Last summer I was asked to speak to a large group of estate planning professionals. In discussing possible topics, they said they were most interested in building professional referral relationships. I knew my job would require some diplomacy, as this was a mixed group of both financial and legal professionals ... and these two types of professionals see referral relationships from very different perspectives.
Generating professional referrals is no doubt one of the most challenging -- and one of the most important -- aspects of your practice development as an estate planning or elder law attorney. In fact, a recent survey released by Trusts & Estates magazine asked the question, "What are the biggest challenges in your practice today?" Three of the top five responses all related to generating referrals, with "Referrals from other professionals" the number one response.
In speaking to the group, I focused my remarks on moving beyond simply seeking referrals, to building collaborative alliances. I believe this perspective truly represents a paradigm shift -- away from a "gimme gimme" attitude and toward a more professional, client-centered team-building approach based on mutual respect.
I talked to the group about the differing marketing challenges of lawyers and financial professionals. I pointed out that the estate planning attorney likely will not be able to return referrals on a tit-for-tat basis due to the nature of his practice and his ethics constrictions. I saw a lot of nodding heads in the audience ... and realized most of them belonged to the attorneys in the group.
At the end of my presentation, as I visited with some of their members, one particularly vocal financial adviser confronted me quite loudly. I could see this was a fellow who wanted to be heard. He boasted to me of his lucrative financial planning practice serving California's wealthiest residents ... and of the fact that he would never work with any attorney who would not return referrals to him. In fact, if he sent one referral, he expected to receive two in return. When an attorney fails to meet this standard, he throws them over and finds another one. I wondered to myself whether his wealthy clients were aware that he was referring their legal needs based on this standard ... it seemed to me as though he treated his clients like commodities to be auctioned off to the highest bidder.
I waited quite a while, but eventually this fellow did stop talking. And when he paused to come up for air, I got the distinct impression that he wanted me to make some reply.
Which I did.
Whilst turning on my heel away from him, I said, "And that is why many attorneys do not want to work with you."
The fellow attempted to follow me, but my body-building son James blocked his path and we made a clean getaway.
I hope you are doing the same ... turning on your heel and walking away from these dead-end, borderline abusive relationships.
There are many factors that determine whether any relationship -- personal or professional -- will work out. The more quickly you identify those factors and learn to recognize them, the more effective your practice development efforts will become.
You can learn more about developing professional referrals in the free webinar: Building Profitable Referral Relationships, now available on our website.