[sws_yellow_box box_size="550"]By Anthony Johnson, "Half tech nerd, half trial lawyer. All awesome." He is a member of The National Trial Lawyers top 100 trial lawyers.[/sws_yellow_box]So long as a fee split agreement is in place, referring personal injury and mass tort clients to other lawyers can be a solid source of revenue for the small firm and solo practitioner.
With all of the benefits that technology can offer to a small firm and solo practitioner, including more efficiently managed cases and practices, one often-overlooked benefit is the opportunity to expand your practice through the development of an extensive referral network.
In addition to increasing revenue, this approach can lead to better client outcomes, especially in the areas of mass tort and personal injury and it does not have to increase your workload.
My law partner and I established Johnson & Vines, PLLC in 2012, bringing together my background as a computer engineer and Internet marketer with my partner’s background as a trial attorney at one of Arkansas’ largest law firms. In considering how we could best grow our practice, we realized early on that, from a business perspective, the personal injury and mass tort areas could be both rewarding and profitable.
However, we were also faced with the reality that our young firm lacked the resources necessary to maintain such a practice with the quality of representation that our potential clients would deserve. We could add staff, but we were not in a position to take on additional overhead. We concluded that we were better situated for developing new client opportunities rather than actually undertaking the cost and time necessary to effectively represent those clients.
We were able to establish a presence online at relatively low cost thanks to my background and we began getting client calls in a relatively short period of time. We also realized very quickly that, for almost every single new client call, we could think of another attorney that would add value to that client’s representation.
While many lawyers choose not to associate counsel for a variety of reasons and lawyers don’t consider how the client might benefit from a co-counsel relationship. But we decided to approach all of our client development from that perspective and established relationships with qualified attorneys who could effectively represent our mutual clients.
We believe that our approach can enhance the client’s representation and lead to better results. Because we attempt to co-counsel with some of the most talented and experienced attorneys for each particular matter, the litigation workload is streamlined, efficient and effective. Moreover, the time we save can now be applied towards additional marketing, existing client relationship management and new client development. These are the places that we know that we can most effectively add value to our clients and the attorneys with whom we have formed co-counsel relationships.
Coincidentally, these are the places that tend to fall to the wayside for many small firms and solo practitioners because they become so overrun with trial work. This dichotomy has allowed us to refine our approach and expand our practice without significantly expanding our workload. By allowing two entities to split up the business and the practice of law, the client experience and the effectiveness of both counsel is improved dramatically.
Because the co-counsel relationship does not add to the fee paid by the client, but instead spreads the fee among the participating attorneys, our clients are not taxed for this benefit. Many times, they appreciate our willingness to sacrifice fees in order to enhance their representation.
From a practical and business standpoint and so long as a fee split agreement is in place, referring personal injury and mass tort clients to other lawyers can be a solid source of revenue for the small firm and solo practitioner. Recognizing that there is tremendous value in developing clients, many larger firms will readily enter into fair fee splitting agreements with attorneys who refer cases to them. Moreover, the referring attorney is usually not required to do any work on the case or incur any cost related to the representation as long as both firms take joint responsibility on the case.
Your are probably thinking: Where do I find these clients to refer? This is where technology comes in. Step one is always to educate yourself. If you want to start with mass torts like we did, check out this one-sheet PDF that we send to our affiliated attorneys containing many of the current cases that we are involved in.
If you’d like a less-biased recommendation, ‘Google’ any mass tort lawsuit that you see on TV and peruse one of the law firm websites that you find. If you still have questions, call one of them and ask for an attorney. These guys know the value of a single referral and are usually willing to talk.
Once you are educated, identify potential clients. Our firm has a unique experience in online marketing, so we keep all of these efforts in-house and many clients find us through one of our websites.
Unfortunately, not many firms have this ability and we do not recommend the use of third-party online marketers. (My rant against the use of those services is reserved for another article, but feel free to call anytime, my soapbox is always close by.)
Nevertheless, there is one small marketing tool that every firm should be utilizing to find potential cases: the client database. By utilizing contact and demographic information on past clients, you can inform them of potential cases that might impact them and potentially be engaged to represent them along with the experienced and qualified co-counsel that you have identified in your research. If you do not maintain a searchable and filterable client database already, start today and use that tool to expand your practice (and revenue) without increasing your workload.
Recent technological advances can level the playing field in terms of client development and provide a means by which practitioners can better and more efficiently grow their business and provide value to their clients.
Comment below if you would like more information on using technology to grow your practice, if you have had success with client database marketing or if you have tips that might help another lawyer recreate the success you experienced. I’ll barter tech knowledge for legal wisdom any day of the week.
Anthony Johnson is a member of The National Trial Lawyers, and is an attorney with Johnson & Vines in Little Rock, Arkansas. He goes by the tagline, "Half tech nerd, half trial lawyer. All awesome." His law practice started as a general practice but quickly shifted towards mass torts, medical device litigation, & other serious personal injury cases. Johnson’s interests expand beyond the practice of law, especially in the fields of business and technology.