Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

Contacting lawyers for referrals?

Is there a good way to go about this? I've seen it suggested saulgoodmanwannabe02/14/17
I would load up on assigned work, so you get a lot of faceti trollfeeder02/14/17
I think if you want good referrals, they are going to come f jorgedeclaro02/14/17
I agree with this. Meet people in other practice areas who a guyingorillasuit02/14/17
Well sort of. I used to get referred family law cases from f cocolawyer02/14/17
Unless you live in a small town that you grew up in, I canno disappearedattorney02/15/17
Every plaintiff attorney I know says referrals help a lot jackiechiles02/15/17
Every successful plaintiff's attorney I know has a huge mark disappearedattorney02/15/17
Every successful attorney I know balances out a well thought cocolawyer02/15/17
Only personal injury mills, workers comp/SSDI, mass tort att jorgedeclaro02/15/17
Okay, you guys go devote 10 hours per week for a year to net disappearedattorney02/15/17
Most of my business comes in by referral. And I used to dedi guyingorillasuit02/16/17
Networking can be a waste of time for people who fail to mak mrtor02/16/17
In my experience, referrals typically come from former / cur anothernjlawyer02/15/17
Thanks. I figure I can call the bail bonds companies in my a saulgoodmanwannabe02/15/17
Mass mailing based upon arrest reports is smarmy. I'm not sa mrtor02/16/17
Thanks for advice. I am a newer attorney admitted late last saulgoodmanwannabe02/16/17
If you could actually get a PD or prosecutor position, you s mrtor02/17/17
It's loans, rent, credit card payments, sallie mae, daycare, saulgoodmanwannabe02/17/17
"... since a large amount of posters on here do the going so wolfman02/17/17
Right now my plan is take as many solo cases as I get my han saulgoodmanwannabe02/17/17
OK, that may work, I just didn't think it was a good idea to wolfman02/17/17
Gotcha, yeah eventually I'd like to be 100% solo but I am re saulgoodmanwannabe02/17/17
"Smarmy?" "Quality clients?" How many neurosurgeons accused anothernjlawyer02/17/17
Doesn't work. Referrals only come from lawyers who know your midlaw02/15/17

saulgoodmanwannabe (Feb 14, 2017 - 9:45 am)

Is there a good way to go about this? I've seen it suggested as a cheaper way of getting new clients.

Are there some areas of law it works for better than others? I'm a new criminal solo looking for work, should I cold-call random criminal defense attorneys and introduce myself?

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trollfeeder (Feb 14, 2017 - 9:57 am)

I would load up on assigned work, so you get a lot of facetime in court. If you are on attorneys row, you can make small talk with the others, maybe be co counsel on a multi D case, leading to more small talk. You can trade forms, perhaps cover an appearance, and go from there. I don't think cold calling looking for a paying client will go over as well.

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jorgedeclaro (Feb 14, 2017 - 10:47 am)

I think if you want good referrals, they are going to come from attorneys outside of your practice area.

In my seven attorney firm, we handle criminal law in house. For things we don't handle like immigration, family law and bankruptcy, we have people we usually send our clients to. We don't get paid for it but we think those people will do a good job.

For areas we do practice in, if I have a consult on a good case, I'm going to take it. If it's small-time or seems uninteresting, I'm going to refer it to someone I perceive as below our class of talent. I figure if I'm not interested, the other good civil litigation attorneys in town will also not be interested, so I send it further down the poop law shoot.

Long story short, if you want good referrals, they probably aren't coming from people practicing criminal law. I also agree with trollfeeder. You meet other attorneys on the criminal docket and from there you meet them for a beer or lunch.

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guyingorillasuit (Feb 14, 2017 - 11:50 am)

I agree with this. Meet people in other practice areas who are similar to you in age and experience level. It is pointless to network with older attorneys if you're looking for business - they already have people they refer to, and you will never get anything decent from them. On the other hand, it's good to have experienced people you can call with questions early on.

When you have a referral to give out, make sure it goes to a person who is likely to respect you and refer back to you.

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cocolawyer (Feb 14, 2017 - 12:06 pm)

Well sort of. I used to get referred family law cases from family law attorneys. Just know that if you are getting the referral from someone in your own field that the client is probably a real douche bag.

I would never just randomly contact attorneys and try to get people on a referral rolodex. Not only is that ineffective but its a good way to get your name in the community as the desperate one. Go to mixers and meet people. Laugh at how crappy your job is. Show them pictures of your dog or kid (nice to do the human touch to know you are a person too). Once people like you they will refer business to you.

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disappearedattorney (Feb 15, 2017 - 9:16 am)

Unless you live in a small town that you grew up in, I cannot emphasize strongly enough how bad an idea it is to rely on referrals for business. It will never work. Networking is a waste of time.

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jackiechiles (Feb 15, 2017 - 11:06 am)

Every plaintiff attorney I know says referrals help a lot

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disappearedattorney (Feb 15, 2017 - 11:48 am)

Every successful plaintiff's attorney I know has a huge marketing budget.

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cocolawyer (Feb 15, 2017 - 12:00 pm)

Every successful attorney I know balances out a well thought out marketing plan that includes a fairly large portion of their business from referrals (past clients, business, neighbors, other attorneys etc.)

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jorgedeclaro (Feb 15, 2017 - 2:50 pm)

Only personal injury mills, workers comp/SSDI, mass tort attorneys need big marketing budgets.

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disappearedattorney (Feb 15, 2017 - 9:57 pm)

Okay, you guys go devote 10 hours per week for a year to networking and let us know how it works out.

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guyingorillasuit (Feb 16, 2017 - 12:42 am)

Most of my business comes in by referral. And I used to dedicate about 5-7 hours a week to networking.

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mrtor (Feb 16, 2017 - 12:46 pm)

Networking can be a waste of time for people who fail to make the most of it. Awkward and introverted people may struggle with it, as well as those who treat networking as purely transactional. Networking isn't about wandering around big events and talking with strangers. Its about cultivating relationships with like-minded people. Your network is always going to be finite. However, the ability to tap into the networks of others provides exponential growth opportunities. Given the nature of our profession, and its reputation, good clients, especially, want an attorney referral from people they trust. You want those people to say your name. With good results, you will add that client to your network and continue to grow from there. That's how you build a sustainable business.

Marketing isn't irrelevant, but the costs are substantial. The impersonality of marketing can also be detrimental to the quality of the clients.

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anothernjlawyer (Feb 15, 2017 - 1:26 pm)

In my experience, referrals typically come from former / current clients, and colleagues / repeat adversaries with whom you are friendly and share one, but not all, practice areas. If I know my adversary who I get along with in a civil case also does family law, I might refer my client who needs a divorce to that lawyer.

That said (again in my experience) referrals aren't the bee's knees. First, they're inconsistent. I probably get one or two referral phone calls per year. Second, all referrals aren't good referrals. When I get a call from a prospective client saying they were referred by a certain (very good) attorney I know, the cases are invariably duds and I don't take them: sometimes, a referral is just another lawyer getting rid of an unattractive case / prospective client.

I can't imagine getting business out of going to a lawyers' social event, handing out my card, and saying "refer me your cases." If it's a case I can handle, I'm going to handle it. If it's a case outside my wheelhouse, I'm either going to refer it to someone I've worked on cases with, or just tell them to call the bar association. I wouldn't refer someone to a lawyer I don't know......don't need the hassle coming back on me if they are incompetent, etc..

For criminal work, for starters, I'd call every bail bondsman in town and find out if they have an attorney list / business card rack and, if so, how to get on it. You may also be able to get a list of charges issued out of your local municipal courts, so that you can direct-mail prospective clients.

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saulgoodmanwannabe (Feb 15, 2017 - 2:25 pm)

Thanks. I figure I can call the bail bonds companies in my area and see how that goes.

Is there a preferred source for getting copies of arrest reports? I can look up police reports for my area and view all arrests within whatever date ranges I pick. "Sensitive" reports are never available to view online so that weeds out any arrests for victim-type crimes.

Should I just concentrate on the DUI reports? I imagine most of the trespass, driving under suspension, and small drug offenses, and status crimes are indigent offenders going to the PD.

Should I be stuffing these envelopes myself, printing out the reports and a form letter and slapping a stamp on or is there a efficient way of getting a campaign started?

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mrtor (Feb 16, 2017 - 1:01 pm)

Mass mailing based upon arrest reports is smarmy. I'm not saying it won't reap a few clients, but will they be quality clients? Furthermore, reputation is important in this profession. Do you really want to be that guy? Do you really want to air your desperation that publicly? I hope you don't, but maybe you do.

As an aside, I see two other huge issues here. One, you started your own firm without an established client base that could sustain it. I assume you're a newer attorney. You should seriously consider joining a criminal defense firm for a couple of years to build contacts that could sustain your own practice. Your failure to do so will handicap your practice and significantly harm your earning potential. Two, you're a new solo who's trying to specialize. In conjunction with my first point, you don't have the client base to specialize yet. Like many solos, you need to market yourself as a generalist who will take anything that walks in the door. This approach is essential to sustaining your young practice and building your client base. With luck, you may be able to narrow down your practice areas in a few years.

I think you really need to take some seminars on opening your own firm. You're already risking making a lot of mistakes which could sink your practice before it even gets off the ground. That's not criticism -- none of this stuff is inherent.

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saulgoodmanwannabe (Feb 16, 2017 - 5:04 pm)

Thanks for advice. I am a newer attorney admitted late last year. I managed to snag one client at the moment and I am working his case on a retainer.

I applied to hundreds of firms and interviewed at several dozen throughout law school and after and not a single one of them gave me a shot. I had relatively high credentials but at a T3 school. I interned for the PD's office all throughout law school and until shortly after taking the bar.

Right now I'm stuck at some awful company sitting in a room all day staring at a screen doing work hardly related to law at all. Doc review would be 10x more "legal" than what I do, but this pays $50k a year and I cannot pay rent and live on wages of a PD job ($32k) or prosecutor's ($35k). I'm kind of in a shiddy place where I cannot afford to be a real lawyer so I started going solo taking cases here and there.

I admit it's a shiddy plan but short of getting some magical offer from a law firm willing to pay me $60k+, I don't have any real options. Meanwhile my law degree is growing stale and everything I learned during law school and the bar will dissipate from my head before I'm actually given a chance to practice law, so I'm trying to make it somehow work.

I do have a mentor (my state does a program for new lawyers) and family members who practice criminal law to give me pointers. I held an intern certificate during law school so I am familiar with practicing in court and can handle basic stuff like hearings, motion arguments, and could probably competently try a case if I had to.

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mrtor (Feb 17, 2017 - 9:19 am)

If you could actually get a PD or prosecutor position, you should jump on it now.

Why couldn't you live on that salary for at least a couple of years? If its because of your loans, you can enroll in PSLF and drop your payments to about 10% of your income. That should free up enough money for you to survive on. If its because of pride or entitlement, you're fooling yourself. PD or prosecutor work would offer substantive experience that would better position you for greater success and higher earning potential later on.

Prosecutors, especially, have strong exit options. With a couple of years' experience, you could climb to the federal or state AG level, leave for a criminal defense firm, or pursue a career in civil litigation. PDs suffer a little more stigma, but a lot go on to criminal defense firms or other government positions.

Few new attorneys who open their own firms go on to great success. The odds are simply stacked against you. I know everyone thinks they're exceptional, but the numbers are the numbers. You need to seriously consider any paying legal position with an established organization or firm if you want to stay in this field. Bite the bullet, suffer a couple years of poverty, and it will likely pay off long term. T3 grads don't get to call their own shots. You take what you can get.

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saulgoodmanwannabe (Feb 17, 2017 - 10:07 am)

It's loans, rent, credit card payments, sallie mae, daycare, etc. I'd have to cram myself in a one-bedroom apartment in the projects and live off canned beans to survive on those wages. I'm already on the income-based plan. That's why I'm stuck in essentially mindless data entry until my employer realizes a high school student could do the same for $8/hr. I could always come crawling back to the PD's office but those wages are not sustainable even if I desperately need the experience.

I worked 2 years for the PD, although this was in law school, that doesn't count as the experience I need? I represented over 200 clients, got charges dismissed, charges amended to something lower, or better offers in most cases. I know how to counsel clients, handle the pretrial procedure, and know my way around a courtroom. That doesn't count for anything?

Most of the private lawyers show up in court and do the exact same thing I did: review the file, talk to the client, talk to the prosecutor, get it resolved, go in front of the judge and done.

I'm not trying to argue and I appreciate the advice, but since a large amount of posters on here do the going solo straight from the bar results thing, why wouldn't it work for me?

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wolfman (Feb 17, 2017 - 10:55 am)

"... since a large amount of posters on here do the going solo straight from the bar results thing, why wouldn't it work for me?"

Respectfully, I don't think you are correct. I believe most solos on here went solo after working for someone else. The one poster I am aware of who did solo criminal defense after LS struggled financially in the beginning, eventually did better but still was financially insecure, and finally got a job as a mid-level ADA based on his extensive trial experience as a solo. He seemed very happy about it, and no longer posts.

I'm not saying you can't go solo, just wondering if it's possible to do that without making little (and possibly almost no) money in the beginning years, which seem to be why you don't want to go the DA/PD route...

Look, I think you are very fortunate to have your (JD-preferred, haha?) job and it'd be one thing if you desperately want to be a lawyer and are willing to work for peanuts to get experience (in which case, as mrtor says, PD or DA are great options if you can get them). But going solo to make more $? I think most solos without experience struggle terribly in the beginning, and would kill to make as much as a PD. I feel like you are going to have to take the financial hit one way or another if you want to practice, and the financial hit from going solo may be a lot bigger... but maybe I'm wrong.

Or are you planning to combine starting a practice with your current gig?

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saulgoodmanwannabe (Feb 17, 2017 - 11:10 am)

Right now my plan is take as many solo cases as I get my hands on while staying here. For the moment, my employers are accommodating but who knows how long that'll last. I've already taken a few thousand on retainer from my client.

I would like to handle minor, one-appearance matters like traffic tickets or misdemeanor offenses so I don't have to miss more than 1/2 day each week.

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wolfman (Feb 17, 2017 - 11:21 am)

OK, that may work, I just didn't think it was a good idea to quit your job to go solo - which you aren't doing.

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saulgoodmanwannabe (Feb 17, 2017 - 11:30 am)

Gotcha, yeah eventually I'd like to be 100% solo but I am ready for a few rough years of getting 1 case here or there.

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anothernjlawyer (Feb 17, 2017 - 10:42 am)

"Smarmy?" "Quality clients?" How many neurosurgeons accused of killing their wives, investment bankers charged with securities fraud, and professional athletes accused of rape do you think saunter through the average criminal solo's door?


The pool of quality cases for criminal defense attorneys is small. Most people charged with minor traffic offenses go pro-se: nobody wants to spend $1000.00 (or $500) in legal fees contesting a $90.00 ticket. People accused of more serious offenses are usually going to be eligible for the public defender: let's face it, if you're in a place in your life where you have $5,000.00 to spend on a retainer, you probably have the wherewithal not to get in trouble in the first place. Unemployed guy on his 5th DWI? Public defender. Homeless heroin addict? Public defender. Most robberies, rapes, assaults, murders, etc.? Public defender.

The reality is that most people who need a criminal attorney have big problems and small wallets.

DWI's won't save you. People might pay $1,500.00 to $2,000.00 to work out a good plea deal; they won't spend 8-10K on a moonshot chance at acquittal. And with Uber, Lyft, millenials driving less, and a greater awareness of DWI penalties, that pond doesn't have as many fish as it used to.

There are good cases out there. The rich-brat frat boy who punches a cop during rush week. The business executive who smacks his wife. The computer systems analyst who gets busted with child porn. But these cases-serious charges involving people who can afford to defend them-are not the norm. Unless you're a real hot-sh!t, regional-statewide known defense attorney, you need a steady diet of housewife-shoplifters, opiate-addicts with concerned middle-class parents, and undocumented immigrants who can pay $450.00 in cash for you to get rid of their driving without insurance rap to stay afloat.

College kids from good schools, if you can get them, are great. The parents are terrified that their kid will end up with a criminal record (and will pay fees accordingly) and judges / prosecutors are usually sympathetic since you're typically dealing with first offenses. If I was trying to build a criminal practice I would at least consider writing all of the local fraternity / sorority presidents and offering free consultations.

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midlaw (Feb 15, 2017 - 9:29 pm)

Doesn't work. Referrals only come from lawyers who know your work. If they like you and think you are good, you'll get good referrals. If they hate you and/or think you suck, you'll get crappy referrals.

But they need to know you and your work either way.

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