Implementing regular communication and follow up with your LRS panelists about the matters referred to them is an essential cornerstone of a successful LRIS. Following up not only generates income for your service but also helps to maintain an organized system for referral records and keeps quality control in place for the public we serve.
What does "following up" mean necessarily? Once a referral has been made to one of your panel members, follow up tells you what happened to that referral or potential client. Was any contact made? Was it just an office consult without retention? Or, did it evolve to a retained and paying client? Why or why not? These questions are important to ask the attorney to determine if the client needs additional assistance or to move forward with further fee reporting and collection.
Requesting case updates once a month, on the same day of each month, is the system we created at the Austin-based Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas (LRSCT), and it has provided a systematic way to obtain regular, ongoing reports from attorney members. These scheduled requests have the benefit of creating an expectation for the panel attorneys to check fees due to the lawyer referral service on a monthly basis.
Depending on what type of database you currently use, there are several ways to follow up with your panel members. The most effective way is through an online portal feature provided by some existing lawyer referral databases. Also, having the ability to accept credit card payments makes fee collection quicker and easier. Traditional snail mail, fax, or email with check payments works as well, but obtaining the information in a timely manner isn't always easy.
At LRSCT, technology has been a great help. We have seen a successful rate in receiving updates and fees from our attorney members by providing an online portal system, including the ability to pay via credit cards.
In the past, we used paper reports sent via fax or mail and only accepted check or money order payments. It would take LRSCT staff three to four weeks to obtain all updates from approximately two hundred attorney members using the fax or snail mail method. LRSCT experienced difficulty collecting fees at that time since members would submit their paper report, but no payment. Now, with an online portal system and the acceptance of credit card payments, we are experiencing the return of updates and payments within two to three weeks. This allows LRSCT to have a little over one week before the next reporting cycle to work on other administrative tasks.
Sustaining a lawyer referral service includes operating expenses, wages to staff, and advertising costs. Managing a routine status update system will help your service in generating fees from the referrals made to attorneys. Constant fee collection will help you determine an average income budget as well. This budget will help ease decisions made in the future to enhance advertising or staff growth.
Also, by having routine follow up, case status information from the attorney allows your referral service to know whether your referral client needs additional assistance. Sometimes a referral client or client's case may not be the right fit for the attorney referred to them. As the lawyer referral service, we have the mission to serve the public the best we can. Asking the panel member for a status update can assist us in providing additional services to our referral clients. Happy referral clients equal great feedback to their families and friends which then creates future clients for the lawyer referral service.