• Alex Barr

Gin, Lawyers and How to Romance Referral Partners


Law firms love referral partners. These professional peers in other organisations who slip an endless stream of shiny new clients our way… all without any real expense or effort from us. Lovely.

So, how well does your firm manage these golden egg laying geese?

Well, most firms have no idea. They default to what a client of mine once called the gin & tonic strategy – “get them drunk once or twice a year & hope they carry on giving up the good stuff every week”.

Once you accept that doing a competent job for a referred client is a given…. One of the best sources of revenue for your law firm is unmanaged, unmeasured and relies on your Lawyers being ‘fun in the pub’ or ‘good on the golf course’ once a year to work.

A practice without a marketing plan would be regarded as guaranteed to fail. And yet, few firms can point at a single referral partner plan. So here’s some questions to ask:

  1. Who are our best referral partners?

  2. How many referrals do they give us now?

  3. Do we proactively manage them?

  4. What do we do for them in return for all this good stuff? (More on this later and I’m not talking about a bung in a brown paper envelope).

  5. Who doesn’t refer us but should?

I promise - ask those questions and you’ll find a big chunk of your sources of fees are flapping in the wind, untethered and unloved. And you have found a whopping great big opportunity…

So, what could you do next?

Design a 12-month plan with the primary contact at your top referral partners. I should note, even if you could, financial rewards and for that matter promises for quid pro quo referrals don’t actually work as well as you might think. There are lots of reasons why people refer you…. You might consider asking the primary contact at your referral partners the following questions:

  • How can we help you do your job better?

  • What questions do you ask the client to find out if they need someone like us?

  • How do you describe us to the people you refer?

  • Who else in your firm could be involved in referrals?

  • How can we make referring us easier for you & your colleagues?

  • What formal reporting/feedback structure would work for you (estate agents and the new build guys all love a formal update in time for their sales meetings).

  • How can we educate and inspire you? – CPD or not, Accountants, Lawyers & IFAs can always teach each other new tricks. Do a lunch & learn once a quarter?

  • What can we do to say thank you? (I’m sure your firms Head of Compliance might wish cast their baleful eye over this bit of the conversation… cough)

  • And yes, have a plan for the bonding, the fun stuff we all enjoy – golf, lunches, Christmas drinks, spa days etc (Feel free to invite me!) – but make no mistake, the gin & tonic strategy is the cherry on top of the pudding – it is not the main course for what works.

One last tip. When it comes to giving a referral out - Giving your client someone’s phone number fails 60-70% of the time. The client has to ring a stranger and they don’t like it… so they don’t do it. It’s not rocket science, try sending an email introduction and copying all parties in instead.

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