How to approach a prospective referral source

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The Internet presents endless resources for finding people who might become a referral source for you.

They’re out there, in droves.

But once found, how do you approach them? How do you get their attention without appearing needy? How do you start a conversation and bring up the subject of referrals?

How about simply introducing yourself?

Tell them who you are, what you do, and why you are contacting them.

I assume you can handle the who you are and what you do part, but make it brief. One or two sentences. Only enough so they know you’re a fellow professional.

As for why you’re contacting them, well, why are you doing that?

Because you see a connection with them. (If you don’t, contact someone else.) Tell them about the connection.

You found their website or social media profile and see that you and they target the same market. You represent the same types of clients. You offer services that dovetail with theirs. Or they’ve written an article that deals with issues you’ve written about or care about.

Introduce yourself. Mention the connection. Invite them to chat.

“I thought I’d reach out to you, find out more about what you do, tell you more about what I do, and see if there might be a way we could work together.”

If you’re speaking to them on the phone, continue the conversation. Of invite them to meet you for a cup of coffee. If you have contacted them via email, ask, “When would be a good time to chat for a couple minutes?”

You’ve been honest with them, you have suggested a possible benefit to them, and you haven’t pushed.

They’re either interested in speaking to you or they are not. If they’re interested, move forward. If they’re not, move on.

When you talk, ask lots of questions and keep the focus on them. Get them to tell you about what they want or need. What are their goals and plans for the future? What obstacles are in their way?

Look for ways you could help them or their clients, either directly or by introducing them to someone you know.

Then ask, “Who would make a good referral for you?”

Powerful question, that. It tells them you’re serious about working with them.

When it’s your turn, tell them about your practice and tell them who would make a good referral for you. Tell them you’ll send them more information and invite them to do the same.

Is that all you have to do to get business from someone you just met? Usually not. But sometimes, it is. Sometimes, in speaking with you, they think about someone they know who might need your help.

After your chat, send business if you can. Send information about something they want or need or that might benefit their clients. Share marketing ideas with them. Introduce them to vendors and freelancers who can help them. Invite them to write an article for your client newsletter. Offer to interview them for your blog or podcast.

They will (at some point) do the same for you.

There’s more you can do to build a referral relationship. A lot more. But you’ve opened the door and started the process, and that’s the most important part.

Learn what to say and do to get referrals from other professionals, here

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How much detail do you have in your lawyer referral database?

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I got a call from an old friend the other day. She was injured and wanted to know if I could help her find an attorney. I live in California, she’s in Virginia, but fortunately, I knew some attorneys near her.

I emailed an attorney friend in her city and asked if he could help. He replied, “I can find you the right person. Let me know the nature of the claim: medical malpractice? Vehicular collision? Police shooting? Premises liability? There are different lawyers who would be best, depending on the cause.”

I wrote back, gave him more details, and he provided me with two names and phone numbers which I passed along to my injured friend.

If she is able to hire an attorney through this referral:

  1. My friend will get the help she needs from a lawyer who is right for the job
  2. The attorney who takes the case will have a new client
  3. My attorney friend gets the credit for making the referral, and
  4. I get the satisfaction of helping put this together.

I knew my friend was well-connected. He is a great lawyer and a consummate marketer. What I didn’t know is how much he knows about the lawyers on his list.

Knowing what the lawyers on your list do best allows you to be a better matchmaker. That increases the odds of a successful referral and saves everyone a lot of time.

There’s a lesson here, aside from the obvious one that lawyers should keep a list of other lawyers to whom they can refer. It is the value of taking the time to get to know more about them—what they do best, what kinds of cases or clients they prefer, which ones they won’t take—because as you learn this information about them, you prompt them to learn the same information about you.

In your lawyer database, don’t stop with just practice areas. Dig. Ask questions. Get a description of their ideal client. And then give them yours.

Learn more about getting referrals from other lawyers

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Extreme vetting of lawyers

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I got an email from a lawyer who had a bad experience with a referral to another lawyer who mishandled the case (and the client). She’s feeling gun shy now about giving referrals and wants to know what she might do to vet lawyers before sending them any business.

First, let me point out that most lawyers do a decent job most of the time so there is no need to panic or stop referring because one lawyer messed up. It happens, we deal with it, and we move on.

In choosing lawyers to whom you will refer, do what you might do if you were going to hire them yourself. Start with obvious due diligence measures: check with the bar for discipline and complaints, search online to dig up any dirt, review their web site(s) and examine their experience and other qualifications.

Make sure they have sufficient staff to handle the job and carry E and O insurance.

You might give them extra points for expert certification, serving as an arbitrator or judge pro tem, teaching CLE, bar association committees, awards, and so on.

In addition, you may want to

  • Talk to other lawyers who know them, including opposing counsel and judges who have seen them in action
  • Read articles they have written and articles that were written about them. Get a sense of their world view, processes, communication skills, and personality.
  • Run a credit check and/or a background check if there’s a lot at stake or your Spidey-sense is telling you there’s something wrong

If you’re still not sure, have a chat with them. Tell them you want to make sure they’re the right lawyer for the job. Anyone who is qualified should respect that.

You might ask them to fill out a questionnaire, something like the ones E and O carriers use, where they are asked to disclose their calendaring and conflict checking systems and other safeguards and to disclose any malpractice lawsuits against them. Check with your carrier because some require this information as a prerequisite to defending a claim against you for a negligent referral.

While you’re at it, consider whether your client will be comfortable with the lawyer’s personality and style. Not every competent lawyer is a good match for every client.

Start by referring small matters, so you can see how they handle them and how they treat the client. Stay involved with the case, not to micro-manage it but as a second pair of eyes on behalf of the client. They are still your client, after all. Check in with them regularly, to see how things are progressing and to look for signs of trouble. Make sure they know to contact you if they have any questions or concerns.

Bottom line: do your homework but don’t let a bad experience with one lawyer unduly color your judgment in choosing others.

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What to do with a referral source who isn’t referring?

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What do you do when a referral source isn’t referring?

The wrong thing to do, of course, is to push them. Point out that they haven’t referred much lately or that their numbers have fallen off. Or that they “owe” you.

That’s probably not going to work. In fact, it could easily backfire by alienating them and causing them to do even less.

No, the best way to get a referral source to refer more is to assume (until you learn otherwise) that he is doing all that he can and then help him to be able to do more.

In other words, help his business or practice grow so he will have more customers or clients to refer.

You can do that by introducing him to some of your business contacts who might be able to send him business, make introductions, or open doors to speaking or networking opportunities.

You can feature his business or practice or his products or services on your website and in your newsletter.

You can recommend marketing experts or vendors, or share information you’ve found (books, courses, blogs) that could help him get more clients or bigger clients.

And you can send him some referrals of your own. No, he won’t be able to refer those clients back to you but those clients might refer other clients to him, which he can refer to you. Also, the cash flow your referrals generate might allow him to expand his business in other areas.

But here’s the thing. Even just offering to help him could make a difference. How many other lawyers do that?

Show him you’re trying to help him and when he’s able to refer more, you can bet that you’ll be number one on his list.

Get more referrals from lawyers, other professionals and business owners: click here

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How to turn business contacts into referral sources

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Okay, so you know a lot of people. You’ve got their names and contact information in a database or contact management system, along with some notes about what they do. You suspect that many of these people are able to send you referrals or otherwise help you build your practice.

But most of them don’t.

In fact, you never hear from most of them. Why is that? Because [. . .drum roll. . .] they never hear from you.

Yeah, it’s that simple. They might be willing to send you business. The primary reason many of them don’t is that they don’t think about you.

But that’s easy to change. If you do nothing more than commit to regularly staying in touch with your business contacts, you’ll go a long way towards activating a fair percentage of them and turning passive contacts into active referral sources.

Staying in touch allows you keep your name in front of your contacts. When they have someone who needs your services, that alone might earn you a referral.

I say “might” because there are a lot of other reasons why someone might not refer. You can go a long way towards further increasing the odds of getting them to do something for you if you do something for them first.

That “something” doesn’t have to be a referral. It might be sharing information with them about a prospective client, news about their target market or industry, marketing ideas you think they could use, or even a personal favor.

How do you know what you can do to help them?

You ask.

In addition to staying in touch with your business and professional network, en mass, through email primarily, you should also call at least one member of your network each week.

Get re-acquainted. Ask how they are doing, and how you can help. What are they working on? What do they need? What do their clients need? If it’s not something you can help them with directly, you might know someone who can.

Are they looking for a software solution? Websites in their niche that accept advertising or guest posts? Are they working too many hours because they don’t know how to find and hire a virtual assistant? Do they simply need a word of encouragement?

No matter how busy you are, you can call one business contact each week. Do that, ask them how you can help them, and watch how many ask how they can help you.

For more ways to turn lawyers and other professionals into referral sources, get this

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How to protect your referral fee when you refer cases to other attorneys

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I heard from a PI lawyer who had referred a case to another lawyer and was supposed to get one-third of the fee. When the case settled, the referring lawyer heard about it not from the lawyer who settled the case but from a friend of the plaintiff.

Not good.

Even worse, the plaintiff had another accident 4 months later. The same firm handled that case, which settled for $200,000, and they never told the referring attorney about it.

When he finally spoke with someone at the firm about the second case, the referring attorney was told that they don’t pay referral fees on “second generation cases/referrals”.

He asked if I think he’s entitled to a referral fee on the second case.

My take? In equity, maybe. In law, probably not. In the world of commerce, where screwing your referral sources is a great way to kill referrals (and your reputation), I think they should take care of you.

But they’re PI attorneys so I won’t hold my breath.

The bigger question is what to do to protect your referral fee in the future.

Two things. First, you need to have a written agreement that specifies what you get, not only on the original referral but on subsequent cases with the same client. Get this signed before you make the referral.

To be enforceable, it probably has to have reasonable limits (like a non-compete agreement), something like subsequent claims within two years of the original injury. (I’d also ask for a fee on any referrals from that client during the same period.) Ask around, find out the standard in your community. And be prepared to negotiate.

Second, your agreement should specify that you have a lien interest in these cases, and you should so notify the insurance carrier and/or opposing counsel on the first case. That way, when the case settles, your name will be on the check and they have to come to you to get your endorsement.

Your agreement can also specify a lien interest (and attorneys fees if not paid) on subsequent cases, but if you don’t know about those, it’s not as easy to protect your referral fee because you have nobody to notify of that interest until after the fact. Still, better than nothing.

And without an agreement, nothing is what you’ve got.

Hey, I’ve been there. I’ve referred cases to other lawyers and was screwed out of a fee when they settled. You live and learn.

My last piece of advice? Stay in touch with the client. Because you want him to tell you when he has another case, or he has a referral.

Be his “personal attorney” for life. His advisor. The conduit of all of his legal matters.

Think “clients, not cases”. And think about the referral as, “bringing in another lawyer,” not “referring out” to another lawyer.

I’d love to hear how other lawyers handle this subject. Please post in the comments.

Get more referrals from lawyers and other professionals: click here

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Faster than a speeding search engine

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Information. You need it, you want it, and you have it, thanks to the search engine of your choice. But there’s something that’s often better than a search engine. In many cases, it’s faster, too.

I’m talking about experts. People who have the answer to your query on the tip of their tongue. Their real-world experience allows them to instantly provide you with answers, or at least point you in the right direction.

Unlike a search engine, you don’t get 101 links of possible solutions. You don’t get sent down a rabbit hole of never-ending research.

You ask, they answer. Done.

We all need to maintain a list of names and contact information of people who know things, and who know people. A group of folks we can call upon to quickly get information,  recommendations, and referrals.

I’m not talking about paid experts, although we need them, too. I’m talking about friends and business associates and networking buddies who know things and know people and will help us out without sending us a bill.

If we have a computer problem, we have someone who can walk us through the solution, or recommend someone who can fix it for us. If we want to find a CPA on the other side of the country for a client who is moving there, we can tap into our network and get referrals.

An information and referral network can benefit you and your clients and other contacts.

Your network makes you better at your job and helps you bring in business. It also allows you to add value to your relationships with your clients and professional contacts.

Let people know that you know a lot of people in different fields and different parts of the country and when they need information or referrals, they should contact you first.

If you know someone, great. You’re a hero. If you don’t know someone, you can find someone you don’t know and expand your network. Nothing like contacting a professional and telling them you have a client who might need their services.

Your network will make you more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Build your professional network with this

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What’s the best way to market your legal services?

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So, you want to know the best way to market your legal services? Read on, my friend, and all will be revealed.

But first, we need to talk about the two kinds of markets to whom you are marketing. The first is your “warm market”. This consists of people you know. Your clients, former clients, friends, business contacts, and other people who, to some degree, already know, like, and trust you.

Generally speaking, your warm market will hire you or recommend you without your having to “sell” them. They’re already sold on you.

They know what you do. They know your reputation. They’ve seen you in action or heard about your successes with clients they’ve referred to you in the past.

How do you market to your warm market? Basically, all you need to do is stay in touch with them. Keep your name and contact information in front of them, reminding them that you’re still in business and can still help them and the people they know.

Make sure they know about “what else” you do (your other services), and send them information about why they (or people they know) would need those services. Occasionally share some success stories about other clients you’ve helped.

The easiest way to stay in touch with your warm market is email. Stay in their minds and their mailboxes until they’re ready to hire you (again) or send you referrals.

Email is also best because it is a personal communication and gives you maximum control over the process. But you can also keep your name in front of your warm market via advertising, speaking and networking at their events, writing for their trade journals and blogs, and other means.

Am I saying that all you have to do with your warm market is stay in touch with them? Yes. Pretty much. You don’t have to do much more, although doing more is usually a good idea.

Consider reaching out to your warm market and helping them in their business and personal lives. Build a relationship with them, especially the ones who bring you the most business.

There are other things you can do, but if all you do is stay in touch with your warm market, you will probably get the lion’s share of their business.

(Note, prospective clients are often not warm market. You’ll want to send them more information, share more stories, make special offers, and do other things to encourage them to hire you or take the next step. Again, the easiest way to do that is email.)

Okay, let’s talk about the cold market. These are people you don’t know.

Most attorneys spend too much time and energy marketing to people in the cold market rather than focusing on their warm market. Remember, people in the cold market have to be found and they have to be sold. This is more difficult and expensive, especially since you are competing with all of the other attorneys who are trying to do the same thing.

There’s nothing wrong with advertising, blogging, social media, SEO, and other methods of attracting prospective clients. Especially if you handle divorce, litigation, criminal defense, personal injury, and other practice areas where “something has to happen” before people even think about looking for an attorney.

But there’s a better way to attract cold market prospects. Much better, because when they do come to you, they really aren’t cold market at all. I’m talking about referrals.

Instead of spending all of your resources finding and wooing cold market prospects, invest in growing your network of lawyers, other professionals and other centers of influence in your niche market or community.

Help them get to know, like, and trust you. Then, when someone they know needs a lawyer who does what you do, you’ll be in line to get their referrals. Those clients won’t have to be sold because someone they respect and trust is vouching for you.

There. Now you know the best way to market your legal services. Class dismissed.

Expand your referral network of lawyers and other professionals with this

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Lawyer to lawyer referrals: don’t ignore this potential gold mine

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How many lawyers do you know in another state? Probably not many. That means there are a lot of attorneys in other states who also don’t know you and if they don’t know you, they probably won’t send you referrals.

What if there was an easy way to change that?

In the Lawyer to Lawyer Referrals, I said that the simplest way to get more referrals from other lawyers is to get to know more lawyers. Yes, you want to know more lawyers in your local area, but there’s a very good reason for getting to know lawyers in other states: no competition.

If you are in Pittsburgh, PA, an attorney in San Diego, CA might not have a lot of referrals for you, but if you’re the only lawyer he knows in Pittsburgh in your practice area, when he does have a referral, you’ll be the only one on his list.

Me entiendo?

Imagine having an email list of lawyers in other parts of the country, or in other countries, who know who you are and what you do? They hear from you occasionally, getting updates about your interesting new client, your big settlement, or your latest article or blog post. Your name and contact information is continually in front of them.

Of course you also ask them to keep you informed about their practice, because you might have a referral for them, or know someone who does.

Many of your contacts will never pan out, but some will. If there are 100 lawyers on your list, you’re going to get some business.

In fact, make that a goal. 100 lawyers on your list in the next 60 days. (You could do this in two days if you wanted to.)

Lawyers are easy to find. They have websites, they are on social media, they advertise. Find lawyers who represent the kinds of clients you target, contact them and introduce yourself.

You can call first, or email. Calling is better; email is faster.

Tell them you saw their website or ad or read something they wrote. Pay them a compliment or ask them a question. And then tell them that you’d like to know more about what they do because you don’t know any lawyers in their area and you never know when you might have a referral.

Of course they will ask about you and your practice.

It really is that simple.

For more ways to find and approach attorneys, both locally and in far off places, see Lawyer to Lawyer Referrals.

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How to create passive income in your law practice

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I love passive income. You hear me talk about it all the time. Passive income allowed me to retire from the practice of law. Passive income allows me to do what I want with my time because the income comes in whether I work or not.

I enjoy consulting but don’t do much anymore because there’s nothing passive about it. Instead of spending hours each week speaking with lawyers and getting paid once, I’d rather invest my time in creating more passive income.

I built a business years ago that provides me with passive income. It still pays me, month after month, year after year. I also get passive income from my books and courses.

Why earn $500 from consulting when I could spend that time creating a new book or course that pays me $500 per month, every month?

Do it once, get paid over and over again.

Set it and forget it.

Okay, so hurray for me. What about you?

Well, you could create passive income by building a side business like I did (contact me if you want me to show you how), and you could create books and courses or other products that sell over and over again. Or you could invest in income-producing assets.

But maybe none of that is right for you.

Can you use your law practice to build assets that provide you with passive income?

In a way, yes.

Instead of creating intellectual property, you can create relationships.

Find clients who have lots of legal work you can do, instead of one time clients. Find referral sources who can send you new business every month.

You have to spend time nurturing those relationships, and you still have to do the legal work (or supervise the people who do), but once you have a new referral source or client with ongoing work, the work will come to you without you having to do much more.

Not quite true passive income, but close. The next best thing.

Each relationship is an asset that provides cash flow. Each relationship gives you access to everyone in that person’s network.

Robert Kiyosaki said, “The richest people in the world look for and build networks; everyone else looks for work.”

This week, how will you build your network?

How to get more referrals from lawyers

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