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Law Firm Referrals: 5 Smart Ways to Get More Leads
Wednesday, June 7, 2023

I like to say that the best compliment for any business is a referral. While Google reviews are great, it’s even more satisfying to land a new client as a result of a referral.

However, referrals don’t seem guaranteed. You may feel like you’re just crossing your fingers hoping past clients and colleagues send new clients your way. But what if I told you there’s a better, more proactive strategy?

In this guide, we are covering 5 smart and effective ways to actively generate more law firm referrals (yes, they work!).

Always put your existing clients first. Referrals will follow.

The key to building a successful law firm referral strategy is to start with your existing clients. Your aim should always be to provide the best experience possible, as these will be the people most likely to send new clients your way in the future.

When you put your existing clients first, the referrals will follow. Here are a few ways to provide a stellar experience to your law firm clients:

  • Maintain clear communication. Try to keep an open and transparent line of communication with your clients. This means keeping them informed about their case, clearly communicating deadlines and court dates, and responding to their concerns in a timely manner.
  • Practice active listening. Dealing with a legal case can be stressful. Chances are, your client will have more concerns than solutions. Make sure your client’s needs are heard and practice empathy when responding to their situation.
  • Take a personalized approach. Treat every client as an individual and tailor your services to meet their specific needs. Try to keep a calm manner and positive attitude, making them feel reassured during the legal process.
  • Be transparent about billing. Prevent confusion and unhappy clients by being upfront about your billing practices. Clearly explain your retainer or fee structure, when and how invoices will be sent, due dates, etc.
  • Follow up after their case. After your client’s case has ended, give them a call or send an email to check up. Seek feedback on their experience and check that they were satisfied working with you. This shows your dedication and helps build a lasting relationship (and you might get a positive review in the process).

How to get more law firm referrals

While you work to provide a great experience to your existing clients, you can get more intentional about generating more referrals. You don’t have to wait for random referrals but can actually implement active strategies to attract more business to you!

Here’s how to earn more referrals for your law firm:

1. Build a referral network with other legal professionals

One of the best sources of legal referrals is other law firms. This is because law firms constantly field requests from people who are looking for legal services but that aren’t included in their practice area.

For example, a few months ago a colleague of mine was looking for an attorney to support them in their father’s estate. They called around to a ton of family law firms and real estate attorneys, but they realized that what they really needed was a Probate and Estate attorney. One of the family law firms referred them to an estate attorney nearby.

You can start building your referral network right now by following these steps:

  1. Identify potential referral partners in your area. This could include law firms that complement your practice area, serve a similar audience, and/or are located in your area.
  2. Conduct research to evaluate potential referral partners. Consider their values (often posted on their website), client reviews, track record, case studies, etc. Select partners that align with your firm’s values and standards.
  3. Contact your potential referral partners. Reach out to your picks (via phone, email, or social media), introduce yourself, and express your interest in establishing a mutually beneficial referral partnership.
  4. Build the relationship. Take the time to get to know the professionals in your referral network, learn about the types of cases they work with, and the types of clients they look for. Attend events, join committees, schedule coffee dates, etc. to grow the relationship.
  5. Provide value. Establish trust with your partners by providing support, advice, legal insights, resources, and more. 
  6. Reciprocate referrals. Refer potential clients who are looking for the services your referral partners offer. By referring clients their way, you establish a foundation for a reciprocal referral relationship
  7. Track and acknowledge your referrals. Implement a system (Google Sheets, software, etc.) to track referrals and acknowledge inbound referrals by notifying your partners promptly. Consider sending a quick “Thank you” email or another token of appreciation.
  8. Collaborate on your marketing efforts. Consider sharing marketing resources with your close referral partners. This could include co-authoring articles, hosting webinars, attending speaking engagements, or re-sharing content on social media. This way, you can leverage each other’s networks and expand your reach.

Bonus tips: Offer to speak at industry events or provide educational resources for your partners’ clients. Utilize networking platforms like LinkedIn to expand your professional network to legal professionals outside your service area.

2. Develop relationships with professionals in other industries

You can also build partnerships with professionals outside the legal industry. This can include professionals in complementary fields, such as financial advising, accounting, tax preparation, real estate, and more.

Think about what types of businesses are related to your area of law. For example, if you do estate planning, you might want to partner with real estate agents who could assist your clients in selling family property. Or if you do commercial law, accountants could send their clients your way when they are seeking legal services.

You can follow a similar process as outlined in #1 to build your referral network. If you aren’t already connected with professionals in these areas, consider joining local networking groups, Facebook Groups, or social networking sites to connect with other professionals.

3. Utilize online referral directories

Online referral directories are websites that allow law firms (and other types of businesses) to post their contact information and generate leads. While referrals are not guaranteed, these sites allow you to leverage their existing authority to your advantage.

Here are some of the top referral directories for law firms:

  • Avvo. Avvo is a reputable online directory that provides ratings and reviews of attorneys. You can create a profile to showcase your firm and attract potential clients.
  • Justia. Justia is a free online directory of attorneys, law firms, and legal organizations. You can post your profile to include your background, practice areas, contact information, and more.
  • FindLaw. FindLaw is another directory that connects individuals and businesses with legal professionals. It also provides legal resources, articles, and guides to support users seeking information about legal topics.
  • Super Lawyers. Super Lawyers is a trusted lawyer directory that provides referrals to law firms. Include your law firm’s contact information, photos, practice areas, and more to attract more clients.
  • Nolo. Nolo is an online legal “encyclopedia” that hosts law firms and attorneys across a wide range of jurisdictions. People can search for lawyers based on their location and practice area.

4. Optimize your Google Business Profile

Google provides its own free “directory” of sorts. Called your Google Business Profile this is a listing that allows you to showcase your business, add photos, earn client reviews, and generate referrals.

Optimizing your Google Business Profile is a critical step in the process of law firm SEO. It involves completely filling out your profile in order to earn as much organic visibility as possible.

Here are some best practices for optimizing your Google Business Profile:

  • Include your correct business name, address, phone number, business hours, and website link in your profile
  • Add high-quality photos of your team and your law firm
  • Specify the “category” on your profile (based on your business type)
  • Write a detailed description of your business
  • Ask clients to add positive reviews to your Google Business Profile listing
  • Update your business hours and holiday hours as needed

Bonus tips: Encourage satisfied clients to leave positive reviews on platforms like Google Business Profile, Avvo, and Yelp. Set up online reputation management tools to monitor and respond to reviews.

5. Host educational workshops and webinars

Another great way to generate more law firm referrals is to showcase more educational content. This builds trust with potential clients, gives your existing clients content to share with their network, and helps grow your professional network.

You can organize in-person or online workshops or webinars to educate potential clients on legal topics. For example, if you are a family lawyer, you could host a webinar on Facebook Live titled “3 Signs You Need a Family Lawyer (and Where to Find One)”. Or, you can hold a multi-day workshop on navigating the adoption process in your state.

Not only can you drum up engagement during your event, but you can generate more referrals. This content can be re-shared by other businesses or legal professionals in your referral network.

Bonus tips: Collaborate with other professionals to provide comprehensive insights during the workshops. Offer downloadable resources or follow-up consultations to attendees for further engagement.

Attorneys share where to find more law firm referrals

Who would say no to more referrals? For many attorneys, referrals are the lifeblood of their entire practice! In fact, we’ve asked a few attorneys what their favorite methods are for generating more referrals.

Connect with other professionals

“As investment fraud attorneys, our firm’s primary referral sources for new clients across the country are other lawyers, accountants, and the clients’ new financial advisors. The most effective strategy we use to generate referrals is to connect with other lawyers at lawyer conferences that focus on practice areas that are complementary to our practice. We also engage with other professionals, including accountants and financial advisors, through their respective professional organizations.”

– David Meyer, Meyer Wilson

Build lasting relationships with clients

“I strive to maintain relationships with my former clients. Part of this means giving them loads of free, long-lasting goodies like stainless steel tumblers, and even premium coolers. I have found that free, useful, lasting objects with my logo are the cheapest and best ROI in marketing and referral generation. I generally do the same thing with almost any person I have a good relationship with. My electrician has an Atkinson Law – Serious Personal Injury tumbler, and so does my daughter’s teacher, my fishing buddy, etc. It works! People love the free stuff, and I love getting new clients."

– Ed Atkinson, Atkinson Law

“My favorite strategy for generating more referrals is to truly focus on ensuring the ultimate client experience for your current clients. Most clients don’t know what makes a good attorney, but they certainly know what excellent customer service is, so focusing on those who have already put their trust in you should lead to high-value future referrals.”

– John Richmond, Richmond Vona, LLC

“While our firm advertises on television, radio, and the internet, my favorite method of generating more referrals is simply providing excellent client service as we work to win the best possible case results. When we get a call from a prospective client who says they were referred by our former client or that they read the reviews of former clients, I find that deeply fulfilling. When that new prospective client retains us, in addition to the goals of excellent client service and great case results, I also have the goal of earning another 5-Star review when the new case concludes.”

– Edward Friedman, Friedman & Simon L.L.P.

“Exceeding client expectations and creating positive word-of-mouth referrals is my favorite marketing strategy. Not only is this a good general practice firm-wide, but it also creates referral opportunities with low customer acquisition costs, while exponentially increasing the potential for creating effective client testimony and reviews.”

– Alexander Tsao, Venerable Injury Law

Get involved in the community

"I’m a big believer in community service, both as a matter of personal growth and professional reputation. I have and continue to support several veterans charities, masonic lodges, and the Shriners Hospitals for Children. I encourage my partners and staff to stay active in voluntary Bar Association, and community outreach programs. This is the most important thing you can do to expand your circle of influence. Finally, I try to participate whenever I have something meaningful to contribute to our state and county trial lawyers' email discussion groups."

– Bradley Winston, The Winston Law Firm

Diversify your marketing channels

“There are reputable lead generation companies such as Shield Legal, LS5, or NIB Direct that are great at generating leads. Just give them the criteria and they will help generate and vet leads for you.”

– Sandy Van, Van Law Firm


“Staying in front of the clients by calling them, posting on social media, and a robust SEO and PPC presence.”

– Morris Bart, Morris Bart Law


Generate more law firm referrals like a pro

You don’t have to wait for referral business to trickle in. By taking a more proactive approach, you can grow your referral network and develop a more productive referral marketing strategy.

Whether this means building connections with other legal professionals, hosting webinars, or optimizing your directory professionals, your referral strategy always starts with providing a great experience to your clients. Showcase your values and expertise – and create happy clients – and the referrals will follow!

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