November 6, 2015
Black’s Law Dictionary defines “referral” as “[t]he act or an instance of sending or directing to another for information, service, consideration, or decision.”
To the vast majority of practicing attorneys, however, the definition may read a little more like this: “The primary source of a law firm’s business.”
Indeed, this is no exaggeration: Despite all of the technological advances in communication over the past several decades, most law practices rely on word-of-mouth references for their continued livelihood.
Given the importance of referrals, how can firms build the best possible network for these referrals? As discussed in a recent playbook from Super Lawyers, there are five tactics for maximizing referrals sources to consider.
The first of these is delivering high-quality customer service. In other words, it’s doing the best possible job for your clients. And that not only means being the best possible attorney that you can be, but also developing and maintaining open and regular lines of communication with your clients such that they never feel out of the loop in their own cases.
The second of these tactics is nurturing relationships with clients. This differs from the first in that it relates to maintaining positive relationships with clients outside of the bounds of their respective legal concerns, in a more social manner. One way to accomplish this may be to send out a monthly e-newsletter that discusses happenings both at your firm and in the legal world at large. Other firms may opt for more direct social contact with clients, such as hosting firm open houses or legal seminars.
The next recommendation is showcasing your expertise, such that you or your practice (or both) gain increased visibility. This can be realized in a number of ways, such as through public speaking engagements, published writing, or volunteering. These activities often open referral channels that would have been otherwise inaccessible through traditional means like referrals from clients, friends and family, and other attorneys.
Fourth, the playbook recommends cultivating your network. This tactic is specifically referring to developing and maintaining strong referral connections with other legal professionals, such that you are part of a network of attorneys that will refer clients to one another based on practice area and expertise. For example, a family law practitioner may know a client – or an acquaintance of a client – who is in need of a criminal defense attorney. That family lawyer would know of a defense attorney within the referral network, and refer that individual to her. And this works in both directions.
The final of these tactics is diversifying your online properties so that contacting your firm is as seamless as possible at any time of the day. The playbook recommends not only maintaining an updated website, but also optimizing your social media channels and managing your online reputation. Your online presence often creates the first impression of you for potential clients who you’ve never met or spoken with directly, so it’s important to make the best possible first impression that you can.
To read more about mastering the art of referrals, check out the playbook here.