(This post in another in our series of Rainmaking Problems. We invite your comments on this problem and would also welcome any problems you would like to s to get comments form other readers.)
An attorney, whom I will call Larry Polonisen, has sent in the following problem, one common enough in networking and well worth reflecting on. How can he continue to take, if he has nothing to lend? What would you do?
Hello, I am a faithful reader of your blog.
I have a suggestion for a post there (which I need to frankly admit is also a request for free advice). The question is what to do when a contact gives you a couple of good referrals of business, and makes known (appropriately) that he expects referrals in return, but such reciprocal referrals are unlikely to ever happen (for lots of reasons not the least of which is that other better sources are in line for reciprocals before this person).
The choices seem to be 1) tell the referral source that reciprocals are very unlikely, 2) actively search for things to refer, 3) assure the person (honestly) that if something comes along that can be referred to him it will be. The first choice seems good in the abstract but horrible in the real world as it likely cuts off a referral source. The second is again great, except that there is a higher priority for any referrals in this area and also because I get hardly any of matters in the referrers area (or I would be in that area myself). The third seems the best, but if nothing gets referred, the referring lawyer ends up feeling taken advantage of.
I suppose that there might be a fourth choice (at least in my jurisdiction) is to offer the referrer a (legal) referral fee (perhaps coupled with the explanation under alternative 1). What do you think?
Thanks very much. I enjoy and use the information on you blog.