Let’s imagine two lawyers.
The Referral Source
One is Brian. He’s a criminal defense lawyer in Miami. He’s been practicing since 1995. He’s not real (this is a work of fiction, but the names haven’t been changed to protect the innocent).
Brian is a good guy with a successful practice. Of course, he’s a criminal defense lawyer, so he’s cranky and hard to get along with, but that’s the nature of that game.
Brian regularly gets calls from clients and former clients asking for referrals. He gets similar calls from people he knows in his neighborhood, people at the synagogue, people he knows from his child’s activities, and others. He is frequently asked to provide the name of a divorce lawyer when he gets these calls.
The Family Lawyer
Brian is friendly with Steve (Steve really is made up). Steve is a divorce lawyer (“family law” in polite conversation). Steve is very good at what he does. Brian met Steve at a lunch place near the courthouse. They struck up a conversation and have been bumping into one another and having lunch from time to time for the past five years.
Brian likes Steve. He’s heard good things about him. He feels comfortable referring to Steve and trusts him to take care of his clients, friends, neighbors, and others. He gives out Steve’s number about once a month.
The Referral Pipeline
What’s happening at Steve’s end when Brian gives out the number?
Steve is getting about nine calls a year as a result of Brian’s referrals. Nobody knows what happened to the other three people who got Steve’s number. Maybe they decided to stay married? Maybe they just killed their spouse and hired Brian? Steve is meeting with eight of the callers (one decides to wait).
Of the eight meetings, six are hiring Steve. These clients were referred by Brian, so they’re predisposed to trust Steve. Steve’s taking care of their cases and keeping them happy.
Here’s what happens over the course of the year of representing Brian’s referrals:
- Client 1 had a fairly straightforward situation. Steve drafted an agreement, negotiated, attended a mediation, and answered lots of client questions. Total fee: $9,000.
- Client 2 was a lot like Client 1. Fewer questions, but more document revisions. Total fee $8,000.
- Client 3 was not terribly different from Clients 1 and 2, but he had the additional issue of a child support problem with his first wife, which complicated his second divorce. Total fee: $12,000.
- Client 4 was easy. It was a simple post-judgment dispute about some property division provisions. Total fee: $4,000.
- Client 5 was wacked (close friend of Brian?). It went to full-blown litigation; everything went to trial, and everything was a nightmare. Total fee: $45,000 (could easily have been triple that)
- Client 6 was rational, but only on three days of the week. The case was litigated, but it settled right before trial. Total fee: $22,000.
Over the course of the year, Steve collected $100,000 as a result of Brian’s referrals.
At the end of the year, Steve thanked Brian by buying him a case of wine (the good stuff—expensive—check your ethics rules first). Steve dropped it by Brian’s office and said thank you.
Brian responded honestly by saying, “There’s no need to thank me. I’m just happy to have someone I trust enough to refer these clients.” (Of course, I made that quote up. Just like the rest of this stuff, it’s fiction.) Brian was saying what he really feels (of course, he also accepted the wine). Brian truly is grateful to have a number he can hand out so he can get off the phone and feel like he helped.
Simple Referral Math
If Steve has 10 of “Brian,” he’s at a million a year in revenue.
Let’s figure Brian and Steve won’t retire from practicing law for another 20 years. That means Brian’s referrals will result in $2 million in revenue for Steve’s practice. Yep, $2,000,000, and likely more.
What does that cost Steve? Some lunches, some smiles and handshakes, and a case of wine. Steve might go overboard and answer some questions for Brian over the next 20 years. He might even take Brian and his wife out to dinner or buy them a Tesla (just kidding on the Tesla, but it’d be worth doing).
How to Find a “Brian”
My course, Networking Masterclass, shows you how to get a “Brian.” Or for half of what the course costs, you can join Rosen Institute Premium for a month, where you get access to not just Networking Masterclass, but all the courses, exclusive podcasts, and a thriving Slack community with hundreds of other firm owners focused on building their businesses.
Buy it if you want, but you don’t need the course. I’ve written about this topic here on the site—extensively. Sometimes, however, it’s helpful to have a gameplan, and somebody to hold your feet to the fire.
What are you doing to find a “Brian” today?