Lawyer Marketing Ideas: Obtaining Referrals from Local Professionals

A lawyer’s step-by-step guide to obtaining more referrals from local professionals — both attorneys and non-attorneys.

Referred prospects are high-quality leads. When they come from attorneys or other professionals, the prospects usually have already been vetted by the referral source, and they come pre-sold on retaining you.

Best of all, it costs little to establish referral relationships with professionals who can regularly send you these quality prospects.

After a year of experimentation and working to help nearly a hundred small-firm lawyers establish productive referral relationships with local professionals, we have settled on the following successful approach.

Step 1: Create two lists

The first list to compile is of nearby lawyers in compatible and non-competing specialties.

We have automated the initial phase of this work, but an effective manual substitute approach is to simply Google “______ [specialty] attorney nearby” and write the lead attorney name, specialty, address, and telephone number in Excel or Sheets, putting each item in a separate column for ease of sorting.

We start with 25 attorney names, but you can compile more or fewer names depending on time available and the population density of your office location.

The advantage of using Google is that the names it supplies will be among the stronger marketers in the area and thus have better lead and client flow than less-successful marketers.

Then do the same for what we call allied professionals. These are non-attorneys who share the same client base as you. For example:

Bankruptcy: credit counselors and mortgage brokers
Business litigation: Bankers, CPAs, management consultants
Criminal: mental health professionals and rehab facilities
Estates: CPAs, financial planners, and insurance brokers
Family: marriage counselors
Personal injury: chiropractors and physical therapists
Social Security disability: chiropractors and mental health professionals

Compile these allied-pro names on a separate page of Excel or Sheets.

Step 2: Send an Introductory Letter

Next prepare a template letter for each group — one for local attorney prospects and one for allied professional prospects. Here is an allied-professional example we have used successfully:

Dear _______________:

I am an estate planning lawyer. My ________ office services ________________ [location].

My firm, described at, receives ____ [number] local leads a month and retains about _______ [number] of them as clients.

Some of those leads and clients could use the services of [a financial advisor, business litigator, etc]. I imagine you also periodically encounter individuals who need an estate planner.

I am writing to ask if you would be interested in joining together in an informal local marketing alliance. We can refer cases, periodically share what is working for us to obtain new clients, and nudge and help each other improve the effectiveness of our marketing efforts.

Towards the goal of helping each other improve our marketing, I have enclosed a private-marketing memo that hopefully provides an idea or two you can use.

If cross-referring cases as best serves the client interests you, please send me a short email and then perhaps we can set a time to speak on the phone.

You may learn more about how my firm handles referrals – both those we send and those we receive – on my referral page at http://____________.jamespublishing. com/partnerships.

Thank you for considering my proposal.

[Attorney name _____]
[Email _____________]
[Cell ______________]

Produce a personalized version of this letter on your letterhead for each prospect name on your two lists, being sure to proofread before mailing.

Step 3: Have a team member schedule a phone appointment

This step is an important element of the referral-outreach effort.

If you send 50 letters, you will likely only generate a response or two. When you place follow-up calls and send follow-up emails to 50 offices using the approach described below, you will uncover another 5-7 interested professionals.

After experimenting, here is the telephone follow-up approach we now use on behalf of the lawyers we help.

a. Front desk to front desk. Have your team member concisely explain to the gatekeeper you reach the purpose of your call, which is that your professional would like to schedule a phone appointment with the gatekeeper’s professional to discuss a potential referral alliance.

b. Obtain email address. Ask the gatekeeper for the professional’s email address so you can send an email explaining your interest.

c. Leave voicemail. Ask the gatekeeper to transfer the call to the professional’s voicemail so your team member can leave a message explaining why you want to have a phone conversation.

d. Send email. After hanging up, send an email detailing your interest in having a phone conversation to explore the suitability of a referral alliance.

Step 4: During your appointment, build trust and qualify

Your first phone call with a prospective professional referral source should have two goals:
(1) begin building trust by establishing a personal connection and conveying your competence, and (2) qualify the source by learning about the professional’s lead and client volume, type of client, and referral possibilities.

The best calls will have your prospect talking 2/3s to 3/4s of the time while you steer the conversation with planned questions so you learn basic information about the professional and his practice. We give the following starter checklist to attorneys making their first calls to referral prospects:

– After preliminary introductions, ask your contact for some background on his or her firm / business. Opening with a question gives the contact a chance to discuss company history, vision, goals, etc.

– What marketing tactics does the person utilize? How are they working? Do they relate in any way to what you are doing at your firm?

– Discuss your various lead flows and what clients/referrals you both are looking for. Are there crossover opportunities?

– Can you leverage our content in any way? Perhaps you could put some hard copy flyers in your contact’s office and vice versa, for example, or we could feature them in your next newsletter issue. We can also brand a booklet for them if they are interested in what we have to offer.

– Finally, be sure to make a personal connection as much as possible. Referrals are great, but professional contacts often have other positives that could help your firm down the line outside of pure back-and-forth referrals. We always encourage our clients to try to make a friend first, and a referral partner second. Perhaps you can ask about the contact’s hobbies or other interests; anything to make some type of bond. Maybe you have some interests in common, including favorite spots around town, etc.

Step 5: Meet

Ideally your phone conversation will end with a scheduled meeting date and location where you can continue the conversation. Consider starting at either the professional’s or your office and then heading out for lunch or a snack.

At the face-to-face meeting, continue learning more about the professional, the practice, and its clients or patients. Consider asking the following business-oriented questions as opportunities arise:

– How did you get started?
– What do you enjoy most about your work? Least?
– Have you had any big recent wins?
– What are your favorite kind of clients?
– What would be the ideal referral from my prospect and client base?

Be prepared to answer the same questions, for after an answer is given many of the questions will be thrown back at you.

Be ready to talk about the clients you represent, the problems they face, why they occur, and the solutions you provide. Practice concisely describing the type of client you represent and ones you want more of. Be ready to answer the question, “Who should I refer to you?

Be sure to listen more than you talk. This is important. If you come prepared with questions and the mission of listening, the meetup is more likely to go well.

After the meeting, make notes of the personal information you learned so you can ask relevant questions about family, challenges, or work the next time you talk.

At this first meeting, you want to work on connecting instead of selling. The referrals will follow if you make a solid connection.

Step 6: Follow up with a give

Relationship building is about helping, so listen closely during your conversations with the professional for opportunities to provide assistance.

We provide the attorneys we are helping with large collections of booklets they can offer to their new prospective referral sources. And we brand the booklets in the professional’s name. This offer is nearly always well received. Our attorney booklets can be viewed by clicking here.

We also have booklets that non-attorney professionals can brand and then give to their clients or patients.

Instead of content, maybe you know someone who can help the professional with a challenge mentioned. Or maybe you can do a bit of research and send some helpful links. Even if not directly helpful, your effort to assist will be noted and appreciated.

Step 7: Thank and inform the source

If and when you do receive a referral from the professional, be quick to send a thank you. Handwritten and postally-mailed cards stand out because so few people send them. Including a small gift relevant to some personal information you learned will earn even more goodwill.

Equally important is providing a periodic status update on the referred client … especially with the first few clients.

If you like the clients being sent and want more of them, the surest way to keep them coming is to acknowledge their receipt and confirm they are being well taken care of.

Step 8: Keep in touch

To keep your new referral relationship strong, you need to stay top of mind. Easy ways to do this are:

– Add the professional to your newsletter circulation list
– Send holiday and birthday cards
– Invite the professional to your holiday party
– Friend the professional on Facebook

Of course, these standardized touches won’t have near as much of an impact as doing something personally targeted, whether that is scheduling periodic meetings, getting together socially, providing assistance with a special challenge, or sending your own referrals.


1. How can I ask multiple members of the same profession or legal specialty for referrals? I won’t be able to provide comparable numbers of referrals to all of them.

This hurdle mentally trips up numerous attorneys, but it need not. You can provide value to referral sources in other ways:

– Introductions to good vendors
– Introductions to other referral sources
– Information about helpful marketing channels
– Immediate access to you for the professional’s referrals

Or you may over time become friends and the one-way flow of referrals may not turn out to matter to the professional.

2. What else can I do to generate referrals?

a. Start your own networking group. List the many different categories of professionals, vendors, and suppliers that your clients need. Enlist one in each category and organize a monthly meeting. Rotate the hosting location among the members. You will over time to get to know each other and the referrals will start flowing. If you are the organizer of the group you will likely receive the most referrals.

b. Arrange workshops. Like every industry group, professionals love to mingle with their peers. Target your #1 allied profession and put on informational programs for them in either a local hotel or your office if you have space. Evening times work best, especially if food and drink are provided.

c. Stay in touch with past clients. Too many lawyers ignore their past clients, and so are quickly forgotten by them. A monthly emailed newsletter costs little to circulate, and will cure that problem. Trust on this; regular contact with your past clients will generate referrals that would not otherwise be provided. We have seen it happen over and over.

3. I don’t have time to implement your suggestions. Can I outsource this work?

We offer a $595/month marketing service called Legal Referral System that is done-for-you. On your behalf we:


Referral outreach
1. Compile lists of local attorneys and allied professionals
2. Contact them with phone and email
3. Schedule phone appointments with you and those interested in discussing a referral alliance
4. Prep you for the call
5. Follow up the calls that go well with gives and regular contact

Past-client communication
6. Draft and send newsletters
7. Circulate shared-booklet emails
8. Solicit online reviews and feedback


Lead generation
9. Create effective lead magnets
10. Build and install sales funnels

Lead conversion
11. Write impressive shock-and-awe packages
12. Promptly follow up responses
13. Draft and send lengthy nurturing series

New-client communication
14. Draft and send welcome kits
15. Write and send reassurance series

Cancel anytime. If you cancel in the first 30 days, we will promptly refund your first payment with no questions asked.

Build A Referral-Based Law Firm

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