When Should Lawyers Refer Cases to More Experienced Lawyers?

Case referrals are very frequent for lawyers, even the most experienced professionals may sometimes find themselves drowned in work and thus left with no option but to give away some of their work to other seasoned lawyers. However, the more common scenario is when an amateur realizes that a case is beyond their expertise (or outside their area of practice of law) and they, wishing to help their clients, refer them to someone else. Note that referrals for legal representation are not a bad thing, on the contrary, if you have the best at heart for your client, then nothing can be better than that.

When referring out your case, it is important to choose a capable and experienced law firm so that your client gets the best possible service. Plus, your reputation is also at stake here, because reflecting on the whole experience, the client is going to recall how your decision to refer their case affected the outcome. It is important to ascertain that the legal firm you’ve opted for offers services in that particular legal area, has the capability to deal with a high-level case, and has a proven track record of success in doing so. A simple search on the web browser is not going to be enough, you need to be certain that the ones you’ve chosen are the best of the best like McDonald Worley, serving personal injury victims throughout the USA.

Read on to find out when you should refer your cases to other lawyers, how to do so, and what factors to keep in mind when selecting the best candidate for a referral:

When To Opt For A Referral?

As an attorney at law, you need to do all you can to comfort the client (an essential segment of the client-lawyer relationship), listen to what they have to say, and then work in their best interests. But it is not always possible to give your best to a client because you might already have too much on your plate, or might not deal with that specific area of law, or feel that the case should be taken up by a more experienced attorney. Whatever you feel, if you’re certain that you must give a referral to someone, don’t hold back from doing so. Sending away a client is never the prudent course of doing business, it will create a bad name for your establishment which is the last thing you want in the digital age where every review counts.

But how will you know that you should go for a referral (for a legal matter) instead of handling the whole thing by yourself?

Here are some of the factors:

Being Overrun By Work

We’re all human and have the capacity of doing work – if you’re overwhelmed by the number of things you have to handle at the moment, it wouldn’t be wise to take on new cases. You should know when the plate is full, and this is when you should start referring your cases to other law firms. If such is the case, you should be honest about it to your client, tell them how much important it is for you that they came to you, give them compassionate attention (otherwise it is considered professional misconduct), apologize for being unable to entertain their case, and give them some reassurances about the capabilities of the lawyer you plan on giving a referral to. Lawyers must give the best possible service to every client and a level of personal attention that is expected of them, if taking a new case will get in the way of you doing so for your existing clients, then sending them to a referral lawyer will be necessary.

If The Case Is Outside Your Area Of Expertise

All lawyers deal with a certain area of law, specializing in a small part of a general field, i.e. not all personal injury cases are the same, some are car accident cases, others are medical malpractice cases, yet others are worker’s compensation cases, and there are others too like birth injury cases, slip and fall accident cases, premises liability cases, and so on. Depending on your experience in the past, you may not be comfortable with the areas in personal injury cases save for a few of which you have expertise. If that is the case and you can see that the case is serious, you should not experiment (avoid unauthorized practice), and instead, be honest about your limitations in this regard, and refer the case to a competent lawyer. Thus, if a case falls outside your area of expertise, let it go, you’ll get another one that better suits you.

Lack Of Resources

Most personal injury cases are taken up on a contingent fee agreement (no advance payment of fees) which means that personal injury lawyers don’t make anything for their legal services until they win the case for their clients and then draw their earnings as contingency fee percentages of the settlement (with the insurance company) or compensation winnings. While the prospects for such cases are usually promising, there is one small problem here: you need resources to handle the case on your own and there is no guarantee about how much you’ll make out of it (although it is more than what they’d make via hourly charges). Independent lawyers are usually lacking in such resources and thus seek out law firms for referrals because they, in contrast, can afford to throw in resources for the case and fight it with unparalleled vigor and enthusiasm. Usually, larger cases are best handled by larger law firms that have the resources to cover the costs associated with them.

The potential client will, most likely, understand why you’re referring them elsewhere.

Concerns About Competence/Experience

There is always someone better, no matter how far you’ve come in the business, but at the beginning, there are definitely a lot of people you can consider your superiors in terms of competence. If you feel that the case is beyond your level of expertise, it is best not to risk it. Referrals can bring you several perks including a broader professional network and a small slice of the winnings – this is for the work you did not have to do yourself. If you free up space by referring out cases you wouldn’t have been able to handle anyways, it will help you concentrate on the stuff you can handle. All in good time, you’ll be able to take on challenging premium-grade cases someday, but for the time being, it is best to make the smart move by giving them competent representation and avoid putting your reputation at the stake.


Lastly comes trust, this is more of a sentimental factor than a rational one. With all of these factors combined, you can refer a case to some senior lawyer for several reasons but you need to know that the other person is capable of handling your case. Trust is a valuable professional bond; you need to be sure that the lawyer or firm you’re going to refer to has taken referrals in the past, handled cases of this sort, and delivered excellent results in their professional history. This is a matter of your reputation and you should not rest things on chance alone, instead, use your research skills to find a suitable candidate. The only scenario where you might be able to refer someone to your case is if you trust them enough.

Independent reviews, customer testimonials, and work history are all decent places to start your research.

How To Refer A Client To Another Law Firm?

In this section, we’ll discuss how you should go ahead with your referral so that your client stays confident about your decision. You need to uphold your professional reputation, so be very careful about how you do stuff. The client is important, make them feel that way – show appreciation, and show them how you wish only to act in their best interest. We have listed a solid three-step protocol for you to follow so you can refer your case to another legal professional and keep your client completely satisfied at the same time:

Discuss The Case

When a client comes over to you with their case, this means that they trust you and have faith in your abilities. You should respect that and honor your client as they deserve so; seat them as you do with other clients and listen to what they have to say. Don’t interrupt, go through with the initial consultation session as you do regularly. This way, the client will see that you are interested in their case and that you can offer them support during the ordeal that awaits. Once you’ve discussed the case, then you should tell your client that you will refer their case to someone else and tell them why it is so.

Be Honest About The Reason Of Referral

Don’t lie – your honesty will make your client trust and respect you more. Even if you feel that the case is beyond your competence, i.e. if you’re an amateur and the case deserves to be handled by an expert, you should be honest about it. Tell your client that you wish to do what is best for them and that you don’t wish to act selfishly – your client will respect you for this as well. Following this, you should give them some guidelines about the case, just so they feel optimistic about the outcomes before connecting them with another legal professional.

Reassure Your Client

Don’t just send your client off to someone else and be done with it, tell them why you’ve chosen the said legal firm or an experienced lawyer for their case. Show them how you are confident about the abilities of your choice and why you feel that they’ll be able to do a good job for them. Once again, remember that your reputation and the client-lawyer relationship is at stake here – you need to show your client that you care for their worries and are doing what you can to best help them. By showing optimism about the abilities of your choice, you’ll make your client hopeful as well and they’ll most likely go through with your selected course of action.

What To Look For When Referring Your Cases To Someone Else?

Now that we’re nearing the end, and you’ve probably learned when and how to refer your case to someone more experienced, let’s see what you need to look for when referring your case. You want someone highly experienced, competent, and with a history of success. For high-cost cases, a legal firm will be a much better candidate than an independent lawyer.

Here are some of the factors you need to note when referring your case to another lawyer:

  • Look at what their previous clients have to say about their services.
  • See if they are open to referrals (i.e. lawyer referral service) and what are their policies in this regard, i.e. applicable rules for the attorney referral agreement, the extent of the attorney referral fees, etc.
  • Do they pay people (attorney referral fee percentage) who refer them a case, and if yes, then how much?
  • Note if they deal with the specific practice of law that encompasses the case of your client in connection, i.e. criminal charges, DUI, personal injury, etc.
  • How has their history been with referrals (attorney-client relationship)?
  • Do they offer a client in writing the level of personal attention that they need?
  • How do they handle settlement negotiations with the insurance company?
  • How well do they cement a professional relationship in general?
  • Do they work on contingent fee matter?

Based on the answers to these questions, you’ll know whether or not to trust a professional with your private practice client’s case. You need to go the extra mile to entrust the case only to the most deserving legal professionals so that the client only has good things to say about you and the lawyer (or law firms) you referred to, thus cementing your client-lawyer relationship. Also, in time, you’ll establish a professional bond with a competent attorney, and you can continue to cooperate in the future. Referrals will help you make a good impression on your clients (for your private practice) and pave the way for your own professional growth, all the same, so make calculated decisions here.

Bottom Line

Referrals are a part of the legal business, almost as integral to the whole construct as about winning a case for your client or at least doing the best you can for them for the sake of the client-lawyer relationship. Just as knowing when to send a referral is important, knowing to whom to refer is also vital for your reputation. When a client comes over to you with their case, it is your duty to make them feel welcomed and heard, let them feel your concern for them and your support in such perilous times. If you feel that a case is beyond you, or you don’t have enough time, you should let them know that you’re referring their case to someone experienced and qualified – show them how much you trust this person/firm so that they too can have some faith in the new party that is about to take up their case. Hopefully, this article helped clear your mind about referrals, the dos and don’ts, and gave you a much clearer sense of direction in this area of making a professional relationship.

McDonald Worley personal injury firm not only boasts a solid record of success in the legal business but we also have a team of experienced trial lawyers who know how to manage clients effectively and compassionately. Thus you don’t have to worry about how your clients are treated – we make it a point to be as supportive and positive as possible (the client-lawyer relationship is important for us as well), and we also lay down all the facts before them to help them make informed decisions. Plus, since our attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, you need not worry about your client not having enough resources to pay our attorney fees. Our initial consultation (for legal counsel) sessions are completely free and we use this time to get to know what the client has to say and to explain to them in a calm and reassuring manner, what we can do to help them.


Unless we win!

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