Why have a referral network?
Giving referrals to a customer you can’t immediately help not only protects you from professional misconduct violations, but also can help build your own practice using reciprocal referrals through a well-established lawyerreferral network. Your customers will expect you to know your industry and other services related to your industry. If you don’t know where they can get something that they expected you to provide, you don’t seem to know your industry. Knowing exactly where they can get what they need demonstrates your true expertise. Once you refer work out to other reputable sources, you should, in turn, begin receiving strong reciprocal leads and referrals yourself.
Many states follow the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct. Model Rule 1.5 has particular relevance to the issue of file referral where a division of fees is involved. Model Rule 1.5(e) states:
(e) A division of a fee between lawyers who are not in the same firm may be made only if:
(1) the division is in proportion to the services performed by each lawyer, or each lawyer assumes joint responsibility for the representation;
(2) the client agrees to the arrangement, including the share each lawyer will receive, and the agreement is confirmed in writing; and
(3) the total fee is reasonable.
Always be up front and complete when describing this relationship to the client. Model Rule 1.5(e) requires the agreement to be in writing. And while not required by the rules, the name of the referring lawyer should appear on the retainer agreement, which should also reflect the basis for the fee-splitting arrangement.
Where to find potential members
Choose an association that is related to your industry or field, and another that has more of a general business focus. You’ll meet experts in your specific market in the first type of association, and mix with successful entrepreneurs from broader areas in the other. Each can provide valuable contacts. Consider giving presentations at no charge for a local Chamber of Commerce or other associations in which you participate. Donate samples of your products and services for fundraisers. Volunteer to write articles for smaller publications that reach your target audience.
These activities serve to increase your visibility, showcase your expertise and generate good will.
How to approach potential members
Make sure you assess the value you can bring to those businesses or professionals once you’ve identified them as someone you want to include in your network.If you’re not valuable for them or they are not valuable for you, they have no reason to be in your network. Make sure you have a clear picture of what your referral system will look like and how it will work before approaching anyone. This helps everyone understand the terms.
How to strengthen your Lawyers Referral Network
Do the best work for your clients and continue to give great referrals to those in your network. This strategy may sound like common sense, but it’s the key to a powerful network. When you do a good job for your clients, they not only bring you repeat business, but will send other business your way as well. And when you continue to send business to your network, they will continue to send you business, creating a win-win for all parties involved.
If you’d like guidance when establishing your referral network, contact Stoner Grannis LLP for more information.