46% of potential clients said their main source is asking family members, friends, and colleagues for a referral

As lawyers, we’re always trying to find potential clients. We’ve used TV commercials, billboards, radio spots, and ads in the yellow pages. And sure, those methods seem to be useful, but are they actually effective? How often do clients come in saying “Yeah, I saw your giant face on that billboard and thought you’d be perfect for me”? Probably not often. In this day and age, what are lawyers doing to generate new clients? More importantly, how do potential clients find and choose their legal representation?

The American Bar Association recently released a study that details how clients find lawyers for personal legal issues. According to the study, 46% of potential clients said their main source is asking family members, friends, and colleagues for a referral. 34% said they would use a lawyer they knew personally or one they had retained previously. That means that potentially 80% of your clients are coming from referrals of existing clients, or through people you know personally. With that in mind, let’s talk about how you can encourage your existing client base to refer you, how you can utilize their experience and connections, and how you can reach out to friends, family, community members and peers who all can send new clients your way.

Existing Clients

  • Take care of your current clients. Give them what they really want: outstanding client service. Take a look at how they experience your firm; Is your communication effective and consistent? How clear are your bills, are they easy to pay? How professionally did you and your associates act? Don’t just satisfy your clients – delight them. Happy clients will share their experiences and encourage others to use you as their legal representation.
  • Maintain relationships with previous clients. Even after their case is over, regularly engage clients. Schedule times to meet with clients for lunch or give them a call, stop by their business to check in. Ask them what they’re up to, how is their business going? Are their kids still in gymnastics? How is Aunt Shirlene’s daughter’s cat doing after surgery? Maintain a tracking sheet that details when you’ve spoken to clients and what you talked about. You’ll know when it’s time to check in and helps you remember information about your clients. Client’s will feel seen and appreciated by you, they’ll know that you and your firm genuinely care. They’ll trust you to take care of their friend’s and family’s legal needs.
  • Use our 11 Clever Client Appreciation Ideas Express your gratitude for their business and keep your firm at the top of your client’s mind. They’ll be impressed by your thoughtfulness and sincerity, and be more likely to refer you.
  • Find client associations and participate in them. What industry and community associations do your clients participate in? Are potential clients in those groups? Pick one or two associations that have meetings you can regularly attend and engage with potential clients.
  • Ask for client feedback. Obtaining and using client feedback helps your firm improve customer service, make decisions based on facts, compare your firm with competitors, assess your client’s satisfaction and determine if clients would recommend you to others.

A client appreciation party is a great way to connect with clients and show your gratitude for their business.

Community Engagement

  • Attend local bar association events. Would you refer a client to a lawyer you didn’t know? I didn’t think so. Lawyers refer cases to people they know and have met, so network with your peers at local events.
  • Volunteer with local legal and community groups. This is a great way to network with members of the legal industry, meet potential clients, and get referrals. There are plenty of local organizations and programs that you can volunteer your services to, so choose what volunteer opportunity best fits your talents and time availability.
  • Present at continuing legal education seminars and conferences. Choose seminars and conferences that are interesting and will have good attendance. Make sure you prepare engaging, memorable presentations and make time to take questions and chat after your presentation is over.
  • Host a community legal forum. While you are an expert in your field, potential clients are dealing with legal issues that seem complex and frustrating. Offer a free forum where you and other members of your firm demystify legal issues or highlight hot topics in the legal industry. Show potential clients that you are highly skilled and experienced, accessible, and that you genuinely care about their situation.
  • Work with law professors to speak in their classrooms or do adjunct professor work. This can be as easily as connecting with professors and offering a short presentation or Q&A, or doing regular adjunct professor work. Connecting with both faculty and students is a great move to get your name out there, network and grab referrals.
  • Sponsor local events or teams. Publicize your firm and show that you’re more than just lawyers; you’re invested in the community. Ask the event or team to provide a link to your website on their webpage.

Online Marketing and Networking 

  • Connect with your legal peers online.  Use LinkedIn to connect with, and write endorsements for, people you have worked with and respect. Join and comment in online legal community groups.
  • Comment, comment, comment. Regularly use social media and online legal forums. Look for local news pieces, Facebook groups, forums, etc that are exploring or  discussing issues that you have legal expertise in. Offer a short opinion, note that you’re a lawyer, and what services you provide.  This should be done from your professional accounts, not your personal ones.
  • Jump on hot topic issues. What are the hottest topics in your field right now? Both locally and nationally? How can you contribute to the conversation and reach potential clients? California-based attorney John Hamasaki responded to the national controversy over the arrest and subsequent death of activist Sandra Bland through an interview with Attn.com. Hamasaki got a free plug for his business while offering an expert legal opinion about Bland’s arrest. What hot topics can you comment on?
  •  Build online reviews of your practice. Encourage your clients to review your practice online. More than ever before, potential clients are inclined to research you online, even if they’ve been referred to you by a family member, friend or colleague, and reviews matter.