Intake Process

Client Intake Best Practices For Attorneys

Law firms within the legal industry must conduct a client intake procedure to enroll new clients and gather essential personal information for their legal cases. This process is often laborious, especially for solo or small-scale legal practitioners, and yields revenue only occasionally.

Whether you are a new law firm owner or have a well-established practice, it is crucial to streamline your client intake process to provide clients with an excellent initial impression and enhance your practice's overall effectiveness.

To establish an effective and dependable client intake system for your law firm, you must familiarize yourself with all the necessary details. This includes comprehending the various client intake stages, implementing recommended practices, and obtaining insights on online and automated client intake procedures.

1. Record Your Client Intake Procedures And Policies

The first step is establishing clear guidelines for how your staff should communicate with prospective clients. Your procedure should include outlining best practices for managing phone calls and emails and establishing procedures for scheduling consultations.

Leaving a lasting first impression can make or break a client choosing you as their attorney for their case. Here are some tips for leaving a great first impression over phone calls.

  • Ensure timely phone answering: Avoid making customers wait by answering within two rings. 

  • Use a local phone number: Using one local phone number across all marketing materials eliminates confusion for customers looking for information.

  • Convey a positive tone: A trick that may sound cheesy but effective is smiling when you talk on the phone. People can hear your smile, just as they can hear annoyance or displeasure.

  

  • Make a proper greeting: Begin the call with an actual greeting, stating the company name and the name of the telephone answerer. Then ask, "How may I help you?

  • Don't leave customers hanging: Avoid putting customers on hold for long periods. Instead, ask if you can take a message or if the customer wants a callback. If you promise a callback, keep that promise and call back within 24 hours, even if it's just an update.

Making it easy for clients to access intake forms is important. You should also clearly communicate where clients can find the documents and provide instructions for submitting them.

Potential clients need to feel welcomed and comfortable when they visit your office. Ensure that your reception area is clean and tidy and that staff members are attentive to their needs. Any potential client interaction is an opportunity to gather additional information that may have yet to be included on the intake form.

2. Implement A Thorough Pre-screening Process

Pre-screen potential clients and only accept those that match your practice area, workload, or firm size. This pre-screen will help prevent future headaches. Consider scheduling a brief phone call to assess their needs and experience with lawyers. 

Consider these questions about potential clients:

  • Is the client's understanding of the expected outcomes and timeline for the legal process realistic?
  • Has the client sought legal advice from other lawyers regarding this case? If yes, how many lawyers were consulted, and what were the reasons for declining the case?
  • Is the client displaying an excessive focus on cost?
  • Are there concerns regarding the client's character or the accuracy of the facts presented in the case?
  • Is the type and complexity of the case suitable for your practice?

Make scheduling these calls easy for both you and the prospective clients. If the initial call indicates they are not a good fit, refer them to another attorney in your network or a relevant website or organization. This can still leave a positive impression and increase the likelihood of future referrals. 

3. Practice Active Listening And Empathy

Many people turn to lawyers for assistance during difficult and emotional times, even in business matters. Creating a welcoming and supportive environment can significantly impact their decision to work with you. Active listening and emotional sensitivity are crucial when conducting initial consultations or phone calls with potential clients.

Here are some ways to tips to use during client conversations:

  • During the conversation, try to understand their situation and concerns thoroughly. 
  • Avoid interrupting or making assumptions, and ask open-ended questions to encourage them to share their perspective. 
  • Be empathetic and non-judgmental in your responses, and take the time to validate their feelings.
  • If appropriate, share relevant examples or stories that show you understand their situation and have successfully helped others in similar situations. This can help build trust and demonstrate your expertise.

Being emotionally sensitive and attentive during your initial consultation or phone call can help establish a positive relationship with your potential client and increase their likelihood of working with you.

4. Integrate A Legal Practice Case Management Software

It's important to note that for legal practice case management software, both out-of-the-box and custom solutions are available. Out-of-the-box solutions are less expensive upfront and require less development time, but they may need to work better with your business logic. On the other hand, custom solutions provide tools tailored to your needs but will cost more and require an implementation specialist.

There are a variety of software tools available, depending on your needs. Clio and MyCase are great out-of-the-box options that can meet a majority of your requirements, with the other needs potentially filled by third-party integrations such as Zapier. For custom solutions, Salesforce, HubSpot, and Zoho are all excellent choices but can be pricey. Zoho, in particular, is a great option for smaller to medium-sized businesses, with many fantastic capabilities and case management systems.

5. Organize Prospective Clients Based On Their Progress Through The Intake Process

By establishing a client intake process divided into distinct stages, you can better assess what type of attention each prospect needs. Categorizing clients based on their current status, such as "not yet contacted," "needs follow-up," or "intake form pending," can help you gain a better understanding of each client's situation and identify the necessary actions that must be taken.

Breaking down the client intake process into distinct stages also helps identify areas of improvement. For instance, if many clients are stuck in the "intake form pending" stage, it might indicate that the form is confusing, lengthy, or lacking in the necessary information. This knowledge can streamline the intake form, making it more user-friendly and less time-consuming.

Categorizing clients can also help to allocate resources effectively. When you know which clients need follow-up, you can direct your resources toward them and ensure every potential client is caught up. This can help to optimize your prospect to client conversion rate and improve customer satisfaction, leading to increased revenue and brand loyalty.

6. Streamline The E-Signature Process

Client e-signature tools have become convenient for obtaining client signatures in today's fast-paced world. These tools eliminate the need for traditional methods of printing, signing, scanning, and emailing documents, making the signature process faster and more convenient for both clients and businesses. 

Some examples of these tools include:

  • DocuSign
  • signNow
  • PandaDoc
  • Formstack Sign
  • HelloSign

They are easy to use and do not require any additional software. Additionally, client e-signature tools offer increased security through encryption and digital signatures, allowing businesses to track the signature process to ensure timely completion. By adopting these tools, your law firm can improve efficiency and customer experience while increasing its bottom line.

7. Automating Follow-ups

The advent of automation has revolutionized the way businesses manage their follow-ups and reminders. Automated follow-ups can be particularly useful when signatures or payments are required from clients or customers. For instance, your law firm can use e-signature software to automate signature requests and send follow-up reminders to clients who still need to sign. 

Automated reminders can be used to improve the billing process. By using billing software that sends automatic reminders to clients with outstanding payments, businesses can reduce the likelihood of late or missed payments. This can improve cash flow and reduce employees' need for manual follow-ups. 

Automation has made follow-ups and reminders a seamless and efficient business process. By automating signature requests and billing reminders, businesses can reduce manual follow-ups, enhance the customer experience, and improve cash flow. 

8. Tracking Key Data Metrics

In today's competitive legal landscape, tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) is essential for law firms to grow and succeed. However, with the right tools and technology, it can be easier to understand the firm's overall performance and potential for growth. 

Law firms can better understand their performance and make informed decisions about future marketing efforts and growth opportunities by tracking KPIs such as billable hours, client acquisition costs, and case outcomes.

Tracking KPIs can help law firms improve their productivity and profitability by streamlining their workflow and automating routine tasks. With features like automated document creation, e-signatures, and integrations with other essential tools, law firms save time and reduce errors, allowing them to focus on delivering high-quality legal services to their clients.

Bottom Line

Transforming your client intake process can lead to impressive returns for your firm. By automating mundane tasks and adding a personal touch, your firm can work smarter while demonstrating to your clients that you care about their unique needs. 

Continuously striving for improvement by gathering feedback and discovering new ways to streamline your process can unlock even more potential for growth and establish your reputation as a top-notch firm. Remember, investing in your client intake is not only a smart business move but also an investment in the promising future of your practice.

At Lab Coat Marketing, we're passionate about our scientific approach to digital marketing for law firms. We seek to partner with like-minded law firms looking for strategic marketing strategies to support their business objectives. If you're a law firm seeking to boost your marketing game, we invite you to chat about your needs. Contact us today to schedule a call with one of our expert team members and discover how we can help you achieve your marketing goals.

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