As a solo or small firm attorney, networking and referral marketing are some of the best ways to get new clients. Don’t let the thought of schmoozy cocktail parties fill you with dread; there’s so much more to networking and gathering referrals than selling your firm over bubbly.
No longer does networking mean going to in-person meetings. In the digital world, it’s just as important to stay active with your networking.
Maybe you’re a new firm that can’t quite get the word out about your practice. Or, maybe you’re an established firm that still doesn’t receive the quality of referrals you want. To solve these issues, you must implement strategic lawyer networking and referral marketing practices into your firm.
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How to Grow Your Practice Through Attorney Networking and Referrals
Almost 100% of people say face-to-face networking meetings are essential for long-term business relationships. Plus, 74% of consumers identify word-of-mouth referrals as a key influencer in their purchasing decisions.
When done correctly, lawyer networking and referral marketing tactics are powerful. Networking allows you to build solid business relationships and make your law firm known, while referral marketing solidifies your trustworthiness and experience in the field to potential clients. Together, they’re a catalyst for law firm growth.
Lawyer Networking and Referral Marketing Shouldn’t Be Your Only Focus
Before we go any further, we must bust a legal industry myth. Although it’s widely known and proven that law firms can experience quick growth through word-of-mouth referrals and face-to-face networking, sustainable growth requires more.
Networking and referral marketing shouldn’t be the only tactics inside your law firm marketing strategy. Instead, they should support your other marketing efforts such as digital marketing, advertising, continuing education (like coaching), and more. That’s the only surefire way to grow your practice for years to come.
Lawyer Networking Tips
Whether you’re a seasoned networker or an attorney just getting started, there’s always more to learn. We’ve gathered some tips over the years that can help you create a lawyer networking strategy that works.
Networking Is Not Free
Everything you do inside your firm comes at a cost, including networking. You must value the time you spend networking and meeting prospective clients just as you would billable time. After all, although you’re working on your business, it takes time away from client work and other business tasks.
Beyond time, networking takes hard-earned cash. For example, you might need to pay for traveling to a legal conference, monthly meeting dues, or your potential client’s dinner.
To ensure you’re not wasting your time and cash, get specific about your networking possibilities. Take the time to understand who your ideal client is by developing a specific persona that sets your firm apart from others. When you know who you want to rub elbows with, you’ll narrow down your networking possibilities. For example:
- Before you apply to speak at a networking event as part of your lawyer marketing, make sure it falls in your niche.
- Before you take a client out to dinner, make sure they’ll benefit from your services.
- Before you treat a colleague to that concert, make sure they’re a solid referral source.
How to Calculate the Cost of Networking
This may feel as though you’re always acting with ulterior motives. That’s not the case. We simply don’t want you to waste your business time and money on things that won’t benefit your growing firm.
As part of your networking strategy, we recommend calculating your current networking costs to ensure they align with your firm’s growth goals. It’s simple to do using this quick formula:
(Cost of Event + Time) / Number of Clients Received
For example, last month you may have spent $100 on cocktails and donations during an event. You also spent $750 in time during the event (even though this isn’t billable time). As a result of these activities, you got three new clients.
When you do the math, it equals $283 per client. Performing this formula for each opportunity will help you decide which ones are truly worth your time. (Some people will choose to discount their hourly rate when doing this formula – your call.)
Networking for Introverts
A concern we come across is networking when you’re an introvert. It’s scary to put yourself out there when you’re not sure what to expect.
Labster Jennifer Winegardner considers herself a major wallflower. She used to hate going to events where she didn’t know anyone. She needed a mindset change – she stopped thinking of events as working the room and started seeing them as a chance to make friends, invite interesting people to coffee, and learn more about them. This way, networking felt personally valuable.
And with a few tips, you too can be a successful networker regardless of your introvert status.
- Embrace your introversion. You don’t have to be an extrovert to be successful. Trying to be something you aren’t will exhaust you and hold you back. Be authentic. Be yourself.
- Put the networking ball in your court. There’s something comforting about being in a familiar space. For example, invite a potential client or colleague to your office for coffee instead of at a café.
- Practice. Sometimes you just have to do the things that scare you. Take baby steps by setting goals for yourself during networking opportunities. For example, set a goal to meet two new people during an event.
- Take advantage of other networking opportunities. Face-to-face networking is only one facet of lawyer networking. For example, use social media to join lawyer groups (more on this later). Or, use LinkedIn to connect with colleagues.
No matter what, make sure you’re putting your best face forward at networking events. For example, should you decide face-to-face networking is not for you (there are other ways), don’t send your most awkward employee to an event for you. Be intentional about how you present your firm at each event.
One of the most common types of networking involves going to events and meeting face-to-face with potential clients and colleagues. Not only do face-to-face events create meaningful business relationships, but they also increase your exposure. As a result, you further your firm’s reach.
Types of Attorney Networking Events
Networking events come in all shapes and sizes. As an attorney, there are many face-to-face networking opportunities you can pursue, including:
- Chamber of commerce gatherings
- Local meet-ups
To find networking events that fit your specific niche, a quick online search is a great place to start. Talk to friends and colleagues about the networking events they attend. Also, try searching event websites such as Meetup and Eventbrite to find local events to attend.
Tip: Create your own networking event! As an example, you could strategically invite four people to a special event, like a cooking class, scrapbooking night, or even a walk along a scenic part of town. Ask those four people to invite a guest you don’t know. And boom! You have an intimate group, in a comfortable setting. It’s more effort than just showing up to an event, but it can be more valuable than working a room.
Make Attorney Networking Events Worth Your While
Before you purchase that plane ticket to a conference or block time on your schedule for that café meetup, make sure the event is worth your time and money. Use the formula we discussed earlier to see which events give you the most bang for your buck.
To make it even more worth your while, apply to speak or ask to conduct a workshop at the event. You’ll have a captive audience—the perfect opportunity to put yourself out there even further. Don’t forget your business cards!
In today’s tech-driven world, more and more people are using social media to socialize and network. Often, online hangouts such as Facebook or NextDoor groups where people ask for recommendations are referral goldmines. Search these social platforms for groups that fit your niche. Once you join them, showcase your firm by answering potential client questions and socializing with colleagues.
Other places for online attorney networking include LinkedIn, online communities such as Reddit, Twitter, and more.
Networking and Your Online Presence
Remember how we said networking is only one part of your overall marketing strategy? You should have a digital marketing strategy that includes building your online presence. After all, even if a potential client gets your name from a friend, they’re still going to Google you. Make sure you have a law firm website and a solid presence online to seal the deal.
Client and Lawyer Referral Marketing
Word-of-mouth referrals work. Not only do referrals help you gather more of your clientele, but they also build loyalty within your current client base. For example, clients acquired via referral have a 37% higher retention rate. Plus, on average, every referring client makes an average of 2.68 invites or referrals.
As you can see, gathering referrals from both your clients and other attorneys is more than worth it. All you need are some tips for making the most of your referral marketing strategy.
How to Inspire Referrals for Your Firm
You can’t control whether clients become advocates for your firm, but you can inspire them to do so. Here are some tips you can easily implement into your referral strategy today.
- Provide an amazing client experience. Good client service is already expected. Focus on providing an exceptional one from intake to service delivery.
- Make the experience easily shareable. At the end of an experience, make it easy for your clients to refer others. This can be as simple as asking for a social share and putting a link to Facebook in your final email. Or, give your clients a few business cards in your last meeting together.
- Share in the giving of referrals. It’s common knowledge that giving referrals is an easy way to get them. For example, if you have a client that would benefit from the services of another attorney, refer them. That attorney is more likely to do the same for you.
- Show gratitude. A “thank you” is always appreciated. Thank clients who post on social media on your behalf. If another attorney sends you a client, thank them. Their actions help you grow your business. Additionally, a hand-written thank you note can go a long way in cementing your name in the minds of your clients and referral partners.
- Consider joining attorney networks. There are many attorney referral networks online you can join to inspire referrals from other attorneys in your niche. As you consider this option, remember that many of them require membership fees to join.
Referrals From Other Professionals
As an attorney, you have the opportunity to glean referrals from a wide range of other professions. For example, one of your clients might be an accountant who has business clients that may need legal services. Or, you might represent a CEO that comes into contact with many other C-level executives in their line of work.
These clients often have a better influence on others. While you provide exceptional service, make sure to also remain open about your willingness to accept referrals.
Lawyer Referral Marketing Tools
To ensure you’re spending time on the right referral sources, you must track where they’re coming from and be mindful. Some of the costs required to gain referrals such as attorney networks and networking events can add up over time.
There are lawyer referral marketing tools out there to help you such as customer relationship management (CRM) tools. Some of these tools include Clio Grow, Freshworks, HubSpot, Keap, Lawmatics and more. These tools can track referral sources while showcasing costs associated with the referral and more.
You also might consider hiring a coach. Labster Gary Savine hired a business development coach when he was first starting out. Networking seemed vague and nebulous to him. He knew he needed to go to events and talk to people, but what else?
The coach gave him two keys pieces of advice:
- Never go to an event without knowing the attendee list. This way, you’ll know if your demographic is there.
- After the event, strategically follow up leads. You don’t have to follow up on everyone – no need to waste time! Pre-qualify those leads with a quick phone call before asking to meet for coffee.
This way, Gary was able to be mindful about which events he attended – and the people he met.
It’s Not a Lawyer Networking Strategy Without Referrals
Your clients are becoming pickier every single day. One of the surefire ways to ensure they choose you is by becoming known via networking and being shared via referral. Word-of-mouth is a powerful marketing tool—use it to your advantage.
We know this is hard. It’s overwhelming to think about adding dinner dates to your already busy schedule. Yet, all you need is a strategy and the ability to say “no” to opportunities that don’t serve you to be successful in networking and referrals.