When can you say no to a referral? When it comes from friends and family.

This week we asked: How often do you take on cases for free as a favor?

1) Never, I always ask for payment – 0%

2) Sometimes, it depends on who’s asking? – 32%

3) All the time, I have a hard time saying no. – 67%

My Thoughts: I could have guessed that most of you (about 67%) agree to take on favors for people all the time. And it’s even less shocking that not one person responded saying that they ALWAYS ask for payment.

At a seminar I recently conducted the question of doing favors came up. More specifically the question of “When is it smart marketing and when is it a favor?” Unfortunately, we didn’t come up with a clear answer. But my advice is always to stop and think about WHO you’re doing the favor for. Doing a favor for someone who is an influencer is smart marketing. They may have influence within their company, within an organization, within a group or industry—but be sure that they have a solid ability to tout your services and bring you more business. I also think its always a good idea to examine why they’re asking for the favor. If they truly need help (and are not just looking for free legal advice) then it’s a good move to provide it.

I was doing a little digging on the web and I came across a post about this very subject, aimed not at attorneys but at freelancers. One of the points the author made was this: “Many of us enjoy our jobs so much that we are guilty of making them sound too easy (or more like play than work) when we talk to those who are closest to us.” I thought that was a great point. Make sure your friends and family truly understand the complexities of what you do…and why you’re good at your job. If they understand what your work entails, they may be more selective in offering your services. And make no mistake—no one can sell your services like your friends and family!

When it comes to saying no, you can do so without alienating those close to you. How?

1. Suggest another attorney who may be a better fit for the work.
2. Casually mention that you can give them an estimate on what your legal services may cost or that you may have to charge a minor consultation fee. It will help weed out the freeloaders.
3. Speak directly to the person sending you the business and be clear about what you do and the type of clients you are looking for.

Black Pearl:
The rest of the post referenced above “Working With Friends and Family — Can It Ever Work?” has some great tips and food for thought. Another good post to spark some thoughts on the subject is from Cordell Parvin. “Client Development: Are you making lots of effort or the right effort?” is a good reminder of when and where to focus your marketing efforts.