Referrals


I’m careful about who I refer potential clients to. The referral reflects on me, I think, and I would rather leave someone to find a lawyer on his own than refer him to a lawyer who isn’t going to do an excellent job on his case.

In Texas, I have a good list of criminal-defense lawyers whom I trust to do work that I’d be proud of. I have a few reliable personal injury lawyers. I’ve got one guy who does transactional and estate-planning work, and one woman who does heavily-contested divorces.

I’ve never had any luck with referrals to Houston lawyers for ordinary divorces. It may just be that, because of all the negativity surrounding a divorce, people are very rarely happy with their divorce lawyers. Or it may be that, because of all the negativity surrounding a divorce, divorce lawyers are particularly bad at the kind of client communication that makes clients happy. In any case, I’ve pretty well stopped recommending divorce lawyers (if you’re a Houston divorce lawyer, and you think you get rave reviews from the clients I send you, email me; we’ll talk).

From my Trial Lawyers College and NACDL participation, I know a smattering of criminal-defense lawyers in places outside of Texas. (Need a great criminal-defense lawyer in Severna Park, Maryland? Chris Flohr. Newport Beach, California? Joey Low. Sturgis, South Dakota? Mike Strain.)

But not everywhere—not yet.

So when a friend asked me for a referral in a faraway city, I had to ask around. I called another Houston criminal-defense lawyer I trusted, knowing that he had contacts all over the place and figuring that if I trusted him and my friend trusted me then his referral should be good. He gave me a name; I called the guy; the guy passed the telephonic smell test; and I gave the guy’s number to my friend. The lawyer was for a close relative of his. So the relative was trusting the friend, the friend was trusting me, and I was trusting the other Houston criminal-defense lawyer for a referral to a lawyer who wouldn’t drop the ball.

See where this is going?

Yep. The faraway lawyer dropped the ball. Hard. Not in a “things could have turned out better” way, but in a less forgivable “didn’t even show up” way. If I were a sports  fan, I would surely have some clever simile for how egregious his ball-dropping was. But I’m not a sports fan, so I’ll just say to say that if I dropped the ball that hard, I’d be giving the client the bulk of his fee back to make it up to him.

I can’t do that, though, since I don’t get anything for a referral but the satisfaction of connecting someone with the right lawyer, and in this instance I didn’t even get that.

So now my friend looks like a pendejo for referring his relative to this guy, I look like a pendejo for referring my friend to this guy, and the other Houston criminal-defense lawyer looks like a pendejo for referring me to this guy.

I am not pleased.

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0 responses to “Referrals”

  1. {Yikes, that’ll ruin a day.}

    Having been burned on giving referrals to lawyers I did not personally know, I started giving people a list of questions to ask at the hire-me-interview. Lots of questions that didn’t actually predict competency as well as I thought.

    Now I give them (instead of a name) a focused approach. Ask how many cases like yours has the lawyer taken to verdict and been successful? Then, how many cases similar (violence, for example, not just murder) have been taken to trial with a successful verdict?

    Yes, I know we often do our best work in getting great offers, cases dismissed, charges reduced, and evidence suppressed. But it’s still a darn good question. Would you allow a doctor to operate on your heart who had never done the procedure before (or all patients had died)?

  2. That’s why I always very carefully qualify referrals. “I don’t know this guy or his work, but person X speaks well of him, and person X is usually sensible.”

  3. Mark, for those of us who don’t work in the law, how would you recommend choosing a lawyer? This post of yours is an example of the “web of trust” breaking down after it extends too far.

    When we’re looking for a lawyer, how can we tell if the person we’re considering is worth hiring? What should we be looking for?

      • On the topic of referring Divorce Attorneys, I have only had one negative feedback concerning The guy who I refer for divorces. And that was my cousin trying to get him to represent both sides. He said NO: I don’t do that. Both sides need counsel. My already high opinion of him went up another notch.

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