Why a “Thank You” Can Explode Your Attorney Referrals & Set You Apart

The Right “Thank You” Can Explode Your Attorney Referrals and Set Your Firm Apart

An important part of how my law firm separates ourselves from our competition is how we say thank you to our referral attorneys.

We are taught as children to say thank you to people. Then we start practicing law, and we tend to focus on our latest crisis. Saying “thank you” is important, but it isn’t urgent, and it drops down on our “to do” lists. Sometimes, we forget entirely.

But saying “thank you” isn’t just good manners. If done correctly, it’s a critical part of a law firm’s communication, public relations, and even marketing program. And it’s a great way to differentiate yourself from hundreds of your competitors in your marketplace in the eyes of the people who send cases to you.

The problem with forgetting about gratitude is that it means we are taking our business for granted. People don’t have to refer to you at all, and if they are, it’s for a reason. There are thousands of other lawyers that practice in the same area as you. Those people thinking of you can certainly choose to refer to someone else.

Plus, making any type of referral always involves some degree of personal risk; someone is vouching for you to someone else. They are sticking their neck out for you. The least you can do is show how much you appreciate that.

Every year, I send a thank you letter in December to each client, doctor, lawyer and friend who referred a case to my law firm during the previous year. These people are my “apostles” — they are out there spreading the good word about myself and our law firm to others. I want them to know how much that means to me.

This is how I do it.

Track Referrals, and Let the Referring Lawyer Know It

Let’s be honest. In states where it is legal for attorneys to refer cases to others and be paid an attorney referral fee, letting that lawyer know that you are tracking his or her referrals is the most important thing you can do. I am a personal injury lawyer, and my law firm focuses exclusively on helping people injured in car and truck accidents across Michigan.

For the referring lawyers, that referral fee matters more than any thank you note, gift basket, or holiday card I could send to them. So in every single communication, from the day the case is signed to the letter in December, I make sure to let them know I am tracking the status of their referral by referencing the name of every single person they refer.

The worst thing you can do is to have your referral attorneys start to wonder whether they will receive a referral fee from you. I make sure in my December holiday letter to thank them in the beginning of the letter, and let them know to expect an attorney referral fee from me promptly when the case successfully concludes.

Give All Referrals Top Notch Treatment

Another reason why lawyers refer clients my way is because they have faith in me and the other lawyers in my firm to return phone calls and treat people respectfully. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But lawyers are notorious for not returning phone calls, and I’m always amazed at how rude and insensitive some lawyers can be in how they talk to and treat people. It’s important to let the lawyers who are sticking their necks out and vouching for you know that you are different. We make sure that every referral lawyer also knows how well we treat people. We show them that every referral, even if we can’t take the case, will be treated with compassion, constant communication and kindness.

Walk the Walk

Let your referring attorneys know you are a leader in your area of law. We make sure to gently remind our referral attorneys about the successes we’ve had in the prior year. In our December thank you letter, we include an important section detailing a year-end overview of the happenings at our law firm and the successful verdicts we obtained. It’s important to remind these referral attorneys in a hyper-competitive field like personal injury law that we have the resources to take on the insurance companies, and that we have a track record in Michigan of getting some of the top-reported personal injury verdicts and settlements for auto accident victims.

Let Your “Thank You” Set You Apart

So how do we do this every December?

This is our December letter that we sent out to our referral sources:

Thank you for referring John Doe and Jane Smith to our law firm this past year. If we are able to help, you will of course promptly receive a co-advisory fee when the cases conclude. But most important of all, I just wanted to thank you for the trust and confidence you chose to place in us. As a law firm that receives the majority of its cases from other Michigan lawyers, we regard your faith in us as our highest compliment.

We know results matter. But just as important, please know that every phone call is returned immediately, and we work very hard to provide our clients and your referrals with a special level of service. And referral fees will always be guaranteed.

We take great pride in our work, and we hope our dedication comes through in the satisfaction of our clients and friends.
Looking back over the 2011-12 year:

  • Nine of our lawyers recovered trial verdicts of $1 million or more for our clients. These include: Leonard Koltonow, David Christensen, Sarah Stempky, Robert Raitt, Alison Tomak, Kevin Seiferheld, Thomas James, Joshua Terebelo and Steven Gursten.
  • In November 2012, Kevin Seiferheld and Josh Terebelo received a $1.5 million jury verdict on a State Farm $0 offer at trial.
  • Also in November 2012, Steve Gursten and Tom James received a $2.55 million dollar jury verdict on a $250,000 defense offer for an 83-year-old man in Macomb County.
  • I moderated the first ever Advanced Motor Vehicle Litigation Seminar. The four-day event focused only on automobile accident litigation, and was an incredible success.
  • Two of our lawyers were named in the Top 100 Lawyers in Michigan.
  • Ten were named Michigan Super Lawyers.
  • Our lawyers spoke at several conferences and seminars on topics related to personal injury litigation and trial advocacy. *See a list of 2012 legal seminars below.

Please accept the enclosed gift. We wish you the very best in the new year to come.

Happy Holidays,

Steven M. Gursten, On behalf of all of the attorneys
and staff at Michigan Auto Law

* 2012 legal seminars

  • “Auto Accident Claims: The Influence of Colossus on Recoveries,” Strafford; CLE Webinar, November 2012
  • “Helping Accident Victims: A Fresh Approach for Injury Lawyers,” TAOS Injury Lawyers; Jackson Hole, WY; October 2012
  • “Understanding Auto Insurance Industry Tactics,” Michigan Association for Justice Young Lawyers Forum; Southfield, MI; September 2012
  • “New Ways to Overcome Jury Bias and Increase Personal Injury Damages,” Michigan Association for Justice; Southfield, MI; August 2012
  • “How to Maximize Damages in Truck Accident Lawsuits,” 360 Advocacy Institute; Las Vegas, NV; August 2012
  • “How Titan Insurance v. Hyten Affects Victims,” Negligence Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan; Troy, MI; August 2012
  • “Getting the Highest Car Accident Settlements,” Michigan Association for Justice; Southfield, MI; July 2012
  • “How to Get a Higher Settlement in Car Accident Litigation,” American Association for Justice Jazz Fest Seminar; New Orleans, LA; May 2012
  • “How Bus and Truck Accident Lawsuits are Different,” New Jersey Association for Justice Summer Boardwalk Seminar; Atlantic City, NJ; April 2012
  • “Increasing Settlements in Auto Accident Tort Practices,” Florida Justice Association; Orlando, FL; March 2012
  • “Representing Auto Accident Victims at Trial,” Michigan Association for Justice; Southfield, MI; March 2012
  • “A Career as a Personal Injury Lawyer,” Wayne State University Law School; Detroit, MI; February 2012
  • “Winning Trucking Cases,” National Trial Lawyers; Miami, FL; January 2012


And the enclosed gift? This is the card we sent to the lawyers, along with their letters.

Michigan Auto Law

We wrote this message on a card made of fine linen paper, and enclosed it separately in the same envelope as our December letter. It was a terrific way to connect with many of the lawyers who referred cases to my law firm over the past year. It’s marketing without having to market, and it let them tell me which charities were most meaningful. These attorneys really appreciated it, and I believe it had a lot more of a personal impact than just sending one more gift basket.

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