Across the U.S., there are thousands of law firms offering scholarships to talented students who are struggling to pay their way through college.
As the cost of college reaches an all-time high, U.S. borrowers altogether face a record $1.5 trillion in outstanding student debt and the average borrower from the Class of 2018 graduates owing over $28 thousand.
By offering scholarships, law firms are taking leadership on the student debt crisis. For students trying to find a way to fund their education, any little bit helps. Even offering a small scholarship can make a significant difference in their future.
However, scholarships can also pay dividends for the law firms that fund them. Offering a scholarship can assist with marketing, SEO, recruitment, and everything in between, providing a huge return on investment for companies who implement them while also making a real difference in students’ lives.
Here are a few reasons that your law firm should consider offering a scholarship:
Local scholarships can build your firm’s reputation within your community
Smaller law firms should consider focusing their scholarships on their local community. Doing so allows your firm to build a relationship with students, parents, and educators in your local vicinity, which may mean business opportunities down the line. Effectively this serves as a form of advertising, allowing you to broadcast your brand and services to potential clients without paying for traditional advertising.
This strategy can help firms develop a positive reputation among local clientele. Scholarships fill a need that exists in every community and also send a clear message that a firm sees its local community as its priority and intends to give back. People will appreciate your efforts and return the favor with their business.
Firms in smaller cities will benefit the most from this strategy. Consider establishing a relationship with local high schools and universities, so you can have a regular stream of applicants and can get the word out to both students and parents.
Offering a scholarship can provide SEO benefits
All SEO experts know the value of .edu backlinks. Search engines view websites with .edu domains as reputable sources and therefore gives them a high domain authority, a rating that dictates how the site will place in relevant searches. As a result, .edu pages place highly in search results compared to other domains.
Why is this relevant? Because websites with a high domain authority also boost the authority of pages that they link to. These kinds of links are known in the SEO community as backlinks. Authoritative, reputable backlinks help boost the profile and authority of a webpage and in effect increase organic traffic back to the site. As a result, strong backlinks are considered a valuable commodity in the world of SEO, and it can be difficult to use them in an effective way.
One strategy for acquiring reputable backlinks is called “scholarship link building.” Scholarship link building involves setting up a scholarship to try to increase links back to your site from universities, which often list scholarships provided by external sources on their websites.
Scholarships can provide a huge return on investment for firms who utilize them for link building. If properly marketed, a scholarship can earn over 100 backlinks, many from .edu sites with a high domain authority.
In order to have that kind of success with a scholarship link building campaign, you’ll need to effectively strategize and target the right universities. But a well-executed scholarship program can have a major impact on a firm’s SEO value.
Law School scholarships can assist with recruiting
Law-specific scholarships can either be targeted toward undergraduates who demonstrate an interest in law or they could be offered to students who have already entered law school and committed to a career in the field.
Choosing the latter can be useful in recruiting efforts. Doing so allows a firm to connect with and build relationships with talented future lawyers — and potential future hires — before they’ve entered the job market in earnest.
In order to maximize a scholarship’s potential as a recruiting tool, law firms should reach out to specific universities and law schools to partner with, so that they can advertise your scholarship to their students. Building relationships with top law programs will help your firm attract their top talent. Furthermore, having strong relationships with well-known law programs reflects well on your firm to clients.
In order to help maintain and strengthen relationships with scholarship recipients, firms can also establish an internship or fellowship program tied to their scholarship in which the winners are also awarded the opportunity to work with the firm. Firms should do whatever they can to build relationships and stay in contact with scholarship recipients throughout their law school experiences and into the beginning of their careers.
In any case, a scholarship program can put a firm on the map for the best recruits and establish the company as an organization that is willing to invest in the next generation of employees.
A scholarship can showcase your law firm’s values and priorities
Offering a scholarship sends the signal that you care about education and the future of the profession. But it can also be designed to send a targeted signal about your firm’s values.
For example, Gibson Dunn, a major international law firm, offers Diversity and Inclusion scholarships to second year law students who come from underrepresented groups in the law profession. This is paired with their 1L Diversity Fellowship Program — a robust mentorship program for first-year law students from underrepresented backgrounds. These two programs signal to clients and potential recruits that Gibson Dunn is committed to supporting equal opportunity in law, which effectively assists both their practice and their recruiting program.
An alternative way to do this is by creating a scholarship with a prompt that focuses on an issue important to the law firm. For example, San Diego family law office Renkin & Associates offers a scholarship to a law student whose life was affected by lymphoma or leukemia. Renkin & Associates is a supporter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and this scholarship shows their deep commitment to fighting these forms of cancer.
In both of these examples, the law firms are using their scholarships to send a specific message about issues that they prioritize, demonstrating your values as a firm and showing specifically how you’re committing to them.
A law scholarship can be tied to your area of practice
Some firms choose to make their scholarships specific to the area of law that they practice.
This could mean that the scholarship is made available only to students studying that type of law. For example, Brown, PC, a tax controversy and litigation law firm based in Dallas-Fort Worth, TX, offers a scholarship to students who are interested in tax law. Taking this approach can assist with recruiting by helping you target promising young lawyers in your field.
Firms may also simply create a scholarship with a prompt related to the firm’s area of expertise. For example, Colorado-based defense attorney Miller Leonard offers a scholarship carrying the essay prompt: “What is the single most important reform that ought to be made to the United States criminal justice system.”
This second option doesn’t necessarily carry any additional strategic advantages for your firm, but it does mean that you will be supporting students interested in your line of work and investing in the future of your field.
Successful scholarship programs take a holistic approach
By now, we’ve established that offering a scholarship can provide value back for your law firm in the form of marketing, recruitment assistance, and reputation building.
However, any law firm scholarship program should be motivated first and foremost by a desire to help students and invest in the workforce of the future. Inauthenticity in scholarship programs is easy to spot and will surely backfire and hurt your firm’s brand.
Design your scholarship program to be honest, authentic, and transparent. Furthermore, it should be tied to issues your firm is genuinely interested in. A strong scholarship program always starts with the desire to make an impact — the benefits will come afterwards.
Once you start a scholarship you can post it for free on sites like Scholarships.com or The University Network (TUN.com). You can also create your scholarship using TUN’s free Scholarship Creation Tool or have them manage the whole process for you here.