Running a solo law firm can come with many different challenges, such as limited opportunities to network with other lawyers and get referrals.
Referrals are the lifeblood of the modern law office. If you are a lawyer contemplating a move to a solo practice, you may wonder how referrals will flow after leaving a larger firm.
Big law firms have their own eco-system in which referrals flow naturally to and from various lawyers in the firm, depending on their specialty. When you go solo, however, that built-in source of referrals goes away. Therefore, you must take a proactive stance toward referrals and build your own referral network from the ground up. But how?
Read on for some helpful advice on building a referral network as a solo lawyer.
The Cardinal Rule of Referrals
If you want a referral, ask for it.
That sounds simple enough, but it can be difficult to do if you are not accustomed to having to ask for a referral. You may feel that asking for a referral is in poor taste. That, however, is not true.
Remember that you have something important to bring to the table, something that your clients need. Therefore, it is perfectly logical and natural that you should promote yourself in a professional and helpful way. Most lawyers want to help out their colleagues where possible. But people won’t realize they can even do something for you until you reach out and ask.
When to Ask Clients for a Referral
In a solo law firm, your best source of referrals is likely your current clients. The article “Law Firm Profits: How to Make Referrals a Daily Habit” gives examples of several occasions in which it is easy to ask clients for a referral, including:
- Doing intake or during a consultation that is going smoothly
- If a client thanks you or gives you a compliment about your work
- As part of your email signature
Satisfied clients are usually more than happy to spread the word about a positive legal outcome. So, by asking for referrals from your current happy clients, you are only increasing the chances of receiving new clients.
Leveraging Shared Office Space to Build a Referral Network
A shared office setting provides excellent opportunities for receiving new referrals. Utilizing shared office space with other solo or small law firms gives instant access to networking opportunities. With that being said, it would be smart to find a shared office space in where other solo lawyers are also practicing. This way clients of one firm can be easily referred to another when possible.
There are many situations when you will encounter other solo lawyers in a shared office space. Something as simple as a polite greeting in the hall can open the door to a more in-depth conversation and a chance to exchange referrals.
To keep your referral network healthy and growing, it is essential to follow some general guidelines, such as:
- Returning referral calls promptly
- Sending a thank you note to the referring client or attorney immediately
- Returning the favor by referring clients to the other attorney when warranted
- Handling a referred client as a priority client at all times
Remember there are many different rules that come along with both receiving and sending referrals. By not following these rules you can prevent referrals from being sent to your law practice.
If you listen to these suggestions, you will soon find that building and maintaining a healthy referral network becomes second nature. Your solo law firm will grow and thrive, and you will reap the benefits of getting referrals without the headaches that come with working in a large firm.