A blog by Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer Brian Tannebaum. Commenting on criminal law issues of local and national interest.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Link Exchange, Referral Fees, And Other Bullshit I Don't Do

Quid pro quo (From the Latin meaning "something for something") indicates a more-or-less equal exchange or substitution of goods or services.

The result of this post will be an email, calling me a "jerk," from the young lawyer who sent me the following (edited so not to embarrass) email yesterday:

"I would like to link my blog to yours in exchange for the same. Please let me know if you are interested."

No thanks. I'm not.

As we go in to 2009 let me remind myself as well as all that visit here, how I operate:

I don't give to get.

If you don't understand, let me explain.


First, I link to other blogs for 2 reasons:

[1] I like the blog; or

[2] I notice that the blog is directing people to my blog through a link, and therefore see that the blog is something in which my readers are obviously interested.

When I link to a blog, it's not because I expect a quid pro quo. There are blogs I link to, that do not link back to me for whatever reason.

There are blogs that link to me, where I do not reciprocate. It may be that the blog is a "marketing" blog ("hire me, hire me"), is some "static" non-updated blog, or the blog just sucks. Some blogs suck. This blog may "suck" to certain people.

I sometimes will link to someone else's blog and tell them, because I want them to know I like the blog. I never ask them to link back. Be nice if they did, irrelevant to my life if they don't, even though I may joke about wanting to be linked to a certain blog.


They're illegal in Florida. Well, sort of. In Florida we have a provision in our rules providing for a maximum 25% of the fee to a lawyer who assumes "secondary responsibility," or "partially participates" in the case.

To the referral fee mongers, that means 25% for every phone call "referring" the case to a criminal lawyer. Who's going to dime anyone out if both people are making money, right?

Here's how I handle this:

[1] I provide lawyers who refer me criminal cases a total "referral" or "secondary responsibility" fee of zero ($0);

[2] If you call me to refer the case and ask about "working on it together," the answer is "no." You don't really want to work on it with me, you just want to second guess me, pretend to the client that you have any idea what you are doing, and get your money. So no; and,

[3] If you do the "I'd like to refer you this case but I'll need to get a 'referral' fee," the answer is "no." Go refer it to a businessman. I'm a lawyer.

I also have a better idea: Refer me the case, and I'll keep you in mind for the next call I get about a case in your area of practice. Maybe, just maybe, this can be the beginning of a great mutually beneficial relationship. Plus, I'll "send you something." Some wine, a gift certificate to a great restaurant, some movie passes. Maybe I'll even take you to lunch and we can discuss your practice and how I can help you.

You're not though, getting $2,500 of a $10,000 fee for making a phone call.

And to all the PI lawyers who routinely give 25% fees and are asking "what about us?" If I get a $100,000 fee, it's never because I wrote a demand letter and got a check.

But I digress.

As I said to a young lawyer several years ago who kept calling to refer me cases, always asking if I would give him a referral fee: "Are you looking for a check, or a relationship?"

Never did hear from him again.



We lawyers get these types of calls often: "I have clients I want to refer to him," they tell the receptionist.

I always think, "wow, someone I don't know has client(s) who were recently arrested and he wants to refer them all to me?

No, it's a marketer.

Sure, he has clients, he calls them "leads," and I will pay for them if I want them.

These types of calls are no different than being asked "I would like to link my blog to yours in exchange for the same.

Now look, I don't blame this young lawyer. He doesn't think he's doing anything wrong, and he's really not. His blog is actually pretty good, but I do not play the quid pro quo game. Take a chance kid, just give. Who ever taught you that the law biz is all about the quid pro quo, is, well, someone who represents a crappy side of our profession.

I'm just not a believer that every damn encounter between two people has to involve a quid pro quo, and I wish more lawyers weren't as well.

Now let me do something for you my young lawyer friend.

I want you to read this book:

Never Eat Alone

It says things like this:

"You have to stop keeping score."

"The more people you help, the more help you'll have and the more help you'll have helping others."

"It's sort of career karma. How much you give to the people you come into contact with determines how much you'll receive in return. In other words, if you want to make friends and get things done, you have to put yourself out to do things for other people."

"In connecting, as in blogging, you're only as good as what you give away."

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. To learn more about Brian and his firm, Tannebaum Weiss, please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com


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  1. Anonymous4:13 PM

    Brian, strongly worded, but am with you all the way. As a PI lawyer in Alabama, and who started practicing in Fla, I am always being asked to pay referrals and unfortunately, if PI work, if you don't pay, you don't get. I agree its all about creating relationships of trust and respect between fellow lawyers and with that comes the rest. Unfortunately, more and more fellow lawyers want something in return. Great response to the "young lawyer" re trading of blog links. Give me a reason to link your blog. Appreciate your candid thoughts.

  2. Anonymous7:46 PM

    I don't ever leave a comment like this, but great f*ckin' post! Love it!

    Vik Duggal

  3. Anonymous1:14 AM

    Nice post. Sadly, the Y gen breed of crim defence will be more and more like this methinks. Maybe I'm wrong (I hope so).

  4. Anonymous5:31 AM


    link exchange and webmaster

  5. Anonymous3:17 AM

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  6. Anonymous7:47 AM

    I'm one of those lawyers in the "Y" generation and completely agree with this post. I refer my clients to other attorneys who I believe are the best attorneys to help them with their case not because those attorneys pay me to do so. I always take my clients' best interests into consideration which means that I refer to the attorney who can best handle their case. Referral fees are not part of the consideration and should never be.

  7. I'll scratch your back, and you'll scratch mine. Apparently, this is what most internet marketing firms are doing today. Legal marketing gone haywire!