"Everything you've been told about building
an injury law practice is wrong"

How Lawyers Hunt for Whales

In the movie, “Godfather”, the Consigliere is asked about his law practice and he responds, “I have a special practice—I handle one client.” The Consigliere makes an important point: if you have just one client who sends you a steam of referrals of high value cases on a regular basis, you don’t need anything else.

The 80/20 rule (also known as the Pareto Principle) is the principle that 80% of your revenue is derived from 20% of your clients. Sounds logical, but the math is off. Last year, 60% of our law firm’s revenue was generated from 4 referral partners and 80% of the revenue came from 2 referral partners. Roughly 80% of our firm’s revenue was derived from 1% of our referral partners.

Just one connection can make a difference.

Mark W. Schaefer, “Known

With 279 referral partners (i.e., a lawyer who has referred a case within the last 5 years), virtually all of the revenue came from just 4 referral partners. This was not an aberration. Over the last 4 years, almost all of our firm’s revenue was derived from a select few referral partners (a/k/a “whales”) who refer the highest value malpractice referrals and pre-screen the cases for merit.

Paint a Picture of Your Ideal Client

Your Ideal Client is not the injury victim with a multi-million $ case—banish this thinking from your mind. Your Ideal Client is the referral partner who sends you a steady stream of referrals. This referral partner doesn’t just generate a single case, but a slew of new referrals over the rest of your career, ideally on a weekly basis.

What is the profile of your Ideal Client? For our medical malpractice firm, the Ideal Client is:

  • A successful, high volume plaintiffs’ personal injury lawyer;
  • Practices in New York State with a primary office either in the Hudson Valley and Capital District; and
  • Does not handle medical malpractice cases.

Our Ideal Client is a personal injury lawyer who handles thousands of injury cases and spends a king’s ransom on advertising, i.e., TV, billboards, pay per click ads and radio, but wants nothing to do with medical malpractice cases. As soon as a new malpractice client calls his/her office, the client is referred to our firm.

Our referral partner gets a piece of the legal fee at the end of the case and they don’t have to do any of the work or spend any money on disbursements. Everyone’s happy.

Earn Referrals by Giving Value

List the top 20 whales that are either current or prospective referral partners. Once you have this list, start building relationships.

Don’t ask for referrals—EARN THEM FIRST. You earn referrals by giving a ton of value to your whales without asking for anything in return.

How to Give Value to Your Referral Partners

We give value by conducting focus groups for personal injury lawyers. We schedule and plan the focus group, and the potential referral partner is invited to participate by presenting one side of the case.

At the focus group, the referral partner is blown away by the insights that the focus group delivers and is grateful for the feedback and help with their case. This is done at no cost to them. After the focus group, we schedule a lunch date with the referral partner and we let them know that we will be happy to do more focus groups with them.

Near the end of lunch, the referral partner inevitably asks, “What can I do for you?” I sheepishly respond, “If you ever have a malpractice case that you don’t want, I’d be happy to take a look.” Once your foot is in the door, you continue building the relationship with email and print newsletters, books, speaking events and weekly lunch dates.

Be Unique in Giving Value

Get started by writing a list of your Top 20 referral partners who refer your highest value cases. Once you have this list of your Top 20 Whales, build the relationship by GIVING VALUE. Giving value can be something as simple as the following:

  • Deliver lunch to the law firm,
  • Offer to co-sponsor a charitable event with the law firm,
  • Share their law firm’s Facebook posts,
  • Send a gift package to celebrate the one-year anniversary of a referral, or
  • Write an unsolicited testimonial on their law firm’s Google My Business or AVVO listing.

Find a unique way to give value—nothing is too crazy.

Who’s Up for a Challenge?

Here’s our challenge: if you list your Top 20 Whales and do ONE UNIQUE THING to provide value for just one referral partner, we will give you free admission to our next “Mastermind Experience” in Chicago on November 17, 2017 or in West Palm Beach, Florida in March/April, 2018. This has a value of $799 and much greater value over the lifetime of your membership in the mastermind (learn more at www.MastermindExperience.com).

Just send an email to jfisher@fishermalpracticelaw.com and state, “I met your Challenge”, post your Top 20 “Whales” and describe the one UNIQUE thing that you did to give value to a referral partner.

If we agree that your referral building tactic is unique, you win! And we’ll see you in Chicago on November 17, 2017, or West Palm Beach in March/April, 2018.

I’m almost certain you’ll do nothing–it’s just easier to move onto something else. Prove me wrong.

Who’s up for the challenge?


photo credit: RayMorris1 FLYING HIGH WITH GULLS via photopin (license)

Leave a comment below telling me what surprised, inspired or taught you the most (I personally respond to every comment). And if you disagree with my take on running a personal injury law firm, or have a specific, actionable tip, I’d love to hear from you.