One of the most important steps of the client life cycle is the intake process. It involves a series of steps that ultimately converts potential clients into paying clients. It is, essentially, the sales process for law firms. 

Despite its importance, law firms rarely invest energy into making their intake process more effective and efficient. Instead, they stick with a poorly developed process that wastes time and seems disorganized. This can result in lost revenue when clients become frustrated and get lost in the shuffle. 

By improving the client intake process, firms can increase conversion rates and ROI. Client satisfaction will also rise as resources are focused on this process. This article will discuss four stages of the client intake process and how they can be made more effective. 

If you have questions or need help improving your intake process, feel free to reach out to our team anytime. If you prefer you can schedule a time to speak with Travis by clicking on the link below.

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Stage 1: Lead Acquisition and Management

Potential new clients are called “leads.” Leads may come from your website, referrals, advertising campaigns, or other sources. They may reach out to you, or you may contact them. Regardless of how you come into contact with a potential client, it’s important to immediately engage. When you get a lead, the client intake process begins.

Common mistakes in the lead acquisition and management process include responding too slowly, failing to track leads, and not following up with people who reach out. These mistakes can severely impact your conversion rate and the overall health of your business. That’s why the first step in improving your client intake process is improving your lead system. 

  • Track every lead. You should have a proper client relationship management (CRM) system that will track each lead, record their contact information, and set up reminders for you to follow up. 
  • Use a virtual receptionist. If you don’t respond to a call immediately, you’ll likely lose the prospective client. A virtual receptionist can be used during business hours or outside of those times to answer your calls so that a real person is in contact with every lead. Personal contact will begin building trust. 
  • Use drip emails for cold leads. If your lead is hot and ready to hire, then you should jump on that contact right away. However, if they haven’t yet made a decision and they’re warm or cold, then you should send “drip emails” or automated sequenced emails to massage the contact. Those emails will include educational information, testimonials, and case results to engage potential clients. 

Stage 2: Consultations with Potential Clients

Once you have a lead, you will need to start building trust. The next step in the client intake process is scheduling an initial consultation. This is essentially a sales meeting. You will learn the nature of the potential client’s legal issue and work to get their business. Consultations are essential in the legal world, so it’s worth investing time to develop a good process for setting appointments and making sure people show up. 

  • Screen clients with a questionnaire. Leads may reach out to law firms without any real intention of hiring one or without the financial means to afford the services. Avoid wasting everyone’s time with a well-crafted questionnaire that will make the potential client know you’re serious and help you understand their needs going forward. The questionnaire should be 10 to 15 items that requests personal and employment status, details about the opposing parties, and information about legal issues. 
  • Send a confirmation email. No show clients waste everyone’s time. Someone who doesn’t show up won’t likely return as a client. Reduce the likelihood of the potential client forgetting about your consultation by sending a reminder email which should confirm date and time of the appointment. 

Stage 3: Gathering Information

Obtaining information to begin a case is at the center of the client intake process. Information gathering typically begins right away when a lead comes in, but it continues during and after the consultation as well. Because this step is so important, it’s essential to optimize the process. 

  • Use a standardized questionnaire. Incomplete or inaccurate data can lead to a malpractice claim. Standardize data collection so you know you’re getting a full range of information needed for each type of case you handle. A questionnaire should ask about the client, their legal matter, and key dates and deadlines. 
  • Record information in a database. Use custom fields in a database to record information that the client provides to you. If you use paper questionnaires, you may have to manually enter data, but electronic questionnaires can auto populate fields for later review. Software can also provide you with a report of all important information in your case from this database. 

Stage 4: Fee Agreement Drafting and Signing

Once you engage in stages one through three, you will have nearly sealed the deal with the client. All you need to do is get a signed fee agreement and contract. This last step is still important, so don’t stop focusing on the goal of landing a new client. This is where the attorney-client relationship is finalized. 

You will want to develop a fee agreement process that is easy for attorneys and their staff as well as clients. There should be a steamlined process that flows from one person to the next easily. 

  • Use an automated process to reduce errors. Law firms almost always use standard templates for fee agreements. However, you will need to customize things like names, contact information, and fee amounts. This process can be automated with software like Lexicata and Clio. It also helps cut down on non-billable administrative hours. 
  • Use e-signatures to create an easier process for clients. Clients may not want to come to your office for every step of the initial legal process. With e-signatures, they can sign a fee agreement from anywhere. This also saves money by going paperless. 
  • Open a new matter. Once all agreements are signed, you can open a new case matter and record key deadlines and upcoming tasks. Failing to record necessary dates may open you to malpractice claims. You can automate your software to record those dates for you when you initiate a new matter. 

Develop an Effective Client Intake Process

Although the meat of the case may take place over several months or years, the initial stages of the client intake process are just as important. Take the beginning of your case seriously and invest time and resources into improving it to reduce inefficiency. 

If you have questions or need help improving your intake process, feel free to reach out to our team anytime. If you prefer you can schedule a time to speak with Travis by clicking on the link below.

Schedule Your Appointment Today!