Avoid These Three Big Mistakes When Sending Legal Referrals

Increase your income by quickly sending quality legal referrals. We share the three biggest mistakes to avoid. Learn more.

Avoid These Three Big Mistakes When Sending Legal Referrals


John F. Kennedy once said, “Economics has made us partners. And necessity has made us allies.” While he made this statement during his 1961 address to Canada, this philosophy rings true for the legal field. 

No one lawyer can take every case. There are many factors why: wrong practice area, not the right scope, or simple time restraints; but that doesn’t mean you can’t aid that client and increase your revenue in the process. Enter legal referrals.


Legal referrals come in many forms.

On one end of the spectrum, a referral can be sharing a lawyer's contact information without expecting reciprocity or performing a quick look on the American Bar Association to suggest a few names. The other end is big business in the legal field. These are the referrals where you negotiate a referral fee agreement with another attorney or firm. Referral fees vary by state, jurisdiction, and fields of law, but on average, they are around 30%. For this article, we’re going to explore legal referrals that include a fee agreement.

Leveraging a legal referral strategy can accelerate your income and reputation, but if not done correctly, you can easily damage your business. If you want to grow your practice with referrals (and you should), here are the three biggest mistakes to avoid when sending legal referrals.


1. Take too long.

Most clients don’t sit and wait patiently for the first lawyer they call to either take the case or recommend another lawyer. They usually send inquiries to multiple lawyers. Once that phone rings, you’re on a ticking clock to respond. In some cases, opposing counsel has a three-week head start, and every second of discovery counts. 

If you’re not taking the case but intend to refer it out, there are many steps you have to take: research and contact the proper lawyer, negotiate the referral fee, and execute a written agreement. While you’re in this process, if you take too long to reach back out to the client, they’re likely to find another lawyer who will take their case, leaving you out of the mix.

That doesn’t mean you should just refer to the first lawyer you find. If you do that, you run the risk of making the next biggest mistake on our list.

2. Refer the wrong lawyer.

You may be on a ticking clock, but grabbing the first lawyer you find that sort of fits the client's needs is a big mistake. You may get lucky once or twice, but sending the client to the wrong attorney comes with consequences (and some are fatal). 

At the very least, you waste the client’s and handling attorney’s time, hurting your reputation in the process. Burn enough bridges and potential referral connections will stop answering your calls. At worst, sending a client to the wrong lawyer may result in a malpractice claim brought against you. 

Make sure to do your due diligence and research the right lawyer for the client’s needs. If you do, you’ll reduce your risk of referring the wrong lawyer (and potential pitfalls from doing so).

Remember, there are three parties involved in legal referrals, and even if you have the perfect lawyer to refer to, there is still another big mistake you can make.


3. Not sharing enough details with a referred lawyer.

Before a lawyer takes a case, they need to know the details to properly evaluate if they have the capacity to take it on. If you’re referring the case, you are on the front lines of ensuring that the lawyer has the proper information to make a decision.

If you don’t get enough details from the client or neglect to share all the details, this can cause a breakdown in the referral relationship. The handling attorney may feel hoodwinked, especially if the case is more intricate and resource-intensive than first proposed. 

When doing client intake, ensure you clearly document all the details for the referral and pull together any resources that would help inform the potential lawyer. Just make sure to present the information in a clear, concise way. Too much information is beneficial as long as it’s organized.


How to avoid making these mistakes.

Finding the right lawyer and presenting all the case details while racing against the clock may seem daunting, especially for newer lawyers, but it is doable. 

The first step is to take time with the client and learn all you can about the case. Listen intently, ask questions, and repeat back to them to ensure you have a clear understanding of their needs. Document, document, document. 

The next step is cultivating a strong referral network. Having a group of trusted lawyers across different fields of law helps to avoid mistakes 1 and 2. (Read more about expanding your referral network here.)

Cultivating a strong referral network has traditionally been one of the most time-consuming but integral parts of growing your referral business. That’s one of the reasons we created Metwork. 

Our platform is built on the power of positive relationships and encourages a strong legal community. You can easily expand your network across the country and all fields of law to ensure you have the right connection for every case.

One of the biggest benefits of Metwork is our referral ecosystem. You don’t have to wait until you have a large referral network to start referring cases. You can easily enter all the case details into our system (avoiding mistake 3), and our proprietary algorithm suggests reputable lawyers that fit the client’s needs.

Our referral ecosystem allows you to queue up to three attorneys simultaneously in order of preference. If the first attorney declines, our system automatically sends the referral to the next in the line, streamlining the process. Gone are the days of searching databases and the Bar Association, hoping to uncover the right connection. We’ve got you covered. 

As you connect more and more clients to quality attorneys, you’ll quickly gain the reputation as the lawyer who knows all the right people for the right case, and you can watch your business grow exponentially. 

Request access to Metwork today to accelerate your legal referrals.