Attracting New Law Firm Clients: Taking Referral Efforts to the Next Level

AbacusLaw, Practice Management

Remember the game called Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon? It is a reference to six degrees of separation, a concept which posits that any two people on Earth are six or fewer acquaintance links apart.

A 2011 social media study by Facebook and the University of Milan found that the degree of separation was actually 4.74 – even fewer than originally believed.

So what does this have to do with increasing referrals to your law firm? A larger, stronger network will include a much larger number of second-, third- and fourth-degree connections! If you know 500 people, and each of them knows 500 people, your third-level connections would exceed one hundred million people!

By keeping in touch with your network and actively building new connections, you’ll move closer and closer to potential clients. A larger, stronger network increases opportunities for new client referrals. If your firm’s referrals have declined, it may be time to review your marketing and networking efforts.

The best referrals come from focusing your practice

In recent years, law firms of all sizes have been marketing their firms as offering everything to everyone. However, data suggests that clients look for and prefer targeted services. As a result, micro-niches and demand for specialized legal services are increasing.

Law firms can capitalize on this trend by becoming the go-to specialist within their area. Choose a specialty, then work to thoroughly understand the needs of clients in that specialty. Read more about the benefits of practice specialization in our article Building a Better Law Practice: 7 Reasons to Specialize.

Provide excellent – referral-worthy –­­ service

If your firm enjoys repeat business from existing clients – congratulations! Your level of client service likely contributes to that success. Highly satisfied clients will not hesitate to share their experience through a referral.

If not, there is clearly room to improve client satisfaction with your firm? Do you know? If you don’t know where to start, consider conducting a check-up on your client satisfaction levels. Traditional client satisfaction surveys, conducted by email or phone are an easy, low-cost way to help measure how well your firm has met the standards your clients expect from you. Look for client feedback related to communications, responsiveness, online experience and value for the cost of services. Survey responses will identify areas where service can be improved. This will improve satisfaction levels and increase client willingness to refer others to your firm.

Nurture your professional network

It’s obvious that clients and past clients are the prime source of referrals for attorneys. Also don’t overlook that the second-best source of referrals is other attorneys. Do you keep in touch with law school classmates, previous employers and colleagues you might know through bar association activities?

As another great source, devise ways to meet new industry contacts. Reach out into the business community and share your expertise and assistance to build recognition. Offer to speak at industry conferences or on virtual events. Join related interest groups on networking sites such as LinkedIn. Sharing your firm’s expertise there, in posts and by engaging with other members, can result in new opportunities.

The potential clients you target employ a range of other professional services, from accountants, payroll services, IT support, even real estate or office space leasing. Tax accountants and CPA firms, insurance brokers or agents, bankers and business consultants are all in a position to make referrals to your firm. Imagine an estate planning attorney teaming up with a CPA in financial planning to offer retirement education webinars or conferences. Or, if startups are your focus, team up with a banker specializing in new business lending to offer education or articles on how to start a business.

Stay top of mind with clients and contacts

Regular outreach reminds clients and contacts that you value your relationship with them enough to keep in touch. When they hear from you consistently, your contacts will be more likely to think of you when they are asked for a referral for legal services.

You likely have a list of contacts in a CRM database or at a minimum you can export a spreadsheet; it’s important to be sure to tag each one as a client, prospect, blog subscriber, friend or other code that allows you to segregate the list by contact type or by interest. Send a short, informative email periodically, offering news about the firm or legal trends in the clients’ industry.

Make the referral process push-button easy

Clients may want to refer you but aren’t sure how or where to do it. A fast and easy way to tell others about your firm will increase the odds of success.

Each time you send an email to your contacts, or post content on social media, include a footnote message encouraging referrals, and say specifically how the reader can make a referral. For example:

“If you have friends or colleagues facing this challenge in their business, forward this newsletter and let them know that we can help.”

The completion of a matter is a good opportunity to ask the client for a performance review to gauge satisfaction and suggestions for improvement. In this process, ask if the client might know others who could benefit from your services.

Make it easy for prospective clients to engage with your firm

Growing your network takes a sustained effort, but it will pay off! Your efforts will increase the volume of visitors to your website. Offer friendly opportunities for them to engage with you. Actions they can take to interact and learn more about your services include invitations to “Call us,” “Request a free consultation,” “Ask a question” or “Subscribe” – to a blog or newsletter. If your firm uses AbacusLaw, you have the tools you need make engagement easy. AbacusLaw includes templates that allow you to create forms for visitors to complete.

When prospects are ready to sign on as new clients, they’ll be glad to find a client intake form that allows them to start the onboarding process online. Learn how HotDocs can help collect client information in an online interview 

Once they become clients, keep them engaged with a portal for easily sharing communications and documents. Learn how the Zimmerman Law Firm manages a growing practice with AbacusLaw.