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This a bit long but if you want more referrals from the person that gave you a referral, you MUST make sure you do certain things.

So what are you going to do after you are referred?

This may seem like a simple question, but I have seen many attorneys, as well as other business owners, not really know what to do after they have received the referral they have worked so hard to get.

Some of what I am going to say you may already do and you are to be congratulated.  However, if you are like me, at times, you will need to remind yourself of some of these things every time you get a referral and that is why I have previously said you need a system. Just having a system though is not enough, because if you do not use the system, it really is not worth having.

Here are some things you need to do, if you expect to keep on getting referrals from the person that referred you.

I am sure you are thinking you need to thank the person who referred you. Yes, that is a given but, when and how do you do it, is the key.

I am going to say at the outset that you never, never, never thank a person for a referral by way of an email. Having said that I am going to break that rule but only in a very limited way. What I should have said is you never ONLY thank a person by way of an email.

Perhaps the best way to illustrate my point is to walk you through a couple of scenarios.

I just got my first referral from a new referral source. Someone who has not previously referred me.

I would pick up the phone and call Bill (the referral source) and thank him. If I get him on the phone, this would be a great opportunity to find out more about the person he referred. You want to have as much information as possible. Even if you do not get a chance to talk to Bill, you can leave a voice mail thanking him. This is the preliminary “thank-you”

In an email, if I do not get to talk to Bill, I would thank him and let him know that you will follow up that day or by the close of business the next day depending on when you got the referral.

Please remember that you need to follow-up and contact the referral just as quickly as you can as this person may also be looking elsewhere for a referral to a lawyer. You want to get to him first. By doing this, you also show the person who referred you just how quickly you react and how thankful you are for the referral.

I want to stop here for just a minute and reiterate a point. When someone refers you, they are putting their reputation on the line, so they want to know that you are going to take excellent care of the person they have referred.  Think about yourself, you would not give a referral unless you know the person you are referring will be treated well. After all, it is you who will hear about either a great experience or a terrible experience and hearing about a terrible experience is more likely than hearing about a great experience. If it is a bad experience you can bet your reputation will suffer.

I will talk more about what you should initially say to the referral but for now, I want to concentrate on your following up with your referral source.

As I said you need to call the referral right away and even if you do not get to talk to him you need to leave a voice mail and if possible, let him know a good time to contact you. Let your secretary know to expect a call and if he does call to put him through right away.

If you are not going to be available also make sure your secretary lets the person know why you are not available, you are in court or out of the office at a meeting. Never have your secretary tell someone you are just unavailable. Have your secretary find out the best time for you to  call him back.

Two things should happen in the first 24 hours after you get the referral:

  1. You make contact with the person referred and you get them into your office. I would suggest that with all new clients you do not charge an initial consultation fee, especially if you are referred.  Make sure the person knows they will not be charged for the initial consultation because they were referred. This is also a great time to make reference to the person that referred them. You cannot start too soon to begin developing their referral mindset which will be discussed in future blogs.
  2. If you cannot get a hold of or do not hear from the referred person say after 48 hours of trying let Bill, your referral source know this. There might be a reason for it. Bill might tell you that he forgot to tell you that the person he referred is on vacation or there might be some other reason you cannot get in touch with him. Bill may even try to contact the person himself to let him know you are trying to contact him. Again you are making sure Bill knows how you handle referrals from him.
  3. After you meet with the referred person, let your referral source know that you have met.  This is the time to send out a “handwritten” thank you note. I cannot stress enough the importance of sending the “handwritten” thank you note and I will write more about this in a future blog.
  4. After you meet, make sure you let your referral source know what happened and this can be in your “handwritten” thank you note.  I do not mean to imply that you divulge any confidences, but simply say something like this: “ Bill, I met with Dan and I look forward to working with him and thanks again.”  You cannot make contact with your referral sources too often, remember “Top of  Mind”.
  5. Now if the referral does not work out because  you cannot help, the person is not ready to go forward, or cannot afford you,  let your referral source know this, that is you are not going to be working with this person at this time. This can be in general terms such as: “Bill, I met with Dan, and at this time we are not going forward representing him”.  You may want to say a bit more depending on the situation. Of course again without divulging any confidences. In many cases, Bill may call and asked what happened and again without divulging any confidences you can tell him in general terms.

In the article, I have been talking about a referral source. That referral source may become a “Referral Ambassador” simply by your showing how you will treat the referral he sent but more on “Referral Ambassadors” in another post.

SENDING A HANDWRITTEN CARD. ( This is so important that I will cover it in a future blog).


James E. Thompson, JD is the President of Lawyers Marketing Resource a company dedicated to helping lawyers grow their practice. You can contact him at jet@lawyersmarketing

He is the author of “Why Lawyers Fail to Get the Referrals they Deserve and Need to Grow Their Practice and What They Can Do About It” and “Why Most Lawyers FAIL at Getting Referrals from Other Lawyers and How to Change That”. If you would like an ebook copy of either or both books visit his web site: and you will find instructions on how to get the book.

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