You’re probably surprised to learn that even as an attorney I often search for other attorneys to refer people to; most often in situations where a potential client’s legal issue is out of the physical or practical areas in which I practice.  Instead of turning them away, I try to find them a suitable alternative.

First, I turn to a pretty diverse set direct referrals which I have developed over time. Sometimes even that well runs dry–No matter how well developed my contact list, I don’t have any existing referrals for a central Idaho car accident, sorry!

Instead of sending the potential client on a continued wild goose chase, I have come up with what I consider a pretty decent way to successfully cull the Internet for a short list of potential attorneys.  As much as I want your business (email me!), my expertise might be different than what you’re looking for, so also feel free to try out my search method.

My first stop is actually Martindale Hubbel.  Other Internet savvy attorneys probably think Martindale is a useless old school lawyer directory. Lawyers and non-lawyers, give it a chance, I swear it is not just the lawyer yellow pages.   What Martindale allows you to do is search by jurisdiction, city, practice area and even more important: (1) firm size if I’m looking for a well-rounded, cost effective attorney or (2) years in practice if I need an expert.

I immediately go to the advanced search function on the Martindale website.  Then, I enter the relevant city or state and, if possible, practice area on either the Lawyer Search (if I care about depth of expertise) or Firm Search (if I am being more cost conscious).*

Once my search is returned, I work systematically through the results by either clicking directly to a firm or lawyer’s website or by Google searching the results.  No web presence, move on.  Lame web page, move on.  No lawyer bios, move on.

In a quick 10 or 15 minutes (at the most), I have a short list of three or four potential attorneys.  I then provide a listing of bios to the person who needs the referral.  In some instances, especially if I have an ongoing client relationship with the person I am referring out of my office, I go so far as to make the first call. In both instances, my advice, no return phone call within 24 hours, again, move on.  If you don’t respond to potential new business, you don’t deserve it.

I have used this system to not only refer people completely out of the office, but to partner on files that have multi-state issues.  In all instances that I am aware of, the results were excellent. In all cases, make sure you “interview” the attorney prior to hiring them. In all instances you want an attorney that you can work well with and trust.

*One additional tip for finding cost effective counsel.  Look for a newer or younger attorney that practices with a small group of more experienced attorneys in the same practice area.  Rarely are young attorneys in small firms running “rogue”.  Instead, at the reduced rate of a young associate, you will also likely get the advantage of the more experienced attorney’s mentoring to the younger attorney. Of course, think first about your issue. If it is a complicated issue, you may want or need that expert.