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Cracked egg to represent mistakes plaintiffs' firms make with referral marketing

Plaintiffs’ firms often make this one mistake when talking to referral sources

Effective referral marketing content for plaintiffs’ firms does more than tout gaudy numbers.

When plaintiffs’ attorneys and their firms publish content—including thought leadership content—aimed at their referral sources regarding their recent verdicts and settlements, all too often these attorneys and firms fail to explain how they got the results they did. 

They only focus on the result itself. 

A $1 million settlement. 

A $5 million verdict. 

A $10 million settlement. 

Few attorneys and firms actually explain how they secured the great results for clients that they tout and the obstacles they had to tackle in order to do so. 

That’s a missed opportunity to boost their standing in the eyes and minds of their referral sources.

Explaining HOW will resonate with referral sources

In most legal markets, there will be one or two leading plaintiffs’ firms that are known for securing eye-popping seven- and eight-figure recoveries for clients. Understandably, those firms will receive many referrals from attorneys who believe the cases they refer to those firms could net them nice-sized referral fees based on those firms’ prior results.

But there are many, many more referrals to be had from attorneys who would refer cases to other plaintiffs’ firms if those firms established, through their content and their attorneys’ one-on-one communications with referral sources, that they were particularly knowledgeable and wise about certain kinds of cases and issues—by explaining how they were able to secure noteworthy recoveries in those cases despite those issues that other firms—including the big dogs in their legal market—might not have been able to secure.

In any given personal injury case, there could be several obstacles an attorney needs to conquer in order to secure a great result for their client, including:

  • A novel legal theory that’s never been tested before in a jurisdiction
  • Compelling procedural arguments made by defendants, like ones concerning jurisdiction or venue
  • A client that would not elicit sympathy or empathy from a jury
  • A tough contributory/comparative negligence argument from a defendant
  • A persuasive opposing expert witness

Attorneys that overcame these obstacles or others, and explained how they did so in articles, blog posts, newsletters, CLEs, and social media posts, would establish themselves in the minds of referral sources as attorneys those referral sources should consider sending cases to when those referral sources think or know similar obstacles might or will emerge in those cases based on their preliminary investigations of them. 

That’s because those referral sources will start to see those attorneys as knowledgeable and wise regarding those particular obstacles. 

Even if other plaintiffs’ attorneys and firms are equally knowledgeable and wise about those obstacles, the few attorneys and firms that actually show their legal community that they are will likely put themselves in pole position for referrals.

Showing how you secured great results for clients impacts your referral relationships for the better

When plaintiffs’ attorneys and firms share how they secured a great result for a client instead of just mentioning gaudy numbers, it impacts their referral relationships for the better.

First, as I alluded to before, when an attorney talks about how they secured a result for a client, they are showing off the knowledge and wisdom they have regarding the factual, legal, and strategic issues that came up in the case. Referral sources will see that knowledge and wisdom clearly.

Second, attorneys are showing their dedication to their clients and to their practice. You don’t just develop knowledge and wisdom and secure great results by sitting on the sidelines and watching other people lawyer. 

You get to know the law like the back of your hand. 

You study litigation and trial strategy. 

You learn the science behind the cases you prosecute. 

In all, you dedicate yourself to being the best lawyer you can. When you do, your referral sources will notice.

Third, attorneys build trust through this transparency. When attorneys take referral sources behind the scenes and let them see how they conquered thorny issues in a case and got a great result for a client, they’re being transparent. 

That will build trust on the part of referral attorneys who see what the attorney did in the case and that the result was achieved through hard-nosed lawyering and not because of a fluke or dumb luck.

Fourth, when plaintiffs’ attorneys show how they’ve been able to get great results, they are going to convey unique abilities or establish a niche focus in the minds of referral attorneys.

If an attorney or a firm consistently turns cases that look like losers into nice recoveries, or resurrects cases based on winning procedural arguments, they’re going to be seen as a go-to attorney or firm for that kind of case or problem. They’ll easily separate themselves from the pack of attorneys who don’t communicate how they secured recoveries in similar cases.

Finally, when attorneys show how they secured great results for clients, they’re inspiring confidence in their referral sources, which will hopefully lead to loyalty. Referral sources are seeing how those attorneys overcome obstacles in their cases and are thus becoming confident that they can turn to those attorneys because they have a track record of getting good results in particular types of cases. 

The more confident referral sources are in an attorney’s ability to get great results for clients—through both the content they see the attorney putting out and the work the attorney is actually doing for those referral sources—the more loyal they should become in terms of referring cases.

A note about confidentiality and privilege

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that some plaintiffs’ attorneys and firms don’t want to discuss how they secured a great result for a client because they’re concerned about a confidentiality clause in a settlement agreement, or about violating attorney-client privilege or divulging work product.

That’s not something attorneys should worry about. 

There are ways to talk about what happened in a case without getting into a level of depth that reveals confidential or privileged information. The discussion just has to be specific enough that referral sources understand what happened and have a sense of how the attorney was able to overcome obstacles on the way to securing a great result for a client.

With referral marketing, plaintiffs’ attorneys should zig while their peers and competitors zag

The vast majority of plaintiffs’ attorneys and their firms do not show referral sources how they got great results for their clients. They only focus on the dollar amounts they recovered for their clients.

That’s understandable, and in many cases it can be a persuasive way to get referral sources to perk up and start thinking about sending more cases those attorneys’ ways.

But the plaintiffs’ attorneys and firms that focus on showing referral sources how they got great results for their clients are going to separate themselves from the pack and will likely get more referrals down the road than their peers and competitors because they are connecting with their referral sources in a way that gives them confidence that those attorneys are the most qualified ones to handle the particular cases their referral sources are looking to refer out.

Thinking about bringing on an outside writer to help your law firm strategize and create compelling thought-leadership marketing and business development content? Click here to schedule a 30-minute Content Strategy Audit to learn if collaborating with an outside writer is the right move for you and your firm.

Wayne Pollock, a former Am Law 50 senior litigation associate, is the founder of Copo Strategies, a legal services and communications firm, and the Law Firm Editorial Service, a content strategy and ghostwriting service for lawyers and their law firms. The Law Firm Editorial Service helps Big Law and boutique law firm partners, and their firms, grow their practices and prominence by collaborating with them to strategize and ethically ghostwrite book-of-business-building marketing and business development content.

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