How to lay the groundwork for a solid referral pipeline

For most lawyers, a robust referral pipeline is an absolute dream. Clients with a legal need coming to you without you having to do much to attract them — what could be better?

In reality, most good referral programs don’t come out of thin air. A quality stream of referrals is possible, but to create the right circumstances for it, you have to lay some groundwork first.

You probably already know some of what needs to be done, like ensuring that your alma mater has your current contact information for its alumni directory and participating in local bar events to keep up appearances. Beyond that, here are some digital legal marketing efforts you may not have thought of that will help your referral program flourish.

Keep your website up to date.

Imagine a family law attorney whom you haven’t talked to much since you both graduated from the same law school. When she has a client who asks about, say, an estate planning matter, that attorney would be very likely to look at your website to ensure you still practice estate planning and are accepting new work before she sends the client your way. That’s why it’s important that your website looks contemporary and has easy, current ways to get in touch with you. A phone number and address are good, a click-to-call feature is better, and a chat function might be the best of all. A dull-looking or inaccurate website actively works against you and your practice to a greater deal than you may realize.

Stay social on social media.

Many people make the mistake of thinking of social media as a one-way street. They publish content but may do nothing further and expect magic to happen. That approach doesn’t acknowledge the reality that social media is just that: social. If you use LinkedIn (and we hope you do), make sure to interact with other attorneys from time to time by commenting on or liking their posts. This keeps you top of mind for when these attorneys have a matter they need to refer. The same applies for other social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook — although if you only have so much time to devote to social media, LinkedIn is definitely the place to start.

Ask clients for reviews.

Reviews and ratings aren’t exactly referrals, but they function in a similar fashion. When a prospective client with a legal need sees that people in similar circumstances enjoyed working with you, they feel confident in their decision to hire you. Furthermore, let’s go back to the family law attorney we mentioned in the earlier example: she will feel better about sending work your way if she sees a body of positive reviews. An easy way to generate more positive reviews is to make asking the client for a review part of your standard matter closing. But if you prefer not to add another thing to your to-do list, there are reputation management programs that can do it for you.

As a final thought, remember that a vigorous referral pipeline is something that takes work and time to achieve. If you lay a good foundation and build on it slowly but surely, you’ll put yourself in the position to draw referrals your way.

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