Law firms traditionally manage clients across various practice areas well, but just like other industries, employees tend to be reluctant to pass their contacts on to others. While some firms require you to share your clients as a matter of policy, some still leave it up to you. So that leads you to a fork in the road. What do you do?
Keep Them to Yourself
Many believe it is your duty as an attorney to look out for young lawyers, which can include sharing your contacts with them. On the other hand, deciding to share your contacts with colleagues can open up a can of worms depending on the circumstances. Lawyers protect their clients religiously, even from colleagues in their own areas of practice. Often times the concern revolves around what it reflects on the lawyer sharing the contact or making the referral. Attorneys are hesitant to make referrals, especially long-distance referrals, if they suspect the lawyers or practice group to whom the client would be referred might fumble the ball, overbill the client, or otherwise make the referring lawyer look bad and potentially threaten the client relationship. Further, some contacts value the confidentiality of their relationship and may not want their information shared, this is especially true in commercial litigation or the insurance industry. Another concern is if you share contacts within your firm, you are not guaranteed the same access to their list. Finally, an obvious negative is the potential loss of a book of business. While it’s not pleasant to think your generosity could backfire, it’s possible making a referral or sharing a business contact eliminates you from the equation.
Sharing is Caring
Conversely, if you know and explicitly trust both the contact and the attorney to whom you are referring the contact, the results could create more trust amongst all parties, create good feedback, expand your brand and network and enhance your book of business. Sharing can arise out of various situations. Sometimes a case is outside your immediate area of expertise or is larger than you can take on. You owe it to your client to ensure they get the best possible representation for their case. Referring them to a trustworthy party is demonstrating that loyalty. Thus, enhancing that relationship with both the client and the referral. As your referrals continue with positive results, the favor is typically returned. But you can’t always bat 1,000. It may take kissing a few frogs before you find the solid referral relationships. Contributing your contacts within your firm is becoming easier and more common with the use of a Client Relationship Management tool (CRM).
As law firms move towards integrating CRM’s into their workflow, it is becoming easier to get others on board with contributing their contacts’ information. If you and your colleagues are able to give credit where credit is due, there is no excuse to withhold the information. Your contacts are your law firm’s contacts. Therefore, the each individual’s book of business has expanded significantly.
Sharing in the legal industry is much more than a childhood golden rule. It is a powerful tool that can have its own unique risks and rewards. Ultimately, you have to determine what is best for you and your brand.