Utilizing Referral Sources to Market Your Law Firm
One of the best ways for law firms to get new clients coming in the door is through the referrals of other people. There are a myriad of ways to get the word out about your law firm, your lawyers, the legal services you offer, and your firm’s unique ability to solve the problems of its clients. Many of the options available to lawyers for marketing their firms are either labor intensive or expensive. Utilizing a vast network of referral sources can be a low cost way to build your firms client base and your reputation within the community.
When someone has a sensitive legal issue and they’re looking for representation, they are much more likely to go to a lawyer who was recommended to them, as opposed to one who sent them a random postcard in the mail. While mailers can be an effective part of your marketing plan, they won’t be your firm’s bread and butter. Often times when someone refers a client to you, this initial recommendation comes with more than just handing the potential client you business card. The referral process will usually include statements regarding your ability to handle and their problem. In other words, referral sources often provide low or no cost advertising that comes from a trusted source.
A strong referral program should be a key component of every law firm’s marketing plan. While some referrals may just come to you out of the blue, the majority of quality referral sources have to be identified and cultivated in order to be utilized to their fullest potential. The bottom line is that developing a strong legal practice that is financially successful requires initiating, building, and maintaining strong relationships with potential referral sources.
Here’s how you can use referrals as a key component of your law firm marketing plan.
Start With a System
Managing your referral sources is not something you should try to keep in your head like a grocery list. If you don’t already have a database for your referral sources, then this is a great time to build one. Make a comprehensive list of potential referral sources and past referral sources. Organize the list based upon which referral sources are most likely to provide you with potential clients. Compile this information into a database that includes information about the referral source. This should be information that you can use to make the relationship grow, including the names of their children, their personal hobbies, their birthdays and anniversaries.
Include these people in a quarterly e-mail newsletter so that your name and specialty remain fresh in their minds and your contact info is just a few mouse clicks away.
Attorney to Attorney Referrals
Fellow attorneys can be one of the best referral sources to help make your firm grow. This is one of the many reasons that lawyers need to have a specialty. Select a niche within your market and become the best at what you do. Over time, it will become almost automatic for other attorneys to refer work to you that they can’t handle because of a conflict of interest or simply because it does not fit the niche that they themselves have decided to pursue.
While it should go without saying that each client you encounter should be treated well. This is most important when dealing with clients who have been referred to you by other attorneys. More than likely, the referring attorney is helping the client with a different legal matter. When you do a great job for this client by going above and beyond their expectations, you are building the reputation of the referring attorney as well as your own.
While working with a client that has been referred to you by another attorney, maintain contact with the referral source. Let the referring attorney know how that their client’s legal matter is being taken care of. Lastly, be sure to thank the referring attorney. Show your appreciation and gratitude for his help in growing your business. One of the best ways to say “thank you” to attorney’s who refer work to your firm is to refer work back to them whenever possible.
Other Referral Sources
Most likely there are individuals in your community, besides other attorneys, who frequently come into contact with people who may require legal services. Build relationships with these people and they will send work your way. Go to industry events, meet people and let them know who you are and what you specialize in. Buy a seat or a table at a local fundraising dinner. This will give you the opportunity to meet several high level executives within your city.
Another great way to get referrals is by positioning yourself as an expert in your specialty. One way to do this and to network at the same time is by doing speaking engagements.
An often unexplored avenue for potential sources is past clients. Every interaction you have with one of your clients may lead to work from additional clients in the future. Just because their legal issue may have been resolved does not mean that you should not continue to cultivate these relationships. Make sure that your clients are satisfied with the services that they’re receiving from you. Keep in touch with them long after your work for them is complete. You can do this through e-mail newsletters written specifically to past clients. You can write articles that explain how changes in the law and the economy affect your area of law.
Building relationships with referral sources is like building relationships in any area of your life in that it takes time and patience to do it. The work of cultivating referral sources is never done. It is an ongoing project that needs to be managed. Nevertheless, the benefit of having strong referral sources will be seen by your firm for many years to come.
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