Is this fee splitting or smart marketing?


Wouldn’t it be great to have hundreds of people referring clients to you on a commission basis?

"You can’t do that! That’s fee splitting. It’s illegal!"

Well. . . it depends.

It’s true that you can’t compensate non-attorneys for referring clients to you. But there’s nothing wrong with paying commissions to people who sell your book or tape set or other product–or service–as long as that product or service does not constitute "legal services".

The idea is simple. Let’s say you’re a divorce lawyer and you write a book (ebook, audio book) entitled, "Squash ’em: The complete guide to successful divorce". You offer your book for sale from your web site. The more books you sell, the higher your profits. But the purpose of the book isn’t just to make a retail profit. Think bigger.

People who buy a book on divorce, written by a divorce lawyer, are likely to be a prospective client for that lawyer’s services, don’t you think? Or someone who works with couples with marital problems, perhaps. When they read your book and see how you have helped other people in their situation, they’ll see how you can help them (or they people they can refer).

If these people do hire a lawyer, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll be the one who is hired, especially if your book offers a free consultation or otherwise invites them to take "the next step".

Okay, so your book does a good job of selling your services to those who read it and the more books you sell, the more clients you are likely to have.

Now, to sell more books, you could advertise, and you might want to do that. You can offer your book on and through a myriad of other outlets. But you can also set up an affiliate program and let other people advertise your book for you.

Why not let marriage counselors and people who run support groups, for example, sell your book to their clients? You pay for "advertising" (commissions) only when sales are made.

Technology makes it easy to automate the selling process and track affiliate commissions. All you do is find more affiliates and tell them about your book and the opportunity to market it. The affiliates sell the book, the book sells you, and hundreds of prospective clients find out about you and the services you offer, and pay you for the privilege!

Another strategy is to give away your ebook. Offer it as a download from your web site in return for the visitor’s contact information. You can also invite others to offer it from their web site, as a free resource to their readers, or, perhaps, as a premium for subscribing to their newsletter. The viral nature of ebooks could bring you an enormous amount of target traffic to your web site.

If your book is available online, you’re likely to get inquiries from prospective clients in jurisdictions where you do not practice. Now you’ll have the delightful problem of finding lawyers in the appropriate jurisdictions and developing reciprocal referral arrangements.

There are many other benefits to publishing a book and most lawyers are capable of writing one in about 90 days. If you don’t have the time, you could hire a ghost writer, work with a collaborator, or create something you do have time to do, i.e., a recording of one of your seminars.

One last thing (and I wish we lived in a world where I didn’t have to say this): check with your jurisdiction’s authority (bar association, law society, et. al.) regarding the ethics of this strategy. If they say you can’t do it, move. This is too good an idea to pass up.