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The Lost Art of Lawyer-to-Lawyer Referral Based Marketing

By John Fisher, a medical malpractice plaintiff's attorney in Kingston, NY, see and

You want the big cases through glamorous, self-promoting ads that make you look like a superstar. You justify the huge outlay of cash with the occasional big case that strikes gold. And you think life is good, you’re making some cash and paying the bills.

If you’re happy, you can stop reading now. But for some, the self-promotion of some lawyers is too much. You want a more dignified approach to building your law practice and you don’t have the megabucks to compete with big guns of lawyer marketing. And let’s face it, if you do what every other lawyer is doing, you’ll be like them: fighting for the crappy cases.

Lawyer Referrals are Marketing Gold

Where do you get your best and most profitable cases? Are your best cases from your website or TV and radio ads? No! You get your best cases from lawyer referrals. That’s right, lawyers who have prescreened the case for merit, obtained the medical records for you and told the new client that you are perfect for their case.

You know that you wouldn’t exist without lawyer referrals. A single relationship with an influential, prominent lawyer can send referral after referral to you for the rest of your career and you’re not paying a penny for TV or billboard ads. You get good liability cases, spend no money on marketing and get high-quality clients who think you’re a rock star. There’s almost no way you can screw this up!

We should all be focusing on getting more lawyer referrals, right? Okay, then then why do you have no system for getting more lawyer referrals? You just hope that lawyers will think of you and you thank your lucky stars for any referrals. But you’re just relying on blind luck for lawyer referrals and this is really no system at all.

Your Online “Co-Counsel Program”

Begin by adding a unique landing page of your website for lawyer referrals (“Our Co-Counsel Program.”) Check out the “Co-Counsel Program” on the website of Shapiro, Appleton & Duffan, P.C., a Virginia Beach PI firm. The Shapiro firm lays out their “4 step process when working with co-counsel referrals” and includes testimonials from their referral partners. The Co-Counsel Program shows they are serious about protecting the rights of their referral partners.

But don’t stop there. When new cases are referred, send an email to your referral partner explaining the process for reviewing the case and protecting their rights to a referral fee. Perhaps you send an email with a guide for your new referral partners, How to Protect Your Rights to a Referral Fee, that shows them how to protect their rights to a referral fee and negotiate the best fee division.

Once you’ve got the ball rolling, follow up with your referral partner with periodic updates. Every case has important milestones, such as filing of the lawsuit, etc., and you should automate the process for sending case updates through a Customer Relationship Management software program (I love Infusionsoft!). Your referral partners will never complain that you are giving too much information.

Building Equity with Your Referral Partners

Once you’ve done a preliminary review of the case, send an email to your new referral partner with your evaluation. I do this one thing every day to keep our referral partners informed. Perhaps you explain that you’ve reviewed the medical records, discussed the case with an expert and the next step in the process of evaluating the case.

I know what you’re thinking, you’re busy and you don’t have time for updates to your referral partners. But you don’t have to conquer the world—just focus on just a single case update once a day. Your referral partners will love you for this and even if you don’t accept their referral, you’re building equity with them that virtually guarantees that you’ll get their next referral. This one thing will instantly set you apart from 99% of lawyers who ignore their referral partners.

How to Get New Referral Partners

Here’s a radical concept: don’t spend another penny on traditional forms of lawyer marketing (i.e., yellow pages, TV and radio) and focus 100% of your marketing budget on lawyer-to-lawyer referral-based marketing. Sound crazy? But if your return on investment on referral-based marketing blows away traditional marketing, shouldn’t you at least give this some thought?

You begin by giving 100% value to your referral partners. Hold seminars and workshops for your ideal referral partners that help them grow their law practices or prepare for trial. Face-to-face marketing is, and always will be, the best form of marketing and with speaking events, you are an instant celebrity.

Write a definitive guide that is 8-10 pages containing your top marketing and management advice for lawyers.

Give value that no one else is. You might offer seminars about internet marketing (all lawyers want a great website) or conduct workshops like the Jury Project that shows lawyers how to use focus groups for trial preparation. Give tons of value to your referral partners and ask for nothing in return. You should videotape every speaking event, and Voila! Now you’ve got new video that you can segment into 8-10 new video clips on your website, social media and YouTube.

Instead of telling the world how great you are, help your referral partners grow their practices with a book that contains your best secrets. The key: give everything away. Don’t hold back any secrets and your referral partners will crave the information. Your book will be the cornerstone for all of your lawyer-to-lawyer marketing and you will be the beneficiary with a pipeline of referrals.

No time for a book? Write a definitive guide that is 8-10 pages containing your top marketing and management advice for lawyers. Better yet, create a website for your referral partners (i.e., that contains your best management and marketing tips or create a LinkedIn group (i.e., Building a Better Injury Practice) and become the moderator of your tribe of fans.

Nurturing your Relationship with Referral Partners

It’s not enough to make a good first impression—you have to cultivate and nurture every new referral partner. A monthly, hard copy newsletter that provides your referral partners with marketing and management tips is the #1 weapon in your referral-based toolshed.

A monthly newsletter will keep you front and center with your referral partners, and they will post your newsletter on bulletin boards and share them with their buddies. With a fulfillment provider and graphic designer, a monthly newsletter will only takewo hours of your time. And if you don’t have two hours to write a newsletter, the growth of your law practice means little to you (and that’s a damn shame!).

A weekly email newsletter is a great way to share your blog posts and extra articles that won’t fit on your monthly newsletter. An email newsletter is a great way to build a herd of raving fans and nurture your relationship with your referral partners.

Party Like it’s 1999

Get crazy with a party for your top referral partners—maybe a Blues Cruise on the Hudson River, or a happy hour at your micro-brewery. Let your hair down and give your referral partners some props in a fun, casual setting.

Not enough cash for a party? Drop off some bagels and donuts for your top referral partners with a handwritten note showing your love. Handwritten letters cost less than a buck and add a unique, personal touch. No one is doing any of this stuff and that’s precisely why it works.

Become a Rock Star with Lawyers

Join the bar associations within 60 miles and write articles for their newsletters. Bar Associations are always looking for new articles for their newsletters and if you’re halfway decent, you just expanded your reach to hundreds (if not thousands) of prospective referral partners every single month…and it won’t cost you a penny. Now, you’ve got an audience of thousands of prospective referral partners.

Tell the Executive Director of a county bar association that you have a special seminar/workshop that you’re offering for free to their members. Most bar associations will jump on your offer and here’s the beauty of this—the bar association will promote your event for its members. Now, your event/workshop has the endorsement of the bar association and they will promote the hell out of your event.

Write articles for prominent lawyer websites, such as or, and watch your tribe grow. Your article’s presence on a prominent lawyer website will give you credibility and add high-ranking links to your website.

A Brutal Challenge for You

Does this stuff work? Well, you’ll never find out while you’re on the sidelines. But I’m willing to bet 98% of you won’t do a darn thing. My challenge to you: prove me wrong. And if you’ve got some crazy, unconventional marketing tactics for lawyer-to-lawyer marketing, share them with the world (or at least a friend or two)…and watch your bucket fill up with new referrals.

About John Fisher

John Fisher a personal injury lawyer practicing in Kingston, NY --see and

John's practice is limited to the representation of victims of catastrophic and substantial personal injuries, including the victims of cerebral palsy, Erb's Palsy, birth injuries, delay in cancer diagnosis, heart attack and stroke misdiagnosis, legal malpractice, suicide prevention, undiagnosed infections, medication errors and nursing home neglect and abuse.

He is author of "The Power of a System: How to Build the Injury Law Practice of your Dreams," available for purchase at his website, Ben Glass, Esq., the nation's leading authority on law office marketing and development calls the book, "amazing". This 334-page hardcover book is chock full of the technical, managerial and entrepreneurial "how to" secrets to building a multi-million injury law practice. When you buy the book, it will be sent to you via Federal Express (at no extra charge) and you will receive a FREE three-month subscription to my monthly newsletter for lawyers, Lawyer Alert.

If you'd like to get a FREE chapter of his book about internet marketing for lawyers, go to, and you can request an instant electronic copy of Chapter 22 ("How to Turn your Website into a Client Magnet").

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