As a young lawyer, I failed to see the importance of getting to know other lawyers. In my mind, they were the competition and there was no need to interact with them.
Was I ever wrong.
The simple truth is: lawyers refer business to other lawyers all the time. Why? Because your practice may focus on one area – such as Intellectual Property – and your client is looking for help with Contract Law. You would be at a disservice trying to help them on your own, so you call up a lawyer you know who would be a good fit. Your client is happy, you still have their business when it comes to Intellectual Property, and the other lawyer has new business for Contract Law.
So, how do you build a referral network with other lawyers? Here are five tips to help.
- Make a list of at least 30 lawyers you know personally and divide them into three categories:
- Lawyers who are familiar with your practice.
- Lawyers who don’t know the practice areas in which you have an expertise.
- Non-lawyers whose services your clients need to use. For example, if you represent clients in the intellectual property area, your clients may need a valuation expert, so list all the valuation experts you know.
- Schedule and have in-person conversations with these folks. It may seem awkward to talk about finding new clients with them, but you should already have a personal relationship with those on your list. Personal relationships should be about heling each other out. By letting them know of your skills and what you are looking for in a potential client, you are helping them out with clients who may need what you have.It’s also important to remember that this is a give-and-take situation. While you are talking to them about what you are looking for, you should find out who they are looking for in potential clients. Keep them in mind the next time someone asks for help in an area that your list can fulfill. The goal of these meetings is to know each other better, get them to like you and trust you enough to refer business to you while you refer business to them.
- You have your list. You have had meetings with those on your list. And now someone calls with the name of a potential client. What do you do?It is important for lawyers to remember that ethical rules are in play in this situation. If your accountant friend calls with the name of a potential referral, don’t just pick up the phone and make a call. That prospective client needs to reach out to you first. Ask your friend to have the potential client give you a call. You can tell your friend that “if the client contacts me, then I will know he wants to discuss this matter with me.”
- Make sure you send out referrals. I always try to provide the client with two potential names so they have a choice. If an attorney has sent me work, I’m going to do all I can to make sure I return the favor, no matter how long it takes. My best referrals have come from attorneys to whom I have previously sent work. But a lawyer who never refers anyone isn’t going to get near as many referrals coming in.
- Say thank you multiple times. As soon as you talk to the client, send an email to your referrer. Something like “Jena Johnson contacted me. Thanks for giving her my name.” Then, when you’re hired, send a handwritten thank you in the mail. These stand out more than a text or email.
What if the potential client doesn’t hire you? Thank your referral source anyway. Remember, your goal is to build a relationship. Simply say “Thanks for sending Jena over. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a good fit, but I appreciate the referral.”
If you want to learn more about how you can get more referrals, please check out my Online Rainmaker Program.