Select Page

Both cross-selling and collaboration can increase the share of business law firms receive from clients. But cross-selling and collaboration are different and can yield vastly different results.


According to Wikipedia, cross-selling is “the action or practice of selling an additional product or service to an existing customer.” In law firms, cross- selling is simply the practice of selling additional services to existing clients. Traditionally, those new services would be provided by different lawyers in practice areas separate from the ones who brought the client to the firm originally.

Using this model, typically the originating partner would introduce the client to another partner who practices in another area of the law so that partner could offer the client additional legal services. Usually the first partner would simply “hand off” the client to the second partner and have little or no involvement in the additional services provided.

It is often difficult to get law firm partners to engage in cross-selling because they are afraid that their clients will not receive the same level of service from other partners, risking loss of that client’s business to the originating partner.


By contrast, a collaboration model has lawyers in the firm working together to service the client instead of providing separate, or serialized services to the client. According to Heidi Gardner, collaboration

“requires people to combine their perspectives and expertise and tailor them to the clients’ needs such that the outcome is more than the sum of the participating individuals’ knowledge…These relationships typically extend over time and across discrete projects as the participants identify new approaches and initiate further engagements…these professionals also help, advise, stimulate and counterbalance one another. By truly collaborating, a team of lawyers is able to address issues that none could tackle individually.”

This kind of collaboration requires ongoing interaction between the partners as they develop their relationships with one another and with the client, learn their respective strengths and weaknesses and how best to combine their skills and expertise to help the client.

Collaborate or Cross-Sell?

Collaboration can provide an array of benefits to clients, including a more seamless legal experience and integrated approach to the client’s business and legal issues, but like cross-selling, it takes work to build the trust and relationship between the firm’s partners, to explore potential opportunities with one another’s clients, and to get to know the clients’ businesses inside and out. The biggest difference between cross-selling and collaboration is that collaborative partners work together, side-by-side with the client, which should limit or eliminate many of the concerns that arise with traditional cross-selling.

To move to a more collaborative model, firms need to leverage their talent and actively encourage partners to work together to add value to the client relationship. Especially now, in these uncertain times, where face-to-face, in-person interactions with clients – or even between partners at the same firm – are more and more rare, firms will need to rely on technology to help develop new ways to add value and deliver services to clients. One such technology is a collaboration hub that can help connect people, processes and knowledge across the firm’s practice groups and offices, aid collaboration and customize services tailored to each client’s individual needs.

With ioRefer, you’ll get all of these benefits and more: colleagues, partners and business development professionals at your firm will be able to access accurate, up-to-date information about clients and colleagues, without the hassle of maintaining this information themselves.

Additional Resources

Improve Firm Performance with Collaborative Business Development

Make it Easy to Refer Business to Your Law Firm

Improving Cross- Selling and Intra-Firm Referrals within your Law Firm