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Marketing a Law Firm | Creating a Referral Network

Daily thoughts on law firm success.

Marketing a Law Firm | Creating a Referral Network

This post is from the first blog I started, called “How to Start a Law Firm.” Over the years I’ve moved to different sites a few times and wanted to catalog all of my content in one place. If an article refers to a link and there is no link, sorry, that’s consequence of the move. Enjoy!

Before I get started on today’s topic – creating a referral network, I wanted to thank all of you so far who have submitted your starting a law firm stories. So far they have all been great, I’m looking forward to posting them, and I appreciate your generosity. Keep them coming!

Now, the topic of the day – creating the referral network, or, in a nutshell, how to market a small law firm. A lot of this information was created during a discussion I had today with a guy named Henry. Henry works for RJon Robins, who owns a business called “How to Manage a Small Law Firm. The best way to describe these guys are as business coaches. They help you get your hands around managing a law firm, marketing a law firm, and building a successful law firm. I’ve talked about his services before (see this post on law firm coaching), but since this information came directly as a result of that conversation, I wanted to mention them again and encourage you to check them out.

Okay, on to the meat of it – building a referral program for your business.

You don’t have to be in business long to know that referrals are like gold for law firms. In most cases the people come pre-qualified to sign up with you (they already in some ways know, like, and trust you) and are excited to gets some help. They typically pay on time and in full (they don’t want you running to their referral source and chewing them out) and are happy to have your help.

But referrals don’t grow on trees. They have to be cultivated. To maximize your referral base, just like everything else, you need to have a system in place to make sure you are cultivating all of those wonderful resources. Here’s one system that I’ve discovered (though I have yet to implement – that was the point of the call) that makes a lot of sense.

To start, you’re going to need to make a list of basically everyone you know. This would include former clients, current clients, attorneys, car repairmen, plumbers, family, friends, enemies, competition, everyone. Just make a huge list. Then you are going to go through each person and divide them into three groups.

Before you start dividing up I’d encourage you to put this information in some kind of a spreadsheet so you can keep track of it. The idea is, over time, to move people from one group to another. Just trust me on this – use a computer.

Group one we’ll call the “Top 20.” Though it doesn’t necessarily have to be 20 people, and when you start out it won’t be 20 people (it might not be any people), these are the people that have given you two or more referrals in the last year. At least that’s what makes them top 20 in my business (and as an aside, criminal defense is one of the hardest markets to build a referral base from – the clientele are simply more limited). It may be three or more or it may just be one, depending on your line of work. Bottom line – these are your star referrers.

Group two is called the farm team. These are like the minor leaguers of your referral network. These people have tried to refer you business in the past and it hasn’t work out or have referred you business but they buy valium online generic valium haven’t cracked into your Top 20. I wouldn’t put any time limit on this for when they referred you the potential business.

Group three is simply who you know. They haven’t sent you business and aren’t in the Top 20. You just know them.

Once you’ve done that (or before if you want) you should make a list of all of the categories of people that may be potential referral sources to you. This list should be specific. For example, lawyers would not be a good category for me, but family law attorneys and personal injury attorneys probably would (a lot of access to individual clients, etc.). For me, the criminal defense lawyer, the kinds of categories that I came up with were:bar owners; bail bondsman; college students; family law attorneys; bankruptcy attorneys; small business lawyers; personal injury lawyers; union leaders; and employee assistance program managers. It took me ten minutes to come up with this list and there may be more.

Once you’ve got your categories, go down your list and categorize people. If they don’t fall into a category, give them one that describes them well.

Don’t look now but you’ve just put together a pretty legit referral list!

But it doesn’t stop there. Now that you’ve got this list, you’re going to want to do one thing immediately – get in touch with your Top 20 and thank them for being a part of your law firm business. Take them to lunch. Let them know you appreciate them. Then in a month or two do it again – put it on the calendar so you don’t forget.

After you’ve done that you’re going to use this list to help you market your law firm. The idea is to move the people in the “who you know” category into the “farm team” category and the “farm team” people into the “Top 20” category all the while increasing all of the categories! Sounds easy right? Well it is! You just have to do the work!

Once you’ve taken out the Top 20 and thanked them for their help, take a look at all of the categories you have. Now, look at the farm team. You know these people are interested in helping you – they’ve already sent you business. Do any of them have contacts in any of the categories of people that are good referral sources for you (or are they in one of those categories)? They do?! Great, then get an introduction and let them know how you can help them look great by being a great referral source. (Obviously you should do this with the Top 20 too, and for that matter the “who you know” people). Go meet those people and include them in your list.

Believe it or not, you’ve just created a referral network for yourself. You’re welcome.

The hardest part of this, like with everything in life, is getting started and getting it going. It’s going to throw you out of your comfort zone a little, but that’s okay. That’s actually amazing. Give it some effort and the returns will be ridiculously high.

Now, for one final thought, the last thing we talked about in our conversation, and something to think about when you are marketing a law firm, are the 6 strategies for successful marketing of a service business, in order of importance:

1. Contact and follow up with past, current, and prospective clients;

2. Network and referral building;

3. Public speaking (live, webinars, podcasts, etc.);

4. Writing and publicity;

5. Promotional events (sponsoring stuff); and

6. Advertising.

As you might expect, absent some very special circumstances, the return on investment drops off dramatically after number 3.

Hope you enjoyed the post and learned a little bit about law firm management. I’ll put up someone’s story tomorrow and comment. See you tomorrow!

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