a puzzled business man

Courtly Manners: The Referral That Keeps on Giving

By Crystal Rockwood

It made sense when you brought in “Alex” for your client’s wage-and-hour case; he is, after all, the best employment lawyer you know. But after he suggested that the client hire your competition for another piece of business your firm hoped to get, there is no way in Hades you will ever give him another referral. Alex quite simply forgot who invited him to the dance.

All too many attorneys inadvertently land on their colleagues’ do-not-call lists this way. “When the guy I bring in tries to get his own team in place and I get cut out of the picture, yeah, I got a problem with that,” says one real estate law partner. Alex may have thought of his move as aggressive business development, but it cost him on multiple fronts.

In turn, what should you do if your colleague Tina has just referred you to her client to handle IP matters, and the client then asks your advice about family law attorneys? Even if you know the best, and you’re sure Tina would agree, you will keep the greatest number of relationships intact if you tell the client you have people in mind, promise to get back to her as fast as possible, and check in with your referral source: “Tina, the client asked about a divorce attorney. If you don’t have someone in mind, I’ve heard Kerri is excellent. Let me know if you’d prefer to suggest someone else.”

Your relationships with referral sources are like any others: You need to protect them and nourish them if you want them to flourish. Thanking your sources is also crucial, but doing it poorly also can land you on do-not-call lists. In the next Courtly Manners, you’ll learn how to do it right.

Article originally appeared in California Lawyer: A Daily Journal Publication

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