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Bench & Bar of Minnesota is the official publication of the Minnesota State Bar Association.

Internal Referrals

Periodically an attorney who gets a call from a prospective client may arrange for another attorney in the firm to handle the matter, whether because she’s too busy or because the legal issue is outside his area of expertise. If handled properly, such internal referrals can be a significant source of practice development.

Regardless of the reason for the referral, a successful engagement is not always a sure thing. A number of “inhibitors” need to be understood and addressed before success can be assured. Attorneys referring the work may overestimate the value of the engagement, fail to secure enough information from the prospective client to support a successful engagement, or withdraw from the engagement process before the client has retained the firm. The attorney receiving the referral may overestimate the problems with the new matter, fail to ask enough questions of the referring attorney or of the prospective client to develop the inquiry into an actual engagement, or fail to expend the effort necessary to “close the deal.”

By recognizing—and avoiding—these practices a law firm can improve the success of such internal referrals of legal work.

Michael J. Ford

Quinlivan & Hughes, PA 

St. Cloud

mford@quinlivan.com

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