Are you attracting the wrong clients?


You don’t want to attract people who can’t afford to hire you. You also don’t want to attract clients who have gone through several attorneys before you and “can’t seem to find the right one”.

But you also don’t want to attract prospective clients who are completely happy with their current firm and not looking for anyone else. 

You want to attract your “ideal” clients, those with the right combination of needs and wants and temperament, who are looking for the help you provide and are willing and able to pay for it.

You may occasionally work with a client who isn’t ideal, i.e., tolerate them, but you shouldn’t target them. 

You should target your ideal and focus on them in your marketing. 

Start by taking inventory of your current and former clients. Make a list of positive attributes you want to attract, i.e., attributes exhibited by clients you’d like to clone if you could, and another list of negative ones you want to avoid.

Create a profile of your ideal clients’ industry or market, their problems and goals, their financial strength, and other factors that define what makes them ideal. 

You want more clients who are like your best clients; this is what they look like. 

What then? How do you find them? 

The best way is via referrals. People tend to associate with people much like themself. People in their market or industry or neighborhood. People in their age group or who have similar interests. People they know, like, and trust. 

And the businesses and professionals they work with or patronize. 

Whatever it is that makes your ideal clients ideal, referred ideal clients makes them better. 

Because they come to you pre-screened and pre-sold.

Yes, there are other ways to find ideal clients, and they may provide you with bigger numbers. Advertising in a trade publication, for example, might generate a lot of leads who fit the profile you seek. But there’s no easier or more profitable way to bring in ideal clients than through referrals. 

How to get more referrals


How do you know what prospective clients really want? 


Sure, you can ask them. During a meeting or consultation or over coffee. You can also look at their website or blog, read their book, listen to their presentation or interviews, or send them a survey or questionnaire. 

The problem is, people often don’t tell us what they really think or want. 

  • Some don’t know what’s possible or have trouble articulating what they need
  • Some tell you what they think makes them look intelligent, more successful, or a better person
  • Some tell you what they think you want to hear 
  • And some play everything close to the vest and don’t tell you much of anything 

If you really want to know what people want, we’re told to watch what they do. What do they purchase, who do they hire, what do they invest in? But even this can be misleading or give you an incomplete picture. 

One of the best places to find out what prospective clients really want is to watch what they do on social media.

See what they talk about, comment about, or ask. See what they’re excited about or complain about. Yes, there is a lot of pretending on social, but people often get emotional about things they want or don’t want, let down their guard and reveal what’s really on their mind.

But perhaps the best way to find out what prospective clients really want, and one of the simplest, is to talk to the person who referred them to you. There’s a good chance they know.

Which is yet another reason why you should prioritize referrals as a source of new business. 

How to get more referrals from your clients


I’d like to buy you dinner


Client appreciation dinners are a great way to recognize your best clients and thank them for their loyalty. Basically, you invite them to a free dinner where you present awards and gifts, introduce them to other clients in their niche, and enjoy a good meal.

You might have guest speakers who may be willing to co-sponsor the event. You might invite your clients to bring guests. Or you might keep the evening information-free and pitch-free and just have a good time.

A Facebook friend of mine, a Realtor, mentioned his firm’s upcoming “Top Referring Client Appreciation Dinner.” I thought that was a smart variation on the idea because his clients have to do something to get invited to the dinner.

There’s a little competition involved. Clients hear about the event and want to come. After the dinner, they see photos on your website and do their best to get invited the following year. Those who do attend will work hard to make the guest list again the following year. They’ll also talk about the dinner to their friends and colleagues.

Of course, it also allows you to promote the subject of referrals to all of your clients by simply talking about the dinner in your newsletter.

When you recognize good behavior (referrals), you reinforce that behavior and it tends to be repeated. When you recognize that behavior publicly, many of those who didn’t get recognized (invited) will change their behavior so they can be included the next time.

The bottom line is that you get more referrals, not just from those who make the grade as “top referrers” but from all of your clients. Your top referrer may send you ten clients, but you may have 100 clients who send you one or two.

If you can’t or don’t want to do a client appreciation dinner (criminal defense lawyers, I’m talking to you), how about a dinner for professionals? Invite your best referral sources and recognize them for their efforts.

If a client or referral source appreciation dinner isn’t in your budget, consider a breakfast or luncheon. Or, invite your best referring client or referral source out to dinner, just the two of you, to say thank you for their support throughout the year. Next year, you can invite a few more.

Here’s another way to get more referrals 


“My secretary made me stop” 


You may have noticed that I continually preach the value of staying in touch with clients and prospect via a newsletter. No, this is not another reminder to do that. 

Instead, this is a reminder about the value of staying in touch with clients individually. 

It’s a simple concept, as old as the hills, and even more powerful than a newsletter. 

In a nutshell, every week, schedule a few minutes to connect with at least one of your clients or former clients. Call them, not to talk business, but simply to ask how they’re doing and catch up. 

Ask about their business or family, their hobby or their golf game. Ask about their latest project or cause. 

No selling or promoting. Just you connecting with people who are important to you. 

But while you’re not calling to talk about (your) business, a funny thing happens when you call. Clients will tell you about another case or legal issue or question they have or a friend or business contact who does, and you get more business.

Many lawyers I’ve encouraged to do this have reported amazing results. One lawyer told me he got so much new business, his secretary said she couldn’t handle all the work and told him to stop. 

For the record, this kind of thing doesn’t happen as much when you email. There’s something magical about the human voice. Especially when it’s your voice, not an assistant’s.

I’m not saying don’t send email (or regular mail) or stop your newsletter. 

Just make sure to call. 

Call your current and former clients, referral sources and business contacts, and (if you want to) even prospects you’ve spoken with. Everyone you know professionally, or want to know. 

There’s another benefit to doing this besides strengthening relationships and bringing in more new business. It’s an opportunity to learn more about your clients’ industry, business, or market, which will help you do a better job for your clients and better market to their niche. 

All you need to do this is a calendar and a list. And maybe another secretary or assistant to help you with all the additional work.


How to kill a referral source


I asked a web vendor for help with a problem I was having on a website. She couldn’t help me and referred me to a web developer she worked with. I went to their site, filled out a form, told them what I needed (and who referred me). I received an automatic confirmation email, and… never heard from them again. And yes, I contacted them a second time.

Were they ill? Swamped with work? Not interested? (It was a small job.)

I told the vendor who referred them what happened. She contacted the developer on my behalf, but also got no reply. So, she referred me to someone else who did respond and will probably get the job. 

What happened to the first referral? I don’t know. But there’s no excuse for not responding to an inquiry from a prospective client. Even if you have a good “excuse”. 

So, they lost the job. And won’t get any more business from me. Or referrals from me. Or, I suspect, referrals from the original vendor.


No matter what line of work you’re in, building a successful business or practice doesn’t require you to be the best at what you do, offer more value or charge competitive fees. 

But you have to be someone people trust. 

Which means you can’t ignore referred clients or you won’t get any more.  

If you’re busy or ill, have an assistant contact the prospective client on your behalf.  

It’s weird saying that. Everyone knows that, don’t they?

Apparently, not. 


People lead you to people


Some people can hire you. Some can’t. Or won’t. Some people can send you referrals. Some can’t. Or won’t. 

Here’s the thing. It doesn’t matter what someone can or can’t do. They know people you don’t know and can lead you to them.

Your new client might know no one who needs your services. But their boss, accountant, neighbor, or friend might. It’s not who you know, it’s who they know and can lead you to. 

You still need to be refer-able. You still need to get introduced or have your contact give them your card or a link to your website. But it gives you a path. A modus operandi. When you meet someone new—online or in person, through formal networking, speaking to a new client or prospect, or chatting with a stranger in line to get coffee, your job is to find out who they know. 

Emblazon it on your brain. “Who do they know?” (Or “Whom…” if you were an English major.)

If they mention they work at a certain company, find out what they do there and who they work with. Do they know any of the executives, directors, vendors, or shareholders? Do they know anyone who does?  

You might start by asking if the company has in-house counsel or works with an outside firm. It would be good to meet those lawyers. Even if they are your direct competitor, they might have a conflict or otherwise be unable to represent a client or take a case (e.g., too big, too small, wrong industry, etc.) and might refer them to you.

NB: get to know other lawyers.

What if your client or contact doesn’t know the in-house counsel or hesitates to introduce them? Pick up the phone, call that lawyer, tell them you have a mutual business contact (the employee at their client’s company) and want to introduce yourself and find out more about what they do. (Psst, and who they know). 

It works the same way with everyone. When you sign up a new client, find out the name of their insurance broker, accountant, financial planner, or attorney. 

More people you want to know.  

As a friend of mine used to put it, “Don’t look ‘at’ them, look ‘through’ them—because it’s not who you know, it’s who THEY know. 

My guide to Lawyer-to-lawyer referrals


“I didn’t know you did that”


Yeah, that’s something you never want to hear. Because if a client or professional contact doesn’t know that you (and/or your firm) do a certain type of work or handle a certain type of case, you shouldn’t be surprised when they hire someone else. 

Yes, they might ask if you handle X or can help them or a friend with Y—but you shouldn’t count on it. People get used to your being a (type) of lawyer or representing a (type) of client. It might not occur to them that you might do something else, and they’re busy and won’t bother to ask.

So… the first rule for getting more repeat business and referrals is to make sure everyone you know knows what (else) you do. 

What if you DON’T do anything else? Great, this gives you the opportunity to remind people that you “specialize” in your field. Since clients and the people who refer them prefer hiring or referring a lawyer who specializes, it gives you an advantage over other lawyers who don’t. 

But. . . you also want them to know that you know lawyers in other fields and might be able to refer them, and they should call you about any legal matter.

Not just because you want to serve them by introducing them to someone who can do a good job for them. But also because it gives you more referrals to give to colleagues who might think of you when they get a case or client they don’t handle (but you do). 

Ya with me? 

One more thing. Tell them this often. Tell them again (and again) what you do and that they should call you for any legal matter.

Tell them often, because people forget what you told them before, especially when they haven’t heard from you in a while.

Stay in touch with the people in your world, because the only thing worse than hearing someone say they ‘didn’t know you did that’ is hearing them say they don’t remember your name. 


Leveraging other people’s talent, knowledge, and resources


One of the best ways to grow a law practice is to conduct joint ventures with other professionals and businesses that target the same markets and clients you target. 

If you handle family law and target high-income executives in the health-care industry, for example, you should talk to business owners, insurance brokers, financial planners, consultants, accountants, and other (non-competing) lawyers who have an established clientele and/or actively target the types of people who fit the profile of your ideal client (and the people who can refer them).

You identify joint venture candidates, find ways to meet them, and learn more about what they do. You then tell them what you do and see if there is some common ground for working together for your mutual benefit. 

This might mean conducting seminars together, sharing the costs of a mailing, or interviewing each other for your respective newsletters or blogs.

It might mean inviting each other to networking functions, co-authoring articles or books, or sending emails to each other’s lists with information or offers.

It might be keeping each other on a list of recommended “vendors” and referring to each other when a client or contact says they are looking for someone who does what you (and they) do. 

And it might simply mean providing suggestions, feedback and encouragement to each other in your individual marketing ventures.

But don’t try to figure that out right now. 

Just make a profile of the kinds of joint venture partners who might make a good fit for you. Once you’ve done that, you may discover that you already know people who fit that profile. Talk to them, tell them you think you should talk about “working together” and see what develops. 

How to get referrals from, and set up joint ventures with, lawyer and other professionals


A simple tool for getting more referrals


It’s extremely effective, costs little or nothing to use, and doesn’t take a lot of time. You can start using it today and start getting referrals almost immediately. 

Without talking to anyone. 

Yes, I’m talking about email marketing. Which means using email to stay in touch with people you know—clients, prospects, business contacts, even other attorneys. 

When you do, you’ll get more referrals. 

In this context, a referral can occur when someone forwards your email to someone they know who might need your help. Or know someone who does.

To start, ask people if you can contact them from time to time via email, with a newsletter, announcements, or special offers. That’s your initial list. (Don’t assume you can do this; ask).

Then, send them valuable or interesting information once a week (or at least once a month) and include a link to a page on your website about what you do and how you help your clients.  

When you email your list, ask your readers to forward your emails to their contacts. If the content is good, they will. And their contacts will find out what you do and how you can help them. 

Your list will grow and so will your referrals. 

If you want to grow faster, add a sign-up form on your website or blog for visitors to subscribe to your newsletter. Offer an incentive such as a report, ebook, checklist, or form for signing up. 

Your list will grow and so will your referrals. Which is why email marketing is one of your best tools for getting more referrals. 

Not everyone can hire you. But EVERYONE can send you referrals. 

Email Marketing for Attorneys


I know a lot of good lawyers


Most of your clients and contacts know you don’t handle everything. If they don’t, you should tell them because you also want them to know that you know other lawyers who handle the things you don’t. 

You want to tell them this because you want them to think of you and come to you whenever they have any kind of legal issue or question, so you can refer them to (good) lawyers who can help them. 

You earn the appreciation of your clients and contacts for saving them time and sparing them the risk of trying to find a lawyer on their own. 

And you get the appreciation of the lawyers to whom you refer them, who may reciprocate with referrals to you, say nice things about you to their clients and contacts, introduce you to centers of influence they know, and otherwise work with for your mutual benefit.  

It also gives you a reason to reach out to lawyers you don’t know and learn about them, so you can expand and deepen your network. 

In a nutshell, you want to position yourself as the “go to” lawyer in your market for anyone who needs legal help. (And yes, you should also do this with non-lawyers who serve your market). 

In sum: 

  1. Tell everyone that you know a lot of good lawyers and encourage them to contact you when they have a legal issue or question of any kind
  2. Create a database and collect information about the lawyers you know and want to know
  3. Periodically connect with your lawyer network to (a) get updates about what they’re doing and how you can help them (and their clients), and (b) update them about what you’re doing and how they can help you (and your clients)
  4. Ask your growing network “who do you know I should know?” and ask them to introduce you

Your success doesn’t depend on what you know so much as who you know (and… who they know). 

How to build and grow your lawyer network