The Best Ways to Say 'Thank You' for Attorney Referrals

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on August 12, 2015 1:58 PM

Always remember to say thank you -- even when you're a high rolling attorney. You should especially remember to thank other lawyers who send business your way. These referrals can be an important source of clients and are definitely worth a sign of gratitude.

But what's the best way to say thanks? A card, a car, an ethics violation? Here are some ideas on the best ways to give thanks for a referral:

Thank You's Big and Small

Generally, the least you can do is to send a card. That's the least. Texts, phone calls, and emails are simply too quick and informal to do a thank you justice. Invest in some stationary and get ready to jot down a quick note to the referrer when a new client is sent your way.

If you really want to make an impression -- and show that the referral is appreciated -- your thank you's might come with a gift. Consider taking your colleague out for dinner or to grab a round of drinks. Sending a gift basket, bottle of wine, or nice scotch is also a good way to go -- unless such gifts are prohibited, as discussed below.

Your thank you should be proportional to the business referred. A simple will might merit a card or a drink. A referral that brings in six figures in billings deserves something more -- a nice pen, fancy watch, day at the spa, or the like.

Using Thanks as a Pitch

Lawyers send people your way not just because they like you but because they think you are skilled. Use your thank you to reinforce this. Consider adding an update on your practice to your standard thank you letters or cards. This can also review your practice's latest big accomplishments or say how you've successfully handled similar matters in the past. It's more than just thanks, it's a chance to market yourself.

Except When Not Allowed

Oh, there's one important disclaimer: thank you gifts might be against the rules, depending on where you work. Some state bars prohibit gifts outright. For example, Virginia forbids anything but "nominal" expressions of gratitude. California allows gifts for referrals, so long as it's not offered as consideration for any further referrals.

If you're in a strict state, stick with a simple note. If you're practicing in a place like California, gifts are fine -- just avoid the creation of a quid pro quo relationship. That means no "send me another fender bender in exchange for this sweet box of Robert Mondovi table red."

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