For many attorneys, referrals are a significant and comfortable method for new business. Client referrals are satisfying as the implication is that the referring client is confident in your work and was happy with the outcome.
Another method of referral is from a colleague, usually referred to as lawyer-to-lawyer referrals. Research by LexisNexis found that 26 percent of a U.S. law firm’s income typically comes from referred work. However, it is not practical to rely only on attorney referrals. Developing a multi-pronged approach for referrals requires several methods which require continued attention.
Many lawyers assume that all satisfied clients will refer friends. Unfortunately, it happens less often than they would like. Lawyers need to be pro-active in order to gain referrals and build a practice.
We researched the best methods for building an effective referral process:
While this seems obvious, it is not used often enough. Even for those who do ask for referrals, the typical request goes something like this: “If you hear of anyone who needs my services, I hope you’ll keep me in mind.”
An effective “Ask” has more elements to it than most professionals realize. Just asking for referrals is very open ended and can result in a bad fit for the prospective client and the attorney. Here are some tips that can turn a vague “ask” into a client.
-Try an “ask” which offers a clear picture of the type of services you offer.
Be specific about what you can offer beyond what some clients are aware of. Many clients only know about the services you supplied, so be sure you make clients, friends and other professionals aware of the full spectrum of your practice.
-After the final closure of a case, you may offer what is called “net promoter survey.”
It is single-question survey that reveals how your clients feel about the work you did for them. The question may go something like: On a scale of one to five, how likely are you to refer me to your closest friends and peers? You will want a space for the client to elaborate if necessary.
If you are looking to connect to someone who would find it helpful knowing your services, be sure to attend meetings and events you know this person attends. Offer your services to assist in areas of your expertise. When introduced, be sure to be clear about who you are. One way to do this is to describe who you are and what services you provide. It cuts through the conversation in having to explain what you do after the initial introduction.
Create a database of 100-200 organizations as well as contacts in your local area. This list should include good resources such as service clubs, interest groups, faith organizations and professionals outside of your industry who may be aware of your services such as medical professionals non-attorneys and your local bar association. Often these are groups who are in a position to refer clients to you.
Let people know about your interest in receiving referrals from other firms. There are law firms that need assistance with lawyers outside of their practice. It could be that clients they represent may also have an issue that is in conflict as well as something they don’t represent. Take out ads in state and local bar association publications as well as in newsletters, Web sites and organizations where your services are required.
Be sure to take advantage of online resources like LinkedIn. Keep your profile current and include that you are interested in new clients. Join other legal LinkedIn groups for lawyers such as Leadership for Lawyers, Linked Lawyers, Lawyers Weekly and Lawyers Network as well as law groups that fall into particular specialty. LinkedIn has excellent search tools that can help you find other lawyers as well as clients that you might want to meet. LinkedIn advanced tools can help you search by keywords, firm size, specific industries and their location.
Be sure to take advantage of writing posts for LinkedIn as well as for your blog. Well written and timely LinkedIn articles can garner thousands of views. It is a very effective way to broaden your visibility and let the potential client and other professionals aware of your knowledge in your respective practice.
6. Pro Bono work
What sets some lawyers apart is that the practice of networking without expecting anything in return. This method is more like community work for the sake of helping others. In fact, there is no hint of reciprocity and offering pro bono work for service organizations by giving you’re your knowledge, contacts and time.
7. Offer referrals
Be proactive in referring the work of your colleagues and clients. Be a resource for others and be known as someone who knows whom to call on to get things done for others. This makes you the broker of the services for others. In these circumstances, you need to know the key facts about your colleague’s practice or business. Create a list of five to 10 legal colleagues that you want to have in your arsenal to cross-market. For each one, know the specialty area of their practice, their two or three main clients, a couple of recent matters or cases, and one or two ways that they have created value for their clients. You should also do this for the top clients and professional service providers in your network.