If you haven’t figured it out by now… my focus the past few posts is, planning for 2012. Yes, I want you to focus… focus… focus! And I’m not about to let up anytime soon! Why? Because I believe PLANNING is critical to business development success. (Actually, any success… no matter what the endeavor.)

Today, I want to discuss referrals: HOW and WHY to make them, then let’s plan what to expect in 2012. First, there are many reasons why you recommend a lawyer… 

1. To help your client… it’s good client service.

2. In hopes that you will get referrals in return… referrals are currency.

3. To let that lawyer know that you think highly of them… you respect their work and want others to receive the benefit of that expertise. 

4. To earn a referral fee… plain and simple, "money makes the world go ’round!

If these are the reasons you make a referral you have to ask… "Have I communicated it CLEARLY?" Chances are the answer is NO. Not so much. Most lawyers tend to be a bit loose and casual about it. Well, referrals are an extremely important part of how the legal profession works… (Or doesn’t work for some.) So, let’s look at our list again…

1. IF… it’s good client service… are you following through? Do you call your client to touch base and find out how things are going? Do you show your concern for their situation? This is an opportunity to show how much you REALLY care, since you aren’t billing them.

2. IF… referrals are currency. Wouldn’t it be better to pay out before you receive? You bet!

3. IF… you respect a lawyer’s work and want others to know how good they are. Are you saying it clearly, to both parties? If you would trust this lawyer with YOUR life… tell them both that!

4. IF… you earn a referral fee… make sure you show your appreciation. Most often it is the person paying out the fee that is saying thank you for the referral… but are you not thankful that they did a good job on the case and made you look good? Say so!

There is no doubt that referrals are the life-blood of just about any legal practice. Make sure yours are doing the job that is intended… follow through and say what you mean, as clearly as possible.

Now that you are maximizing your referral sources… let’s do some planning. Look at your list of referral sources and project what you might get from them in 2012. To get a good read on it, analyze what you got in the past two years, one year doesn’t always tell the story. Ask yourself if they are still in a situation to encounter the kind of cases they could send your way? Now, assign a dollar value. Could it be a small, medium or large case? Granted… this is just a guess… an educated guess.

Be bold… think big! Why not? If you enter 2012 with a big far reaching goal chances are you will be on the look out for just such an opportunity. You will recognize the opportunity when it presents itself. It’s up to you… what do you want your referral sources to send your way next year?