For a small firm attorney, your shared law office space could be one of your most valuable business assets. If chosen well, suitemates in your shared law office space should be an important source of new referrals for your practice.
The best thing about referrals from suitemates is that you can network for them while you go about your everyday business. No pre-dawn trips to networking groups or “house-call” meetings required.
That’s incredibly valuable for the busy solo attorney who is pulled in 90 different directions dealing with client work, firm admin and marketing duties.
However, just because you work in a shared law office space doesn’t mean you will automatically receive referrals from your suitemates. Even though there is a high likelihood you will eventually trade business, the two golden rules of the referral game still apply:
- Referrals are sent when there is a relationship that includes mutual professional trust, and
- It helps if you’ve sent a piece of business before you receive one.
If done right, you can easily find enough referral business from your office space to pay for your rent many times over. We know, because we use this same system at Law Firm Suites to generate over $3 million in yearly suitemate referrals.
Here’s how we do it:
1. Do the walk-around.
Once a day, in either the morning or evening, do a walk-around the office and say hello to your neighbors. If they’re not busy, ask them a few questions about their family, weekend plans or something important to them that is unrelated to business. This process cements your personal connection over time, building the “like” and “trust” required for any referral relationship.
2. Be a good listener.
Nobody likes a blowhard, but everyone loves to talk about themselves (especially our brethren). Be a good listener and you’ll get the reputation for being a gracious conversationalist without having to say much. It’s a great technique for those of us who are not particularly outgoing. What your officemates tell you about themselves will be topics for future conversations and will help accelerate the development of your relationship.
3. Keep them wanting more.
If you’ve done a stop-in to a colleague’s office, hit the eject button early in the conversation. If you are a constant presence in your neighbor’s doorway and you regularly overstay your welcome, you’ll start to find that your neighbor’s doors may be closed. Always leave them wanting more. You’ll be able to develop trust that your visits will be fun and/or productive and won’t waste their time.
4. Get out of the office with suitemates.
Have your assistant coordinate a lunch (or do it yourself) every couple of weeks with one or two of your neighbors. At lunch, keep 90% of the conversation about things other than business. You’ll have no problem filling up the other 10% with shop-talk.
5. Market THEIR business too.
While you are out marketing, don’t just look for business opportunities for yourself, also keep your ears open for business opportunities for your neighbors. We’re not only talking about client referrals, but introductions to potential referral partners are good too. The favor will always be returned.
6. Be generous.
Offer to cover for your neighbors while they are on vacation or if they are out sick. Help them with their computer problems or practice questions. Even if your neighbor doesn’t need your help, the offer alone will add value to your relationship.
Every few months, buy a few pizzas and a bottle of wine and sponsor an informal happy hour for your neighbors after work hours. It will give you all a chance to blow off some steam without being too formal.
7. Seek their advice.
Ask a neighbor a question about a legal issue you are grappling with. People love to be helpful, and lawyers in particular like to appear knowledgeable. Be appreciative of the advice and see your relationship grow.
These tips may seem, well, almost obvious. However, when done consistently, they will lead to business referrals in your office suite. With a little creativity and persistence, you too can tum your office into a revenue-generating machine.