Inside Out: Why You Need to Seek Referrals from Non-Lawyers, Too

Psssttt . . . I’ve got something I need to tell you: You don’t have to network only with other lawyers.  I know this is a problem for a lot of you, which is why I bring it up.  I just want to help.  And, I get it: it’s so much easier to just talk with other lawyers.  They feel your pain.  They speak your language — Latin.  But, relying on referrals from other lawyers is the most dangerous game.

Why?  Good question.  It’s because other lawyers have the ‘nuclear option’: They can nullify any referral they would have sent you by taking it for themselves.  Think about it: If you’re relying on, say, plumbers for referrals, they’re not going to be like, ‘Hey, I’m just going to go ahead and probate this estate myself.’  They need a lawyer to refer a legal case to.  But, for lawyers, almost regardless of specialization, they can snatch any case back.  A patent lawyer could take a probate case if she needed to, or wanted to.

What that means is that you can do everything right, in terms of finding the right referral partners, with the right complementary practice areas, and do everything you can, also, to smooth the referral process, and to send bulk candies to your lawyer referral sources afterwards -- and yet, all that does not guarantee that the attorney you want to receive referrals from is going to actually send you those referrals.  If they’ve hit a revenue trough, maybe they keep that case, in order to stem the tide without having to dip into a line of credit or ease their short-term concern.  Maybe they end up liking that particular practice area, or view it as more viable than they previously thought, and the whole thing starts to snowball, and they hire an associate to handle the personal injury cases they used to send your way.  The point is: they can, the plumber can’t.

So, as an attorney practicing in a competitive environment (that’s you), it’s imperative that you (pl.) diversify your referral network, in order to decrease an overhanging reliance on attorney-to-attorney referrals.  Go forth, then, and meet non-attorney referral sources.  Just like there are complementary practice areas, there are complementary business types out there for you to receive referrals from and to send referrals to.  So, do the legwork to find out where those opportunities lie.  If you need to conduct some preliminary research on the topics, is a great way to find business-specific interest groups (as well as personal interest groups), that you may never have heard of, or even thought about, before.

Get out of your comfort zone, and you shall be rewarded.

. . . Like, literally, with more money, stemming from further assured referral avenues.