Friday, February 8, 2013

Good Referrals and Bad Referrals

Of course referrals are the linchpin of any successful family law practice. I am always studying the practice of referral generation.  I have read the words of marketing experts claiming that there is no such thing as a bad referral.  I disagree.  There are plenty of referrals that are a complete waste of time.  I call them the Un-Referrals.

Let me give you an example.  I receive maybe one call a month from people who were given my name by a particular family law firm in a neighboring town.  When the callers make contact with us they are always sure to remind us that they were referred by one of the particular partners in the firm, whom they mention by name.

Out of respect for those attorneys, we have been giving these callers special attention.  Alas, and almost inevitably we have come to learn that the caller has no money, cannot afford us, and is really looking for a pro bono lawyer.  What has actually happened is those other lawyers have received the same call, learned the caller cannot afford them, and then politely gotten off the phone with them by suggesting that they call me.

What does such an un-referral accomplish?  Nothing!  It is a complete waste of time for the first attorney and for me.  In fact a lot of the callers get down right mad at us, because they were led to believe by the other lawyer that we would be a perfect fit, and that we would take their case. What is so frustrating is that those other lawyers know that I am no more likely to offer representation than they were; still they make the un-referral at my expense.  A complete lack of respect.

I am now at the point that when we receive a call mentioning the name of any of the un-referrers, the presumption is that it will be a waste of time.  It is forwarded straight to a non-lawyer staffer who offers a consultation at a fee, and who explains my hourly rate and retainer requirement.  That usually leads to a hang-up at the other end of the phone line.  If the caller is still looking for guidance we suggest that he or she call the lawyer referral service run by our county bar association.  The un-referrer could have done the same thing, but instead they took the easy way out and dumped the caller on us.

By the way, there is another consequence of the un-referral.  As a thank you for wasting my time, we no longer send good referrals to that firm!

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