Build An Attorney Advisor Alliance

The Attorney Advisor Alliance And How To Grow Your Firm

Published January 26th, 2020 in Blog |

Enhance Your Attorney Advisor Alliance To Double Your Marketing

The industry is shifting, and today’s consumer is looking for their professionals to communicate, collaborate, and coordinate all aspects of their financial and estate plans. The silo approach of visiting a financial services professional, an attorney, an insurance agent, and a tax professional is becoming an outdated model for the history books. The new, modern model, holistic planning, brings the attorney, the financial professional, the insurance agent, and the tax professional together, all collaborating on the client’s behalf.

Holistic planning is not a new concept, but it has traditionally been reserved for ultra-high net-worth families. Firms like Goldman Sachs or boutique family offices have provided holistic planning to these clients, but the mass affluent American families have been largely neglected. Instead, these high net-worth families (or individuals) have traditionally been served by professionals working in silos, largely acting as salespeople rather than holistic advisors. It doesn’t matter if the professionals are selling stocks, bonds, life insurance policies, annuities, wills or trusts, or selling tax preparation; they are all just selling products and services specific to their professions. Rarely are these professionals tying it all together into one comprehensive and holistic plan.

None of us have all the answers and clients don’t expect us to. We know we need to bring other professionals into the planning mix from time to time, which is why we establish referral partners. However, there is a significant difference between a referral partner and a professional alliance. With a referral partner, the collaboration generally stops once the referral is given. It is purely transactional. Most professionals fail to capitalize on the value of the professional relationship development process before and after that mutual client is served. By shifting the relationship from a referral partner into a professional alliance, a professional can transform their business by providing better advice and service, gaining an accountability partner, reducing marketing expenses, and getting in front of more ideal clients.

In summary, a referral partner is someone you trust to provide superior services for your client, without the referral partner expecting much back in return. A professional alliance is one in which each party is committed to helping each other achieve their goals.

Two of the most transformational professional alliances can come between a financial advisor and an attorney. Both professionals share a common client demographic, both rely upon each other in order to best serve the client, and both completely complement each other’s set of skills and services. When working together as a true professional alliance, the sum is much greater than the individual parts.

It seems like a no-brainer that all financial advisors and attorneys should have a professional alliance, so why don’t they?

To better understand this, we conducted a survey of hundreds of financial advisors and attorneys on their businesses, their marketing, their professional relationships, their biggest fears and the best opportunities they see in aligning with their counterparts.

We analyzed this data and worked with industry leading advisors and attorneys to create a process to break down the silos. Today, this process is called The Attorney Advisor Alliance™.

Before we discuss The Attorney Advisor Alliance, I want to share some of the highlights of our research.

The Advisors Surveyed Shared The Following Characteristics:

  • Independent advisors (non-wire house)
  • Securities and insurance licensed
  • Average experience of 17 years
  • Average of 2-3 staff members
  • Average range of their client net worth:
    • 15%: $250k – $500k
    • 45%: $500k – $1m
    • 30%: $1m – $2m
    • 10%: $2m+

The Attorney’s Surveyed Shared The Following Characteristics:

  • Private practice specializing in estate planning and elder law
  • No securities or insurance license
  • Average experience of 19 years
  • Average of 3-4 staff members
  • Average book of business is $90m of client assets
  • Average range of their client net worth:
    • 60%: $500k – $2m
    • 40%: $2m+

Based on the research, the experience and success between these two professions align similarly. In addition, the majority of all surveyed were still in growth mode. The results from our survey provided some valuable insights; here are some of the highlights:

  1. On average, 40% of the attorneys’ new business was referred to them by financial advisors. If you add insurance agents into the mix, that number increases to over 50%.
  2. On average, advisors were referring 20+ clients per year to attorneys for legal and estate work.
  3. Advisors were only averaging a few referrals from the attorneys each year.
  4. 73% of advisors stated they did not feel they had a strong working relationship with their attorney referral partner.

It is fairly obvious why most financial advisors were unhappy with their relationships – they felt it was a one-way street. Follow-up consultations with both the attorneys and the advisors revealed that neither party was to blame for the weak relationship.

Advisors could point the finger at the attorneys, claiming that they are referring five times as many clients to the attorneys and they feel that the balance is unfair. But the attorneys clearly aren’t going to sabotage one financial advisor’s referral and then refer that client to another financial advisor. For example, if I have a referral relationship with Sally Smith attorney, and Sally gets an estate planning referral from Joe Adams financial advisor, she isn’t going to turn around and refer that client to me. Doing that could alienate the client and that business could be lost.

We Also Asked The Attorneys:

Which of the following statements best describes your current situation?

A. I need help in being able to identify clients who could benefit by working with a professional financial advisor.

B. I am comfortable in my ability to identify clients who could benefit by working with a professional financial advisor.

44% selected A, acknowledging that they need help in identifying clients who could benefit from the professional financial advisor. This indicated to us that we needed to build training around teaching an attorney how to identify opportunities for bringing a financial advisor into the mix.

To validate my earlier point about a synergy that could exist between these two professionals, we asked the attorneys to pick #1, #2, or #3 from the list below:

  1. I do not have much background with financial investments and would greatly benefit by having a colleague I could call to help me understand financial concepts.
  2. I have a fairly good understanding of financial investments but on occasion would benefit by having a colleague I could call to help me understand financial concepts.
  3. I have a strong understanding of financial investments and would benefit in working with an advisor that can help me better understand creative ways or cutting-edge financial planning strategies.

From the survey, 39% of attorneys selected #1, 33% selected #2, and 28% selected #3. This told us that these professions need each other, but both need training on how to identify the opportunities to bring in the other professional. Relying on referrals alone will never jump start a thriving professional alliance.

How we create a professional alliance between an attorney and an advisor started to become clear in a third segment of our survey. We asked all attorneys and advisors two questions:

  • Would you be willing to hold joint (attorney and advisor) client appreciation events with your clients?
  • Would you be willing to do joint marketing together?

From the surveys, 95% said they would be willing to do joint client events and 98% said they would be willing to do joint marketing. These results showed that the desire was there; we just needed to build a training platform to achieve this alliance. By hosting joint marketing and client events, attorneys telegraphed to advisors that they were more than happy to have a professional alliance to grow new clients together. The joint marketing and client events also solved the issue of the attorneys not being able to refer over a large segment of their existing clients because the source was from other advisors.

In order to build a full-scale marketing plan, attorneys and advisors need to be trained through a relationship development program.

This is why we created The Attorney Advisor Alliance – Referral Matchmaking System.

Whether you have an existing attorney/advisor relationship, or you are seeking a new one, The Attorney Advisor Alliance four-step process will help you achieve greater success.

Match Making Steps for Advisors

Build An Attorney Advisor Alliance

Step 1-The Alliance Model

The Alliance Model teaches you how to tap into your existing client base and Centers Of Influence to get recommendations for a professional with whom to create an alliance. In this step, The Attorney Advisor Alliance will show you exactly how to research those professionals and establish in-person meetings to begin the elimination process.

Step 2-The Match Filter

The Match Filter shows you how to narrow your decision down to a select few attorneys or advisors with whom you might want to create a professional alliance. Within this step, The Attorney Advisor Alliance will teach you how to create a new relationship packet, host a 30-minute meeting in their office, set expectations for the alliance, and learn more about your new potential match.

Step 3-The Alliance Interview

The Alliance Interview is an hour meeting in your office during which you will determine if there is a good enough fit to move forward. During this step, The Attorney Advisor Alliance will teach you all the critical items you need to bring to the table, such as planning philosophies, planning process, differentiators, fees, your perfect client profile, marketing goals, and big picture vision of where you are going with your career and business. The Attorney Advisor Alliance shows how to determine if there is a good match and, if so, laying out a planning partner expectations agreement.

Step 4-The Relationship Builder

In this step, you and your match really get to know each other. Together, you will complete tools created by The Attorney Advisor Alliance to enhance your personal relationships, establish your perfect client profile and, most importantly, take each other through your planning processes. In our surveys, we found a lack of commitment in referring because each professional did not know the other professional’s actual planning process. We highly recommend that the advisor take the attorney through their financial planning process just as if the attorney is a real prospect. On the flip side, the attorney should take the financial advisor through their estate planning process. The attorney and the advisor should make a commitment up front that both professionals will waive their planning fees to establish a better understanding of each other, but there is no commitment to actually hire each other to implement the plan at the end of the experience. If your planning process is valuable, this exercise will pay enormous dividends because the other professional will personally experience what their clients will receive when they refer them to see you. They will be able to speak with their clients from personal experience versus second-hand knowledge.

Lastly, The Attorney Advisor Alliance will teach you to determine how your referrals will take place, as well as outline some rules of engagement, which will carry into your final planning partner expectations agreement.

The biggest danger in this step is a stalled relationship. The Attorney Advisor Alliance will teach you and your match how to establish quarterly meetings to help with accountability toward hitting your goals.

There is nothing more important than relationship development in building a professional alliance. At the end of the day, we do business with people we like. The greatest cause of unsuccessful professional alliances is missed expectations regarding referrals. Once you feel like you have achieved a solid relationship (Step 4), The Attorney Advisor Alliance will teach you and the attorney how to build and execute joint client appreciation and prospect marketing plans. Both professionals will have skin in the game and upside potential to bring on new clients and grow together, but it takes commitment.

To Close, I want to Share One Attorney’s Commitment To Two Questions From Our Survey.

Q. “What dangers, concerns, or fears do you have with working with a financial advisor?”

A. “I know so little about them, their training, etc. I have no idea whether they would be a product-pushing salesman rushing from one victim to another, or a professional who cares deeply for the clients and realizes that as we do the right thing for other people, doing so provides for our own needs. The dangers are that we invest into a relationship that turns out to be a waste of time and effort, but that is a modest danger, I think it is worth giving it a try.”

Steps 1-4 of The Attorney Advisor Alliance – Referral Matchmaking System protect both the attorney and the advisor from jumping into a bad relationship by spending the appropriate time on the front-end completing exercises and tools to validate the alliance.

When Asked A Follow-Up Question:

Q. “What are the greatest opportunities you could envision in working with a financial advisor?”

A. “I can see a relationship in which we collaborate to help clients achieve their goals for their lives and for their families. I can see a relationship in which each of us is a resource for the other in their profession and in their business. I can see a relationship that opens the door to a new and effective type of marketing. I can see a relationship that goes on over time to provide a stable platform across the transitions in our clients’ lives, and through transitions in the lawyer’s practice and the advisor’s practice.”

If you need help building a true Attorney Advisor Alliance, reach out to us today. We have hundreds of financial advisors and attorneys across the United States who are eager to find that perfect match and we may be able to facilitate an introduction along with the joint training process to succeed.

While you’re on the go, listen to our podcast for more insight on how to build a successful Attorney Advisor Alliance.

If you have further questions, complete the form below to get in touch with one of our business development experts today.

Dave Alison

Article Author

Dave Alison

Dave Alison, CFP®, EA is a founding partner of C2P Enterprises, driving a vision to help financial advisors across the United States simplify financial planning. Dave’s professional capabilities to coordinate tax, financial, insurance and estate planning needs are what led him to found Alison Wealth Management as a boutique tax, financial planning & investment management firm bringing household CFO services to affluent families & high-income professionals across the United States.

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