How to Build a Referral Network for Your Solo Practice

If you look at the typical mousetrap, the technology hasn’t changed that much in the past 100 years: mouse gets cheese; mouse gets murdered.

There are some “humane” versions, the kinds that don’t snap the critters’ necks when they reach for the bait. Instead, the mice die slowly as they writhe hopelessly on a poison sticky pad or something.

So why does everybody say, “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door?” Or, “Build it and they will come?”

Well, those aren’t supposed to be questions. They are supposed to be truisms. The point remains: is there really a better way to build a better business network?

Considered these points from the business network of all networks: LinkedIn — with some twists for the lawyer in all of us:

1. Join and Be Active in Different Associations

This means join local bar associations. Join the local bar, maybe a committee, and go to some education programs and lunch groups. Lawyers actually do refer business to each other, but make sure to distinguish your practice area.

Of course, you should also join organizations with prospective clients. If you are starting a new practice, it’s a great time to hang with people who have similar interests. It’s like planting a seed, or something they said on “The Office.”

2. Share Your Knowledge

This comes in handy not only at parties, but also where the non-drinking fish are. Start by holding some client seminars — for free. Next, move on to offering your time for continuing legal education programs.

If anyone actually listens, you may build up enough confidence and an audience to teach at a community college, university or law school. Then you can charge for your time, too.

3. Provide Referrals

Yes, what comes around goes around. This is another truism that applies equally to networking and social diseases.

Just be safe and make sure you give good referrals. Nobody wants your leftovers, i.e. problem clients or clients who stiffed you.

4. Do a Good Job

This one goes without saying. But since we bill by the word, suffice it to say that one good job leads to another referral.

LinkedIn calls it (no, not a better mousetrap) “the snowball effect.”

5. Put Technology to Work

Go figure, this is LinkedIn’s final piece of advice. And it does make sense, given that we live in a virtual and material world. That next client may be as close as your mousepad.

Oh, there’s the better mousetrap!

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