Although many large-firm managers lament the lack of cross-selling and referrals that occur within their firms, the problem may not be with the lawyers themselves, but with the firm culture. Giving lip service to the value of referring clients within the firm is not enough. The firm must cultivate a culture of teamwork and collaboration among its lawyers in order to create the right atmosphere for those referrals to take place.
Reward Collaboration, Not Just Origination
One way to cultivate a culture of collaboration for referrals is for the firm to review its compensation and rewards structure. A firm that rewards only the first lawyer who introduces a client to the firm and does not reward lawyers who actively refer business to their colleagues in other practice areas is sending a signal that intra-firm referrals of existing clients are not a priority, and that the lawyers should focus their efforts on gaining new clients, rather than referring existing ones within the firm.
Similarly, firms that have an “eat what you kill” mentality, in which lawyers operate essentially as a loose collection of silos, each with their own individual practices under the firm’s umbrella, will have a difficult time convincing their lawyers to refer business to their firm colleagues. In that kind of atmosphere, there is little to no benefit to the lawyer for sending work to others in the firm, or in taking the time to find out what the client’s additional needs are that could be serviced by the firm.
Lawyers within the firm must be trained on how to cross-sell, and how to view their services and the potential services of their colleagues in terms of the client’s needs and the benefits the client receives from those services rather than simply focusing in the rewards for the firm or for the individual lawyer’s bottom line.
Build Strong Relationships
Many lawyers are reluctant to refer their good clients to other lawyers within the firm because they are concerned about the quality of the work and the level of services their clients will receive; they do not want to risk losing the business they receive from the client and as a result, may prefer to send the client elsewhere for other needs. This can occur when the firm is not as strong or reputable in all of its practice areas, or simply because the lawyer is unfamiliar with the work or skill level of his or her colleagues. In other cases, the lawyer may be ignorant of all of the types of work performed by others in the firm.
Firms that want to encourage referrals within the firm must develop a culture that acknowledges the risks inherent in making those referrals and works to lessen those risks by ensuring not only that its lawyers are well-trained, but that helps to build relationships among lawyers in different practice areas. Law firm leaders must demonstrate collegiality, friendship, and trust among the partners to set a top-down example for the other lawyers within the firm and encourage all lawyers within the firm to get to know one another. Establishing mentoring relationships, holding firm social events and retreats, and participating in community or charity events are just a few of the ways that firms can encourage these kinds of relationships.
Develop Effective Internal Communication
In order to foster collaboration and relationship-building, the firm must have effective internal communication system that allows lawyers to find and learn about one another, and for the firm to distribute information about the lawyers in the firm and the services they provide across practice areas. Ongoing, continuous reminders of all of the firm’s practice areas should be distributed through multiple delivery methods, which may include a firm intranet, a newsletter, cross-practice area meetings, video tutorials and training. Using these methods, the firm can share success stories, highlight individual lawyers, share profiles, news, and more.
By providing the firm with a tool that helps lawyers find and connect with other lawyers in the firm who can meet the client’s needs and easily make those referrals, ioRefer can help build a law firm referral culture, and in doing so, increase the firm’s revenue.