For lawyers who view the attorney-client relationship as a
continuum, marketing opportunities abound.
The traditional marketing thesis says it takes seven touches
to land a client.
Building referral relationships is a less costly and more
rewarding way to garner new business.
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How to Unleash the
Power of Referrals
According to a recent study, the great- est challenge for small-firm manag- ers is acquiring new business. It’s
a lot of work to build referral arrangements; however, once those relationships
are entrenched, the time you put in up
front will pay off on the back end.
Referrals from Existing Clients
Happy clients have family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues who will require legal services. To earn a happy client in this
highly competitive legal market, your
substantive work product must be terrific. In some cases, a client’s ideal outcomes aren’t always possible. The better
you can prepare your clients for a potentially adverse result, should one arise, the
easier it will be to manage. And, if you
win, you look even better.
Communicate and Solve Problems
Hate it when your kid/spouse doesn’t tell
you when they are coming home? Multiply this by ten, and that’s how much clients hate it when their lawyers don’t stay
in touch. A good rule of thumb is to call
your active clients every six weeks. When
something important comes up concerning a case, share the information as soon
as it is available.
Savvy lawyers become personal clear-inghouses for all their clients’ problems.
The more referrals you are able pass
along, the more likely those lawyers in
other practice areas and ancillary professions will be to send referrals back to you.
Be Top of Mind
There are do-it-yourself marketing trig-
gers that lawyers can actively pursue. An
estate planning attorney could write a
blog post about a close relative who
didn’t have a will and the consequences
this had for the family—this post could
then be used in a newsletter directed at
potential clients; a corporate lawyer may
post on her Facebook business page
about the importance of policies and pro-
cedures manuals. Each touch is an op-
portunity for someone in your network
to act by calling you with an issue or by
referring you to someone else.
Fortunately, there are a number of
tools that help lawyers to implement
these processes. Services like Constant
Contact and MailChimp provide email
marketing with a high level of targeting
and control. With services like Zapier,
you can link workflows and contact lists
directly through Clio. The right software
can be the savvy attorney’s best friend.
Other Sources of Referrals
Many of the mechanics of a referral work
the same way with professional contacts
as they do with clients. The world of potential referral sources is much vaster
when you leverage the networks of other well-connected professionals.
The big firm-small firm pipeline is a
standard driver for referrals. Many potential clients will present claims that are
not a high-enough value for big firms; the
small-firm attorneys who get those cases are the ones who have built relationships with their big-firm counterparts and
demonstrated their proficiency.
Lawyers seeking referrals should also
network with attorneys in complementary practice areas. Some examples: A
divorce practice will yield estate planning work, because divorcees require
new wills. A personal injury practice will
yield Social Security Disability Insurance
(SSDI) work, because people hurt in accidents sometimes don’t return to work.
Attorneys practicing in the same area
can share referrals: One divorce attorney
specializes in collaborative law, another
in mediation. One personal injury attor-
ney litigates, while another does not.
One patent lawyer may focus on electri-
cal engineering, another on software.
Mentors can pass lower-value, or less
difficult, cases to mentees; and, often,
as time passes, mentor-mentee arrange-
ments convert to straight referral rela-
Sharing referrals with other attorneys
does, however, require an awareness of
jurisdictional ethics rules. Understand to
what extent each lawyer is responsible
for the representations, how the attorneys may split fees under the referral
arrangements, and whether that directly
relates back to the percentage of work
Set up consistent opportunities to talk
with your referral sources, just as you
would for your existing clients. Always
update your sources on the outcome of
any case they referred.
Law firms with a strong referral base are
more successful than law firms lacking
such a foundation. With the right relationships in place, attorneys can dedicate more time to practicing substantive
law, and can bill for that additional time.
Putting in the effort to build referral relationships yields definable, bottom-line
According to a study conducted by the
Hinge Research Institute, 80 percent of
consumers will review the website of a
professional service provider before hiring them. You must develop and maintain
a professional website, and that your online persona must be in agreement with
what your referral sources say about you.