5 Best Practices for Efficient Legal Client Intake

2023-10-20

The client intake process is crucial. This is where you establish your expertise, create the client’s first impression of your firm, and begin to build the trust required to carry the relationship forward. It’s also where you begin transforming a lead into a paying client. 

The problem is that inefficiencies in your intake process can cost you time and money while eroding trust. In this post, we’ll cover five best practices your firm must employ to improve the efficiency of your client intake process and build a thriving legal practice.

Create and maintain a multi-stage intake process

What does your intake process look like? If it’s chaotic or inconsistent, you won’t see the results you need. You may even notice that some of your leads disappear. If potential clients sense that they’re being lost in the crowd or don’t feel that you’re giving them the right amount of attention, they’ll defect to a competitor. 

To get around this, create multiple stages for your intake process. Then, note where each lead is within those stages and track them as they move from one to the next. For instance, when a client initially calls and leaves their information, they might be in a “not yet contacted” stage. Once you call them back and get their information, you can move them to the next stage. 

We recommend a robust but flexible process structure that works with your office’s needs and client expectations. This may vary depending on the type of law you focus on (personal injury cases versus estate and probate, for instance). Whatever structure you create, it’s important to ensure that it provides you with a clear picture of where each lead is within the process and where they need to go next.

Invest in a pre-screening process

In a perfect world, any lead would be a good fit for your firm. However, we don’t live in a perfect world. Potential clients may have problems that you cannot solve or expectations that you cannot meet. Your intake process must include a robust pre-screening segment. 

During the pre-screening process, you’ll collect enough information to determine whether a potential client is a good fit for your office. It will usually include an initial consultation, too, but an in-house team member or an experienced virtual receptionist can handle this.

Make sure that you’re clear on the types of information your firm needs at this point. It’s not just about ensuring you can represent the client, either. You’ll need information to ensure you can manage a client’s case and that you can distribute the workload across your team. 

Appointment reminders are a “must”

Never assume that a potential client remembers they have an appointment. The sheer volume of missed appointments is a testament to the fact that people forget about them or have conflicts that arise. To help eliminate this possibility and ensure that you can move forward in a timely manner, send appointment reminders.

We recommend sending reminders by text and email and that those reminders be sent on a staggered basis. For instance, you might send an email reminder a week before the appointment. A few days before the appointment, you might send a text reminder. On the day of the appointment, you should send both an email and a text reminder.

Use e-signatures to simplify the intake process

How many hoops do your potential clients have to jump through to work with your firm? In most situations, they have to open an email from your office, access a PDF, print the form out, sign it, scan it back into the computer (or take a photo), and then send it back to you. That’s a lot of work, and you cannot count on potential clients even having a working printer, much less a scanner. 

Use e-signatures in your documents to avoid this situation. With e-signatures enabled, clients can easily sign and initial legal documents online without the need to print, sign, scan/photo, and send it all back. 

Not only does this save time and hassle, but it also helps to reduce the stress your potential clients face while also avoiding potential technological hurdles, like a client not having access to a printer. 

Identify where each client originated

Finally, we recommend tracking where each client originated. Were they referred to your firm by a previous client? If so, who? Did they learn about your firm from social media? Did they see a Google ad? Did they search for attorneys in their area and pick your firm from the list of Google results? 

A lot of your success rests on your knowledge and ability within the courtroom. However, even the most capable attorneys cannot build a thriving practice if they’re unable to reach new clients. Identifying the channels that are most effective for brand building and marketing can have major benefits, including expanding your reach and reducing the amount you spend on marketing in general. 

Putting it all together

The client intake process is essential to get right. However, it’s time-consuming and often takes you and your team away from other work, usually involving billable hours. The good news is that you don’t have to go it alone here. Smith.ai can help.

One way to ensure that your client intake process is both efficient and effective is to outsource parts of it. That ensures that your team can focus on what they do best while simultaneously ensuring that you’re able to collect the information you need from potential clients, set appointments, pre-screen clients, and build a thriving practice. 

Our experienced team of virtual receptionists provides 24/7 answering services, appointment scheduling and reminders, lead intake, and more. Plus, we have years of experience working with law firms large and small, so we understand how essential the legal client intake process is and follow best practices. 

Don’t let an inefficient client intake process derail your success. Get the experienced help you need.

To learn more, schedule a consultation or reach out to hello@smith.ai.

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Business Education
Law Firm
Written by Samir Sampat
Samir Sampat is a Marketing and Events Associate with Smith.ai. He has experience working with businesses of all sizes focusing on marketing, communications, and business development.

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