3 Best Practices on Securing Referral Partners for Your Law Firm

Samir Sampat

Many attorneys find performing cold outreach to potential leads as overwhelming as starting a new law firm. Or even skydiving! 

This is particularly true for lawyers, especially those who are younger or just hanging their shingle after years endured at a big firm. Outreach by email, phone, or social media with the intent to drive new sales can feel icky, uncomfortable, and unfocused. 

And while cold outreach to potential clients may elicit these emotions, securing referral partners for your firm is just as important because they have the potential to generate the best and most consistent business for you.

It's worthwhile to invest the time required to overcome mental hurdles blocking you from excelling at outreach. But where should you start? 

Law schools don’t train or prepare you for this business practice. Even seasoned sales professionals take years to perfect cold outreach messaging and align on the right channels and cadences. So how can lawyers gain the confidence to call a complete stranger?


To help you get started, we’ll introduce three best practices that can be used for cold outreach to help you build strong lasting business relationships with prospective referral partners.

1. Connect through LinkedIn messaging

LinkedIn, a business networking social media platform, has made it easier for lawyers to quickly build their communities and networks. LinkedIn lets you send connection requests and direct messaging with other professionals from around the world.

LinkedIn messaging is an effective channel to “warm up leads” by introducing yourself in a non-salesy fashion and has a far higher engagement rate than by cold calling leads via phone. (In the next section, we'll go over how to succeed when you do have to make cold calls.)

Successfully establishing profitable connections through LinkedIn doesn’t happen overnight. It requires you to develop your own cadence and refine it over time. You may need to send anywhere from five to ten direct messages — spaced out over a period of time — to each lead before you start seeing tangible results.

Our recommendation to lawyers pursuing relationships with referral partners is to not to be too narrowly focused with your search. It’s natural for lawyers of specific practices to seek out other lawyers that have complementary expertise but we suggest connecting with other stakeholder groups, too. It’s important to keep in mind that many of your potential clients will reach out to their own personal networks before ever reaching out to a lawyer for any legal advice. 

In fact, 62% of people looking for a lawyer ask their friends and family for recommendations. 

By completing cold outreach with “everyone you can think of” you won’t be just the “new guy” but “THE guy” on their referral list.   

For example, if you’re an employment lawyer, don’t just focus on connecting with only workers compensation lawyers but also with community counseling groups, medical professionals, and physical therapists as they can also make new client referrals to you, too. 

2. Improve your cold calling outreach

Cold calling prospective partners can also be an effective way to network and build partnerships. However, it can be more challenging without having any past communication with them as you’ll need a reason as to why you’re calling them out of the blue. 

When you’re calling any of your potential partners, you’ll need to be prepared to provide them value and a reason to continue your relationship. 

Possible partnership opportunities that you can offer them that will add value include: 

  • Cohosting joint webinars on overlapping legal practices to generate new leads
  • Updating them on a new law or closed case that might be relevant to their business
  • Inviting them to in-person events if you’re both located near the same city

Your cold calling outreach is likely to be more successful by treating them as an existing partner from the start.

What can lawyers who are not already comfortable with cold calling do?

It may sound obvious, but simply practice. Start by calling 50 potential partners that you view as “lower priority” to start building your confidence in pitching yourself. If you’re struggling to find your groove on these calls, you face little risk as you continue building up your confidence. Once you’re ready and comfortable enough to do so, you can cold call prospective partners that you’re more serious about working with.

Another recommendation is outsourcing cold calling to those with more sales experience. Smith.ai's virtual receptionists can serve as your SDRs while you focus on interacting with potential partners through other communication channels like LinkedIn.

3. Engage with potential partners using ringless voicemails

Cold calling, while effective, can prove rather difficult. Research from the caller ID app Hiya found that only an average of 48% of all calls received are answered

An emerging sales engagement trend is using ringless voicemails to interact with potential leads as spammers traditionally do not leave voicemails when their calls are unanswered. The benefit of leaving voicemails is more people are likely to listen to them after receiving a notification which can potentially create traction with a prospective partner. 

Available apps that enable you to leave ringless voicemails with probable clients and partners include:

It is important to understand how to best engage with your prospects. As you start integrating these best practices into your cold outreach strategy, you’ll have a deeper understanding of your audience and can refine your processes as needed. Remember, people are more likely to be receptive when they’re viewed as a potential long-term partner and not just another person that you’re trying to make a quick sale off of.

Smith.ai Virtual Receptionists can help with referral partners

When your cold outreach starts bearing fruit and your pipeline grows with new leads and referral partners, prompt responsiveness will be expected by them. Smith.ai’s virtual receptionists can provide 24/7 call answering services to firms unable to hire a dedicated in-house receptionist or requiring assistance with overflow answering to handle the new influx of inquiries.   

Our receptionists can also respond to social media messages, sort through and qualify leads, and schedule appointments with your leads and partners. And even better, we can make and take calls, take notes, and send them directly to your email, SMS, or CRM. We can take all your calls and help you convert qualified leads and nurture referring partners.

Contact a receptionist today for a free 15-minute consultation at (650) 727-6484 and sign up for a free 14-day/20-call trial today. Smith.ai can help you do it all.


Samir Sampat

Samir Sampat is a Marketing and Events Associate with Smith.ai. He has experience working with businesses of all sizes focusing on marketing, communications, and business development.

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