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The 5 Truths Every Attorney Needs to Know About Referrals

AT THE RAINMAKER INSTITUTE, we specialize in helping attorneys improve their revenues and increase the quality and quantity of their referrals. One of the things attorneys most frequently ask us is: “How do I find more clients fast?”
The answer to this question is deceptively simple, yet amazingly complex to resolve. Referrals are near the top of the list when it comes to the best ways of finding new clients, but there are three pervasive myths, discussed in a previous article that I would like to dispel about referrals first.

  1. Clients are the best sources for referrals
  2. Other attorneys provide the most referrals
  3. Networking provides great referrals

While there is some truth to these myths, they are not entirely accurate.
Clients aren’t the best source for referrals, just the most obvious. They are not always aware of all your services and you may not be the first person to come to mind when a friend comes to them for legal advice.
Also, attorneys assume that most referrals can come from other attorneys, but that’s because they aren’t considering the other professionals that they surround themselves with. Consider accountants, financial advisors, realtors and other professionals with whom you can ally yourself. Choose professionals in careers that cater to the same sort of clients as your practice and you will be able to become natural allies without the concern of competition.
Networking groups are also great places to make contacts, but attorneys don’t always follow up and create solid connections or they attend the wrong events. If you go to a luncheon filled with other attorneys in the same field, then you’re limiting the effectiveness of your efforts. If, however, you attend networking events filled with prospective clients, you’ll make better use of your time. If you’re a business attorney, consider joining a local business networking group.
While these myths may mislead attorneys, these five compelling truths about referrals will help guide you to more business:

TRUTH #1: People Make Referrals to Build Social Capital.

Most people enjoy making referrals to their friends and associates as a way of building social capital. If you truly want to build a referral-based law firm then you need to develop a habit of referring your clients and contacts to other professionals. It must be reciprocal to work long-term. When you refer a client to another professional, they feel more inclined to refer one of their clients to you. This becomes a give and take process. The more referral relationships you develop among your professional associates, the easier it will be for your practice to flourish from the referral business.

TRUTH #2: Mitigating Risk Is Important.
All referrals involve some risk—if someone sends you a referral and it turns our poorly, chances are you won’t receive too many other referrals. Attorneys who count on referrals for business generation need to take necessary steps to mitigate this risk with clear communication, setting expectations from the start, ongoing client education and stellar follow-up. This risk goes both ways. If you refer one of your clients to a professional associate and it doesn’t go well, than it reflects poorly on you. Don’t make referrals lightly; ensure that the professional associate is capable of handling the case.

TRUTH #3: People Refer Great Experiences.
People who have had great experiences with a product or service tend to refer it to their friends and colleagues. Which is why cultivating a culture of great client service is a must for gaining more referrals. How can you create a “VIP” experience for each client and referral that walks in your door?
While a lot of referrals can come from a referral network or a professional associate, clients also have the ability to spread your name. It is important to remember that people will tell friends and family about a bad experience before they will brag about a positive one. In order to keep your positive service top of the mind, make sure that you keep past and current clients up to date on your practice, awards and services. If a friend comes to them, they may remember reading your newsletter about a recent case or award. They may be more inclined to recall their own positive experience with you.

TRUTH #4: Referrals Require Trust.
Even if someone raves to a friend about you, that referral is likely to conduct a credibility search for you on the Internet. If the referral can’t find good content, reviews or social network participation, they will be less likely to proceed with contacting you. You need to manage your online image. Make sure to regularly check sites with client reviews. If someone posts a negative review, address it immediately. Don’t let a bad review turn away potential clients.
Also, make sure that clients can easily find you. Make your LinkedIn profile public, so they can look over your endorsements, your honors and your work experience. Make sure that you claim any attorney directory pages, so that it has accurate information. Clients should be able to contact you from any webpage.

TRUTH #5: Referrals Require a System.
Attorneys need to create a referral strategy that includes a systematic approach to educating referral sources what a good referral looks like and how to make it. This includes keeping all clients and professional associates current with your practice. Make sure that they are on your newsletter list. If you write an article about your practice area, send it out to everyone.

Stephen Fairley

Stephen Fairley is CEO of The Rainmaker Institute, the nation’s largest law firm marketing company that specializes in helping small and solo law firms generate more referrals and build lifestyle law firms. Over 6,000 attorneys have benefitted from applying their proven Rainmaker Marketing System. For more information visit: or or call 888-588-5891.

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Filed Under: Business ManagementFeatured Stories

About the Author: Stephen Fairley is CEO of The Rainmaker Institute, the nation’s largest law firm marketing company that specializes in helping small and solo law firms generate more referrals and build lifestyle law firms. Over 6,000 attorneys have benefitted from applying their proven Rainmaker Marketing System. For more information visit: or or call 888-588-5891.

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