The top five concerns lawyers have with referrals

I have just concluded a survey of small law firms where I asked then what their biggest concerns were in regard to referrals from people within their professional network.

From their replies we have arrived at the top five concerns lawyers have with referrals.

They are

  1. What can I offer to a potential referrer so that they get something out of the referral
  2. How do I consistently get true referrals as distinct to an incentivised referral?
  3. How do I approach busy potential referrers without being a nuisance?
  4. How can I avoid getting the wrong referrals such as time wasters?
  5. How can I price my service to attract high quality referrals?

Do any of these sound familiar to you?

While there is no doubt that referrals are a great way to grow your firm, if you have any of these concerns, it can work as a roadblock to implementing a referral system to help you to maximise your referrals.

Having identified these concerns, I thought that I would address each one separately over a series of articles to provide some practical strategies to overcome it.

Let me deal with the first concern:

  1. What can I offer a potential referrer so that they get something out of the referral?

It makes sense doesn’t it that if you get a referral that you should give something in return?

In discussions with lawyers over the years, many have felt that they should therefore offer some sort of reciprocal referral arrangement ie if you refer to me, I will refer to you.

While this seems a logical plan, the problem for many lawyers, is that they are often not in a position where they can refer very many clients.

This can arise because some types of law are of a one-off nature or the client may only need the lawyers services irregularly and consequently the lawyer does not get a chance to build a strong ongoing relationship with the client that would help to facilitate a referral.

To further exacerbate this problem, if you want to have a range of referral sources from a particular profession, then this would mean developing referral relationships with a number of people in that profession. If you aren’t able to refer many clients anyway, how can you offer a meaningful flow of reciprocal referrals to a number of referrers?

The answer is of course that you can’t, so this strategy is destined for failure particularly if you are looking at making referrals a growth strategy for your firm.

To formulate a strategy to overcome this problem, it’s worthwhile considering what a fellow professional is looking to get from making a referral to you.

I suggest that most professionals think first of foremost about helping their clients and certainly this is a bigger priority than any self interest in getting something for making the referral.

In fact I think that you can break this down into two things that a professional needs to know to make a referral to you:

1) That you have the expertise to solve the clients problem that is being referred to you


2) That the client will have a positive experience in dealing with you and your firm

Many professionals never make any referrals at all because they fear the repercussions of either the referred task not being done properly, or the client getting poor service. In either case, this could reflect poorly on them, as they put the client in contact with that person in the first place.

One obvious conclusion from this, is that many professionals will not expect any return favour for their referral, what they do want though, is that their client is looked after.

Indeed in the course of the survey, one lawyer asked me the question “When I make a referral, how can I let them know that I don’t expect referrals in return?” Their primary concern was for the client’s welfare.

In developing your referral strategy then, first and foremost, you need to be able to demonstrate to your potential referrer that you have the expertise to do the work and that your firm has the client service skills to ensure that the client has a positive experience in dealing with you and your firm.

While I believe the overwhelming majority of professionals certainly do put their clients’ interests before their own, let me explore my opening statement a little further.

“It makes sense doesn’t it that if you get a referral that you should give something in return?”

The statement I made implies that if you get something, in this case a referral, that you give something back. I suggest however that if you are the one who wants referrals, this is actually the wrong way round.

If you recall the saying” You reap what you sow”, the correct statement in regard to referrals could be restated as:

“It makes sense doesn’t it that if you give something, you may get something in return?”

In applying all of this to your referral strategy, I would suggest the question now becomes:

“How can I give something that both demonstrates my expertise in solving the clients problem and that clients will have a positive experience, so that I may get referrals in return?”

If you are answering that question, then I believe you are on the right track to setting up a sustainable referral strategy for your firm

Do you agree with the survey results on the top five concerns lawyers have with referrals?

I will deal with the other four referral concerns in the subsequent articles.

To read the next article, click on the following link :

How to consistently get true referrals as distinct to incentivised referrals