Life Spans – Bridge Divorce Strategies Newsletter

The window of opportunity for referrals from previous clients

When I sat down to write this month’s article, the intended title had nothing to do with your ability to generate ongoing referrals from previous clients, or any “window of opportunity” thereof. That only emerged as I was working on it.

Stay with me on this.

The original topic of this article—which I’ll dive into shortly—is based on one of the FAQs for attorneys posted on my website. Specifically, the question asks: “Clients often call us with financial questions after their divorce. Can we direct them to you instead?”

The answer, you won’t be surprised to learn, is a resounding “Yes.” I’ll give you some good details below. But the important, counterintuitive part is how this tees up with the ongoing referrals you receive and the ideal window of opportunity for them. Those are both topics that interest you, I’m sure, whether you’re a veteran or a newly-minted family-law attorney.

So yes. You get peppered with questions by women, post-divorce. And you know, you just know, that 99 percent of them are not legal questions. Meaning, you don’t want to answer them. You can’t bill for answering them. Indeed, for many of them, you simply can’t answer them. You likely don’t know the answer—the arcana of the latest tax code, for example. And, lurking behind all this, is the specter of liability: You certainly don’t want to be on the hook for dispensing anything that can be construed as financial advice. That could come back to bite you.

You know all of this already. Indeed, I’m sure you’ve done your best to get already-divorced clients off the phone with the well-worn line: “Talk to your financial advisor.”

That’s certainly a valid response, but it’s a workaround. It means you fielded that call in the first place. It means you got that call in the first place. It means that that woman didn’t know who to turn to, before turning to you, for something you can’t help her with. What a kluge.

The short answer is Put me on your team in advance, so the woman already knows who to call. In case you missed my last newsletter, know that in addition to a CPA, I’m also a Certified Financial Planner™ professional and a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst®. To my knowledge, I’m the only one in Arizona with that trifecta.

So, wHat kinds of thorny questions can I help you avoid? Here are some classics:

  • “How do I get my share of this account?”
  • “Must I open a new account? Who do I contact? How do I get the paperwork?”
  • “If I take money out of this account, will there be taxes or penalties?”
  • “Should I keep the same investments? If not, what should I change them to?”
  • “Should I use my newly-won retirement money to pay off the house?”

Boy are these ever loaded questions. “What should I invest in?” The answer predicates upon a detailed conversation about time horizon, goals, risk appetite, and so on. “Paying off the house” can, in the worst case, equate to “having to sell it later, just to buy groceries.” And don’t even start me down the QDRO rabbit hole, and whether it’s better to roll out an investment to an IRA or not. Trust me, you don’t want these calls coming your way at all; you want them diverted, happily, in the first place.

Which gets back to the “window of opportunity for referrals from previous clients.”

Did you catch the key word at the end of my previous paragraph? It was “happily.”

Here’s the thing: “When is the optimum window of opportunity for referrals?” is a trick question. There’s no particular timeframe. It’s not, say, “within the first year after the divorce.” It’s nothing like that at all.

I was reminded of this while thinking of the women I’ve helped, while writing this article. The answer is: “There is no timeframe, at all.” And that’s because quality is timeless.

If you’re a veteran lawyer, you may know this already, although it bears repeating. If you’re new at this, pay heed. If the service, the outcome, and the team that you provide, all do excellent work during the course of the case, then the dividends keep on paying… forever. I know women who are still referring others to their original attorney, or to me, years and years after the case concluded.

Bring me aboard, early. It’ll pay off for you, too.