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Man pointing to another person to symbolize showing referral sources how instead of telling them what

When marketing to referral sources, show them “how”-don’t just tell them “what”

Stand out from other lawyers by showing your referral sources, through the work you do for clients, why they should continue sending you clients.

Your referral sources don’t just send you prospective clients because they know you.

Your referral sources send you prospective clients because they know you and they’re confident that you can solve those prospective clients’ problems.

Yet many law firms’ referral marketing initiatives tend to focus on the familiarity angle and ignore the problem-solving angle.

Don’t ignore the problem-solving angle. Bang that drum over and over again.

Law firms tend to run similar referral marketing programs

Traditional law firm referral marketing programs encourage their lawyers to participate in calls, video chats, and in-person events with past, current, and prospective referral sources. These programs, when executed strategically and systematically, can effectively build and maintain rapport between lawyers and referral sources.

Periodic communications, like email newsletters, informal emails, or birthday or holiday cards, can help lawyers and their firms stay top of mind with referral sources in between those calls, chats, and in-person events. The newsletters or informal emails will often address developments at those lawyers’ firms or favorable results they achieved for clients.

But many law firms have these programs and periodic communications, albeit with varying degrees of sophistication and frequency.

Thus, there is a good chance the lawyers and law firms you and your firm compete with have some kind of a referral marketing program in place.

This means your referral sources are being reminded frequently by other lawyers that those lawyers, just like you, exist and, perhaps merely for that reason, deserve your referral sources’ referrals.

So, you’re going to have to stand out from the pack — even with your closest and most reliable referral sources.

Show HOW; don’t just say WHAT

The way to do that is to focus on the “how” and not just the “what” when talking shop with your referral sources.

HOW you achieved a result for a client can be more illustrative of why you deserve to receive your referral sources’ referrals than merely WHAT that result was.

For example, let’s say you are a plaintiffs’ lawyer who wants to address a victory for a client in your next email newsletter to referral sources. Your newsletter could simply note the fact that you secured a multimillion-dollar settlement for a client.

But lots of lawyers and firms would do that.

Why not explain, in as much detail as you are able to provide based on client confidences or an applicable confidentiality provision in the settlement agreement, how you were able to secure that settlement despite questions about causation, strong expert testimony against you, and a judge who seemed to greatly dislike your client?

With this angle you’re showing why you’re different from the other lawyers your referral sources can send cases to and why they should send those cases to you.

You’re not just reminding your referral sources that you exist and of the relationship you have with them.

You’re positioning yourself as the person they should turn to when they have a prospective client in need of the kind of legal counsel you provide.

This “How not What” framework can work for you regardless of your practice area.

Criminal defense? Check.

Qui Tam? Check.

Securities litigation defense? Check.

State/federal administrative agency compliance work? Check.

If you don’t have the ability to demonstrate to referral sources how you help clients solve their legal issues, make sure you are regularly sending your referral sources — and not just your clients — any thought-leadership content like blog posts or client alerts you’ve crafted regarding the area(s) of law you practice.

This will allow you to demonstrate the value you can bring to a prospective client’s matter based on your knowledge of developments in the area(s) of law you practice or the wisdom you have regarding the legal issues your clients often have to grapple with.

Relationships are not enough

Although it might seem like a kinder, gentler type of legal marketing, referral marketing can be awfully competitive. There will always be multiple lawyers vying for the attention of, and referrals from, those law firms, lawyers, and others who have prospective legal clients they can refer out.

Yes, you need to have a relationship with those referral sources if you want to have any shot at receiving their referrals.

But go one better.

Assure your referral sources that you can deliver great results for the clients they send you by showing them HOW you obtained great results for your clients — not just WHAT those great results were.

Thinking about bringing on an outside writer to help your law firm with its referral marketing efforts? 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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