When first setting out on their own, many law firm owners find that the hard part of running a law firm isn’t the legal work, it’s building a business. Managing budgets, training staff, and ensuring a steady flow of new leads are things law school just doesn’t prepare lawyers for.
Understanding where your business comes from and capitalizing on that is key to running a successful business, and law firms are no different. Referrals make up a large portion of new business for attorneys. Depending on your legal discipline, it could be that a majority of your clients will never have need of your services again.
That’s why making sure they pass your information on to their friends and family is so important. Below, we’ll discuss how to secure more referrals for your law firm. We’ll discuss long-term strategies, as well as giving a few short-term tips, all with the goal of making sure your law firm has a solid source of new clients from referrals.
1- Set Up Or Join A Referral Network
Not all your referrals have to come from former clients. By building a network of fellow professionals, you can supplement the referrals that come from clients to build a steady flow of business that will keep your firm afloat for years to come.
Other lawyers can be a solid source of referrals. Oftentimes, former or current clients will come to you with a legal problem that is outside your area of expertise. Having an agreement with some fellow attorneys you trust, to refer clients needing their specific brand of legal help, and vice versa, will keep the clients flowing. You’ll also want to have a few of your competitors on your list. If you’re ever on vacation or too swamped to take more clients—it can happen!—you’ll have someone to call. In return, when they’re in the same boat, they can call on you, and you’ll be able to have another trickling source of clients available.
It’s worth noting that these agreements don’t have to be handshakes, and, in fact, it’s possible they shouldn’t be. Having agreements drawn up can help settle any disputes that may come up. As long as you’re working within the guidelines of ABA Rule 7.2, you can even set up fee agreements, dictating how much each party will pay the other for a referral.
Local businesses can also be a source of new clients. You’ll want to have a list of businesses you have a relationship with that can provide services to clients. For example, if you handle estate planning or divorces, your clients will have a need for certain services, like life insurance or real estate agents. Developing contacts with related businesses will allow you to send business their way when your clients need their help. And in the future, when their clients need legal help, you’ll be the first on their list of recommendations.
But how do you make these contacts? Local groups, like your local bar association or smaller groups for specific practice areas, will have plenty of resources and contacts to help you join or set up a referral network. In addition, if your clients are making use of a certain professional’s services, you can always get an introduction to see if you can add them to your network.
2- Enhance Your Client Experience
Once upon a time, you had to know someone who knew an attorney to have any sort of idea what that attorney was like. Sure, you could look them up in a phone book, but without a personal referral, you’d never truly know what you were signing up for. Though those days are long gone, referrals are still important. In 2019, Clio’s Legal Trends Report found that 59 percent of clients sought a referral before beginning to look for an attorney.
The majority of your referrals will come from former clients. We’re going to assume you’re already doing your best work—a safe assumption, we think, considering you’re here, trying to improve your firm in other ways. Therefore, we’re going to look into an oft-neglected corner of many law firms that actually has a lot to do with whether or not clients refer you to their friends, family, and colleagues: the client experience.
Client Experience And Referrals
The client experience all comes down to communication. Poor communication leads directly to unhappy clients. A lack of communication is one of the top sources for formal complaints filed with the ABA. As long as your clients understand what’s going on and feel like they’re in the loop, they’re going to have a positive experience with your firm.
There are a few things you can do to make sure your communication is where your clients need it to be. We’ve got a more in-depth blog here, but below we’ll touch on just a few ways to improve your client experience to ensure more referrals.
A lot of miscommunication comes from misplaced expectations. Some legal matters move fast and require constant communication. Others are more routine, or else develop slowly; there may be no need to communicate for weeks on end, or even before the matter is resolved. For that reason, every client should get a welcome package explaining exactly what you are going to do for them, what is expected of them, and what they should expect from the process.
For routine matters, it’s easy to provide an expected timeline. More complex problems obviously can’t be predicted in that way, but providing an outline at the very least will give them some way of knowing what’s coming down the line.
Beyond that, keeping them in the loop will keep them happy, as well as being available to handle their concerns. Your clients will be happiest when they feel like they’re important to your firm. By making sure you’re always available to answer their questions, you can do that. Of course, therein lies the problem: you don’t have time to be constantly available for clients, securing new clients, and getting your work done. Below, we’ll discuss a tool that will help you do all three, and more.
3- Become Indispensable To Your Market
Alongside improving your client experience, there’s plenty more you can do to secure referrals for your firm. Depending on the size of your local market relative to the size of your firm, you may be able to secure clients by offering services or amenities few others in your market can provide.
If you find a niche, you can secure for your firm a foothold in the market that will be valuable for both your firm and the community. For example, being able to help Spanish-speaking clients in the language they’re most comfortable speaking can give you a niche in your area that will pay off in both the short term and the long run. Spanish-speaking callers will be much more likely to refer you to their family and friends if they can assure those family members that they’ll be able to speak Spanish as they work on their legal issues.
Of course, if you don’t have bilingual phone answering staff, that could be a difficult niche to fill. That’s where a bilingual answering service comes in. A bilingual answering service will enable you to provide to Spanish-speaking clients the same level of service you provide other clients.
With a bilingual answering service, you’ll be able to set up a solid source of referrals. Depending on your market, you could be one of only a few attorneys able to provide bilingual legal support. Your Spanish-speaking clients will happily recommend you to their friends and family.
A bilingual answering service is a great tool for enhancing your client experience, too. With a team of bilingual virtual receptionists handling all your calls, you’ll be able to give every caller the experience they’re looking for. If you’d like to learn more about how a bilingual answering service works, click here for an inside look.
Our Bilingual Answering Service Can Do Much More For Your Firm
All of this, of course, is hard work. Hard work you’re going to have to do on top of everything else you’re already doing for your firm. Clio’s 2018 Legal Trends Report found that attorneys spent 1.4 hours a day networking to build referral sources.
To make sure that time and effort doesn’t go to waste, you need the best lead capturing possible. A bilingual answering service will enable you to help Spanish-speaking clients much more effectively, yes. But you’ll also get a lot of other benefits when you hire Answering Legal.
Our bilingual virtual receptionists will make sure you never miss a call. You’ll get messages from every caller in your email, text, or CRM inboxes immediately, in English, so there’s never a language barrier. You’ll be able to tell which messages were high priority immediately, and can even have high priority callers patched through to your cell.
In addition, we can integrate with all your favorite law firm software, allowing you to save time by automating your firm. Want to have new client callers automatically sorted into your CRM, including referral sources? We can handle it. With your phone system integrated with the rest of your firm, you’ll have plenty of time to get your work done and work on your referrals. Click here to find out more about our integrations.
Improve your client experience and start securing referrals now. Click here or call 631-686-9700 to sign up for our free trial. For a limited time, we’re offering firms that sign up for our service their first 400 minutes free.