Helping the competition?


In Lawyer to Lawyer Referrals, I show you how to find and befriend lawyers who work in complementary practice areas and can send you referrals. One way to get on their radar, and in their good graces, is to help them do a better job for their clients.

Educate them about your area of expertise, even if that means they help those clients instead of referring them to you.

Karma, and all that.

It’s similar to what I said yesterday about encouraging clients and prospects to call you for “micro-advice,” without the meter running.

My friend Steve Emmert, a very successful appellate lawyer, emailed and said, “I always give free micro-advice to my customers (trial lawyers). It quite often comes back to me in future business, when they need an appellate lawyer and remember who looked out for them all these years.”


He continued, “. . .I also give free micro-advice to my competitors. It’s the neighborly thing to do, it promotes collegiality within the appellate “guild,” and refusing to do so would be giving in to a scarcity mentality. There’s plenty of work to go around.”

He gave a couple of recent examples–showing a new-ish appellate lawyer how to set up a section of a document, going to lunch with other lawyers who want to start an appellate practice and telling them what to do. “Why should I make them learn the hard way all the lessons I’ve learned in almost 15 years?”

He continued: “Most lawyers wouldn’t think of doing this because they have a scarcity mentality: ‘I have to take this client because I might never get another. I have to guard all my secrets so no one can compete with me.’ Jeez Louise!”

Aint that the truth.

It seems counterintuitive to share your time and expertise with lawyers who do what you do, or want to. But not only does it feel good to help others, it can pay dividends.

“One fringe benefit: My competitors get the message that I’m confident in my market position, and that means they’re very unlikely ever to really challenge that position.”

I’ll tell you what else it does. It gets other lawyers sending you referrals when they have a conflict or a case they otherwise can’t handle. They know you’re the BMOC (that’s “Big Man on Campus” for you Millenials and other whippersnappers.)

“I got some great advice long ago: “Identify a niche market and seek to dominate it,” Steve said. “This is one way I do that: I let my competitors know that I don’t regard them as competition, but as my friends. All the while, they’re realizing that I’m very good at this. See how that works? As long as no one gets the idea of hiring a hit man to take me out and make room at the top …”

Ah, there’s the catch. You actually have to be good. (Or make them think you are.)

Anyway, great advice from a very smart guy. If you want more of his advice for building a successful practice, read my interview with him in my Kindle book. 

Lawyer-to-Lawyer Referrals

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