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

The Secrets of Lawyer-to-Lawyer Referral Based Marketing

My biggest epiphany as a lawyer? Injury victims are not really our clients—lawyers are. Once I eventually accepted this, life got easier.  We started marketing exclusively to lawyers.

Why would anyone create marketing systems to acquire lawyer referrals?  Begin by identifying the source of your highest value cases. That’s right, your best cases are referred by lawyers. Your referral partners (e.g., referring lawyers) pre-screen the cases for merit and send new clients to you with an endorsement of their support and best of all, you don’t have to spend a penny to acquire the new case.  And with the endorsement from your referral partner, you can do no wrong. Life is good, my friend.

So, why don’t all lawyers have systems for acquiring lawyer referrals? To this day, I am dumbfounded.  Yet, even today you attend seminars about lawyer marketing without a single minute spent on lawyer-to-lawyer referral based marketing. This creates a huge vacuum (and a golden opportunity for you).

A Radically, Unique Marketing System for Lawyers

When we began our lawyer-to-lawyer referral based marketing system on October 19, 2013, we had 124 lawyer referral partners.  Today (March 13, 2020), we have 387 lawyer referral partners (e.g., a “referral partner” is a lawyer, judge or paralegal who has referred at least one case in the last 5 years), and almost 100% of our revenue is generated by lawyer referrals. 

BEFORE (October 19, 2013): 124 Referral Partners

AFTER (March 13, 2020): 387 Referral Partners

Our referral partners include malpractice defense lawyers, judges, county bar executives and our favorite: plaintiff’s personal injury lawyers who do not handle medical malpractice.

The 5 Pillars of Referral Mastery for Lawyers

We have 5 proven methods for acquiring and cultivating lawyer referrals. Take what you can, make the systems better and share your results with us (jfisher@fishermalpracticelaw.com cell: 518-265-9131).  What do you have to lose? Let’s get started.

Pillar #1:  Why Every Lawyer Should Have a Book

A book is the ultimate, indestructible business card.  When you are the author of a book, you have instant credibility.  The book is your ticket to national and statewide speaking engagements and is a marketing tool that you’ll have the rest of your career.

Writing a book is the best thing I’ve ever done in my career. My first book, The Power of a System, is:

  • On the curriculum of 3 law schools, 
  • Used as a reference at Judge’s School in New York, 
  • Resulted in speaking engagements for the National Trial Lawyers, PILMMA, Great Legal Marketing, and numerous state and regional bar associations

If that’s not enough, the book has led to referrals of some of our firm’s highest value cases.  A book is the gift that keeps giving and once you put in the time to write the book, you’ll have an asset for the rest of your career.

Rather than handing out your business card, you will sign and hand out free copies of your book.  And your book will be sitting on the shelves of your ideal referral partners for the next 30 years (isn’t that better than a billboard?).  Lawyers from across the country will contact you for advice and why not? You’re the lawyer who wrote the book.

In my humble view, Advantage/Forbes Books is the ideal strategic partner for lawyers who are serious about publishing a book. Advantage/Forbes Books will create a great looking hardcover book, do the marketing and promotion for you and distribute your book among the digital and hardcover book distributors. I would not publish a book with anyone else.

Pillar #2: The Best Way to Stay Top of Mind with Your Referral Partners

There is no such thing as over-communicating to your referral partners. You have to create systems that allow you to nurture these relationships and the best way to stay top of mind with your referral partners is a monthly print newsletter.

I know what you’re thinking: you’ve tried a print newsletter for 4-6 months and it didn’t work.  No big surprise. No form of marketing will be effective without one ingredient: CONSISTENCY. A print newsletter must be mailed monthly for at least 18-24 months before you will build momentum and begin seeing results.

We have been mailing a monthly print newsletter (Lawyer Alert) since 2011.  Our 4-page print newsletter contains:

  • A feature two-page article about marketing and management for lawyers, 
  • Case results (“From John’s Casebook”),
  • Promotional articles about our speaking engagements, webinars and mastermind for lawyers (MastermindExperience.com), and
  • Fun photos of my wife, our 3 kids, our miniature Australian labradoodle pooch, Patch McAdams, Esq. (“The Adventures of the Doodle Dog”), and their nutty dad.

If I could only have one marketing tool, it would be a monthly print newsletter.  Our newsletter team consists of a graphic designer (Julee Hutchison of Hutchison Frye in Colorado) and a printing and fulfillment specialist (Help Without Hassle in Kansas) and the turnaround time from the submission of the copy to the mailing of the newsletter is usually 3-5 days. The cost?  $1.53 per newsletter. Nothing is better for top of mind awareness with your referral partners.

If you’d like to get our free newsletter, send an email to jfisher@fishermalpracticelaw.com and we will be happy to add you to our mailing list. 

Pillar #3:  Speaking Your Way to New Cases

When you are a speaker at a seminar, you are a superstar. The organization has anointed you as the expert and you can do no wrong with the audience. This is the power of public speaking for lawyers.

How do you book your first speaking gig? 

Step #1: Find a date that your county bar association has no events on their schedule. 

Step #2: Contact the executive director of the county bar association to pitch a special one-of-a-kind speaking event and offer to pick up the expenses, including the cost of CLE credits. More often than not, the executive director of the county bar association will accept your offer and the county bar association will sponsor and endorse your event among their members.  You’ve got your first speaking gig!

Our speaking events include “The Jury Project”, during which we hold a focus group and demonstrate the benefits of focus groups for trial preparation.  We also hold a speaking event, “The Secrets of Internet Marketing for Lawyers”, to provide lawyers with tips for attracting clients with their website and digital advertising. We give away all of our secrets and hold nothing back.

Step #3: Following the speech, you should hold a book signing session for your fans, and with their permission, add lawyers to the mailing list for your monthly print newsletter. Your tribe is growing. You will gain notoriety and with some time and patience, national and statewide lawyer organizations will pay your expenses and a stipend when you speak.

Don’t stop there. Cultivate a relationship with the executive director of your county bar association and make sure they know that you’re willing to speak whenever they need a speaker.

Pillar #4:  3 Simple Ways to Build a Tribe of Referral Partners

Marketing is nothing more than relationship building. How do you develop relationships with lawyer referral partners?  Build a tribe. A tribe is a group of lawyers who will do anything for each other (including cross referrals of new cases).  

Trial Lawyers Workshop: Join a local trial lawyers organization and get involved and sponsor their workshops. I’ve been a member of a local Trial Lawyers College (“TLC”) group for 10 years and once a month, the members meet to discuss our cases, practice trial skills and cross refer cases. There is nothing better for lawyer referrals.

If there is no TLC workshop in your town, create your own. Tell other trial lawyers that you want to help brainstorm and collaborate about their cases and practice trial skills. Meet once a month for 3 hours. Do this religiously and within 12 months, you’ll have a tribe of referral partners.

Mastermind: Create or join a mastermind of elite lawyers.  A mastermind is a meeting of lawyers who are willing to collaborate, share best practices and help each other grow their practice. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that I can’t do this alone. I need help, and so do you.  

Joining a mastermind will be the best thing you’ve ever done for you career.  Create your own mastermind or apply to join the Mastermind Experience at MastermindExperience.com.

Maximum Lawyer: Don’t have the time or money to join a mastermind? Join the movement known as the “Maximum Lawyer” for brainstorming and sharing that will give you invaluable resources, advice and friendship.  The annual conference, MaxLawCon ’20 on June 6-7, 2020, is the best lawyer seminar in the country. Go to MaximumLawyer.com to join the tribe.

Pillar #5:  3 Tips for Building Relationships with Random Acts of Kindness

Tip #1: Daily Updates to Your Referral Partners: What is the highest and best use of your time? I send at least one update on the status of a referred case to one of our referral partners every day. Every update sets forth the work that we’ve done, our analysis and our plan for the referred case.  

What we’re really doing with the daily updates is building rapport with our referral partners and virtually guaranteeing that we get their next referral. There is no such thing as over-communicating with your referral partners.

Tip #2: Lunch Dates with Referral Partners: There is nothing better than a weekly lunch date with a referral partner to build rapport.  We schedule a lunch date with a prospective or current referral partner, ideally once a week. Don’t talk about work; talk about your referral partners’ family, interests and sports. This will create a bond with your referral partners that nothing else can beat.

Hire a marketing director or virtual assistant, whose only job will be to schedule lunch dates with your referral partners.  

Tip #3: Party with Your Referral Partners:  Quarterly, or at least once a year, hold a happy hour or a party for your referral partners. Get to know your referral partners on a social basis and let them know that you care.  A “lunch and learn” is a great way to provide value to your referral partners and build new referral relationships.

When I publish a new book, we hold a book launch party on a yacht (fancy word for a 70-foot boat) and invite all of our current and prospective referral partners and clients.  We invite a blues musician to perform and have light food and cocktails. Try this just once and you’ll be in awe by the goodwill and friendship. Nothing beats a party with your referral partners.

Take Small, Incremental Steps and Watch Magic Happen

Building a system for lawyer referrals is not easy.  This takes time, patience and most important, consistency.  With a consistent effort and incremental improvement in your marketing systems, you will begin to see results within 6 months and in 2 years, your law practice will never be the same.

Don’t believe me? You’re not alone.  It seems the leading marketers don’t believe in lawyer-to-lawyer referral based marketing either.  Do me a favor, don’t tell the marketing experts--this will be our little secret.

Do you need help implementing these tactics? I’m a phone call away (cell: 518-265-9131; jfisher@fishermalpracticelaw.com) and if you’d like to meet for lunch, it will be my treat.  And I will be happy to send you a signed copy of my book, The Power of a System, and a digital copy of my new book, The Law Firm of Your Dreams.

Whatever you do, don’t do this alone.  We all need help (including yours truly).  And you’ve got friends waiting for your call.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

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.