Myths Attorneys Believe About Referrals

Stephen Fairley
Stephen Fairley
Another great guest post from Stephen Fairley at The Rainmaker Institute.

MYTH #1: CLIENTS MAKE THE BEST REFERRAL SOURCES

Clients are generally not the best source of referrals to your law firm. This surprises a lot of legal professionals when I tell them this is a myth. Clients are merely the most obvious source of referrals, not the best source.

There are simply too many variables you cannot control when trying to get more referrals from clients:

  • Do they know all the different services you offer?
  • Will they remember you when they meet someone who needs your legal services?
  • Can they accurately tell others what makes you different from your competitors?
  • Did they hire you to resolve a legal issue that could be potentially embarrassing to them?
  • Was their entire experience with your law firm positive or were there some "issues"?

The truth of the matter is that clients are not dependable. That being said, you shouldn't intentionally ignore potential client referrals. Every law firm should have a long-term client education plan that positions your law firm, explains your current services, and keeps your current clients informed as to what's going on in your firm.

One of the most cost effective ways to do this is with a monthly newsletter. Our clients consistently tell us sending out an electronic newsletter every month is one of the best ways to keep their firm in front of their potential referral sources.

 

MYTH #2: MOST REFERRALS COME FROM OTHER ATTORNEYS

This is another commonly held myth among attorneys. According to industry research, only about 25% of an established attorney's practice is referred from other legal professionals, so logically about 75% of clients come from other sources (this may vary greatly by practice area).

A good tip is to set up an easy tracking system as part of your client intake file and then review on a quarterly basis where your leads are coming from.

 

There are three keys to increasing referrals from other attorneys:

 

 

1. Do not try to be a generalist. The fastest way to lose referrals from other attorneys is by practicing several different kinds of law. In fact, every practice area you add over your primary one will cost you many referrals over time.

For example, if most of your practice is transactional business law and occasionally you take a litigation matter for an existing client, but you tell other attorneys you also do litigation, every litigation attorney now sees you as a competitor not a referral source.

2. Actively build relationships with at least 5 or 6 new referral sources each year (I know, easier said than done), but the best way to have your practice "crash and burn" is to totally rely on a handful of referral sources. As the saying goes, "it's not a matter of if, but when" one or more of those referral sources will dry up.

 

3. Keep in touch with them on a consistent basis, at least 5 to 10 times per year. This can be a combination of emails, LinkedIn or Facebook comments, newsletters, phone calls, small thank you gifts, and in person quarterly visits. If you want to build a thriving network of attorney referral sources you must be prepared to go out of your way to generate referrals for them as well.

Other legal professionals are not the only people who make great referral sources. Non-legal professionals who target a similar clientele are often your best sources of referrals. Use LinkedIn to find these people, make the connection online and then send them an email or call them for an invitation to lunch or coffee.

MYTH #3: NETWORKING GROUPS MAKE GREAT REFERRAL SOURCES

Over the last 12 years of helping legal professionals grow their referral base, we have found that formal networking events (like trade shows and chambers of commerce, etc) work exceptionally well for a very small group of attorneys-and not at all for the majority of attorneys. There are a few reasons why:

 

1. They attend the wrong kind of group-one filled with their peers, not their prospects. I recommend joining your local bar association, but not for the purpose of gaining new business. You are much better off targeting an industry trade group filled with your perfect clients or best referral sources, not your competitors.

2. Most attorneys don't know how to network properly and so it becomes a game to see how many business cards they can pass out in 2 hours. Networking is more about quality than quantity. The purpose of attending a networking event is to connect with someone whom you can later invite to meet with you one-on-one.

3. Attorneys do not create a plan for following up in a timely manner. You have about 48 hours after an event to follow up with a "hot lead" or they will likely forget about you. Get in touch with them right away and ask if they want to meet for lunch. Prove that you listened to what they were talking about by telling them you would like to continue your conversation about their practice. Actively listening to what their practice goals are and then introducing them to people who may need their help or may be a good contact for them will help you create a solid base of referral partners.

 

ACCIDENTAL REFERRALS

Building a referral-based law firm does not happen by accident. If you want to take your legal marketing to the next level, you need a systematic approach to developing more and better relationships with a wide variety of referral sources.

A key component of your referral plan is to create systems for staying connecting with prospects, clients and referral partners on a regular, consistent basis. Part of this system should include:

  • Monthly newsletters - keep them apprised of what your firm is doing, new employees, new practice areas, and content that is beneficial to them.

  • Annual Client Satisfaction Survey - find out what your clients think about the services they have received from your firm and how you can improve.

  • Keep In Touch letters - on a regular basis, every 2-3 months, send a letter to referrals, prospects and clients just to touch base. This top of mind awareness is crucial for generating referrals.

  • Referral Education System - your referral sources need to know what kind of prospects you are looking for. It does no good for them to refer prospects to you who are not looking for what your firm offers. Keep your referral sources updated on your practice areas and any changes in your firm if you want to receive high-quality referrals.

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