A legal clinic venue can make or break an event
Would it surprise you to hear that most university campus’s are not good places for a legal clinic? Would it surprise you to know that churches are probably the best venues? Would it surprise you to know that no matter the venue, having the right on-the-ground partner is critical? If no to all, then you know what you’re doing. If yes, let’s quickly talk about why.
The Good Venue Formula (for an immigration clinic)
Here’s the basic theory of what makes a good venue:
- It should be somewhere that your target client’s feel comfortable inside of
- It should be easy to find; easy to get to; and easy to park in
- It should already have a connection to the community you are trying to serve
- The head of the venue should be known to the community
Most venues are not going to hit all of these ideal requirements. With that here’s a Tier system for the most ideal and least ideal venues. Sometimes any venue will do, because there are no other options, but the idea, if there are options, is to shoot for Tier 1 and settle for Tier 3.
Tier 1: Places of worship
For many immigrant communities, places of worship are the heart of the community, especially as regards a community that is of low- to moderate-income, which is a key constituency of pro bono clinics. People feel comfortable in them, full stop.
Places of worship are also easy to find, located on familiar streets, and there’s always a place to park.
The head of a place of worship is usually a voice of authority and trusted within the community, which helps with creating a full turn out for the event.
Tier 2: Community organizations or community group spaces
They are usually less easy to find, however, as they may often be located in urban areas, tucked away in less expensive real estate among residential homes, and generally not as obvious or as frequented as churches.
For this reason the automatic turn out bonus one might expect at a venue held at a place of worship does not always materialize.
But, like places of worship, the leaders of community orgs are trusted and have a built in audience (though, again, usually not as large as that of a place of worship).
Tier 3: University sites
University sites are plentiful, the people who offer them for events are welcoming and wonderful, and they offer great facilities.
But for many target clients of immigration clinics, Universities are unfamiliar ground, rooms and locations are very difficult to find owing to University size and the peculiar nature of University layout, and parking is hard to find.
The venue owners are also unfamiliar and, in general, the location overall can seem alien compared to the venues clients may visit in their daily lives.
For this reason, even though these venues are good for things like conferences, and meetings, they tend to flop as clinics.
Tier 4: Restaurants and Private Businesses
In addition to raising privacy concerns, restaurants and warehouses tend to have all the drawbacks of University venues, but without the facility quality. In general, if this is the only option, then it should be avoided. One exception here is a law office, which assuages privacy concerns and can even come included with a person that people in the community know.
That’s it, I hope this helps someone.