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Smart marketing: Leverage a referral network to supercharge your business



When you lead a small law firm or solo practice where budgets are tight and time is at a premium, it’s challenging to market yourself effectively and generate new business.


Recent research shows that one solution might be a referral network — a group of businesses that work together in the best interests of their clients. While traditional marketing can often be an expensive undertaking, referral marketing is cost-effective, powerful, and perhaps most important, trusted.

Developing a “trust relationship” with people who are well-positioned to refer business to you can supercharge your marketing efforts, reports Entrepreneur.

That’s the thinking behind the creation of Her Legal Network (HLN), a referral network dedicated exclusively to solo, small and social justice lawyers across Canada whose mission is to increase the visibility of women lawyers outside of big law.

Raising the profile of women-owned businesses

As a woman-led business, we at UpWord love the idea of women supporting other women –– in business and life. And we’re not alone. In a recent column for Forbes, Shelley Zalis, founder and CEO of The Female Quotient, says that when women help each other rise up, they all shine.

“The truth is that raising each other up and channelling the power of collaboration is truly how we’ll change the equation — and have a lot more fun along the way,” she writes.

HLN is the brainchild of Thijiba Sinnathamby, principal lawyer of TSJ Law in Toronto. It launched in February 2020 and already has more than 100 lawyers on board and expanding quickly. The website includes profiles of HLN’s members, FeatureHer, to give visitors an insight into each lawyer’s expertise and personality.

“I started the network as a response to conversations I was having with other women lawyers around generating new business,” Sinnathamby says. “I was a sole practitioner who had been out of practice for a while when I was on maternity leave. It occurred to me that an informal referral network of other solo and small practice lawyers in the province might be a helpful resource.”

Trust is key to success in referral networks

It’s no secret that the legal industry has traditionally been a “boy’s club,” where many lawyers who make partner and are seen as trusted experts are men.

“I want HLN to highlight that there are highly competent women lawyers in every area of practice who can deliver the services people need,” Sinnathamby says.

Lawyers in the network refer business to each other for client requests that fall outside their practice area. Visitors to HLN’s website can search for a lawyer in any of the 20 practice areas, including family, employment and labour, immigration and real estate.

Here’s how it works: If an HLN wills and estates lawyer has a client who needs a trusted referral for a corporate lawyer, she can make a referral to one within the network.

“It’s trust that matters most when you’re referring business to another lawyer,” Sinnathamby notes, adding that it saves clients time and gives them peace of mind to get a referral from a lawyer they know and trust.

A rising tide lifts all boats

Sinnathamby says she had first-hand experience of the network’s value recently while working on a complex estate matter for a client that required the expertise of a tax lawyer.

“I found an amazing lawyer who troubleshot the issue with me. Eventually, I referred another client to her, which felt good given the time she had spent helping me. Later, she sent me an estate file. It’s all about making connections and building trust.”

Sinnathamby says she initially got the word out about HLN through social media. It wasn’t long before lawyers outside the province started to reach out, asking to join HLN, which will now feature women lawyers across the country.

Beyond referring business to other members, HLN is also a support hub for the members to help each other with things like branding, content and other business issues, and Sinnathamby says expanding on that will be the next phase of HLN’s development.

“I want it to go beyond being a referral network to a place where we share resources. For example, if a couple of members can vouch for the quality of a company that has helped them with blog content and social media, other lawyers in the network can rely on those ‘trusted partner’ recommendations.”

She also hopes HLN will evolve organically to become a go-to resource for “regular people” looking to access legal services.

“It’s great that we’re getting recognition within the legal community, but we want people across the country to see HLN as a source to access some of the best lawyers in Canada,” Sinnathamby says.

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