How to Build a Referral-Driven Law Practice in 2016The Holy Grail of business development for attorneys is a referral-driven law firm. Every attorney seeks to build a referral-based practice.

However, many attorneys seem to spend their entire professional careers trying to create a steady stream of referrals with little results to show for it.

There are four primary reasons attorneys don’t receive more referrals:

  • Your referral sources are not adequately educated about what you do
  • You are too vague about who your perfect client is
  • You aren’t consistently communicating with your clients
  • You are not consistently reminding them to send you a referral

So how do you identify your best client referral sources? Listen! When it comes to communicating with clients, listening is often more important than talking. It is by listening that you learn what clients want, and then you can give it to them. Which makes for more referrals and better client retention.

Here are some important methods you can use to actively listen to clients:

1. Open feedback. 
Always offer clients a way to provide feedback, through your website, an online survey and in your e-newsletter campaign. Simply asking for their thoughts is often enough to garner some important insights.

2. Transactional feedback. 
If you’re a regular Starbucks® customer, you have undoubtedly received a free survey at some point with your receipt. You provide them with some feedback online and you get a free drink for your efforts.  What attorneys can learn from this is the importance of asking clients for their thoughts about their experience with your firm after the case is over or at important points along the way. Keep your finger on the pulse of how satisfied they are with how your firm is treating them, and you’ll have a satisfied client who is more likely to refer you to others.

3. Social media interaction. Monitor your social media channels to see what people are saying about you. You can search for your firm name on Twitter and Facebook, and you should be regularly monitoring Avvo, LinkedIn groups, Yelp! and Google for other comments about your firm.

4. Client satisfaction surveys. Using formal client satisfaction surveys is another good way to gauge client experiences with your firm. Send one out after each engagement is closed and respond immediately and personally to any negative feedback.

Once you have gathered a list of good potential client referral sources, you need to educate them on what your ideal client looks like.

Here are the top 5 things your referral sources need to know:

1. What your perfect client looks like. You need to answer this question very specifically – i.e., “My ideal client is a high net worth individual ($1 million or more in assets) in their 40s who owns their own business” not “anyone who has money.” The clearer you are with your description, the easier people can envision who you want to work with.

2. Why someone should hire you. I have written frequently about your UCA (unique competitive advantage) — it answers the question, “Why should I hire you?” Be sure your referral sources understand the precise reasons why you are better than your competitors and how you are different from them.

3. What problems you solve. By helping your referral source understand the kinds of problems you solve for clients, they will know what to listen for in daily conversations and be able to recommend you to someone who mentions having a problem you solve.

4. How you follow up. Your referral source needs to feel comfortable that you will follow up promptly and professionally with the people they send your way.

5. Why referrals are important to you. Let your source know that you rely on referrals as a way to build your business and how much you will appreciate their referring people to you.

And finally, always remember to thank them and let them know that their referral is meaningful to you and your firm.