Referrals are an invaluable aspect of every business, and practicing law is no different. Referrals are how you build a consistent client base and generate positive word of mouth that can elevate your practice. You want your fellow legal professionals to recommend you for your expertise, and you want to give them the same respect. A network of referral relationships will help ensure that you have a steady stream of ideal clients who need the kinds of legal services in which you specialize.
Referral relationships remain positive and productive if both parties are dedicated to ongoing communication. A solid referral relationship requires mutual effort. Take the following steps to build a lasting and robust network of attorney referrals.
Create an Attorney Database
Start cultivating your referral network by building an attorney contact database. Gather the contacts of any attorney who has already referred you to someone, and expand on that by researching other attorneys in their areas. Some other great resources to gather contacts from for your referral database are your State Bar Association website and Avvo.com.
Determine Your Best Possible Sources
Your best referral resources are attorneys who don’t compete with you, but who can provide clients needing your expertise. For example, if you specialize in personal injury and an attorney near you specializes in product liability, there is no competition, and they will likely come across clients that need you. Attorneys who’ve sent clients your way in the past are also great options, of course. Once you’ve got your list of best bets, you can start making contact with your potential referrals.
Send Your Referral Invitation E-mails
Draft a referral email to send out to your top contacts. The email should consist of who you are, what you specialize in, and an invitation to start a referral relationship. Keep the details general, and invite your potential referrals to visit your website for more information on your firm. You don’t want to overwhelm them with too much information in the initial email. Send out a few emails per week, so you don’t get overwhelmed with initiating meetups or double-book yourself. Here are some email templates for referrals to get your started.
Follow Up to Schedule Meetings
Once your emails have been delivered, have your assistant reach out by phone to each potential referral to see if they are interested in meeting up with you. Your contacts may ask basic clarification questions such as how long you’ve been in business and where you found their information, so make sure your assistant is prepared to provide that information. If they’re interested, have your assistant set up lunch meetings.
Attend Lunches and Learn About Your Referrals
Your initial lunch meeting is your best chance to make a good impression on your potential referral. You want them to know you value their time and expertise. Ask them lots of questions about their firm and what they do. Essential questions to ask include:
- How did you get started?
- What are some of your firm’s most significant growth opportunities and challenges?
- What is your ideal client?
- How do you most often find clients? How do clients find you?
- How can our referral relationship best benefit you?
There’s nothing better for cultivating a referral relationship than an in-person meeting. Meeting in person with your potential referral shows your genuine interest, and that you aren’t just in it for their recommendation. Making a genuine in-person connection shows that you desire an ongoing, mutually beneficial relationship, and allows you to communicate way better than phone calls and emails allow.
Make a Consistent Effort to Maintain Your Referral Relationship Network
The initial meet-and-greet, while incredibly important, won’t solidify a long-standing referral relationship alone. You can continuously grow and strengthen your referral relationships in several ways:
- Keep the needs of your referrals in mind as you would your own.
- Set up periodic lunch meetings to discuss how you and your referral’s needs have grown and changed.
- Invite your referrals to attend conferences with you that can improve both of your networks.
All of these methods will not only improve your existing referral relationships—they will lead to more contacts and referral relationships as well. Your network will continue to expand, new clients will continue to come your way, and your firm’s excellent reputation will continue to grow.
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