What does “referral” mean?

Different things

  • It can be about when you refer your family and friends to a certain lawyer or law firm.
  • It can mean the referral by one lawyer or law firm to another lawyer or law firm.

Let’s talk about the second – the referral from lawyer to lawyer. Here is an example: You hire an attorney to handle a certain legal matter. If that lawyer does not have the expertise to do a superb job for you on that particular matter he has the duty and obligation to associate other lawyers or law firms who do have that expertise and the experts who are qualified to prove your case. This association is done without any additional attorney fee charged to you. The lawyers divide your original fee commensurate with the work they do on the case. It doesn’t cost you, the client, any additional fee.

If the original attorney who does not have the particular expertise to handle your case does not associate an attorney capable of prosecuting your matter, he would be experimenting with your case.

I have seen the above scenario happen too many times. Sometimes it is difficult for a lawyer to swallow his pride and get help.

One of the “instructions” that I present to any person (and especially any lawyer) who joins our firm is “whenever there is a conflict between a client’s best interest and the firm’s best interest go with the client’s best interest — there are no exceptions.” On some occasions dividing a fee with a referring firm may mean the firm referring the case gets less of a fee. It doesn’t matter. The case must be referred if its in the client’s best interest.

Another strong reason for referring a case is because of the importance of availability of experts to prove a case. If you don’t get the most competent and qualified expert to testify on your client’s behalf you have lost from the very beginning. This is the day and age of expert testimony. If your expert does not pass the court’s expert test, your case will be dismissed. Unfortunately the rules are generally strict and many cases that did not have the right expert have been thrown out of court.

For the above reason and others the referral system is a must and the use of referrals have saved many a case.

You should be advised of any referral by your attorney and should feel free to ask any questions about it. Speak up when in doubt.


Carl Waldman
Waldman Smallwood Law Firm P.C.

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