Referring Cases the Right Way

How you refer a case can be crucial. You can make a great impression on the referral attorney or you can make them wonder why they are hearing from you. Style and technology can make a huge difference. It's not something that most attorneys even think about, but you can cement your professional relationship and enhance your reputation, all while helping a client get the best representation possible.

A distant attorney wanted me to look over a case that he thought was beyond his area of experteise but the way he did it was nicely done and there's a valuable lesson to be learned here for all of us who sometimes refer cases to other attorneys (and we all do sooner or later) and want to get the most out of it.

First, he called before sending it and spent no more than a minute laying his groundwork. Not much more than who he was, what he did and why he wanted my help, the basic facts of what he wanted to refer, and that he'd be mailing it out since it was not time sensitive. Short. Brief. To the point. But the personal touch of the phone call (before the mailing) was a smart and thoughtful move. Much, much better than just dropping something in the mail or pushing a button on the fax machine.

Then the package arrived a few days later and I was even more impressed.

He could have just copied all the docs involved, stuck them in the envelope, and let me figure it out myself. Wisely, he didn't. He scanned all the relevant docs into pdf format and then loaded them all on a SanDisk Cruzer usb memory stick and put it in an envelope with a nicely written one page cover letter and a one page summary of each each that he wanted my thoughts on.

Putting the scanned docs on a usb memory stick was a clever touch. It certainly picques one's interest. And that's what you need to do when you want someone to give you (and your client) some of their time for free. And remember that making a good referral helps your client out, is an opportunity to help others learn about you, and helps you build your own business at the same time.

But you can make the referral in a way that enhances your client's chances of getting the best representation possible and, at the same time, enhances the chances that the receiving attorney will look for chances to refer cases back to you too.

The key here was that the referring attorney did not just put the scanned docs on any old usb memory stick. No, he put them on a Cruzer and noted in the cover letter that I should feel free to keep the Cruzer usb stick after reviewing the docs. It didn't cost much, and it was a terrific move.

For those who don't know, the Cruzer is SanDisk's clever usb memory stick that comes in various sizes and has the ability to load programs and other "self-starting" programs on it such that people who use it don't need to have the programs that your data is in just to read or pull up the data. I've used a Cruzer for several months now and love it (I'm not getting paid for this either). But this isn't a commercial for the Cruzer (you can click here to see and read more about it).

The point of it is that this attorney was wise enough to realize that, first, his client needed more advanced help in a specific area of law than he was comfortable with. Second, he identified who could help his client out (in other words, pick your referral attorney for his or her experience and experteise), and then he went the extra yard to impress that attorney with his-her professionalism and brevity (admit it, none of us really enjoy reading another attorney's multi-page letter) and then tossed in an extra bonus (here the Cruzer stick).

If you want to be noticed, if you want your referral letter to go to the top of the stack of incoming mail, that's the way you do it. Smart. Real smart.