The intake process at a law firm can make or break a firm’s ability to sign a case. Often, problems with intake aren’t for lack of caring — it’s more a matter of unrefined processes. There is an old adage in business management that states, “That which cannot be measured, cannot be managed.” Developing sound and repeatable processes helps manage the firm’s activities to improve profitability.
A law firm can lose cases through poor intake. Additionally, the quicker you respond to a lead, the better. Generally, responding to a lead within 5 minutes can increase the probability of getting a case. According to LeadResponseManagement.org, a provider of lead response management tools and services, the odds of a firm signing a case after:
- Calling to qualify a lead decreases by more than 6 times after the first hour of the initial call.
- Qualifying a lead if called in 30 minutes versus 5 minutes drops 21 times.
They go on to state that after 20 hours, every additional lead you call back actually hurts your ability to sign a case.
Have a dedicated team to:
- Take calls.
- Conduct initial screenings.
- Set up meetings.
You can improve intake for your team and achieve better results by:
- Defining your intake process.
- Creating intake documents to send to the client for completion.
- Linking electronic intake forms to trigger intake procedures.
Do You Have to Use Technology for Client Intake?
Let’s take a step back here. Before we even get to the call with a potential client, you need to have a specific procedure for how to handle intake. You don’t have to use technology for intake, but it makes the process smoother. Using technology:
- Ensures data integrity and standards.
- Eliminates manual errors.
- Helps an office go paperless.
- Streamlines the process.
- Gathers data for analysis and reporting.
- Makes billing easier.
- Improves the firm’s efficiency.
What Client Intake Options Are There?
There are several companies that provide intake services for law firms. Choose the best one for your firm. Each company provides different options that may be better for your firm. For example, some offer:
- English- and Spanish-speaking operators
- The option to answer throughout the day or at certain times, such as after hours and on weekends
- Working from anywhere as long as you have a cellphone
- An automated client intake that integrates with a customer relationship management (CRM) system to track leads and drafted intake documents
Some of the companies our law firm clients have worked with include:
To understand how effectively your marketing dollars are being spent, it’s critical to track leads and their sources. When tracking leads, the first thing that needs to happen is to qualify each one that comes in. This is where your support staff is critical.
Screening Leads through Intake Protocol
AttorneyAtWork.com advises intake specialists at law firms to take each call with the attitude that you are not in the legal business — you are in the healing and relationship business. To avoid getting jaded, specify a protocol for how each call should be handled, with a script, if you feel that’s necessary. Some of the steps to incorporate in your protocol may include:
- Build rapport. Ask basic questions about the client and their legal matter before you schedule an intake appointment. Give an explanation of your firm to manage and address the client’s expectations.
- Find out if there are conflicts. Ask if they’ve worked with an attorney and why the client is seeking help. Determine if it’s something you are capable of or interested in handling.
- Gather contact data. Get each lead’s address, phone number, email addresses, social media accounts, and their client communication preferences.
- Communicate how billing works. Discuss your engagement and fee arrangements with the client. Give the client a copy of these agreements and any other relevant information.
- Tell them about the intake process. Inform them that there are various forms they will complete during the intake process.
- Talk about communication. Give a general explanation of the attorney-client relationship.
Most importantly, keep your intake process dynamic. Allow for client questions and be flexible enough to tailor your approach to the client’s level of sophistication and needs. Refresh your staff on the protocols involved in the intake process on a regular basis.
Creating Electronic Intake Forms
Next, gather useful information such as contact and billing information through an electronic form. You can do this through a customized web-based form for your clients to access through your website. Get as much information as possible to allow you to represent the client, but do not overwhelm the client, since most clients find a visit to a lawyer’s office uncomfortable. Things to include on the intake form are:
- Phone number
- Email address
- Preferred form of communication
- Birth month and date
- Billing information
Linking the Intake Form to Trigger the Intake Procedures
Your intake documents should be connected so that data may be transferred from the form to the intake documents and into your client management and accounting systems. You can do this through Excel or Google Spreadsheets. If you’re using an automated system, have the company you’re using set it up.
Track and Share Lead Progress
Although it may seem like extra work, if you have a marketing consultant, tell them what is happening with your firm’s leads. Giving them the ability to track leads will improve the leads you get. Consultants are able to identify which pages on the site and which practice areas are generating leads. Being able to analyze the path your firm’s leads took to become clients has a great impact on your consultant’s ability to improve other pages and processes on your site. Through regular improvements based on the data you share, your firm’s website and campaign can be even more successful.