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Not all referral sources are created equal

The foundation of a strong law practice is a strong referral network. Even your best clients probably don't need you all the time. This is particularly true for litigators. But what is a strong referral network and how do you build it?

Fundamentally, a good referral network starts with a focused marketing message. It is difficult to generate referrals if you do not have a clear idea of who you want to serve and what services you want to provide. (Who are you, who do you do, who do you serve, what have you done and how do you differentiate yourself from other lawyers?)

Having a well defined niche is important because it helps you communicate what you do in a way that is memorable (so that it is easy for happy clients and other professionals to pass your name along at the right moment). Having a niche also helps you think more strategically about who you might want to cultivate (e.g. other service providers who serve the same clients).

Beyond this, understand that not all referral sources are created equal. Some individuals are more apt to make referrals by nature. Look for the people in your network who are always trying to be helpful and have the ability to think outwardly (and don't forget to be someone who is always on the lookout to make your own referrals).

It helps to identify happy clients who are willing to make referrals. When I conduct client interviews for law firms that have institutional clients, I ask the question, "What is the likelihood that you would refer Smith and Smith's services to someone else?" If the answer is a 9 or 10, then I know this is an individual that the firm should further cultivate.

If a lot of your clients are individuals (or unlikely to use your services more than once), send them a survey at the end of your engagement. Ask them how happy they were with the services you provided and on a scale of one to ten, how likely are they to refer your services to someone else. If anyone gives you a 9 or a 10, see if they would be willing to write a testimonial for your website or mention your name to others.

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I've written recently in this space about the importance of having a plan if you want to grow your law practice. But what if you are launching a law practice or thinking more broadly about all aspects of your business. Do you have a business plan? If not, then don't miss the MBA's Law Firm Business Plan Workshop next week (live or On Demand on your computer). Damian Turco, Susan Letterman-White, Sofia Lingos and I will give you the chance to get your own plan started.

Tip courtesy of Stephen Seckler, president, Seckler Legal Consulting and Coaching.

Published March 14, 2013

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To learn more about the Law Practice Management Section, which is complimentary for all MBA members, contact LPM Section Chair Thomas J. Barbar or Vice Chair Cynthia E. MacCausland.
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