Differences Between Referral and Association

It is common for the Virginia Beach personal injury attorneys at Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp to work with other law firms on cases that originated with that firm to help their client recover on a personal injury case. When this happens, the relationship with the other firm is usually referred to as a “referral” or “association.”

Unless an accident victim has been injured in some prior incident, they usually do not have a personal injury attorney in their phone contacts. However, they may have an attorney they can call who has handled past issues for them, such as family law, estate planning, or other legal matters. When this is the case, the victim will likely contact that attorney to help with their accident claim or lawsuit. That attorney may even begin the legal process of preparing and filing the accident claim against the party responsible for the client’s injuries to pursue damages for their losses.


During this process, the attorney and the victim may realize that the odds of obtaining a fair and just settlement would significantly increase if the case were handled by an attorney specializing in personal injury law. This is where a “referral” comes in. A referral usually means our firm assumes primary responsibility for pursuing the claim on behalf of the client. The referring firm typically provides info on the incident, giving rise to the claim and damages up to the point of the referral, and our firm usually takes over the case from that point.

Referral practice encourages law firms unfamiliar with an area of law, such as civil litigation, to work with qualified law firms like ours to achieve a positive result for the client. In most cases, referrals come from firms that do not handle many significant personal injury cases or don’t usually handle cases in our geographical area.

It may involve our firm paying a portion of the attorney’s fee to the referring law firm, depending on how much work it has already done on the case. The referral does not increase the attorney fees charged to the client.


“Association” works a bit differently. Association usually means the firm that began handling the case in the beginning remains involved in the preparation and trial of the case. Both law firms work together and typically identify specific aspects of the preparation and trial each firm will be responsible for handling.

In most association cases our injury law firm has worked with, law firms typically become associated on a case when the originating firm isn’t as familiar with a specific area of the law/case as our personal injury attorneys are. The following is an example of how an association may come about:

A client has been injured due to a medical error by their physician. The client calls the personal injury lawyer who represented them in a prior car accident case. The attorney has extensive experience in car accident claims but is inexperienced in medical malpractice cases. The attorney reaches out to Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp because of our law firm’s extensive success in malpractice lawsuits.

The firms that associate to handle a case agree on how the attorney’s fee will be divided between them, and once again, the client’s fee will not be increased. Instead, the client gets two law firms for the original cost of one.

Referrals and associations are made with the client’s best interest as the primary focus. The purpose is to ensure that the client has qualified counsel representing them.

Call Our Personal Injury Law Firm for Legal Assistance

If you or a family member has been injured in an accident caused by another party, contact Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp to schedule a free case evaluation to learn what legal options you may have. Our firm is dedicated to getting our clients the financial compensation they deserve, which is why our attorneys have recovered more than $100 million in settlements and verdicts. Call our office today and find out how our legal team can help.