Podcast #145: Why it’s Hard for Financial Advisors to Build Referral Networks with Lawyers, with Brad Johnson

In this podcast, we ask Brad Johnson why financial advisors find it so difficult to build referral networks with lawyers. We also discovered some interesting parallels between financial advising firms and small law firms.

Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is VP of Advisor Development at Advisors Excel and mentors a small group of the country’s most elite financial advisors, teaching them to maximize their marketing ROI, streamline their client acquisition process, and run their business like a CEO and not a salesperson.

Brad also hosts The Elite Advisor Blueprint, a podcast dedicated to sharing the “blueprint for success” in the independent financial advising world.

You can follow Brad on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Thanks to Ruby Receptionists and Clio for sponsoring this episode!

Listen & Subscribe

To listen to the podcast, just scroll up and hit the play button (or click the link to this post if you are reading this by email).

To make sure you don’t miss an episode of The Lawyerist Podcast, subscribe now in iTunes, Stitcher, or your favorite podcast player. Or find out about new episodes by subscribing to our email newsletter.


Transcript prepared by Rev.com

Voiceover: Welcome to The Lawyerist Podcast with Sam Glover and Aaron Street. Each week Lawyerist brings you advice and interviews to help you build a more successful law practice in today’s challenging and constantly changing legal market. Now here are Sam and Aaron.

Sam Glover: Hi, I’m Sam Glover.

Aaron Street: And I’m Aaron Street and this is episode 145 of The Lawyerist Podcast, part of the Legal Talk Network. Today we’re talking with Brad Johnson about the parallels between independent financial advising firms and small law firms, and trying to figure out why it’s so challenging for financial advisors to build referral networks with lawyers.

Sam Glover: Today’s podcast is sponsored by Ruby Receptionists and it’s smart, charming receptionists who are perfect for small firms. Visit callruby.com/lawyerists to get a risk free trial with Ruby.

Aaron Street: Today’s podcast is also sponsored by Clio Legal Practice Management Software. Clio makes running your law firm easier. Try it for free today at clio.com. Sam, I’m excited that we have officially launched our Lawyerist Insider subscription platform, offering.

Sam Glover: Yeah, platform.

Aaron Street: Platform offering?

Sam Glover: Yeah. I’m so excited. It’s been so much hard work and I’m thrilled to just throw it out there to the world now.

Aaron Street: Yeah, we’ve spent a few podcast episodes in a row now talking about tribes and how important it is for us to have found and built our tribe. Both using this podcast and our TBD events, and I think this is the next step in that evolution to try and bring more cool lawyers into the fold as Lawyerist insiders.

Sam Glover: Yeah. We’re introducing you to the tip of the iceberg, which is the Lawyerist Insider community. You can sign up for it right now on Lawyerist. You can go to lawyerist.com/Insider and learn more. What you get right now is you get to join the community. That means you get to join the tribe of what we’ve been talking about, of innovative and entrepreneurial lawyers.

As an incentive we’ll give you access to our Insider library, which is the tools, and templates, and resources that we have been putting on Lawyerist for a while and trying to keep updated. We’re adding to it all the time. Our podcast guests throw things in there too. You’ll see that stuff now. We’re also offering a plus subscription where you can upgrade and get access to our more premium stuff that we’ve put a ton of work into building e-books and survival guides and things.

Aaron Street: I’ve mentioned a few times in this ongoing tribe’s conversation, I’m also involved in the mastermind talks group that we’ve had a number of podcast guests from. Today’s guest Brad Johnson is another member of that group. What I’m really excited about from Brad’s talk is a dirty secret of Lawyerist of the last eight or 10 years that I think we haven’t talked much about. Which is a huge part of what started Lawyerist was you and I having the realization that most law firms could learn more from non law firm small businesses than they can from other law firms.

We’ve spent years trying to adapt small business best practices and concepts for small law firms as they try to figure out how to become better businesses. Part because 10 years ago it was taboo to even call a small law firm a business. I think we’ve started to change that part of the conversation.

One of the things that’s really cool about today’s conversation with Brad is looking at a very parallel industry in the financial advisor financial planning world, and how they think about building businesses, and marketing, and client acquisition, and client service in ways that I think is going to sound totally foreign to lawyers. I think that’s a problem for lawyers.

Sam Glover: Yeah. No, it’s super interesting. I’m excited to get started with today’s podcast. Before we do I forgot to mention one thing. The other reason to sign up for the Insider, one of the other reasons. I mean, one reason is that we’re gonna try to find ways to continue adding value to the community over time.

One of the other immediate reasons is that small firm lawyers can join our private Facebook group, which largely replaces the old Lawyerist lab forum that a lot of people have actually told me they miss. Here’s where it is, it’s on Facebook. In order to get access to it you need to become an Insider. That said, I won’t add anything more. Let’s hear from Brad.

Brad Johnson: Hi, I’m Brad Johnson. My technical title is VP of Advisor Development at Advisors Excel. I guess if you really want to know what we do on a daily basis, we help financial advisors design their ideal practices. That typically starts with marketing, leads to their appointment process, as far as how clients go through their firm. Then hopefully gets to a point of how do we help them scale higher, build out an infrastructure where they’re really more of a CEO as opposed to a sales person. High level, that’s what we do Sam.

Sam Glover: Hi Brad, and thanks for being with us. When you say financial advisors are you talking about mostly solos or mostly very small practices? What does the typical client look like? What does a typical or wealth planner look like?

Brad Johnson: The easy answer is probably a lot like the audience of lawyers here, everything. For us, our niche really in the financial services space, our clients are independent financial advisors, so they’re not working for Ed Jones, Marrell Morgan. They’re Joe Smith Advisor firm, so they are typically entrepreneurs. Most of them start like probably most of the audience here starts, as a solo practitioner, maybe a couple of staff. Then as the firm grows, as they have success, some of our biggest clients might have four, five, six, eight different advisors in the firm with fairly massive staff to support them.

Sam Glover: Okay, yeah. That looks a lot like probably a lot of the people who are listening. I think there’s a lot of overlap. Maybe it would be interesting to talk a little bit more about how they do build business. I mean, you’ve talked about your services as baby steps from the beginning all the way to being the CEO, but what does that path look like as far as marketing and getting clients?

Brad Johnson: It’s such a complicated question, but it’s such a simple question. One of the things that we do is we teach our clients how to think about how they drive revenue through their firm. What’s crazy is when you start out you’re just trying to survive. You’re the janitor. You’re the receptionist. Not quite to that level, but you’re pretty much doing everything.

As we teach firms how to scale, as we teach an advisor how to scale, really I’m guessing it’s fairly similar to an attorney or to a lawyer, is really there’s only two things. This is dealing with firms that bring in … One of our top clients will bring in 150 million plus of organic assets this year, some of our smaller offices three, four million of organic assets.

These are large firms. On both sides of that spectrum they still only make money two ways. That’s number one, to be sitting in front of a new prospect across the desk from them that’s qualified. Number two, to be serving an existing client that still drives revenue to their firm. Anything outside of that, if you really break it down to the bare bones, is costing them money if it’s on their schedule or on their to do list.

We start there. We start with how do you maximize revenue to the firm. Then how do you build a firm around you that removes all of those obstacles that get in your way as an advisor. Basically takes it off your plate, if that makes sense.

Sam Glover: That’s interesting, it sounds like there are definitely some similarities but also some differences in the way that financial advising works. It’s much more explicitly about advising rather than delivering solutions maybe. I’m curious, many lawyers have a hard time, none of our listeners I’m sure. But many lawyers have a hard time thinking about their practices as a business.

I’m wondering if that is also true for financial planners and wealth advisors. Is it a challenge to get them to think about what they’re doing as a business as well as a profession or a service? Or is that just something that comes more easily?

Brad Johnson: I think you’re spot on Sam. I think it’s also how you wind up in this role. Obviously as a lawyer you spend a lot more time in school to get to where you’re at. I think it’s similar with an attorney and with a financial advisor, it’s really surviving when you first start. It’s how do I start to fill the calendar with people that I can give my advice to that will pay for it.

What I find is a lot of the mentality, a lot of the things that put a glass ceiling on your practice are because you’re just constantly hunting. You’re hunting for new clients right? I think attorneys, a lot of that’s referral based. A lot of financial advisors, it’s the same way.

When you actually start to view your firm and you basically step out of sales role, or face to face attorney role, and you say I’m now officially the CEO of a company, how would I build this infrastructure to start to maximize revenue. When you start to see some of the things, we call them constraints, that are getting in the way of filling your calendar, and start to identify those and get the team members in place to take those things off your plate, that’s where we really start to see firms scale at a fast level.

Sam Glover: Interesting.

Brad Johnson: My tip there, just to clarify, would be view yourself even though you’re an attorney, and even though that’s what you get paid for, view yourself as the CEO of a firm. View it through that lens and you’ll start to, I think, make some of those breakthroughs.

Sam Glover: Very cool. I want to move over to what I’m also interested in talking about is the interaction between estate planning lawyers specifically, but maybe more broader categories of practices like real estate and stuff, and financial planners and wealth advisors. A lot of the advice I hear being given to estate planning lawyers in particular is go make friends with financial planners right? Because they can refer business to you. I’m curious to hear you talk about what does that look like from the other side? How do financial planners and wealth advisors think about lawyers when it comes to building their own businesses or extending their own referral networks? How do lawyers come in?

Brad Johnson: This is a little bit of a loaded question but I’ll just answer it honestly.

Sam Glover: Let’s get all the loading parts.

Brad Johnson: I want to serve your audiences at the highest level I can. One of the biggest frustrations in a lot of financial advisors worlds are a good attorney relationship. I’m just going to give you the financial advisor’s perspective that I’ve been hearing for the last decade. I send Joe attorney down the road, I send him 20 referrals a year and I get none back. I’m not a big fan of that. It’s this code that most financial advisors have a really tough time cracking is why is this a one way street. Why does it not come back the other way? We do have some guys that have cracked that code.

Sam Glover: Let me get to the beginning of that. First of all, should I be calling financial advisors financial planners? Is that interchangeable? Does it matter?

Brad Johnson: Yeah. I mean, essentially some of you define as what I see as a financial advisor, 90% of our clients are securities licensed. Either dealing with a broker dealer, or their own RIA, registered investment advisor, where they’re charging a fee to manage assets. Then, many of them are also doing insurance planning, which is going to be life insurance and annuities for retirees. Building a portfolio, or a financial plan. Some guys sell those financial plans, some guys just get paid on the fees or the commissions on the other side and build their plans for free when people come onboard.

Sam Glover: Should I call those financial advisors or financial planners?

Brad Johnson: Let’s go with advisors.

Sam Glover: Okay. Deal. Let me back up to where we were after that [inaudible 00: 12: 20]. Financial advisors need lawyers because their clients need to get things done and they need lawyers to get those things done right? It’s not really a question they’re going to be sending business to lawyers?

Brad Johnson: Very true.

Sam Glover: Or do they have alternatives?

Brad Johnson: Well, I mean, I guess it depends. I think maybe this is the frustration for your audience. They don’t know what kind of financial advisor they’re dealing with. My guess is it’s a trust issue on the attorney’s side. [crosstalk 00: 12: 45] Okay, well maybe not. I think the issue is they’re sales guys. There’s people that are just straight selling for commission.

There’s people that are just managing assets, I think what’s interesting where we’ve found a niche with our clients is holistic independent advising. Maybe the best analogy I can make is they’re not working for a tool company and saying we just offer hammers. “We’re specialized in hammers. Come in here and buy your best hammer.”

They’re working for Home Depot where if you want to build a home they’ve got access to every single tool available on the marketplace based on the need or what the client wants. They’re now rummaging through the toolbox and saying we think these three tools put together in a cohesive plan are going to meet that need and give you a written plan for success.

To Segway, where does the attorney come into that? Our very best advisors are our most holistic advisors. A solid financial plan should involve obviously financial planning. It’s also going to involve estate planning, and it’s also going to involve tax planning. Really the best offices, the most successful offices we have is it’s a one stop shop.

The prospect wants to come in, they don’t want to drive across town to an attorney. Then leave there and have their trust documents and now have to call their advisor and drive an hour across the other side of town to then have them work on a trust document that they don’t even know it works because they weren’t involved with the attorney that put it together.

By the way, once that’s done go drive over to the CPA’s office that’s another hour the other direction. What they would really prefer is go to one office, one cohesive plan, where all three parties interact and build a bulletproof plan that’s gonna get them where they want to go.

Sam Glover: I feel like what I’m hearing underlying what you’re saying is that working with lawyers is actually a pain in the ass for financial advisors. It’s a very prominent pain in the ass. It’s something that they have to do and they have to figure out. It’s not just like a casual thing. It’s like, no, this is a problem that we need to solve is how to have relationships with lawyers, because your financial advisors need to serve their clients well. That means trying to deal with lawyers who are not easy to deal with it sounds like.

Brad Johnson: I’ve seen it be the worst relationships, I’ve seen it be the best relationships. The guys that have cracked the code, it’s the most symbiotic mutually beneficial relationship you’ve ever seen.

Sam Glover: What does that look like? Say more about when someone has cracked the code what does the relationship look like.

Brad Johnson: A good example, one of our top clients on the east coast. First off, it starts with the advisor. The advisor has to have a process so that’s one of the things we coach on a lot. This I think also applies to attorneys, so this might be good advice here too.

Sam Glover: We talk a lot about process, absolutely. Same deal.

Brad Johnson: In financial services a lot of advisors struggle because they’re a commodity and that’s the truth. I think attorneys, a lot of them are commodities. It’s like I can go get my estate plan anywhere I want. The ones that truly rise above that and are the only answer in town are the ones that have a proprietary process specific to their firm. I’ll give you an example, in our world that might be I’ve got the XYZ retirement blueprint.

It’s our five step process to take you from uncertainty and not being able to spend with confidence to a written income plan for success to get you to and through retirement. That might be the value proposition a financial advisor makes. We’ve simplified the complex. It’s a five step process. You come and meet with us, we ask you a lot of questions and we start to custom build the plan that’s going to fit you.

Going back to see where I’ve seen this work really well. A financial advisory office that has this, they have a very clear plan and a very clear process they take their clients through. Once again, back to what is a successful financial plan. Two of their five worlds both involve attorneys. One is the tax planning aspect, they do income planning, they do investment planning.

World number three for them is tax planning. World number five is legacy and estate planning. They actually got this to such a level they recruited an attorney that offices in their office. Now when it gets to step five it’s walk across the hallway and let Mr Attorney finish up step five of your financial plan. It’s just a referral back and forth relationship where he’s actually integrated right into their process.

Sam Glover: Gotcha. We need to take a couple of minutes to hear from our sponsors. I want to pick right up where we left off when we come back on. We’ll be right back.

This podcast is supported by Ruby Receptionists. As a matter of fact, Ruby answers our phones at Lawyerist and my firm was a paying Ruby customer before that. Here’s what I love about Ruby. When I’m in the middle of something I hate to be interrupted, so when the phone rings it annoys me and that often carries over into the conversation I have after I pick up the phone. Which is why I’m better off not answering my own phone.

Instead, Ruby answers the phone and if the person on the other end asks for me, a friendly, cheerful receptionist from Ruby calls me and asks if I want them to put the call through. It’s a buffer that gives me a minute to let go of my annoyance and be a better human being during the call.

If you want to be a better human being on the phone give Ruby a try. Go to callruby.com/lawyerist to sign up and Ruby will waive the $95 set up fee. If you aren’t happy with Ruby for any reason you can get your money back during your first three weeks. I’m pretty sure you’ll stick around, but since there is no risk you might as well try.

Aaron Street: Imagine what you could do with an extra eight hours per week. You could invest in marketing your firm. You could spend more time helping clients in need. Or you could catch your daughter’s soccer game. That’s how much time legal professionals save with Clio, the world’s leading practice management software.

With Clio tracking time, billing, and matter management are fast and easy, giving you more time to focus on what really matters. And Clio is a complete practice management platform with plenty of tools and over 50 integrations to help you automate daily tasks such as document generation and court calendering. See how the right software can make it easier to manage your practice. Try Clio for free today at clio.com.

Sam Glover: Okay Brad, so you make it sound like the ones who really crack the code aren’t even in the same building with the lawyers, so that from the client’s perspective they’re basically working with one entity. Is that right?

Brad Johnson: In this particular case that I’m referencing, yes. Not always. Actually, most times not. Which goes back to the frustration from us financial advisors. The frustration is they might send referrals. I find most of them have their guy, their attorney that they send most of their estate planning because they trust them, they build a good plan.

What typically happens is that tends to be short lived if it’s a one way street. If it’s, I sent this guy 20 referrals, he didn’t send me one back at all last year I’m gonna go down the street to his competitor. I’m gonna start to send him referrals. Now if he starts to reciprocate now that’s a relationship that starts to go down that path that we’re talking about.

Sam Glover: Well, it sounds like part of what’s going on here, if I’m catching what’s underlying it is, too you’re treating the lawyers that you work with as if they’re a part of the same culture that’s governed by the same mission and values that you’ve built your financial advising firm on. You’re looking for lawyers who are willing to integrate and participate in that same environment.

Brad Johnson: Yeah, and now that I really think about this, I think the biggest issue Sam is that most attorneys, at least the ones that I’ve heard stories on through our clients is, I think a lot of attorneys just don’t market. Maybe they don’t have the referrals to be able to send back because maybe all of their work, their business flow, or their client flow I should say, is coming through relationships like this. Which is, hey I get five referrals from this advisor, five from this one, five from this one, and I obviously can’t send this financial advisor over to this other financial advisor. I can’t obviously cross refer there.

Sam Glover: Well, I think another piece of it might be that a lot of lawyers don’t have the kind of systems that it sounds like financial advisors, at least some of the more successful ones that you’re working with, are building. If you have a highly systematic financial advising practice and you try to work with a lawyer who doesn’t have any systems in place and is just flying by the seat of their pants, that’s just a bad fit. Maybe one indication of it is that there are no referrals coming back the other way. My guess is that client service is not up to standards either.

Brad Johnson: That’s a huge part of it. Yeah, Sam. Basically if I’m a financial advisor and I’m sending somebody referrals and then I check in a week later and nothings happened, yeah, massive issues there.

Sam Glover: Which is interesting because we absolutely try to teach lawyers that the importance of having systems, and having a proven or proprietary or whatever process. A way of delivering a level of client service that is predictable and is going to get you your high net promoter scores and things like that, but a lot of lawyers aren’t.

A lot of lawyers are not at that level yet. Maybe part of it is following the same sort of process in looking for referrals in both directions as you would in hiring you know? You look for somebody who really fits into the kind of mold that you’re trying to mold your own company into.

Brad Johnson: I’m curious, how big is the actual client experience for a lot of attorneys that are either listening to the show, or maybe you guys have interacted with other the years? Is that a big focus?

Sam Glover: Wait a second, this is my podcast.

Brad Johnson: I’m curious because I might have some insight here that could help, I don’t know.

Sam Glover: No, I think client experience is just beginning to be the kind of focal point for lawyers. I think a lot of lawyers are still waking up to the idea that they’re running a business, not just a professional services firm. I think lawyers who already know they’re running a business, and a lot of the lawyers hopefully who are listening to this understand that there is such a thing as client experience.

It’s different from the paternalistic idea of we tell clients what they need, and then we give it to them on our own terms in the way that we think is best. Which is a very, very different mentality from trying to design a client experience to really enhance the relationship and deliver consistent quality, and consistent satisfaction, those sorts of things.

I think it’s a newer concept for many lawyers. I think a lot of lawyers who come to our conference, TBD law, and have joined The Lawyerist Insider are the kind of lawyers who get that and are thinking beyond just their professional obligations, or just a straight up paternalistic idea of, “I’m gonna give you the legal results that you need and that’s it.”

Brad Johnson: I might have some insight there. I mean, if we’re talking about referrals one of the biggest leverage points I’ve found there is what is your actual client experience. What’s that life cycle look like where people are just raving about you? If you want me to go in there I could definitely share some things that I’ve seen some of our advisors do that really stand out and keep them from being that commoditized, I can go see a financial advisor on every single street corner.

Sam Glover: Yeah, I’d like to hear more about that because I think there’s some parallel there. I’m also interested to know if the concept of net promoter score is making end roads in the financial advisement world because that’s something that we talk about a lot with lawyers. The importance of measuring client satisfaction in a simple way, but also in a really effective way.

Brad Johnson: On the net promoter, almost non-existent. I think it’s brilliant. I mean, why wouldn’t you ask people how their experience was with you? Right? And if they would tell other people about it. That’s something that I’ll take from this conversation. I think that that’s huge. A couple of things for me over the last 10 years that have been huge is starting to look at …

One of my favorite phrases is, “You can’t always outspend your competition, but you can out experience them.” I think even just getting started, if you’re a solo practitioner you can still do a lot of that cool stuff. There’s a friend of mine, Joey Coleman, he was actually at the same conference that Aaron and I were at, Mastermind Talks. He’s got a concept called The First 100 Days.

Just high level, he’s actually writing a book, so that will be coming out and whoever wants can read that. High level, when they really dug in they found that the experience in the first 100 days of any business really dictates whether or not that client will be with you five years later.

As long as you get the first 100 days right they’ll almost always be with you five years later. Some of the cool things a lot of our clients have done, as you walk into the office, the reception area, you want that to feel just like any other high net worth experience. A country club experience, a Mercedes Benz dealership, Ritz Carlton type of experience. Some simple things that anyone can do.

Sam Glover: Or at least a deliberate experience that’s tailored to the kinds of clients that you want to have.

Brad Johnson: Exactly. If you’re a niche, like I only want to work with 30 year old males, probably set it up like a sports bar in a lounge right?

Sam Glover: If you typically work with low income people the Ritz Carlton might not be the right feel for your firm. Or it might be, I don’t know.

Brad Johnson: Great point. It might be all virtual, who knows? Some simple things though, and I guess if I’m off base here we can send the conversation the other direction, but have a drink menu. When somebody sits down we call it a director of first impressions, they come out from behind the desk you know? “Mr Jones, would you like the Americano like last time? Or would you like to switch it up? Here’s the hot drinks on this side, cold drinks on the other. Fresh baked cookies.”

Just creating a very welcoming, warm experience where they’re cool to hang out there and actually enjoy their time. There’s all kinds of things that you can go from there, but having a very intentional first 100 days where it’s also follow up. Personal, video, emails, things like bombom.com where you can actually send a personal video. “Hey, had a great time in the first appointment, was great to connect. Just so you know our team’s working on building out that estate plan that we talked about. You’ll hear from us in the next couple of days.”

Sam Glover: You’re talking about having a coherent client experience that you’re trying to create, which is probably if you have written a mission and values for your company your firm is probably one of them. Then when you think about what do we want the waiting room experience to be like? What do we want the website experience to be like? You refer to that customer experience and that informs the decisions that you make. Absolutely.

That makes a ton of sense and it’s something that I think lawyers who are sort of woke to the current and future direction of business and law practice are thinking about that. It’s huge, I think. It’s having a branded definite customer experience, client experience is a really important thing.

Brad Johnson: I’ve got one more that could be, I think, really huge for your audience but I want to make sure it’s compliant obviously with a lot of the financial services. Do attorneys have gifting limits just like financial advisors do?

Sam Glover: Gifting is … Yes. I mean, there are some restrictions on what lawyers can do to give gifts to each other and to clients. There’s some flexibility for sure.

Brad Johnson: One that we have complied, I’m guessing that it’s very stringent just like your guys industry, but a simple one … Another guy, John Rueland, wrote a book called Giftology and it’s how do you intentionally gift something and make this part of that first 100 days experience right?

Let’s say you met with a family that now you’re building an estate plan that should last generations hopefully. A thoughtful gift, maybe it’s at the completion of that, we do a lot of high end cutlery where it says on the blade Handcrafted for the Family of Brad and Sarah Johnson.

You could deliver that with the actual finished trust and say, with a personal handwritten note that says something to the effect of, Mr and Mrs Johnson, I just wanted to write you a thank you note for … I mean, this is a little corny, but you can go whatever direction you want with this for, “Carving out the time.” Granted, it might be too corny for some people, but I’m just giving you some ideas.

Sam Glover: Sure.

Brad Johnson: For carving out the time to sit down with us and craft a document that will influence your family for generations. We wanted to bestow this high end piece of cutlery to create amazing family experiences around the kitchen table for generations to come. It’s been an honor serving you.

Something like that, but now you’re like, where do you entertain? The kitchen. You’re using the cutlery everyday right? “Who gave that to you?” “Oh, that’s actually my attorney Sam. Yeah, he’s amazing to work with.” Creating those conversations that keep going after the work is done.

Sam Glover: Gifts are a big thing, and being able to say thank you, and delivering something. A friend of ours, Matt Hollman, has talked about what’s more valuable? A $10 teddy bear or a $5.00 teddy bear, or a $10 gift certificate to Starbucks? Right? It’s the $5.00 teddy bear, especially if you give it to a client whose kid came in and you’ve given the kid a $10 teddy bear.

That’s worth way more than the gift certificate, even though they’re the same value. We’ve also talked with a receptionist company, and I think people will just have heard a sponsored segment about them, but they have built a culture of giving in to the company. Every one there has an allowance and they can just go on Amazon and buy gifts for people to say thank you.

Or because while answering the phone they’ve uncovered evidence of a life change that may be cause for a gift. I think that’s huge if you can get it right, or if you can view your firm with the culture of gift giving. Especially if somebody has just made you $5,000, spend 50 on them you know? You can do that, as long as you can ethically do that it’s totally worth saying thank you in a meaningful way.

Brad Johnson: Yeah, that’s huge.

Sam Glover: Let me see if I can tie this up and bring us back a little bit towards where we started. Financial advisors struggle to work with lawyers. Some of that, it sounds like to me, is because there’s a culture mismatch. You’ve got a financial advisor that’s building in systems and trying to create a client experience and a lawyer isn’t.

It’s really hard for the two of them to work together in a way that’s going to bring satisfaction to the two firms, but also to the client that’s going back and forth. Lawyers who want to take advantage of referrals from financial advisors it sounds like should be doing some of the same things. In order to do that they should be saying thank you. They should have a culture of client experience, but maybe referral experience as well. Does that make sense?

Brad Johnson: Yeah. I think just cut them a thank you. Think about it this way, I don’t know what an estate plan is worth to an office in a lawyers office, guessing it’s decent money. It’s amazing how many financial advisors will literally send an attorney 20 referrals and nothing back. Not a thanks you. It’s just almost like, “Okay. Cool, yeah, we’ll process the paperwork.”

If you look at the free revenue basically walking through the door from that relationship, almost treating them like one of your most beneficial vendors because they truly are. At the least thank you and take them out to lunch maybe once a month or something.

I think if you really wanted to nail down that source of revenue for your firm is getting strategic and saying, “Mr Advisor, number one I just want to say thank you for all of the business you’ve been sending our way. It shows that you trust us at a high level to refer your clients over to us. I’m curious, what could we be doing on our side to make this a win win both ways? How could we integrate into your planning model to make this super seamless for your client base?”

Sam Glover: We’re not talking about sharing revenue. We’re talking about trying to help your referral source make more referrals by giving them something that they can depend on and by making sure that, if nothing else, they’re satisfied with what their clients get when they come to you.

Brad Johnson: Yeah, and what’s interesting is some of those relationships have evolved into a sharing of revenue where the trust factor has gotten so high. Just like that story that I was telling a little while back, one of our top clients. The trust factor got so high that attorney has literally integrated into their business model now and does share some revenue. A whole another revenue source that wasn’t even coming in for that attorney is now coming in because of that relationship getting to such a high trust level.

Sam Glover: Very cool. If there’s one thing you could say to lawyers, what’s the thing you’ve been dying to say to lawyers who have been frustrating you and your clients over the years? Go ahead, let it out.

Brad Johnson: I’m gonna stir up this whole pot of attorneys.

Sam Glover: No, no, let it out.

Brad Johnson: That’s like the worst group that you ever want to offend.

Sam Glover: We can take it.

Brad Johnson: There’s two things. First, recognize that for many of you this is an amazing revenue stream that literally you don’t have to work that hard for to just basically open up the flood gates for financial advisors in your market to send you lots and lots of business. Because they are having to market and every single one of their clients needs an estate plan.

That would be the first thing, is just recognize it’s a free pile of money just sitting right there in front of you that all you have to do is bend over and pick it up. Assuming that you are thoughtful about it. Number two, once you identify those key people in your marketplace, start thinking about them a little bit more in saying, hey, this is a good relationship we’ve got going here.

Just like a marriage, how could we make this more beneficial for both parties? There’s some things both firms could be doing to make it more seamless for the clients we’re serving. Which is a win for you because you keep clients longer from an attorney, it’s a win for the financial advisor as well.

Sam Glover: I’m just gonna try to wrap us up with one thing that I have heard from lawyers. I’ve heard estate planning lawyers say, sure, I get a bunch of referrals from financial advisors but they rarely complete their estate plan. Or they don’t do it in a timely way or whatever. They’re bad referrals, in other words, is basically what I’ve heard.

The admonishment that I would make to those lawyers is that that’s on you. You need to figure out how to close those referrals and convert them into paying clients. I think if a financial advisor is sending you clients and they’re not getting their estate planning done, then I think they’re probably gonna start sending that business elsewhere.

Brad Johnson: I’m glad you said that in passing because you just uncovered something that’s massive there. Going back to this relationship where it’s working to the highest level I’ve ever seen. One of the benefits that this financial services firm does for that attorney, they actually have a full-time staff member that re-titles asset.

Once that trust work is done they go back over to the financial advisor’s office, they sit down with one of their staff members, they go through all of those bank accounts and everything that needs to be re-titled. They actually put that in place where that’s part of the process. It actually covers both parties at a much higher level, because obviously one of the biggest risks for an attorney is that you build this amazing estate plan and then nothing ever happens with it because none of the assets get re-titled.

Sam Glover: That makes a ton of sense right? Leverage the relationship the financial advisor already has to make sure that the consumer gets the work done on your end once they come to you.

Brad Johnson: Yeah, I mean, for an attorney what better thing to have a free employee that re-titles all of your clients assets to fund your trusts and you don’t have to do anything other than find the right financial advisor that’s willing to do the work. That might be a good question for attorneys out there looking to establish that relationship because as long as the referrals are coming back the other way from the attorney I’m gonna venture to say most financial advisors would sign up for that deal in a heartbeat.

Sam Glover: If it’s not obvious enough by this point, relationships, relationships, relationships right? Build relationships with the financial advisor, or with anybody in your network, with anybody in your referral network who is sending you business. Figure out how to do a better job of serving those clients, but also of working with them to expand that and giving them what they need in return. I really hate the idea of a purely transactional relationship, I will send you business, you will send me business. That should be a part of it, so figuring out how to make that work by focusing on the relationship first, I think, is a really important thing. Build those relationships, and lawyers, if people are sending you business, my God, say thanks. If nothing else, say thanks.

Brad Johnson: It’s the simple advice sometimes Sam.

Sam Glover: Well Brad, thank you so much for being with us today and for the insight into the side of the estate planning relationship that is the financial advisor. Also, I think there’s a lot of information for lawyers to learn from the way financial advisors build their practices, which sounds very similar in some ways the way lawyers do and where they need to be focused. Thanks a lot for being with us today.

Brad Johnson: Thanks Sam, it’s been fun.

Aaron Street: Make sure to catch next weeks episode of The Lawyerist Podcast by subscribing to the show in your favorite podcast app. Please leave a rating to help other people find our show. You can find the notes for today’s episode on lawyerist.com/podcast.

Sam Glover: The views expressed by the participants are their own and are not endorsed by Legal Clock Network. Nothing said in this podcast is legal advice for you.
This transcript was prepared by Rev.com.

Leave a Reply