Well, that might be an overstatement; but a three-part series by Mary Lokensgard on Attorney at Work presents a good outline of an effective referral system to follow. If you do so there is a good chance that you will be guaranteed referrals. They are not automatic and they require work, but if you’re serious about getting new business remember that one of the best sources his referrals (either from clients or other friends and contacts).
In a nutshell the suggestions by Lokensgard cover three aspects:
1. Who is likely to refer to and how to ask.
- Make a list of lawyers who do not do what you do, as well as a list of those who do and are likely to refer to you (and you to them) when there is a conflict or other reason;
- List other non-lawyer professionals likely to have clients that could use your services (and vice versa);
- Let your clients know that you welcome referrals to serve “other great clients like them”; and
- Inform all appropriate contacts of your willingness to refer clients to them.
2. Rules when getting and giving referrals.
- Suggest to referral source that the potential client, for ethical reasons, make the first contact. Subtly remind referrer if you don’t hear from the person;
- With the new client’s permission, let the referral source know the referral succeeded;
- Thank the referral source for the business repeatedly – by email AND handwritten note, and consider a token gift as a thank you; and
- Let the referral source know how things are going with the matter ONLY with the client’s knowledge and consent.
3. Care and maintenance of your referral network.
- Continue to broaden referral network by raising profile by educational and nonprofit activities;
- Stay in constant contact with existing referral sources;
- Look for opportunities to make referrals;
- Show appreciation by entertaining referral sources.
Building a referral network takes work, but can pay big dividends if done efficiently and effectively. Check out Lokensgard’s three-part series for more details.