Attorneys who have felt the burden of thinking that the only way to get client referrals is by having referrals to hand out – take heart.  To grow a strong and fiercely loyal referral network, you do indeed have to give to get, but it need not be only client referrals.

Here are seven attorney-tested ways to bolster your law firm marketing efforts and create strong referral partnerships:

Be generous with information

One of my clients in Philadelphia is always saying that the secret of creating a strong referral source is to ‘give it away!’  He continues:

“I have a referral source that sends me lots of clients on a regular basis.  He often calls me with questions his clients have about what to do.  Often, the answer requires legal expertise; sometimes it does not.  Either way, I answer his questions.  This allows the referral source to act like a hero.  I give a couple hours of my time a month, and, in exchange, I get back lots of client referrals. I don’t have to send him any referrals.  I just answer the simple questions.”

Take Away:  You need not give a referral to get one; you need only help the source meet a client need.

Be on the lookout for articles, alerts, and announcements of events, anything that might be of interest or value to your referral sources

These simple emails help keep you “top of mind” and “top of Inbox” so that when a client does need an attorney,  the first thought is of you.

Additionally, simple and thoughtful reminders like these can awaken a dormant referral source, or lead to seminars for a target audience.  This occurred when I chanced upon a very detailed article on a change in law regarding service dogs.  The article was written by a non-competitor and already covered everything that I would have wanted to touch on in an article; so I used another approach.  I sent the article to one of my attorneys who has a practice targeting care facilities.  She forwarded it on to a former client, an Executive Director of an association serving those with disabilities.  She received a matter from them two weeks later.

Qualify your referral sources

One key is in establishing expectations early on, mainly that if the relationship is tit-for-tat, you may not be the right fit.  Often, legal referral relationships are primarily one sided.  Some will leave, but the ones that stay are looking for an attorney to make them look good to their clients…which leads to the next point.

Do a bang up job for their clients, and make the referral source look good

The referral source wants nothing more than for their client to come back and sing your praises to them.  It is also important to make sure you keep in touch with the referral source so that they know what is going on and that you are a unified team.

Connect one referral source to another

One of the best ways to be a good partner is to connect your referral sources with other referral sources, who can give client referrals.  Recently, another of my attorneys has a desire to build a strong relationship with a business consultant who focused exclusively on midmarket IT federal contractors.  My attorney was not as far along developing this market and did not have as many client referrals to give as the business consultant expected (often this inequality in ability to give leads is the kiss of death to a referral relationship).  My client was honest about this, but found a way to help the advisor by connecting him with another of his referral sources, an accountant who did have a larger number of clients who fit the profile.  The advisors were a good fit, and within a very short time (six months), the accountant hired the advisor to consult with his federal contractor clients and help them market to the federal government.  Connecting the two referral sources led to better relationships with each of them, as well as the referral of two lucrative client engagements, one from each advisor.

Make meetings with key referral sources a recurrent event on your calendar

This seems like a no-brainer, but life can take over.  Grabbing a coffee or lunch, these meetings provide a way to stay in touch and find out what is happening both professional and personally.  The best referral relationships have both components.   Automate the process as best you can.  Set up calendar alerts to call or reach out to your best referral sources every three weeks or so.

Be genuine and generous

There are lots of good lawyers, but people do business with those they know and trust.  In a strong referral relationship, the mindset is most definitely NOT tit-for-tat.  Be thinking “How can I help this person grow their business?  The givers will gain, and the referrals of clients and other opportunities will come.

Happy Hunting.

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