Referrals are a vital source for client development, so how to improve your referral process for law firms is something all private attorneys should consider. Depending on your practice area, the majority of your cases could come from multiple referral sources.

You may be tapping into a small part of the potential clients you could generate through referrals. Like all marketing, there’s no magic to making the most of referrals — just time, effort, organization, and making the right choices. LMA can help your firm make the most of referrals. Call us at (919) 637-9144, so we can talk about using the power of referrals to grow your firm.

What is a Referral?

A referral is the oldest and most effective marketing: word of mouth

A referral happens when one of your contacts introduces you to a potential client, or that person reaches out to you directly at your contact’s suggestion. If you focus on attracting referrals and do it correctly, it should be a solid source of clients.

How do I get a referral for my law firm? Referrals could come from anyone you know directly or someone who knows of your reputation. Most attorneys, when they hear “referral,” may immediately think of getting clients from other attorneys. Though they can be a primary source, don’t ignore other professionals who work with potential clients and your current and past clients.

What are the Steps in the Referral Process?

The more you put into seeking referrals, the more you should get out.

You need to decide whether you want to invest more into getting more referrals and, if so, what types of cases you’re seeking. You next narrow down what potential clients you want (which could be by geography, the types of businesses they run, whether they suffer particular types of accidents or injuries) and decide who may have connections with these prospects.

You come up with a plan to connect with potential referral sources, the message you want to send, and how you’ll do that. You must execute your plan, make improvements when needed, and keep it up. If the results aren’t what you want, re-examine what you’re doing, and make more changes.

Keep in touch with your referral source; show them their trust in you is well-deserved and express gratitude for the referral. Provide excellent service to your new client, ask for future referrals, and maintain a connection with them.

How Do I Get a Referral for My Law Firm?

How you get a referral depends on who’s giving it.

You need to use different approaches for the various people who may be good sources. Here are three possible sources of referrals for your law firm.

Past and Present Clients

Excellent client service and positive outcomes not only should be standard operating procedure because you’re helping your clients, but they will help generate more clients. There are so many attorneys in the marketplace, people don’t know who to retain. A positive word from a friend, family member, or stranger responding to a Facebook post might be what gets that person heading in your direction.

After that outcome and great service, when you thank your client, include a request to bring up your name when someone they know asks for an attorney. You should also maintain contact with former clients through email marketing or newsletters. Send them useful, relevant information so you can be “top of mind” when someone asks for a recommendation.

Those Outside the Legal Profession

Put yourself in a potential client’s shoes. Who do they spend time with and trust?

  • What other professional services do they use? It could be accountants, financial planners, physicians, insurance agents, or mental health professionals.
  • If you take wrongful death cases, funeral directors would be good people to know.
  • If your firm represents divorcing spouses, women’s hairstylists may be well-placed to send clients your way.
  • Police officers working on traffic accidents could be very helpful in letting people know about your personal injury practice.

These people may belong to professional organizations and business and networking groups. Can you give a presentation to them to show your expertise? Could you sponsor an organization event or advertise in their publication?

One thing you can’t do to develop more non-attorney referrals is to pay them for their help.


What legal services might potential clients use in your area? Do they own businesses or get speeding tickets? Might they be more likely to divorce or need estate planning?

You need to find attorneys whose services complement yours. If one of their clients needs help in an area they’re not familiar with, they could refer them to you. Referral sources could share the same practice area if you have a highly technical or difficult niche that they want to avoid.

You must give referrals, too, because all lawyers are looking for new clients and referral sources. They’re not interested in helping freeloaders. If you’re a one-way street, expect traffic to dry up. You may be able to split fees (depending on your jurisdiction), so there’s added incentive to send a case to another attorney.

Bar organizations are familiar places to meet people and network. Get involved in a committee or project so more personal relationships can develop with fellow members. Give presentations and write articles in publications to show your knowledge and experience. If the other attorney doesn’t think you will do a good job with their client, you won’t get a referral. That relationship is too important to put at risk with a bad referral.

Like clients, email and newsletter marketing can be effective in staying in touch with your connections. Unlike material to clients, the content must be written at a higher level and could cover subjects of little interest to the general public, like changes in court procedures or regulations. Effectively using LinkedIn could be a big help. A search-friendly profile, regularly written articles, and posts may get you noticed by attorneys looking for help.

After you get a referral, update the other attorney on what’s going on and thank the person for their help. If you can’t send a case to the other attorney, they will appreciate at least being thanked.

How to Improve Your Referral Process?

Honestly critique yourself and your firm, find weaknesses, make improvements.

How to improve your referral process depends on honestly looking at what you do, what you do well, and do not do so well. You should take a holistic approach to your practice and how to improve it, so more clients will be satisfied and talk to others about your great work.

The process should improve if you get more involved. Referrals take time and effort. You need to invest in both to improve the quality and quantity of cases referred to you. You could hire someone in house to market your firm and help you create new and better referral sources, but ultimately you’ll need to talk to (if not meet) those who may refer cases to you.

Track Your Referrals Data

Like all marketing efforts, you need to track your efforts and the returns they earn. Unless you get data from clients on how they heard about you, how many referrals you get will just be a guess. After you know how many clients are coming from which sources, you can shift resources to improve how many are coming from one direction, or put more resources into connecting with the most effective referral sources. A good CRM system (Client Resource Management) could make this process much easier than using scattered notes or a spreadsheet.

Recruit Help of Staff and Those You Know

Your entire staff should have their eyes and ears open to potential referral sources. If their neighbor, friend, or family member may be a good source, they need to spread the word. Everyone in the firm should benefit as your practice grows.

Make sure your contacts know that you’re looking for cases and the types you seek. Take the time to discuss what you do (which may include a wider range of cases than the person realizes) and that you are looking for new clients to grow your firm. Do this in a way that doesn’t make you look desperate and is comfortable for all involved.

The more cases you refer out, the more you may get in return. Your clients may have multiple legal issues at the same time. Ask about what they’re dealing with in their life or business beyond the matter you’re working on. You could do the same when people first speak to you but don’t retain you. If you’re not a good fit, one of your contacts may be.

Focus on Client Satisfaction

Improving client satisfaction should result in more referrals. After you conclude the case, ask for an honest assessment of you and your staff. Clients may be frustrated with part of your process, or an employee may not be as professional as you think. The more happy clients you have, the greater the chance of getting more referrals.

We Can Help You Grow Your Law Firm with Proven Law Firm Marketing Strategies

Your legal expertise helps your clients. Our marketing and development expertise helps you promote your firm, inform others about it, and aid your law firm in attracting new clients. An important tool in the process is an effective CRM used to its fullest.

Take action today to put your firm on track to greater success. Call Lawyers Marketing Associates to discuss your firm’s needs, and let’s start growing your law firm now. Call us at (919) 637-9144 to begin creating your custom strategic marketing plan now. There’s no time like the present to grow your firm.