Referrals are an essential component of every legal practice, and networking is a good way to go about getting them.
Referrals come from two main sources:
1. Your past and current clients
2. Lawyers in your network
Creating strong relationships with your clients allows you to leverage their own networks and advertising power.
This can then turn into a foundation for establishing referral relationships with your clients.
The next source, which we’ll focus on, is growing your referral practice via your relationships with other lawyers.
In this article, we will cover how to structure referral relationship with lawyers, including referral fees principles and tools for a stronger referral network.
Using networking events to connect with potential referral partners
There are various ways in which you can discover and connect with lawyers that you can forge a partnership.
These may include in-person events like cocktail events, networking events, workshops, lectures, training events, professional parties.
It may even include local lawyers that you have found on LinkedIn and reached out to, and ended up catching up over a coffee or lunch.
However, during the pandemic, many in-person events have either been limited or cancelled.
The good thing is, many. events have moved online. A quick Google search will give you a range of results, across online workshops, fireside chats, zoom lectures, digital conferences and more.
At these sorts of events, especially those that are online, it’s useful to do your research before the event starts. Some events will show a list of participants and attendees, who have signed up to the event. This is your opportunity to do your own background research on some of the lawyers you think you may want to connect with.
Plus, if you like what you hear from attendees during the online conference, such as interesting questions or remarkls, you can reach out to them afterwards. LinkedIn is your best choice here.
How to reach out after network events
Once you have come across somebody who’s now on your radar, strike up a conversation as soon as you can.
It’s important to make a good first impression and do introduce yourself properly before they forget what event they attended or how they met you.
If you attended an in-person event, practice strong conversation starters to speed up the building of rapport.
Don’t be generic here.
One of the most boring conversation starters is asking someone you just met ‘so what do you do?’
You should, however, take one key element from this line – the fact that it’s about them. People love to talk about themselves, so give them an opportunity to do so – but just something a little more creative than their day job.
Some examples that relate to your shared experience include:
- What have you found most enjoyable about this event?
- How have you been finding the talks here?
Next, you can ask these kind of questions:
- Are you working on anything exciting at the moment?
- What kind of passion projects do you have?
- How did you end up practising X (e.g. IP law, family law, corporate law, …)
How to close your first interactions and keep your relationship going after the events
At a networking event, phoone call or coffee meetup, it may soon become apparent that the conversation is dwindelling and its time to say goodbye. But you see them as a good lead and someone you want in your network.
The thing to do here is exchange contact details (which you may already have done), and record them in your legal CRM.
Then, after your first interaction, record any important information or details that were shared during your conversation. Set a reminder to check in with them again in 2 – 4 weeks.
In some circumstances, you may find that you don’t see the relationship going any further. It’s important to leave and spend your time networking elsewhere, yet always remain professional and polite. Thank them for their time and conversation before moving on.
How to follow up with your new connections
When you connect with a potential referral partner for the first time, follow up with them within 1- 2 days.
You can do this by the phone, email or even through a LinkedIn message. If you connected oon NEXL’s legal platform, you can chat via the dedicated legal messenger platform.
It’s particularly important to follow up quickly. Professionals move on from events and are tight on time.
Not only this but following up within two days after the event helps solidify the relationship. Follow up again if you don’t get a response as most people are extremely busy.
Set a referral agreement
If you see an opportunity to talk about establishing a referral relationship (keep in mind that this may only happen once you are ready to give out your first referral, or you receive your first referral), then take it.
This includes what kind of exchange you would like to create with this lawyer. This may vary, from anywhere between a percentage fee of the referred work paid back to the referrer, to the promise of work being referred back as it arises.
If you go down the ‘percentage fee’ route, it’s useful to know what the industry standards are. If you are not familiar with these, it’s useful to ask around in your industry. In the United States, a common percentage fee for such referred work is one third of the total amount that the client will pay.
In some parts of the world, this is limited or specified by statute – for example in Upper Canada, the referral fee is capped at 15% for the first $50,000 of legal fees.
Once you have created a strong foundation for a referral relationship with other lawyers, it’s time to leverage the various tools and principles at your disposal in pursuit of maintaining and nurturing these valuable connections.
We’ll look at that in our next article, ‘The 3 best tools to creating referral relationships with other lawyers’how-to'sreferral networkingreferral partnersrelationship building