For many law firms, a key contingent of their new clients come to them through referrals. In fact, referrals can be a particularly helpful source of new clients because they have already been partially vetted as a potential fit for your firm by previous clients or other lawyers.
Yet earning more referrals can be a challenge, particularly as the business and professional worlds have shifted from in-person encounters to more digital interaction.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for increasing referrals, but quality communication, professional visibility, and maintaining positive relationships with clients and other professionals all play key roles.
Build your network
To earn referrals, you need to have a network. While client referrals remain important, it’s equally critical not to overlook the people you regularly encounter in a professional capacity.
Whenever possible, seek to build relationships with professionals in related fields. For instance, a lawyer who specializes in business law may earn referrals from an accounting firm that handles bookkeeping for local, small businesses or entrepreneurs.
Likewise, consider building a reciprocal referral network with other lawyers in related but non-competitive practice areas. Other lawyers can be great sources of repeat business as they may continue to encounter clients seeking the kinds of legal services you offer in the course of their work.
Maintain an online presence
Your law firm will be much easier for others to refer new clients to if you have an active and professional online presence. A functional website is a must, but also consider keeping your LinkedIn profile updated to make connections easier.
If you’re participating in professional panels and talks or periodically sending out a helpful or interesting newsletter, former clients will be more likely to think of you when someone they know needs a lawyer in your practice area.
Offer a positive client experience
It may seem obvious, but one of the best ways to earn referrals is to offer a positive client experience. Start by thoroughly vetting your clients to make sure they are a good fit for your law firm.
Once they’re on board, commit to prompt, clear communication. From returning phone calls and replying to emails in a timely manner to sending out clear, specific invoices, good communication is critical to building and maintaining relationships.
If clients have a positive experience with your law firm, they will be more likely to recommend your services to friends, family members, and colleagues.
Forefront positive reviews
It’s always a good idea to conduct a brief client satisfaction survey when you’ve wrapped up a matter. Not only does this let you know where you can make improvements, but it also helps you identify satisfied clients.
Happy clients are good sources for referrals. You can also ask them for reviews, which you may be able to feature on your website. Positive reviews can have a snowball effect by continuing to build others’ confidence in referring people they know to your law firm.
Connect with community
Referrals don’t only come from clients and other lawyers. They may also come from surprising places in your wider social network—if people know you’re a lawyer.
Tap into your community through events (including online ones), local social media groups, and volunteering. Providing pro bono work connects you with other lawyers, but it also presents you in a professional capacity to non-lawyers in your community.
If you find yourself looking to other lawyers or professionals for referrals, don’t forget to refer potential clients to them as well.
People may want to refer clients to you, but if the favor is never acknowledged or returned, they may eventually stop doing so. If you feel confident in someone else’s professional capabilities and they have referred clients to you in the past, don’t pass by the opportunity to do the same.
Communication remains critical
Ultimately, building and maintaining the types of relationships that lead to referrals requires a commitment to proactive communication and maintaining professional visibility. Build your network, stay visible online, connect with your wider community, and make the most of positive reviews.
Be sure to attend to foundational aspects, too—such as reciprocating when other lawyers send you referrals and providing a positive experience that clients can get excited about.
To keep new clients coming in the door, these tips can help you turn your network into referrals.