I had lunch with a new lawyer today. I will not mention his name, but he asked a whole lot of relevant and direct questions of me. Some were hard to answer as directly as he had asked them. Although this is not a direct quote of any one question asked, the issue arose about how, exactly, to you get someone to refer you a case or a client?
Good question, right?
We had talked for some time about how to build a referral-based network, which entails burning actual and metaphorical shoe leather, but the inference from all of this was, again, how do you get someone to refer you a case?
Do you get the difference?
The question is not about deciding what you want to do in the way of a legal practice or niche. Assume that is decided. It goes beyond how to then identify the people, groups, organizations and associations that might be in a position to refer you the cases or clients you desire. Assume this is done and the contact has been made. It is what you do after you do what you set out to do?
I think I stumbled and stammered just a little at lunch. Okay, okay, I stumbled and stammered a lot. I certainly talked around the subject way too much. Standing up and doing a soft-shoe routine would not have been a more obvious indicator that I had not thought about the subject as much as I should have.
But, now that I have had some time to think about it, here is my concise answer. I hope it is not too obvious.
I am not advising you to act like a jerk, or to be overly confident, or act like a used car salesman, or try the assumptive close on everyone you meet. I am not saying to walk up to someone you have never met before and push yourself on them like a large, overly-happy dog that jumps on a stranger and licks him or her in the face. I am implying none of that.
What I am saying is that in the normal course of any conversation simply ask the person for their referrals. Ask them to tell their friends, family, clients, customers, parishioners (you fill in the blank) about you and what you do.
Do not promise them anything for the referral other than your appreciation. Do not offer to pay them. Do not discuss reciprocation when you have nothing with which to reciprocate.
Remind them on the way out of what you asked, and follow up with an email and other devices.
And, always remember to tell people thank you for something. Thank you for listening. Thank you for your good word. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for your ideas. Thank you for a compliment. It is easy to forget that you need to be grateful for the simplest or slightest of things and to sincerely thank people. One, it is the right thing to do. Two, a thank you or two helps earn referrals.