By Geri L. Dreiling
The primary goal of every legal public relations campaign is to attract new clients—but more than one path can bring clients to your law firm’s front door.
The direct route—a prospective client discovers your name and then gives you a call—is often the first route lawyers think of when launching a legal PR campaign, yet it is often the trail that winds through your referral base that ultimately draws new clients.
When you begin working on a legal PR plan, include an outreach effort that reaches your referral base.
Your referral network is often one of the most effective client development methods. It makes sense: A prospective client who needs to hire a lawyer is going to turn to a trusted advisor for a recommendation. Though you may not be on the listed of trusted advisors yet, some of your contacts may be. The hope is that your name is the one that first comes to mind when a recommendation is sought from the client’s advisor.
It is also true that even if someone has referred clients in the past there’s no guarantee that you’ll be at the top of the list in the future.
How many times have you come across a colleague’s name or run into a colleague on the street and thought: “Oh, I forgot about him! There was a case I could have referred to him.”
Who is your referral base? Every attorney’s is different, varying with the practice area.
Think about the clients who have walked through your door over the past few years. How did they find you? More important, how did the good clients find you? Here are some examples:
- For a plaintiff’s attorney known for obtaining multimillion-dollar verdicts, the referral base may consist of personal injury and general practice attorneys who do not have the resources needed to handle complex PI or catastrophic cases.
- Therapists and social workers might be an important part of the family attorney’s referral base.
- An estate planner may obtain clients through the recommendation of an accountant or insurance agent.
Legal PR Outreach
Once you’ve determined who might be part of your referral base, the next step is figuring out how to reach that base. Talk to the people who send you clients: What do they read? Where do they go for information?
Members of the referral base for trial attorneys who handle catastrophic cases may subscribe to legal media outlets and verdict reporting services. Publicize your good results by submitting verdict and settlement reports, and referring lawyers will remember you.
For family lawyers and estate planners, it might make sense to target trade publications outside the subject of the law. Could you contribute an article that would be helpful to family lawyers, accountants or insurance agents? Is a professional organization geared to your referral base seeking guest speakers?
Once you’ve identified your referral base, keep in mind another tenet of good legal public relations: frequency. Your name needs to appear on a regular basis if you are to remain at the top of the recall list.
Frequent contact will do more than just help the people in your referral base recall your name; it will also help you build or strengthen your relationships.
To make the most of your legal public relations plan, follow these three steps:
- Identify your referral base.
- Devise a plan for reaching your base.
- Promote your practice to your referral base on a regular, consistent basis.
Use this legal PR roadmap, and new clients will find their way to your firm.
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