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It may surprise you to know that our most recent consumer research shows that even though many consumers are almost addicted to their phones and social media feeds – when it comes to choosing a lawyer to represent them after an accident, they still place a huge premium on the opinions of their friends and family.

So, if you are too focused on the latest digital marketing tactics and social media platforms, you may be overlooking some of the best cases you could be signing right now – the cases that come through referrals from your past clients. This is your firm’s low-hanging fruit and leaving it to die on the vine is a huge, missed opportunity for you and your law firm that is probably costing you hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Successful Personal Injury Lawyers need a host of tools in their marketing toolbox to reach and resonate with today’s consumers. That means you should certainly amass as many 5-star Google reviews as you can and post relevant and engaging content across a host of social media platforms. BUT don’t forget to leverage your existing and past clients and turn them into mini-marketers for your law firm.

Just last year we commissioned a large consumer study to ascertain what today’s consumers really think about lawyers. We wanted to know if they think we are all ambulance chasers, or if many still hold attorneys in high esteem. We also wanted to know why today’s consumers choose one law firm over another after they’ve been in an accident.

****(If you don’t already have a copy of PILMMA’s Consumer Behavior Report, get your copy here today, so you can start taking advantage of this data in shaping your firm’s current marketing plan.)

Here’s what we found out – Believe it or not, of the 400 random consumers surveyed, the majority still valued a lawyer referral from a friend or family over organic social media marketing. (Surprisingly, paid online ads ranked higher in value to these consumers than organic posts) So while building your online reputation/branding is important in today’s digital world, the bottom line is that you should still spend concerted energy to create and maintain “top-of-mind” awareness with all your past clients, so that they will share your firm’s information with their friends and family. The lifetime value of a past client is far beyond the fee you earned in their representation.

But here’s the kicker – just because you represented a client well 5 years ago doesn’t mean that they will remember you when their friends or family need a lawyer. Far from it. Most of the time, no matter how great you repped them, or how much money you got them for their case, over time, their memory of your law firm fades. Then, in that critical moment when you want them to speak up and sing your firm’s praises to their friends or family, they don’t say a word.

But you have the power to change that dynamic.

And the best part is that, unlike loads of other marketing strategies, marketing to your past clients costs virtually nothing, and the ROI can be astounding! Over and over when we work with Personal injury lawyers who put systems in place to maximize their Referral based marketing to past clients, they are amazed at the results they begin to achieve. More prospects. More cases. More profits.

So, what should you be doing right now to start systematically harvesting this low-hanging fruit?

You should start by setting up systematic referral systems – including simple and inexpensive tactics designed to reach out to your past clients so that you maintain “top-of-mind” awareness.    

Referral Rule: The Magic 60%:  Studies show that Twenty percent of your client base will refer new business to you, even if you do nothing. Another twenty percent will never refer cases to you, no matter what you do. The remaining sixty percent will send referral business your firm’s way, IF you create a Referral system that reminds them about your firm and educates them on how to refer cases to you.

Past Client Referrals 300x300 1

  • 20% Always Refer

  • 20% Never Refer

  • 60 % Refer with Education/Encouragement





The key to reaching this 60% and boosting your Referral rate is to create and foster an ongoing relationship with them.

In order to reach this important segment of your client base you first want to make sure that your firm is referable.

Ask yourself this important question: If one of your own family members were involved in a tragic accident and lost a limb, would you hire your firm to represent them? If you wouldn’t do so, why would anyone else?

So, before you can leverage Referral based marketing to your advantage, you need to make sure that you are providing excellent client service. It’s what leads to 5-star reviews at the end of the representation and paves the way for your past clients to rave about you to others.

Think of it this way: Each client that walks through your firm’s doors is not only bringing the potential of their own repeat business, but also all the potential clients they can refer to you over their lifetime. Each client has the potential to be mini marketers for your law firm, thereby helping you to grow your law firm exponentially. It should be a profound ripple effect with a phenomenal ROI. Thus, it is vitally important that you strive to instill in all your staff and lawyers the importance and value of providing excellent client service all the time.

Take The Grandmother Test to Ensure Excellent Client Service: Your staff and all your employees should speak to and interact with your clients in the same way that they would their own grandmother. If they would not say or do something to their grandmother, then they should not say or do it to your clients. This analogy can provide clarification for your staff and lawyers concerning the kind of conduct and interaction you expect from them.

Always Keep Clients Informed and Maintain Consistent Communication with Them: Keeping clients in the loop helps ward off unnecessary bar complaints and helps to build the quality relationships between you and your clients that makes them raving fans that are eager to tell others how great you are.

To make communication easier try implementing the following:

  1. Use Text Messaging and emails to keep clients in the loop. Many of your clients probably prefer digital communication to old-fashioned phone calls or in-office meetings. And it also saves your case manager’s time. Texting and emailing allows you to control the dialogue while keeping your clients informed.
  2. Create a client Portal: Portals allow your clients to understand what’s going on in their case without having to call your office. It’s an excellent way to keep them in the loop without tying up your phone lines and pulling your case managers away from their checklists throughout the day.
  3. Create generic Videos that you can push out to your clients at the outset and every subsequent stage of their case. By educating them in this way, through easy-to-understand personal videos you are strengthening your relationship with them while also allowing you to adjust their expectations, so they are more likely to be satisfied with your firm and the work you are doing for them.

Once you’ve addressed the “referability “issue, then it’s time to create simple systems for top-of-mind awareness of all your past clients:


  • Greeting Cards: It may sound too simple, but this inexpensive gesture works. Send out cards in the mail, and/or via text or email to your clients and past clients on their birthdays. We all enjoy knowing someone is thinking of us, and your clients are no different. Commemorate the day you resolved their case with an anniversary card that lets them know it was a privilege to help them in their time of need and let them know how much you’d appreciate referrals from their friends or family.
  • Newsletters: Create a simple newsletter that you send out digitally via email or text, and/or mail out in hard copy. Keep them simple with interesting/entertaining short articles, recipes, blurbs on your firm’s community involvement, etc. Offer a copy of any books or reports that you may be running as lead magnets or have done in the past. If you don’t have time to create a Newsletter on your own, you can also enlist outside vendors to take care of the details at a reasonable price.
  • Handwritten notes: Send out hand-written notes to every client that gives you a Referral. We all like to feel appreciated and to have our efforts acknowledged. Your clients will appreciate receiving a personal handwritten note from you after they’ve referred a friend or family member to you and will be more likely to keep those referrals coming.
  • Referral Stickers/ Emal tag: Add a sticker that says “We love Referrals” to all your outgoing mail. You may think it is self-evident that your firm wants referrals, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t automatically assume your firm welcomes referrals. These stickers drive this point home. Firms that have tried this simple tactic have seen an increase in their referrals. Add the same message to your website, and in your social media posts.

Add a tag to your email signature stating “A Referral is the best compliment you could ever give our law firm. If you know someone who needs our services, please don’t hesitate to tell them about us.”

  • Client Advisory Board: Whether you are a solo practitioner or a 20-lawyer firm, establishing a Client Advisory Board will increase your referrals. The Advisory Board should be comprised of a dozen or more of your top-referring past clients. You meet with them every quarter, share some firm swag, and ask for their input on how you can market to others, improve client service, etc. While you may be skeptical about this tactic, it does work and has a fantastic ROI.

Think of it this way: Although you may have the opportunity to sit on numerous boards, most of your clients will never have such an opportunity. Being a part of your firm’s Advisory Board will make your past clients feel important, give them a real voice, and you’ll see even more referrals as a direct result.

You can find a step-by-step guide for how to implement the Client Advisory Board in PILMMA’s Member Resources. To learn more about how to join PILMMMA, and gain access to this Resource and a host of others, just click here.

  • Write a Short Book Past Clients Can Share with Friends/Family: Sharing a book that you’ve written about some aspect of personal injury is one of the best and easiest means of obtaining referrals. The book doesn’t have to be long. In fact, it should be short and easy to read. But even a short book establishes you as a legal “expert” in the minds of your clients and potential clients. If you don’t have time to write the book yourself, hire a ghostwriter.

 If you are a PILMMA member, then you have access to ready-made books through PILMMA Publishing, that you can quickly personalize, assuming your market for the books is available.

Having a Book with your name and picture has far more staying power than your firm’s business card. Give your existing and new clients 2 or 3 copies and tell them that when they see someone that’s been hurt and needs your services, to give them the book and say, “This is the lawyer I use.”

Remember, 60% of your clients are apt to refer others to you if they know how to do it! You want to make it as easy as possible for them to do so and handing a friend or family member a book is about as easy as it gets. So, make sure that you give your clients several copies at the beginning of your representation along with those simple but important instructions, and then again when they come into your office at the end of the case.

  • Send The Swag: There are many great swag options available that you can send to past clients to help you stay top-of-mind – from magnets with the local ball team’s calendar, to chargers, ink pens, pizza cutters, tote bags, t-shirts, and the likes – You can put your firm’s logo on a zillion items you can share with past clients to solidify top of mind awareness.

There’s no reason you should miss out on the low-hanging fruit that could be yours for the taking. Make it your firm’s aim in the next quarter to establish simple but systematic strategies to create top-of-mind awareness in the minds of your past clients so you can start getting more referrals and signing more cases.