Boomer Law!

With the arrival of 2011, the oldest of the post-World War II Baby Boom generation will turn 65. In fact, every day for the next 19 years, 10,000 more will cross that threshold, notes the Philadelphia Bulletin. By 2030, a full 18 percent of the nation’s population will be 65 or older, up a full five percent from current numbers.

As the population of aging Boomers grows, so too will their unique legal needs (described later on in this post). Yet surprisingly, few lawyers, particularly younger solos or more recent graduates are targeting the Boomer population. Sure, there are plenty of law firms that market themselves to “seniors” with a focus on “elder law,” which traditionally covers estate or medicare planning, health care issues, guardianships or nursing home abuses. Trouble is, most Boomers don’t view themselves as growing old and indeed, cringe at being referred to as seniors.

Lawyers aren’t the only group overlooking Boomers as a potential market. Most companies do the same when advertising, to their detriment, according to the Nielson Blog, since Boomers are, on the whole, more affluent than younger segments of the population. Nielson suggests that marketers tend to ignore boomers because of “conventional wisdom that they spend little, resist technology and are slow to adopt new products needs to be re-assessed.” But actually, aging Boomers are enthusiastically adopting technology and showing willingness to try new brands and products.

A recent Pew Internet Research study on older adults and social media Generations 2010 report confirms Boomers’ tech savvy and propensity to try new things: as of May 2010, nearly half of the adults between the ages of 50-64 were using social media, up from just 25 percent a year earlier, with 20 percent of this group using social media sites on a daily basis. Another Pew study, Generations 2010, released in December 2010, shows that Boomers are using online resources for more substantive purposes such as reading the news, buying products and locate health care information which means that they’re likely to be equally receptive to using the web to find lawyers as well.

The Changing – and Expanding Scope – of Boomer Law
Boomer Law is a growth market, not only because of sheer numbers, i.e., more aging boomers, but also because the legal needs of boomers are far more diverse and complex than those of the generations that preceded them. In addition to traditional matters like guardianship, nursing home abuse and estate planning where older clients have also needed assistance, there’s a range of potential new practice areas that might cater to the unique needs of today’s Boomers. In no particular order:

1. Elder Care Mediator

Improved medical care means Boomers are likely to live longer, and because of that, they may need specialized caregiving or ongoing medical attention. Yet, as Smart Money reports, the financial costs of caregiving are increasing as are less measurable costs – such as added stress or interference with career advancement, as today’s dual-working families struggle to care for aging parents. As a result, adult children often bicker over fair allocation of responsibility for caring for aged parents which can drive families apart. Increasingly, families are turning to elder care mediators many of whom have legal training, to resolve these disputes reports the Washington Post. Rikk Larsen, a mediator quoted in the story says:

use [of mediators] has mushroomed for reasons both demographic and cultural. Americans age 85 and older comprise one of the fastest-growing segments of the population, according to the Census Bureau, and their children, the baby boomers, “are comfortable with the notion of therapy and [experts who provide] services.”

2. Granny Snatching – A New Form of Elder Abuse
In a down economy, aging boomers may also be vulnerable to theft – by their own children. Ron Winter of the Connecticut Watchdog warns of Granny Snatching, which “occurs when younger family members take custody of an elder relative under false pretenses, convince a judge to declare the elder person incompetent, allowing them to then force their aged relative into a nursing home or similar institution, and strip them of their assets.” Winter predicts that the growing elderly population will result in a rise of granny-snatching cases over the next few years, which may in turn trigger changes in existing elder care laws. Thus, there’ll be a need for lawyers who can handle granny-snatching cases and who stay on top of potential changes in the law.

3. Elder Entrepreneurship and Small Business
We often associate entrepreneurship with;younger people – and indeed, representing Gen Y entrepreneurs is a niche law practice in its own right. But according to Second Act, baby boomers are becoming entrepreneurs faster than anyone else, with the number of new businesses launched by 55-64 year olds growing 16 percent between 2007 and 2008, faster than any other group. That’s 10,00 new businesses a month. And the trend will only gain momentum as the workforce ages, predicts a report by the Kaufman Foundation. Lawyers can assist boomer entrepreneurs with legal issues related to starting and running a business (such as business entity formation and licensing, zoning and contract negotiation) as well as succession planning (estate and tax issues).

4. Long Term Care Issues
Many boomers attempted to act responsibly by purchasing long term care insurance policies. However, a 2008 GAO Report points out that concerns have been raised over denials of claims that may leave long term care insurance purchasers without coverage at a time when they being needing care. Thus, boomers may need legal representation to resolve disputes with long term care insurance providers.

5. Age Discrimination
Because boomers are entering old age reluctantly, many are not yet ready to retire. Others are unable to retire in today’s economy. Consequently, and as acknowledged by the EEOC, older workers may find themselves susceptible to unlawful age-based stereotypes and discrimination by companies seeking to force them out to save money on salaries or benefits.

Marketing to Boomers

If you decide that you want to target boomers in your practice, don’t assume that your only option for reaching this population is through expensive advertising on daytime television shows. As described above, like everyone else, boomers are increasingly spending more time on line, which is far more cost effective than traditional advertising. Moreover, online methods offer additional bang for the buck, because you can simultaneously market directly to boomers and to their children, who might take responsibility for hiring a lawyer for their parents. Here are a few suggestions:

Blogging: As mentioned earlier, boomers are using the Internet for substantive purposes like reading news and finding information on health care. Thus, they’re very likely to turn to the web for information on legal issues as well. Blogging is a great tool for conveying substantive information to prospective clients and in it can also help increase your SEO.

Social Media : In addition to blogs, boomers are also engaging in other forms of social media, especially Facebook. As I noted in this earlier post, Advertising on Facebook, it’s still fairly inexpensive to target an older demographic on Facebook. Not only that, but my own experience with Facebook (described in that post) showed that the age 50 and above demographic also had a higher “click through” rate than the other groups. But Facebook advertising isn’t your only option – you could also create a Facebook Fan Page for your law firm to share bits of relevant news of interest to boomers, or publicize free law firm seminars on legal issues.

Educational Seminars Educational seminars are a great way to target boomers, particularly those who are retired and more free time. Like webinars, seminars provide valuable information and educate consumers on the potential need for legal services. Used to be that educational seminars had to be promoted through costly radio ads or individually mailings. Now, social media tools – such as Facebook Fan pages or the events pages on Linked-In offer low cost avenues for promoting educational seminars. Don’t feel like organizing an educational seminar yourself? As described in this post, you can research organizations that represent boomers’ interests who might be interested in a speaker. Or, you could search for local groups on sites like Meet Up which are always in need of speakers.

Are you seeing any other trending issues in your practice that are relevant to boomers? And do you think that Boomer Law is a promising niche? We’ve enabled the comment section so please share your thoughts below.