Thank Your Referral Sources

Step one in revising and enhancing your marketing plan is to find out where your clients come from.

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.

Referral fees

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.



  1. Avatar Scott Key says:

    As an appellate lawyer, I live by referrals from other lawyers. This is a great post that reminds me of how much fellow members of the bar mean to me. I keep thank you notes on hand for that very purpose. One thing I always do when I refer a case to a fellow lawyer. Tell the client to tell the lawyer that you recommended them. I get referrals all the time and don’t know that they were referred to me.

    Keep up the excellent blogging. I read you all the time.


  2. It’s scary that this advice needs to be given. In person or hand written notes are the way that I do it. I try and keep it personal and make sure that they feel that I’m grateful.

  3. Avatar Wade Coye says:

    I have found it beneficial to take the 5 minutes and write a handwritten thank you note, which is then sent through snail mail. I know it might seem outdated, but people so rarely recieve anything handwritten in the mail these days that it’s a welcome surprise and is obviously more genuine and heartfelt than an e-mail with “sent from my iPhone/Blackberry/Android” tag at the end. It lets the other attorney be fully aware of your appreciation as well as gives you a quick break from the routine stresses of the day.

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