. This would be the main communication method with those interested in providing pro bono services. The purpose is to tell Texas attorneys about the problem (58,000 Texas Families Need Your Help), emphasize the fun aspect of activities and eventually provide a portal where attorneys in a certain county can go to their county’s page on the website and sign up to handle cases on a pro bono basis.
We issued several press releases about Family Law Cares at critical points and provided news and feature tips to the legal media and blogging community. We were successful getting multiple stories in Texas Lawyer, the Headnotes publication of the Dallas Bar Association, the Associated Press and several major daily newspapers. And we captured video of continuing legal education sessions and speeches given to bar groups explaining Family Law Cares.
Along with branding, this became a dual-level education campaign. The main message went to Texas attorneys and a secondary message went to the general public, helping to combat negative feelings about divorce lawyers. Members of the Texas Supreme Court and others accused the family lawyers of trying to hold on to business. We emphasized in every communication that marketing to people who cannot pay you doesn’t make sense, and so our efforts were entirely above reproach.
We set out to plan and execute a special event to further solidify the image of a fun organization on an important mission. Our event was the first annual Family Law Cares Fun Run at Fair Park in Dallas. We continued the same design motif, creating tee shirts, flyers, posters, ads, awards and on-site signage using the bird in running shoes and other garb.
Our original task was to publicize the run that was being organized by the all-volunteer group of family lawyers. As time went by, it became clear that the organization was not set up to pull off such an event. With six weeks remaining until the race, only about 25 runners were signed up. It looked as though disaster was about to strike, so we stepped in, creating a structure to get runners and onlookers there. We planned and set up the racecourse and adjacent area. We set up our own cadre of volunteers. And when the event chairman failed to show up that morning, we took control and ran the event. More than 400 people participated in this first-time event, and we came away with testimonials for a job well done. We also created a video of the event and a newsletter centered on it. We distributed still photos to legal, business and local publications for all the winners.
After this event, everyone in the Texas family law community knew about Family Law Cares. We also designed a new website for the Family Law Section of the State Bar and coordinated it with the Family Law Cares site. Once the branding campaign was over, the Section decided that continuing the fun run was too difficult a project for them, but the connection was made. Throughout the following year, family lawyers across the area asked us when the next fun run would take place and how to register. Many more became involved in pro bono activities as time went along.
Lawyers throughout the country would also come to know about Family Law Cares when we were awarded first place across the nation in the Legal Marketing Association’s 2014 Your Honor Awards in the community relations category.