3 Keys to a Successful Referral Program for Lawyers


Steve Glaveski

Approximately 91% of B2B sales are influenced by word of mouth. But referral processes used by most law firms are ad-hoc and informal at best.

Fortunately, there are a number of tech-enabled referral platforms on the market that can not only ramp up your referral marketing efforts by an order of magnitude or more, but make it both easier to do, and easier to incentivize referrals.

But first, what makes an effective referral program?

1. Happy Clients

Our personal reputations matter to us, so while the act of referring a business to one’s colleagues, business associates, or friends, might be free of financial cost, it is not free of social cost. As such, doing a good job with your existing clients today is step one and the foundational layer underpinning getting new clients tomorrow.

2. Rewards

Whilst many of your clients might be happy enough to refer you or your firm for nothing other than helping you out, the reality is that they are busy and they have numerous other things vying for their attention. One way to usher them along is to offer a compelling reward above and beyond good vibes.

This could take the form of:

  • A commission on total sale value, typically capped at a predefined amount.

For example, my consultancy offers people a 15% commission on all client revenues generated within 12 months of successful referred sale. Based on past client invoices, this could earn referrers up to US$50,000 on a single converted referral, and as little as US$1,500.

  • An e-gift or physical gift on referral, whether it is converted or not.

This could take the form of, say, a $50 Amazon e-voucher, or a physical gift that you know they will love. Avoid sending generic gifts that assume personal taste, such as a bottle of champagne, to everyone. What if they don’t drink, don’t like champagne, or worse, are a practicing Muslim? You’ve gone from rewarding them to almost offending them.

  • A monetary discount off subsequent or existing engagements with your law firm.

Consider taking 10-15% of the total converted client value off any existing or future engagements your contact pursues with your firm.

  • Monetary donations on their behalf to a charity of their choice.

For example, for every $1000 you make from a converted referral, you pledge to invest $100 (or ten percent) to a charity of choice.

  • Two way referrals.

Your contact would feel more compelled to refer work your way if you are also doing the same for them. This is the essence of the reciprocity principle. This isn’t always possible, but where possible, it is very effective.

3. Structure

If your referral program relies on you emailing contacts or picking up the phone to ask for referrals, it is unlikely to bear as much fruit as well-structured, and tech-enabled program. And that’s if you’re lucky. The reality is, without a tech-enabled platform, your referral efforts are likely to wind up in the ‘too hard basket’ or the ‘not enough time’ basket.

Tech-enabled referral programs make it easy to:

  • Invite your contacts to your referral program and incentivize them to participate
  • Refer you or your firm to your contact’s network
  • Track referrals and conversions
  • Nudge referrers and referred contacts to take action
  • Distribute rewards

Tech-Enabled Referral Platforms

Now, onto that referral software. There are numerous platforms on the market today that can get you up and running on your own campaign today - one that has a structure in place to help you succeed, and that can help you pay out all kinds of rewards.

Platforms worth checking out include the likes of Referral Factory, Referral Candy, and Yotpo, amongst myriad others.


Want to teach your lawyers how to fish? Visit FutureLawAcademy.net for tailored training modules on business development for law firms. Want us to fish for you? Get in touch with me.

about the author

Steve Glaveski is the CEO and Co-Founder of Collective Campus which he established to help companies and their employees to create a more meaningful impact in the world in an age of rapid change and increasing uncertainty. Steve also founded Lemonade Stand - a children's entrepreneurship program, author of Wiley book, Employee to Entrepreneur: How to Earn Your Freedom and do Work That Matters, Harvard Business Review contributor, author of the Innovation Manager's Handbook vol 1 and 2, host of the Future Squared podcast, and keynote speaker. He previously founded HOTDESK, an office sharing platform and has worked for the likes of Westpac, Dun & Bradstreet, the Victorian Auditor General's Office, Ernst & Young, KPMG and Macquarie Bank. Follow him at @steveglaveski