In the age of Twitter and Facebook, some lawyers are augmenting their traditional referral efforts with social media.
Austin solo Bradley B. Clark says he would rely on people he knows personally to give out any Texas referral. But he recently used Twitter successfully to give an out-of-state referral.
Clark tweeted on June 19, "I need a referral to a NY/NJ attorney to help collect a $1.6M TX judgement against a NY/NJ attorney."
Within minutes, he recalls, one of his lawyer friends responded with "a good lead" for a New Jersey attorney.
Clark searched New Jersey's bar records to make sure the attorney didn't have any grievances, had been licensed to practice law for a while and practiced the right type of law.
"We spoke about it, and he's contemplating taking the case," Clark says, adding, "My perspective was: This is the best way I have to find somebody with little effort. . . . It worked. It worked quickly. I would certainly do it again."
John Browning writes books and lectures about lawyers using social media. "One of the reasons referrals exist in the practice is people connecting, and that's the whole purpose behind social media itself," he says. "Our first instinct [in getting referrals] is to reach out to our friends or colleagues, and really, social media has revolutionized your means of doing that."
Browning, administrative partner in Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith in Dallas, says he's seen lawyers look for referral contacts on Texas Bar Circle, a local social networking site, as well as Facebook and LinkedIn. For example, he says, one lawyer looked for an attorney in another part of Texas to take a deposition; an attorney who doesn't practice criminal law looked for a criminal-defense lawyer for a client; and in-house lawyers sometimes look for outside counsel.
Rockport solo Steve Fischer created and administers six Facebook groups for lawyers, and he says his members post every day looking for referrals. He's seen posts when lawyers want to refer out-of-town cases to local attorneys, or technical cases that fall outside their practice areas. Sometimes lawyers are just too busy and want to refer cases out, he adds.
The main purpose of Fischer's Facebook groups, he explains, is for members to socialize, have fun and share legal information. He says giving and receiving referrals is "sort of a natural thing, more than a planned thing."
Fischer says lawyers can use Facebook to research a social-media contact before referring clients to him or her.
"If it's on one of those groups like Texas Family Lawyers, they can look through and see the postings of that lawyer and see, 'This person really knows the law on guardianship,' or, 'This person really knows that,' " says Fischer.
The attorney could also contact mutual Facebook friends for more information, he says.
Dallas family law solo Melissa Thrailkill says that she's used Facebook to try to find a criminal-defense lawyer for one client and a consumer lawyer for another.
"I haven't had too many bites when I do that," she says.
But she's seen lawyers get better responses when they search for attorneys in other geographical areas.
Thrailkill says she's more comfortable relying on in-person networking, because, "I want to feel confidant in who I am referring someone to."
"If I'm out there shaking hands and meeting people in person, I will just go to that person or ask if they know someone, because I'm going to get a quicker response from a trusted source," she says.