Client Referees: The advocates to Advocates
As lawyers, we all know that legal submissions act as a powerful tool to accelerate our growth. We want to talk about one of the most crucial parts of a legal submission: Client referees!
While your submission in the prescribed format allows the firm to talk about itself, its body of work, its policies and overall wins, it is, in fact, this external feedback mechanism that can help bring the trophy home (literally and figuratively)!
Why are client referees important in a legal submission?
The feedback that your set of client referees provide will validate your body of work, your expertise, your top-notch service and your ability to comprehend the nuances of the law in your practice and jurisdiction.Legal directories take this part of the submission process very seriously, and you should too.What your clients say about you is sacrosanct and will significantly influence the decision-making process. The feedback from your clients acts as a third-party attestation to your narration.
A client referee should:
- Be someone you left with a remarkable experience that they will be your primary cheerleader in a room full of people.
- Be someone who feels so strongly about the work you did for them or your relationship with them that they will make time from their busy schedules to respond to an email or a phone call for your benefit.
- Be someone who understands the “why” behind publications reaching out to them and understands the long-term impact on and advantage to your practice.
- Be someone who may be junior or mid-level at their organisation but can vouch for your work and believe that you added value. Often, there is a tendency to opt for the senior-most people with a mindset that it will create more impact. We urge you to be mindful and know that people in very senior positions may not be able to devote enough time to the process.
- Be anyone who can legitimately comment on the firm’s abilities. For example, In-house counsel, Direct access clients, Corporate clients, Barristers (leaders, juniors, opposition), Other/referring law firms and judges.
- Be someone who has actively engaged with the firm in the last 12-18 months period.
Things to watch out for:
- Not taking your clients consent to share their contact information
- Wrong email addresses
- Giving references of people who have moved on from the organisation
- Giving references of senior people at your client organisation
- Providing too few references, which will lead to very little positive feedback
- Do not offer to write on behalf of the client and dilute the authenticity of this exercise
- Client Fatigue: where the same client is named for different practices at your firm or the same client is provided as a reference for by multiple firms
Is my client information and feedback confidential and secure?
The legal directories you submit to, are very careful with your client referee information. They know that confidentiality is a virtue in the practice of law.They treat the same responsibly, hosting the information on secure servers. This information is not shared with anyone outside their research team. Additionally, the feedback and quotes that your clients provide will be shared (if at all) on an anonymous basis when your firm is ranked.
What do legal directories ask my clients?
Legal directories require your client referees to validate the work you said you do, and want proof that you do it well.
Your client referees are asked questions about your firm and the specific practice. The client will be asked questions about the nature of the relationship they share, the type and quality of work undertaken for them and the outcomes.
Clients will be made to respond to questions about your strengths, weaknesses, ability to innovate, individual lawyers and the overall quality of legal service provided. The questions are open ended and if you guide your referees to navigate this well, the feedback will be aligned with the narrative the law firm authors through the written submissions made by the law firm.
When will you know that your referees are being contacted?
Most legal directories will send an email to your registered email address, providing you with advance notice that they will commence writing in to your referees shortly.
This is an indication that you should alert your referees so that they do not miss out on the emails. Some may also send an email to follow it up with a questionnaire or a phone call by a researcher.
Some legal directories have a research schedule that upfront provides information on when your referees will be contacted by the researcher assigned for the specific practice area in a particular jurisdiction.
Remember to bifurcate your total list of referees across the key legal submissions you are making.
Keep a tab on whether your referees have received the emails from the publications. If not, you can write to the publication researcher and request them to get in touch with your client referees.
The work you do and the relationships you nurture through the year will reflect the kind of feedback your client referees provide.
“A customer talking about their experience with you is worth ten times that which you write or say about yourself”