Be the Go-To Lawyer-Become the “Family Lawyer”.
If you want to grow your practice by getting more referrals, you need to become the family lawyer. I am not talking about being a family practice lawyer so let me explain:
With many large law firms cutting back and so many recent law school graduates not being able to find work, I want to share with you what I have seen some lawyers doing. I believe this is the direction that solo and small law firm lawyers will need to take if they want to be successful in the future.
What is a “Family Lawyer”? Some of you may be old enough to remember having a family doctor who knew every member of your family, treated every member of your family, and in many cases may have even knew your neighbors and lived in or near your neighborhood. He was the doctor who actually made house calls when someone in your family was sick. Do not panic, I am not going to advocate making house calls, although for some specialties, such as elder law and maybe personal injury law, house calls could be something extra that you could provide as not to many other lawyer provide this service. What I am really talking about is the doctor who you first saw for any ailment and then if he thought it necessary, would refer you to a specialist.
For a number of reasons, although it is changing, lawyers are very reluctant to refer a client to another lawyer. As I said, this is changing, but the mindset of referring a client to another lawyer is not changing fast enough. Here is where you might be able to get a leg up on your competition as well as develop great Referral Partners.
What I mean by the term “Family Lawyer” is that you are the go-to lawyer, the one who your clients will call first no matter what the problem is. You are the lawyer your Referral Ambassadors™ will always contact when they or their family, friends, or business associates encounter any kind of legal problem. Notice I said any kind of legal problem.
Perhaps a better way to explain this is by way of illustration: Let’s assume you are a personal injury lawyer and again, you have just settled an automobile accident case for a client who is very pleased with your services. Let’s also assume that you have been grooming this client to become a Referral Ambassador™. During the exit interview or at another time that seems conducive to talk about this, you say something like: “John, I want to talk to you about becoming your family lawyer. What I mean by this is that anytime you, any member of your family, or any of your friends or business associates (cover everyone—by this point in your relationship you should know a lot about him) has any kind of legal problem or you hear that they have a problem that may or may not be of a legal nature (John may not always know what a legal problem is, but you want him to contact you), I want you to call me. While I only handle injury cases, I know many great attorneys I can put you and your friends and associates in contact with. In fact, if you run across such a situation, I want you to call me and I will have you and the other person come into my office so that I can determine the best attorney to refer him to.”
Don’t panic just yet about having them come into your office. The reason I want you to get them into your office is this:
I want you to meet John’s friend. John’s friend may not become a client, but he could become a Referral Ambassador™ at some point. He will remember how you took the time to talk to him and refer him to a “friend of yours.” When John’s friend is in your office, you will listen to his story and say something like, “I know just the attorney you need to see”, but you do not stop there. You get on the phone and call the attorney you are going to refer John’s friend to. Now what works great is if you know enough about John’s friend’s situation, you know who you are going to refer him to, but even if you do not, you still have a number of attorneys in you network you can choose from. If you know the situation, you can brief the attorney you will be calling in advance. If he is available, he can tell his secretary to put you through; if he is not available, you can still talk to his secretary, who should be briefed that you are going to call. So you call Bob, the attorney you will be referring John’s friend to; he is in and knows you are calling. In front of John and his friend you say something like, “Hi Bob, this is Jim. I am sitting here with a very good client of mine and his friend who has a legal problem I know you can help him with. (At this point John is becoming a hero in his friend’s eyes. John has a connection with “his” attorney which is now benefiting his friend.) You tell the attorney a little bit about the case and again, depending on the urgency, you get John’s friend a meeting right away. Now think about this: You become a hero to John because he looks good in front of his friend; you are a hero to John’s friend because you have taken the time to talk to him and get him an appointment; and Bob, your attorney friend, benefits because he gets a new client. In addition to cementing your relationship with John, his friend is going to remember you and tell his friends and associates about what a great attorney and person you are, which means more potential clients for you, and hopefully, Bob will reciprocate and refer clients to you.
Depending on the situation and you have this worked out before hand the attorney you are referring may do an initial free consultation and if this is the case you can say something like” Since John brought you to my office my good friend (the referral attorney) will give you an initial free consultation.
This is a WIN-WIN-WIN for everyone. (Of course, you are going to have to spend some time cultivating your referral network, but it will be well worth the time you spend.)
James E. Thompson is the author of OVERRULED–YOUR OBJECTIONS TO GETTING REFERRALS— “WHY LAWYERS FAIL TO GET REFERRALS THEY DESERVE AND NEED TO GROW THEIR PRACTICE and WHAT THEY CAN DO ABOUT IT”. If you would like an E-Book copy send him an email at JET@LawyersMarketingResource.com requesting his book.