Wake Up Your Law Firm Referral Program

Wake Up Your Law Firm Referral Program

What do you do when a lawyer or firm you have sent referrals fails to reciprocate?

If you truly like the lawyer or firm, and think they have profitable and interesting work they could refer, you should make contact and schedule a meeting with them over coffee. When you meet say something like: “We’ve sent you cases recently, the Johnson and Jones matters come to mind, but I’ve been looking at our records and we don’t see that you or anyone form your firm has been able to refer anything our way. We think you probably could send us work. What should I tell my partners?”

Many lawyers and firms refer matters haphazardly. That’s an expensive luxury in increasingly competitive markets. The conversation outlined above usually changes that behavior. Certainly, I’d cut off referrals to the non-reciprocating lawyer or firm until you get a case sent back.

Of course, this means you need to immediately find another lawyer who does the same work and say: “We’ve been sending our cases to another lawyer who just can’t/doesn’t refer back. I’d like to have coffee with you to discuss how we can work together.”

To get the most out of your referrals, you should keep a list of the lawyers and firms sent work and to whom you’d like to send work. Also list those from whom referrals are received. At a partner meeting, say, twice annually, review the lists to ensure those who receive files are sending work back to you. Also determine to whom you owe referrals– and earmark your next referral for them.

The lawyers we know who have vibrant referral networks have other common traits. They always thank, with a personal handwritten note or via e-mail, the referring lawyer when the matter they sent is taken or potential referred client makes contact. They also let the referring lawyer know when the matter is completed– even if that’s months or a year later. It’s part of their case closing procedure.

Veteran lawyers also recognize that location of the lawyer to which a matter is referred and the lawyer’s personality are important considerations. Recognizing this, they routinely provide more than one lawyer’s name when referring a matter. They also call or e-mail the lawyers to whom they have made the referral letting them know a referral has been made. [1]



  1. Bob Weiss is president of Alyn-Weiss and Associates, Inc., a Denver-based marketing consulting group which has worked with both corporate, transactional and defense firms and contingent fee practices nationwide for more than 20 years.

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