What is Client Intake?
Client intake is when a law firm gathers information about a potential client to assess whether the firm can represent them. The purpose of this initial meeting is twofold:
To gather enough information about the potential client to determine if they have a legal issue that the firm can help solve.To assess whether the potential client is likely to become a paying client of the law firm. The intake process typically begins with an initial phone call, during which the potential client will provide some basic information about their situation. The lawyer or paralegal who takes this call will then ask more detailed questions to understand better what’s going on.From there, an attorney may determine that the potential client should come in for an in-person meeting so that the attorney can further evaluate their case.
Attracting a new potential client. Clients might find you through a friend, by coming across your website when searching for information related to their legal issue, or by searching for a law firm in their city or town.
Capturing contact information. Making it easy for potential clients to share their contact information with you is key for moving them towards becoming a client.
Pre-screening. Before you book an initial consultation, save time by asking for enough information to determine whether a given client is a fit for your firm from the get-go.
Conflict checking. Make sure there’s no reason you can’t work for a potential client.
Scheduling and holding an initial consultation. Allow clients to book meetings with you via a tool like Clio Scheduler, available in Clio Suite.
Collecting key information via an intake questionnaire. Ask clients to provide key information you’ll need for their case.
Creating a fee agreement—and getting it signed. With the right tools, you can generate this form automatically from information in the client’s intake questionnaire.
New client onboarding. Send clients information on when to expect bills and in what format, how to pay bills, and when you’re available to help set expectations and lead to a smoother experience for all involved.
Leads might come via referrals, advertising campaigns, website traffic, or a variety of other channels. They might call your office, send you an email, fill out a contact form on your website, or come from a paid lead generation service.
Regardless of the source or the method of contact, your client intake process should begin at the exact moment when you receive the initial phone call, email, or contact form submission.
It’s easier than you think to make mistakes with lead management, from responding too slowly, to not tracking your leads, to not following up, and more.
These mistakes can have a severe impact on your conversion rate (i.e., the rate at which leads convert to paying clients) and the health of your business, which is why implementing a lead management system is a key first step toward improving your overall client intake process. For example, Clio’s CallRail integration allows legal professionals to understand exactly where leads are coming from and track conversions.
Bring in more qualified potential clients
Like any other business, law firms need to generate qualified leads through strategic and targeted marketing campaigns. To start, leverage the full potential of your existing website by optimizing it. Use website traffic analytics to find out why clients drop off from the website to identify improvement areas. Another way to bring in more qualified potential clients is to identify the target audience for your law firm. For example, immigration law firms and personal injury law don’t target the same audiences. Each practice area has different needs and requirements, therefore, targeting the right audience when developing a law firm marketing strategy will eventually attract more qualified clients.
Customize your intake forms depending on the area of law
It is common that law firms to serve several practice areas with multiple in-house lawyers, and due to this, intake forms can vary drastically depending on the case. For example, if your law firms have lawyers who handle divorce cases and personal injury cases, the versions of intake forms will look quite different with practice-specific questions.
By having unique and customized intake forms, you can avoid wasting time in the consultation meeting and allow your intake forms to be a valuable tool to pre-screen your clients.
At the very start of the call, there are a few questions you need to ask before the prospect begins to explain their problem. Your priority is asking for their name and contact details.
If they seem reluctant, you can explain that you want to be able to call them back to ensure you have every detail of their matter in case of disconnections during your call. Without knowing what the service is like on their end, you’ll want the insurance if the call drops.
Use Active Listening Techniques
Callers often want to launch straight into their stories, which can actually be good for your intake. They will often include key information about their case as they speak, but to pick up on it, you’ll need to practice active listening. Active listening is a technique that helps you remain engaged during a mostly one-sided conversation. It can also be a way to overcome distractions if you are working in a shared space. By focusing on the exact words a person is saying and regularly repeating these back to them or paraphrasing, you ensure that you hear what the other person is saying, not what you are expecting to hear.
With the huge amount of recurring tasks that need to be completed, on top of looming deadlines and constant work-related pressures, it’s easy for quality to slip. Especially when it comes to one of the most important processes of all – the intake process.
It’s why 61% of law firms forget to ask for the client’s name during their initial conversation, why 35% of calls from clients go unanswered, and why it takes 3 or more days for 42% of law firms to respond to prospective clients. For a law firm to keep its prestigious reputation – and to continue working with great clients – the intake process needs to effective, efficient, and done properly.
After gathering information, the law firm evaluates the potential client’s legal matter to determine whether it is within the firm’s area of expertise and whether the firm is willing and able to take on the case. This evaluation may involve a review of the potential client’s documentation and evidence, research into the legal issues involved, and consultation with other attorneys or experts.
If the law firm decides to take on the case, the next step is to establish an attorney-client agreement. This agreement typically outlines the scope of legal services, fees and payment arrangements, and expectations for the attorney-client relationship.
Reception is not intake
At a high volume law firm, receptionists handle phone calls from opposing counsel, vendors, established clients, and everyone in between. This is a time consuming role and involves extensive knowledge of firm operations in order to make sure calls are connected to the right department.
As you can imagine, handling new client intakes while the phones keep ringing may be overwhelming for a receptionist. That’s where intake specialists come in.
Intake specialists are able to dedicate more attention and time to potential new clients than a receptionist may be able to, as their job role explicitly handles these types of calls.
This not only frees up receptionist time, but ensures that each potential new client is adequately screened using the firm’s intake questionnaire.
Managing your client intake properly can help your firm in a variety of ways. Client intake often comes down to a simple sheet of paper that gets passed around the office indiscriminately. This is where new leads, client information, and details can sometimes get lost before the casework even begins.
Part of working towards a greater goal of converting and running a paperless law firm is working with an organized, automated intake system that helps get your new client off to the right start. Ultimately, this helps reduce errors and omissions, but it also helps drive revenue by converting leads faster and more efficiently which drives your bottom line results. So, what does automating the process typically look like?
Manage Your Leads
Traditionally, this is where many firms struggle. Without a dedicated sales professional or team, leads can often get lost in the shuffle. You need a system in place where everyone gets handled promptly and professionally and automation can help. Imagine a system where someone fills out a simple form on your website with their basic information and that data gets populated immediately in your CRM. From there, a contact record is created, identified as a new lead, and a task is created for someone to follow up promptly with that person. This type of semi-automated follow up can lead to a big increase in the conversion percentage of your business leads.
Once the attorney-client agreement is established, the law firm begins to manage the case. This may involve tasks such as conducting legal research, drafting legal documents, communicating with the client and opposing counsel, and representing the client in court or other legal proceedings.
To ensure an effective and efficient law firm client intake process, it is important to follow best practices that can help to streamline operations and improve client satisfaction. These best practices include developing a standard intake process, utilizing technology to streamline the intake process and improve communication with potential clients, training staff on the intake process, and setting realistic expectations for the attorney-client relationship.
The client intake process is an essential component of a law firm’s operations, as it sets the foundation for the attorney-client relationship and establishes expectations for the legal services to be provided. The intake process involves the initial contact and interaction with a potential client, and the collection of relevant information that will inform the decision to accept or reject the case.
Intake law refers to the process of gathering information from potential clients to determine whether a law firm is willing and able to take on their legal matter. The primary goal of the intake process is to collect enough information to evaluate the legal matter and determine whether the firm can provide the necessary legal services. The intake process also involves educating the potential client about the law firm’s services, fees, and expectations for the attorney-client relationship.
Before your firm can reap the benefits of a streamlined client intake process, you need to analyze your current process and define parameters. We recommend starting by documenting your firm’s current intake process. This includes every detail from how information is captured, where it’s stored, how it’s used, and who is responsible for managing this process. Creating a visual of your intake will help identify areas of improvement and start the conversation towards improving your intake for an optimized experience for clients.
It’s important to note that client intake is not a one-person job. It should be a team effort with strategic touchpoints that keep the client engaged. For intake to be successful, you should get input from your staff on how they envision the process. Making intake a collective effort across staff will create accountability and increase motivation to implement a smooth client experience.
Once you have your current intake process documented and feedback from staff, here are a few items to consider to reframe your intake process:
The law firm client intake process typically involves several steps. The first step is the initial contact between the potential client and the law firm, which may occur through a phone call, email, or in-person visit. During this stage, it is important to establish a positive and professional rapport with the potential client. The next step in the intake process is information gathering. The law firm collects information about the potential client’s legal issue, personal and financial circumstances, and any relevant documentation or evidence that may support their case. This information can be collected through a variety of means, such as a phone or in-person interview, online intake form, or email exchange.
In conclusion, the client intake process is a critical component of a law firm’s operations, and the intake law refers to the process of gathering information from potential clients to determine whether a law firm is willing and able to take on their legal matter. By following best practices and effectively managing the intake process, law firms can establish positive and productive relationships with clients and effectively provide the necessary legal services.
Your project intake process decides whether the incoming tasks will be completed on time or not. Just like the sorting process must be immaculate on a conveyor assembly belt, an organization’s intake process must be efficient and streamlined.
It’s not news that employees and workers always feel pressured by loads of work coming their way. Even though several applications today are built to help employees track and monitor their work, the need to toggle between 10 different applications for the same is counterproductive.
Instead, every company needs a seamless intake process designed to ensure optimized demand management systems and implement the best project intake practices.