Most lawyers understand the referral adage "give to get." It’s pretty simple really. If you refer potential business to others, most will refer work in return, if for no other reason than they’ll feel an obligation to do so. Not everyone does, but most will.

Unfortunately, many of us are regularly guilty of not proactively seeking opportunities to refer clients/customers to others. Often times it’s because we don’t listen to the needs of people we encounter, and thus don’t uncover opportunities to make referrals. Stephen Seckler tells just such a story on his CounseltoCounsel blog   involving a lawyer and a financial planner. The story goes that the financial planner found that when it comes to referrals “lawyers are the worst.” Seckler was sure the planner was wrong, so he stopped an estate planning lawyer he knew and asked him about that. The lawyer’s response was that he didn’t have opportunities to make such referrals because, as Seckler reports, “his T&E clients never ask for a referral to a financial planner.” And, it seems pretty obvious that he never asked them either.

I am sure that is not always the case, and I know of estate planning lawyers who do work on referrals from brokers and financial planners. However, the point is a good one, as I’m also sure that a number of lawyers do not proactively looking for opportunities to make outgoing referrals.

Seckler’s example points out why lawyers should talk with, and listen intently to, their clients and others to uncover needs beyond pure legal representation. But, this would require proactive listening in order to learn about the needs of others. That way you could give more referrals, and increase your chances of getting more in return.