And once you start tracking that information, be sure to say thanks to other attorneys who send business your way.
How to say thanks
Regardless of your communication preference, you need to specifically thank the person. If you office share with the person, tell them face to face. Otherwise, send a handwritten card or pick up the phone and call them.
Think about when you refer a client elsewhere—how would you want to be thanked? An e-mail is better than nothing, but it also feels somewhat insufficient. Drafting a “thanks for the referral, let’s get lunch soon” e-mail takes approximately ten seconds.
I usually send an e-mail immediately, and then either follow up in person or pick up the phone and call the attorney. Going that extra mile can really make a difference. I certainly remember when other people take the time to thank me.
Be sure to check your local jurisdiction’s rules on referral fees. In my jurisdiction, you cannot simply give an attorney a cut for referring a case. I know some attorneys try and avoid that by “sharing responsibility” on a case, when in fact the referring attorney does little or no work.
Make sure whatever arrangement you have is ethical. Even if it is ethical make sure you are comfortable with it. My firm’s policy is simple: I don’t take referral fees (or “share responsibility”) and I don’t give referral fees.
Sending more than just thanks
If you are thinking about sending a gift basket, a giftcard, or a bottle of wine, be sure to double check your local rules on referral fees. Depending on where you practice, that can be construed as an illegal referral fee, which could be unethical, and create all sorts of problems.
Thank you gifts aside, the most important thing is to take the time to say thanks—in writing, over the phone, or in person.