The 8-Part Recipe to Get Referrals from Shared Office Space

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If you rent or sublet shared office space with other professionals, hands down, the easiest source of referrals for your law practice is from your officemates.

Most lawyers view office space as a necessary expense. While this sentiment may be true, it’s short-sighted.

An attorney’s office space should be viewed the same way as an associate; in theory, the income it generates should exceed its cost. And just as your junior associate has a billable hour requirement, your office space should be held to the same standard.

You should generate 1x to 2x your rent in in referrals from officemates every year.

Whether you share office space with lawyers in your own firm or other professionals in a shared office space, you should be receiving at least one to two times your rent in referrals, per year, from officemates.

Clearly not enough to make a practice, but it will take one of your biggest fixed expenses and turn it into a powerful revenue source. For a solo attorney or small law firm, the additional revenue could pay for another marketing campaign, an assistant’s salary or a much needed vacation.

Building referral relationships with officemates takes very little time.

Cultivating referral relationships with officemates takes very little effort or time – a precious commodity in in the legal business. Think about it. You’ll see your officemates every day anyway. This is the easiest networking you will ever engage in.

Plus, it’s fun — or at least less distasteful as compared to other kinds of marketing activities.

But the rules of the referral game still apply.

Whether you network for referrals inside the office or out, the rules of the referral game apply: People do business with those they know, like and trust, and it doesn’t hurt if you send a piece of business before expecting one in return.

But unlike networking outside the office, in a shared workspace, you can build strong relationships as you go about your regular workday.

Use these 8 simple steps to consistently get referrals from officemates.

Here are 8 simple tips that, if done consistently, will generate more referrals from your officemates:

  1. Do the walk-around. Once a day in either the morning or evening, do a walk around the office and say hello to your neighbors. If they’re not busy ask them a few questions about their family, weekend plans or something important to them that is unrelated to business.
  2. Be a good listener. Nobody likes a blowhard, but everyone loves to talk about themselves. Be a good listener and you’ll get the reputation for being a gracious conversationalist without having to say much. It’s a great technique for those of us who are not particularly outgoing. What your officemates tell you about themselves will be topics for future conversations, and will help accelerate the development of your relationship.
  3. Keep them wanting more. If you’ve done a stop-in to a colleagues’ office, hit the eject button early in the conversation. If you are a constant presence in your neighbor’s doorway and you regularly overstay your welcome, you’ll start to find that your neighbors’ doors may be closed. Always leave them wanting more. You’ll be able to develop trust that your visits will be fun and/or productive and won’t waste their time.
  4. Get out of the office together. Have your assistant coordinate a lunch (or do it yourself) once every couple of weeks with one or two of your neighbors. At lunch, try to keep the conversation about things other than business, because it’s likely to end up there all on its own.
  5. Market THEIR business too. While you are out of the office marketing, keep your ears open for business opportunities that you can direct to one of your neighbors. When you give something of value to someone else, it’s human nature to want to reciprocate. This is even more so when you see the ‘giver’ every day in the office. The favor will always be returned.
  6. Be helpful. Offer to cover for your neighbors while they are on vacation or if they are out sick. Even if your neighbor doesn’t need your help, the offer alone will add value to your relationship.
  7. Be generous. Every few months, buy a few pizzas and a six-pack and host an informal happy hour for your neighbors. Do it in the conference room after work hours. It will give you all a chance to blow off some steam without being too formal.
  8. Seek their advice. Ask a neighbor a question about a legal issue you are grappling with. People love to be helpful, and lawyers in particular like to appear knowledgeable. Be appreciative of the advice and see your relationship grow.

The exchange of referrals is merely a natural extension of our personal relationships – without which, the referrals won’t likely happen. As with any good referral relationship, a personal connection must come first.

In the legal profession, long days are part of the job and attorneys spend many waking hours with their office colleagues. In some weeks, you may see your officemates more than you see your spouse or children.

Taking time to get to know the people you share office space with makes work life that much more enjoyable – an investment that will return more than just referral income.
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Stephen Furnari is a corporate attorney and the founder of Law Firm Suites, an executive suite for law firms based in New York City whose attorney clientele exchange $2.5 million in client referrals each year. Mr. Furnari is the author of How to Convert Office Rent into Referral Revenue, the ultimate eBook guide to maximizing referrals in shared law office space. Stephen has been featured in the ABA Journal, Entrepreneur, New York Daily News and Crain’s New York. Follow Stephen on Twitter.

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