When I first started practicing law on my own, I thought that lawyers would be my primary referral sources. Attorneys often have matters that they cannot handle due to conflicts or lack of experience, and those lawyers may refer the matters to counsel with whom they are familiar. As I grew my practice, I later discovered that other professionals can be great referral sources for lawyers, and attorneys should build connections with certain kinds of professionals if they want to broaden their referral networks.
I definitely did not consider the referral power of accountants when I started my own firm. I thought that accountants might only refer tax law matters to tax attorneys, and although I took tax law in law school, I had no interest in practicing this type of law as an attorney. However, accountants can refer all kinds of matters to lawyers, and not all of those matters involve tax law issues.
For instance, clients often come to accountants for advice about what type of business entity they should make for tax purposes. In such instances, the accountant might refer the client to a lawyer so that the attorney can create the business and all of the accompanying documents that are needed to launch the business. In addition, since the accountant likely cannot answer legal questions that might be asked by a client when choosing a given business entity, an accountant might refer such questions to a lawyer. Over the course of my career, I have received numerous referrals from accountants that involve forming business entities and other issues. These clients have stayed at our firm and chose us for matters unrelated to the initial matter on which our firm worked. Of course, lawyers will refer matters to accountants for plenty of reasons, so lawyers and accountant can often form mutually beneficial referral networks with each other.
Brokers of all types can be a good referral source for lawyers. For instance, real estate brokers cannot handle the legal aspects of a closing by themselves unless they are licensed to practice law. In such instances, they may pass their clients off to trusted counsel so that an attorney they know can handle a client’s work. Business brokers also need to pass their clients off to lawyers to consummate the business deal if they themselves are not licensed to practice law. In addition, business brokers may need to ask lawyers a legal question that a client has about certain aspects of a transaction if the broker does not know the answer on their own.
There is also a chance that lawyers can form mutually beneficial referral networks with lawyers. There are times that a client comes to a lawyer first about purchasing a home, buying a business, or pursuing another transaction that a broker typically handles. In such situations, the lawyer can refer brokers that they have previously worked with so that the client can get practical advice about a given transaction. Since brokers can often benefit from the referral network, lawyers and brokers can connect to mutually grow their books of business.
For certain types of lawyers, doctors and other healthcare professionals can be important referral sources. Personal injury lawyers in particular can benefit from strong relationships with doctors. People often visit doctors after they suffer from certain types of incidents and accidents that might be the subject of lawsuits. Doctors can often do their patients a favor if they refer them to lawyers who can protect their rights and pursue claims against parties who might be responsible for their harm.
I know several personal injury lawyers who specialize in pursuing claims for people who suffer from a very particular type of medical ailment. There are not too many healthcare providers who specialize in treating patients who are suffering from this specific condition. Accordingly, convincing these medical professionals that a lawyer is skilled and experienced in protecting the rights of people who suffer from this ailment can be important to growing a lawyer’s practice.
Of course, every lawyer needs to follow ethical rules when it comes to referrals. Many states do not permit lawyers to provide anything of value to a nonlawyer for referring a client to that lawyer — and for good reason. People should refer clients to lawyers not because they will receive compensation in return, but because the referrer knows that the lawyer will competently handle a matter for a client. So long as ethical and other dictates are followed, lawyers should look to various kinds of nonlawyers when building their referral networks.
Jordan Rothman is a partner of The Rothman Law Firm, a full-service New York and New Jersey law firm. He is also the founder of Student Debt Diaries, a website discussing how he paid off his student loans. You can reach Jordan through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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