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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Referral cards for the win

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On the counter in my dentist’s waiting room, prominently featured, is a supply of referral cards. They are full-color, glossy, and about 50% bigger than a regular business card. They are folded in half, creating four panels.

On the front panel is a stock photo of a (smiling) family. Under the photo, it says, “Care Enough to Share”. Under that, it says, “New Patient Gift Card”.

When you open the card, the upper panel’s headline says, “Valuable Offer To New Patients”. Under this, it says, “The referral of a friend or family member to our office is one of the finest compliments our patients can give us. We welcome you to become part of our practice.” (Remember, these are meant to be given to prospective new patients.)

The next paragraph presents a special offer (exam, x-rays, cleaning). The fee ($99) is large, centered and written in dark red. Under that, in smaller print, it says that the regular fee is $298.

The next panel has four bullet points that describe the practice: highly skilled dentists, friendly and caring staff, convenient hours and location, that sort of thing.

Under the bullet points are three “blanks” for the referring party to fill out: “Presented to,” “Referred by,” and “Expires”. Ostensibly, the referring patient fills out the first two, and the dentist’s office fills out the third one if they want an expiration date on the special offer.

These are followed by the names of the two dentists, address, phone number (large and in dark blue), and finally, the practice’s web site.

Turn the card over and the fourth panel has a map of the office, the practice’s name, the dentists’ names, and the office address. Finally, it says, “Call Today!” (large) and provides the phone number. Under that, once again, is the practic’s web site.

The card is colorful and professionally produced. It’s a simple concept: a special offer for new patients and the suggestion that as a current patient, you are “allowed” to bestow this offer on your family and friends.

I’ve talked about referral cards before. It’s an idea that just about any consumer or small business attorney can use. Once you have these made up, you can display them on a desk or counter and let them go to work for you. Or you can point them out to your clients and encourage them to use them.

You can also put a small supply in your “new client” kit, or mail them to clients once or twice a year.

You can also use referral cards to offer information. A Special Report or ebook, available on your website, for example. You can offer this in addition to a special offer on services or a free consultation, or to offer the information by itself.

When your clients take one or more cards, they might not have someone in mind to give them to but it should get them thinking about who they know who might benefit. It also tells your clients that referrals are normal, expected, and appreciated, planting a “referral seed” in their mind.

Referral cards are a simple, inexpensive way to promote your practice, stimulate referrals, and build your email list, and I encourage you to use them.

Learn more about referral cards and other “referral devices” here

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Know, like, trust, rinse, repeat

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You’ve heard it before: “All things being equal, clients prefer to hire attorneys they know, like, and trust”.

You need all three but let’s take a minute and talk about “know”.

In a sense, it is the easiest of the three because it is the simplest. The more people who know you, the more clients you are likely to get. Assuming you are reasonably likable and trustworthy, getting more people to know you is the 20% activity that brings you 80% of your results.

Note that it’s not necessarily how many people you know, it’s how many people know you. How many recognize your name? How many people who go looking for an attorney will find you?

It’s called exposure.

One of the best ways to get more exposure is to leverage the contacts of influential people in your target market.

Centers of interest in your community. Professionals, executives, business owners. People who run blogs and video channels. Authors, consultants, and sales people who write for, sell to, or advise people in your target market.

They can give you direct referrals. They can publish your guest post on their blog or in their newsletter. They can interview you for their podcast or video channel. They can promote your seminar, become an affiliate for your book or course, and promote your free report to their subscribers.

They can give you exposure to a large number of prospective clients. Even better, they can influence them to follow you and hire you. When they promote you, or even just mention you to their clients, readers, and contacts, they are impliedly endorsing you.

That’s the best kind of exposure you can get.

Do yourself a favor and get to know more people like that. Start by asking your existing professional contacts to introduce you to other professionals in their line of work.

You still have work to do with these new contacts but the most important part is done. Thanks to your mutual friend, they now know you. They’ll take your call and reply to your email. You’re on your way to getting their contacts to know, like, and trust you.

How to get referrals and other help from attorneys and other professionals: here

 

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Getting referrals without breaking a sweat

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See, I get it. You don’t want to ask your clients or professional contacts for referrals. Even though I’ve shown you more than a few easy and natural ways to do that, you’d rather swallow a cup of nails than ask anyone to send you some business.

Alrighty then. Be that way. But let me show you another option.

Instead of asking people to refer clients to you, ask them to refer those folks to your content. Or more accurately, share that content with them and ask them to do the same.

Have you ever shared a video you like on Youtube or Flakebook? Have you ever shared a blog post or article with someone you think might like it, too? Of course you have. And you will continue to do that because we’re humans and humans like to share.

Why not do the same thing with your own content?

Tell folks about yur article and ask them to share it. Ask your clients to forward the link to your new report to anyone who might benefit from the information. Ask them to hit the share button on your blog post or youtube video.

When you’re networking and someone asks a legal question, give them a page on your website that addresses that issue.

People come to your website, consume your content, see that you know what you’re doing, and before you know it, you have some new clients.

Easy.

Your content shows people what you do and how you can help them or people they know. Your content sells them on hiring you, so you don’t have to. All you have to do is get your content out into the world and ask people to share it.

The catch? You have to have some content to share. You have to write something or record something that prospective clients want to consume.

So do that. And then share it.

Let me show you how easy this is.

Do you know a lawyer who might want to get more clients and increase his or her income? Forward this email to them so they can see that getting referrals is easy. Add a note to the top: “Joe, thought you might like this”.

(If you’re reading this on my blog, click the share button and send it that way).

Done and done.

See, that wasn’t difficult?

Now, go write something and share it.

More easy ways to get referrals

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You can stop marketing if you do THIS

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You can forget about blogging. Speaking. Networking. You’ll never have to run another ad, write another article, or push out another post on social media. Unless you’re a brand new lawyer just starting your practice, you can stop all of your other marketing efforts if you want to, if you’re willing to do one thing.

It’s what I did when I was practicing and it allowed me to build a successful practice in a short period of time. It is the quintessential method of growing a professional practice and you’re already using it to some extent.

You may know this magic elixir by its generic name: referrals. You get them now, don’t you? If you’re like most lawyers, however, you could be getting more.

A lot more.

Your clients and business contacts know people who need your services, or who will need your services eventually, and they are willing to send them to you. They also know people who know people who need your services, aka, other professionals and business contacts, and they are willing to introduce them to you.

So, why not let the people you know do your marketing for you?

You can do that by making it easier for them to send you referrals, by creating forms and letters and a simple system for getting them into their hands.

You can get more referrals by mailing or emailing or handing out a letter that does everything for you. You don’t have to say anything more than, “here”.

If you do good work and treat your clients well, they want to help you. They also want to help the people they know who need your services.

Instead of merely waiting for them to figure out what to do, give them a letter that spells it out. Make it easier for them to refer and you will get more referrals.

You can read all about it here and here.

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The best way to get more referrals

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The best way to get more referrals is to ask for referrals.

Hold on, I know you don’t want to do that. I know the idea makes you uncomfortable. Asking for referrals makes you sound needy. Sales-y. Unprofessional. You’ve tried it but your mouth went dry and you stumbled over the words. So you don’t do it or you don’t do it much.

I can help.

I can show you ways to ask for referrals in a way that won’t make you uncomfortable. I can also show you how to ask for referrals without actually asking.

Without asking? Yes. You won’t have to say a word.

How is this possible? As I describe in my two referral marketing courses, Maximum Referrals (about getting referrals from clients and prospects) and Lawyer to Lawyer Referrals (about getting referrals from lawyers and other professional contacts) you do it with a “referral letter”.

Your referral letter spells out how you can help people who might need your services. It shows the reader how to recognize people who would make a good referral for you. And it shows them the best way to make the referral to you.

Have you ever wondered why people who could send you referrals don’t do it? One reason is that they don’t know how.

Do they give the client your card? Do they send them to your website? Do they call you themselves and give you the referral’s information?

Your referral letter solves this problem by spelling out the simplest and easiest way to connect you with referrals. When you make it easier for people to send you referrals, more people will send you referrals.

Once your referral letter is written, most of your work is done. From that point forward, your job is to make sure that every client and former client, every professional contact and potential referral source, receives a copy of your referral letter.

Distributing your referral letter to clients is simple. Just send it. Have extra copies printed to include in your new client welcome kit and to give clients when they are in the office.

Distributing your referral letter to attorneys you know is equally simple, but a little different. You can mail them (or email them) but there are other things you can do to make it more likely that they will not only read your letter, they will act on it.

You can also send your referral letter to attorneys you don’t know. That’s where things get interesting. That’s where you can expand your list of referral sources manifold, for just the price of a stamp.

If you want referrals, get a referral letter written and get it out into the world. There is no simpler way to ask for (and get) referrals than to let a letter do the asking for you.

To get more referrals from clients, get this

To get more referrals from other lawyers, get this

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Build a better practice with a better file closing checklist

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Most attorneys do a good job of onboarding new clients. They have a process for obtaining the information they need and explaining things to the client. They have documents ready for the new client to fill out, review, and sign. They have a routine for calendaring dates and follow-ups, and a set of form letters they mail to get the case started right.

They do these things to protect themselves from omissions, to save time, and because it gives the client a good first impression.

Unfortunately, not as many attorneys are as disciplined or detailed-oriented about how they close their files. But how you close a file is as important as how you open it.

What you do or don’t do at the end of the case can determine whether the client will hire you again, post positive comments and reviews, and refer other clients your way.

Of course, you lay the foundation for these things at every appointment and with every email or letter you send. But the final appointment is your last and best opportunity to “sell” the client and warrant your time and attention.

Your final appointment/file-closing process should include things that are too often taken for granted. You should have a checklist that addresses

  • What you say (e.g., asking if they have additional questions, cross-selling your other services, advising them about possible future needs, etc.)
  • What you give them (e.g., “after-care” instructions, marketing collateral, checklists, reports and other “added value,” etc.)
  • What you do (e.g., scheduling follow-up letters and calls, enrolling them in your newsletter, final billing/accounting, contacting them a few days later to make sure all is well, etc.)
  • What you ask them to do (e.g., asking for referrals and/or to pass out your information, asking for a review or testimonial, asking them to fill out a survey, etc.)

It should also include a review of the file to see what went right and what could be improved.

These things should be planned in advance. You should know who will do them (you, staff) and when. They should be a regular part of your routine and you should continually seek to improve them.

Because how you close a file is as important as how you open it.

How to get more referrals from your clients before, during, and after the engagement: here

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Out of sight, out of luck

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One of the main reasons people who could refer you business don’t do so is that they “don’t think about it”. They’re busy and have other things on their mind. Unless they have a legal need, they don’t think about you or your services.

Out of sight, out of luck, me bucko.

You can change that, and get more repeat business and referrals, by doing the following:

1) Stay in touch with them

The easiest way to do that is via email. One of my subscribers, an associate in a firm that severely limits his ability to do any marketing, told me that he now emails his clients and prospects and referral sources every two weeks.

He writes about legal matters, and also about what he’s doing in his practice and, I suppose, in his personal life.

He’s staying “in their minds and their mailboxes” and getting repeat business and referrals, and lots of it.

He tells me, “It has worked like a charm. When you write email blasts “right where they live” you are reaching out to them, and many think it is personal. You establish your credibility. You establish a reputation.”

2) Talk about referrals

Another reason you don’t get as many referrals as you could is that you’re not talking about referrals. There are many ways to do that, but one of the simplest is something I suggested to the lawyer mentioned above: put a blurb at the bottom of your emails asking the recipient to forward it to their friends, colleagues, etc., who might like to receive his updates. Spell out what those people should do if they want to be added to the list.

People read your wisdom, tacitly endorsed by the friend or colleague who forwared it to them. They like what they see and want to see more. They ask to be added to your list. You stay in touch with them and they hire you and send you referrals.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

You can make this work better by using an autoresponder to manage everything and offering an incentive to join your list–a report, ebook, or a collection of some your best prior articles–but you don’t have to.

3) Make it easy to refer

Many clients and contacts come close to referring but don’t do it because they don’t know what to do. Do they tell the referral about you and give them your number? Do they send the referral some information about you, and if so, what should it be? Do they tell you about the referral? If they do that, what will you do?

Of course, when it comes to making it easy, “forward this email” is about as easy as it gets. Your contacts don’t have to refer people to you, they can refer them to your content and then your content refers you.

Get this if you want to learn how to get more referrals

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