30 April 2018Jon Robinson
Thirty one percent of consumers find their lawyer through a referral from another attorney. Yet, the practice of referring cases to other firms is often disorganized, opaque, and leaves behind a trail of dissatisfied clients.
The lack of efficiency in modern attorney referrals reveals a disconnect from the original cooperative nature of the legal profession. By going back to the roots of what it means to be a lawyer, and remembering why we refer cases in the first place, hopefully we can rediscover the value of working together.
Rooted in Relationships
Law firms are built on the idea of partnership, which is, most simply, an arrangement where parties agree to cooperate in order to advance their mutual interests. The entire model of the law firm is one of shared ownership, both in gains and responsibility.
Take the “P.A.” at the end of our firm names, too. Professional associations, by definition, “seek to further a particular profession, the interests of individuals engaged in that profession and the public interest.”
Basically, working together is in our DNA as lawyers. And somewhere in the shuffle, we’ve lost sight of the ultimate goal: that we work with the aim of benefiting not just ourselves, but the profession and the public as well.
Nationwide Demand for Local Lawyers
The barriers to collaboration are partly to blame. Because the legal industry is heavily regulated through the state bar, it can be difficult to work together – especially across state lines.
That doesn’t change the fact that often, clients expect their firms to be able to handle any claims they might have, regardless of practice area or geography. As individual mobility increases, as does the demand for nationwide coverage. The general public thinks of a lawyer as a jack of all legal trades and many are not aware of the fact that lawyers need to pass the bar in each state they work in, or that they may have specialties. They expect their real estate lawyer in Texas to be able to handle their claim from an accident that occurred while on vacation in New York.
To be truly client-focused and give clients what they want is to be able to provide them with local, intimate relationships plus expertise in a wide variety of practice areas. That’s getting harder and harder to do within a single firm.
As the legal industry adapts to how evolving technology is changing our society – take autonomous cars, artificial intelligence, and the rise of the gig economy, for example – attorneys are required to carve out deeper niches. The more intricate other industries get, the more ongoing knowledge required to keep up. The constantly new legal landscape means that more and more, lawyers are split by deep subject matter expertise.
Consequently, being client-focused becomes having a referral network to rely on. That way, when someone comes to you for a case, whether an existing client, or someone who knows your work, you don’t have to turn them away but are instead able to help them solve their problem and maintain the relationship.
Referrals right now rely more on passing the buck than on collaboration, and it hurts clients most. Cases are handed off through emails, and clients often get lost in the clutter. Not enough consideration is given to the question of whether the new attorney will be able to adequately resolve the case for the client.
Automation for Efficiency, Transparency for Accountability
What we need for attorney referrals is transparency for built-in accountability. It should be easier to ensure the lawyer you are referring a case to has sufficient expertise and resources to properly handle the matter.
Part of our goal at Litify is to change the mindset about what we, as an industry, are capable of doing and how. Instead of seeing referrals as something to hand off quickly, or to benefit from in a secondary way, we see them as an integral part of your practice, as a way to expand networks, help more people, and evolve firms to fit into the new society being built daily.
Litify helps law firms manage referrals with its built-in network of firms nationwide. Our platform allows you to see what people specialize in, choose someone to refer a case to, and send them a case directly on the platform. Our Case Timeline, as well as the ability to add comments to objects and receive instant updates, makes it easy to fulfill your legal obligation to still be involved in the case, to keep abreast of developments, and ensure your client’s best interests are being met.
Recall the roots of the word referral; it comes from –referre meaning to bring back, report, refer, and from re- + ferre meaning to carry. There’s an inherent responsibility in passing forward a case to bring it back and shoulder some weight.
With Litify, you remain a point of contact and continue to own the client relationship. Because an overwhelming 62 percent of people find attorneys through referrals from family or friends, it’s important to maintain connections with clients.
A Blockchain of Law Firms
Law firms, like all organizations, are created to accomplish tasks that individuals cannot manage on their own. There’s a reason law firms have been structured basically the same way for the last 100 years. It’s more efficient to conduct business as a group of lawyers acting as one entity rather than working alone. Furthermore, a confederation can achieve a lot more than an individual entity. There’s strength in numbers, and power in being able to depend on each other while remaining autonomous and flexible.
Imagine what we’ll be able to achieve when we expand our resources exponentially by forming a chain.