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JustAdvice Uses Social Media to Reach New Audiences, Fundraise

By Kristi Tousignant
Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer

Most people use Groupon to find skydiving trips at half-price or 70 percent discounts at their favorite sushi place. But a nonprofit based at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law used it last week to sell donors on its mission.

The nonprofit, JustAdvice, offers legal advice for a small fee. It was featured last week on Groupon Grassroots, a recent initiative of the social networking site that allows users to make small charitable donations for a set time period.

Under its contract with Groupon, JustAdvice had to collect at least 30 donations of $10 each between July 2 and July 8 to receive the raised funds. It nearly tripled that amount with 88 donations, raising $880 total.

"It's nice to finally be able to go to the next platform on social media," said Leigh Maddox, an adjunct professor at the law school and executive director of Civil Justice Inc., which partners with JustAdvice. "We all know that's going to be the future in terms of marketing and advertising."

JustAdvice, which started in June 2009, now hosts two sessions a week at which volunteer students and lawyers give legal advice to low-income individuals for $10 per 30-minute session. The target customer is not poor enough for Legal Aid but too stretched to pay for a lawyer.

The group, which was initially called The Legal Grind, begins sessions by reading customers a disclaimer letting them know they are just getting legal advice, not hiring an attorney.

The sessions are hosted in the law school on Tuesdays and, on Thursdays, in Lexington Market. Around 20 people are served in each session.

"The students take ownership and go out into the community and encourage people to come to our sessions," Maddox said.

Four students handed out JustAdvice fliers and reusable bags at Lexington Market last Tuesday.

"Here you are face to face with people in the course of everyday life," said Kat Hyland, associate general counsel at Civil Justice Inc.

Lena Beery, a third-year student at the school, handed out information to those approaching the booth last week. Beery said she tweeted and posted the JustAdvice Groupon link to her Facebook page to spread the word.

The fundraiser "was a brilliant idea," Beery said. "It's a nice way to show friends that this is important to me. Having a Groupon puts it out to the community."

The group is funded through UM Carey Law. The president's office at the University of Maryland, Baltimore also donated $20,000 last year, Maddox said.

Groupon Grassroots launched in April this year, according to the website. Hyland stumbled on the site in the spring and the group put together an application in April to appear on the website.

A week later, JustAdvice had a conference call with Groupon Grassroots. Afterward, it submitted photos and explanations of how JustAdvice functions. They signed a contract, which was reviewed by Civil Justice Inc.'s general counsel, and received final approval from Groupon a few days later.

Hyland said the Groupon deal attracted her attention because there was no overhead fee to participate and it was free advertising. Maddox said utilizing the website is also a great way to teach students how to use social media in the law.

"From day one, we have stressed the importance to students of incorporating social media into a business plan," Maddox said."It's emerging. It's evolving. I think this is the future and Groupon is another example of another way to get a group out there and garnish support, keep it hip, keep it real."

From the July 9, 2012 edition of The Daily Record. Reprinted with permission.

Home Page photo - Back, left: Stan Rohd, Volunteer Attorney. From left to right: Kat Hyland '11, Associate General Counsel, Civil Justice, Inc., �Domonic Cusimano, 3D, Jeanette Cole, Volunteer Attorney, Lyra Correa, 2D, Alexander Borman, 2D, Vivian Ling, 3D, Douglas Parvis, 2D, Mary Claire Kozlowski, 2D, Nicholas Kozina, 2D, Lena Beery, 3D, Paul Farmer, 2D, Victoria Eagles, 2D, Danielle Dolch, 2D, and Leigh Maddox, Executive Director, Civil Justice, Inc. and Adjunct Professor.

Gynene Sullivan

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