How Attorneys Can Overcome the Fear of Cross-Selling

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Being able to help your client with multiple legal issues can be a boon for your firm. After all, it generally takes much longer to develop new relationships than to maintain existing ones. The opportunity to cross-sell to clients by keeping them “in-house” after resolution of a matter, is one that shouldn’t be passed up. Extending this relationship should always be the goal because it’s frankly cheaper, not to mention more effective and efficient to nurture an existing relationship than to cultivate one from scratch.

Overcoming Attorney Fears About Cross-Selling

The above shouldn’t imply that there aren’t valid concerns about cross-selling, both within your firm or through collaboration with attorneys outside of your firm. Some of the common fears or objections to cross-selling to a client you’ve built a relationship with include:

  • Fear of losing the client to another attorney or firm.
  • Fear that you’ll refer a client and the other attorney will not be successful.
  • Fear of sharing compensation.

The fear of losing a client to another attorney or firm is legitimate. However, if the client came to you for a “one-off” legal matter, it is entirely possible that with or without your referral to a trusted colleague, they will pursue a bid from another firm or attorney anyway. So, you really have nothing to lose in this regard.

As for the fear that you’ll refer them to an attorney within or outside of your firm and that attorney won’t do a good job, thereby making you look bad—the best way to overcome this is by sending your client to someone who has a vested interest in ensuring that you continue to send referrals to them.

Finally, in regard to fear of sharing compensation, simply agree ahead of time to a compensation split with the attorney with whom you plan to collaborate.”.

While it is true that there is some risk that all three of these fears could potentially materialize, when compared to the potential benefits to be reaped by collaborating with other firms or other attorneys, the potential pros overwhelmingly outnumber the cons.

Client Benefits of Collaborating with Other Attorneys

You’ll notice that from here on out, we will replace the term “cross-selling” with “collaboration” because the last thing your clients need—who are coming to you for help during a possibly negative or complex time in their life—is to be upsold anything. Your role as counsel is to be a trusted advisor and confidant not a salesperson working on commission.

As a trusted advisor, with your client’s best interest in mind, your role as counsel is absolutely to point them in a direction or guide them to a colleague either within your firm (this is ideal as you can begin to build teams), or at another firm who can help when a legal matter arises that is outside of your wheelhouse. This is particularly true today as specialization in a niche practice is prevalent. In sum, your clients deserve access to the best experts available.

Collaboration also reduces the number of vendors that your client has to work with. Whether you team up with a colleague in your firm or partner with an attorney at another firm your client will see you as a team. They won’t feel as if they are adding yet another advisor and ensuing legal fees.

Collaboration also helps you better understand the business of your client. By working outside of your primary or preferred practice area with another lawyer, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of your clients’ overall needs, business, etc. Knowing as much as you can about them will make you a better and stronger advocate.

Clients aren’t the only party to benefit when you decide to collaborate with a colleague—attorneys benefit by maintaining the existing relationship, learning to work as a team in an area of law that isn’t a primary focus and by earning income from an existing client.

Tips for Successful Collaboration with Other Attorneys

Here are a few strategic “dos” that should help you successfully collaborate with other attorneys:

  • Determine compensation share from the beginning.
  • Take time to get to know the other attorney outside of the scope of the case.
  • Create a communication plan, including method and frequency.
  • Clarify roles from the outset of the collaboration.
  • Develop a reporting/information sharing protocol.

And one major “don’t”: Turn a client over to another attorney and then disappear.

When done correctly, collaboration leaves every practice better off. It’s not just “more money for more products.” It is far more cost-effective and efficient to maintain and grow an existing relationship than to develop new business, and it’s often in your client’s best interest. It’s also an avenue for team building and an opportunity for reciprocal referrals, which can only help your law firm.

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