3 Times When You Should Refer A Legal Case (Even When It’s Within Your Specialty)

Being a great attorney means knowing that sometimes it's better to refer the case out, even if you could handle it yourself. We break down the best times to refer a case. Learn more.

Two lawyers discussing the 3 Times When You Should Refer A Legal Case (Even When It’s Within Your Specialty)

FOMO is real, especially when a client calls with a problem that’s within your specialty. It’s natural to want to take every single case, help every client, and bring in more money for your practice or firm. 

By keeping every case in-house, you may be sacrificing profits. Don’t fall into this trap. Being a great attorney means knowing that sometimes it's better to refer the case out, even if you could handle it yourself. 

Here are the three times you should refer a case, even when it falls within your specialty.

Increase Profits, Not Work

At the end of the day, you need to earn money to keep the lights on and continue helping clients. Opportunities to increase profits with very little work while still helping clients are the perfect time to refer outside. 

Here’s a great example. Your PI firm just took a call from a client with a prime medical malpractice case. Sure, you could work it yourself, but med mal can be particularly risky, and a different firm just won a similar case for $40 million last year. Putting the case in their hands will minimize your exposure, potentially increase the chance of a more favorable outcome for the client, put your name in the other firm’s mind for future referrals, and possibly allow you to collect a tidy referral fee. 

Not enough bandwidth

There are many reasons to take a case, such as helping as many clients as possible, increasing profits, or growing your reputation. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Each new case you take stretches your practice or firm. 

Imagine you’re going on a group hike, and you offer to carry everyone’s gear (you’re nice like that). You’re the most experienced out of the group. You know the terrain. You’ve been successful in every hike you’ve led. And you don’t mind carrying the extra weight. But as more and more people ask to join the group, at some point, all your experience and training won’t matter. You can only carry so much. And when you falter under the weight, it’s not just the last piece of gear that falls off; it’s all the gear you’re carrying.

It’s the same with your caseload. No matter your intentions for taking every case, at some point, you run the risk of hurting your clients, your practice, and your reputation. Thankfully, you can help every client without taking on every case. Having a strong referral network of reputable attorneys to send clients to will achieve the same effect without the downsides. 

Learning Opportunity

Let’s be brutally honest: Just because a case falls within your specialty doesn’t mean you’re the right lawyer. That’s okay. Each case comes with its own challenges; sometimes, you’ll come up against an aspect you’ve never encountered before. When that happens, you have a few options. You could simply turn down the case. You could take the case, try to learn on your own, and hope for the best. You could send it to another lawyer, collect a referral fee, and be done with it. 

Or you could help your client, yourself, and, more importantly, future clients. How? Refer the case to a lawyer who’s dealt with this type of case and co-counsel. This option offers the opportunity to fill in knowledge gaps that you can bring to future clients while ensuring the best outcome for your current client (and your coffers). Win, win, win, all around. 

The added bonus is that each expert lawyer you collaborate with adds another resource to your network. As your network grows, you can feel confident that you will have the means to surmount any new challenge you face.

When a client calls, it doesn’t have to be an either/or situation. You don’t have to choose between what’s best for you and what’s best for your client. Legal referrals create an “and” situation. It’s good for you and the client. Embrace legal referrals and be the lawyer that helps every client. 

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