The Power of Referrals and Recommendations
Referrals are every law firms’ friend. Whether they’re the result of a happy client recommending your firm to a family member, or from another firm needing your specialist help, referrals are one of the most effective methods of lead generation for legal firms.
It’s perhaps not surprising, as referrals and recommendations are essentially the biproduct of a job well done and a legal team and brand that are performing deftly. Consequently many firms are keen to build asking for referrals into their standard operating practices.
Here, Bernadette Bennett from leading outsourced communications provider Moneypenny and Peter Finkill-Coombs from Lawshare, a free referral scheme and support network for lawyers from JMW Solicitors, discuss the importance of recommendations and referrals and why partnered working is so effective in modern legal business.
Trust and proof
Lawshare Partner Peter Finkill-Coombs said: “For Lawshare the power of referrals is so great that it’s our primary focus and it’s why we set up our network over a decade ago. We have a dedicated team of people at Board and Partner level managing a network of more than 650 member law firms all over the country. Our premise is simple. When firms can’t take on a particular piece of work or don’t have the appropriate specialism, they are able to refer it to JMW via their free membership to Lawshare, safe in the knowledge that JMW will only act on the referred matter and signpost the client back to the referring firm for future work.
“Referrals are very important to the legal sector as essentially we enter the profession to assist clients. Whether they be professional or lay, we’re always looking to find solutions for them and if we can’t personally and neither can a colleague, we much prefer to direct them to a trusted contact or source where they are likely to find a solution to their legal enquiry. That piece of goodwill is not only the right thing to do, but hopefully it will be recalled by a would-be client, and you are then in their mind’s eye the next time they have a legal enquiry. It also reflects well on the referring firm for finding a solution.”
Leading outsourced communications provider Moneypenny is another business that understands the power of recommendations and referrals all too well, particularly when it comes to its telephone answering and live chat services.
Bernadette Bennett heads up Moneypenny’s work with more than 1000 legal firms across the UK including JMW and Lawshare. She said: “Recommendations and referrals are very important for legal firms as they leverage connections, build professional contacts and strengthen client relationships. From a personal perspective, we’ve also found recommendations to be highly effective in building our own stable of clients in the sector too.
“Referrals and recommendations are essentially validation from someone else so they add credibility and can provide a short cut to speed up the procurement process. They basically remove that initial bit of ‘research’ as it’s covered by the recommendation itself.”
First impressions and excellent client care
With such a large network of referral partners, it’s clear that Lawshare has invested carefully in getting the basics right and that it ensures a consistent, professional and trusted approach for those referring business. Peter added: “We understand the reputational pressure of making a referral or recommendation. Anyone referring work wants to be certain that it will be completed to a high standard and that excellent client care is guaranteed. It’s one of the reasons we use Moneypenny to help support our client service team for telephone answering and live chat support as it helps us to ensure an excellent experience from the very first initial contact – whether that call comes at 11 o’clock at night or on the 25th of December!”
Client care is crucial to capitalising on referrals and recommendations says Bernadette: “You could refer work to a business that you know is expert in its field, but if their customer care isn’t up to par it could prove costly in reputational terms for you as the referrer. We help legal firms to ensure their customer care is of the highest standard – something that typically starts with accessibility. Things like a warm welcome on the phone, showing empathy, directing calls, taking messages well and answering live chats in real time, not to mention how competently and efficiently the legal matter is handled, all help to project the right impression. Collectively these things ensure that when someone reaches out following a recommendation, their enquiry is turned into business quickly and professionally. Anything less is a lost opportunity and one that could reflect badly on the referrer.”
Tips to capitalise on referrals and recommendations
Lawshare’s Peter Finkill-Coombs added: “All enquiries should be dealt with promptly, professionally and politely. It’s why we use Moneypenny to support our team. They understand our service standards and what our referrers and in turn their clients expect when they entrust Lawshare to look after them. Being available and having that initial first contact immediately starts building that personal rapport. It creates buy-in, establishes trust and gives you the best opportunity of converting a referral enquiry into a live matter.”
Bernadette has two pieces of advice for firms wanting to capitalise on the power of recommendations and referrals, be that from clients or other firms. She says: “Step one is to think about how those referrals will become known to you – if they’re picking up the phone or visiting your website make sure they’ll receive a very positive first impression of your firm. That initial experience must be worthy of the recommendation.
“Step two is to consider how effective your ongoing client communications are. Potential new clients will expect a timely response to their enquiry, not to mention ongoing updates if you get the work. This means your firm and your people must be accessible – whether that’s proactive email communication, client portals or via the telephone, clients expect excellent communication. ”
Bernadette concluded: “It’s important to remember that a firm’s people, competency and approach to client care are being judged at every turn, even from the smallest interaction. It’s these details that inform people’s likelihood to refer or recommend, and crucially, whether those referrals and recommendations actually convert into business.”