New clients are the lifeblood of any legal practice. Without a steady stream of people to represent, attorneys can’t bill hours. Without billable hours, the practice doesn’t make a profit, and bills aren’t paid. Of course, finding new clients involves a complex combination of marketing, client outreach, and then handling the influx of interest.
Legal intake is an essential part of this process. However, it’s time-consuming and can take attorneys, legal assistants, and other staff members away from other important tasks. Having the right questions to ask potential clients can streamline the intake process, reduce wasted time, and help ensure that you’re bringing in clients that fit your practice.
Not sure what questions to ask? We’ve got a list of 10 questions every law firm should ask during the intake process. Here’s your legal intake cheat sheet!
While it’s tempting to jump straight to questions like why the customer is contacting your office in the first place, start with something smaller so that you can ease into the bigger questions. This also gives you the chance to get the lead’s name, phone number, email address, and other important information for entry into your CRM. If the lead has already contacted your firm and this is the second touchpoint, you can confirm the details they provided previously.
You can phrase this question in any number of ways. What you’re looking for here is the underlying reason that the lead reached out. It should dovetail with your practice’s focus (family law, criminal defense, real estate law, etc.). You also want to find out why the lead reached out to your firm out of the hundreds or thousands of others in the area. In addition to identifying the lead’s underlying challenge, this can also help you clarify expectations and ensure that your firm is a good fit for their needs.
This is an important question for a couple of reasons. First, it helps you identify potential conflicts of interest. Second, it sheds light on problem clients who jump from attorney to attorney if they don’t get the answers they want or if a previous attorney informed them that they could not help with their situation. Third, it can help you determine the lead’s experience with the legal system, how the process works, and what to expect so you can explain it to them.
This question speaks to the lead’s intent and how serious they are about seeing it through. Are they just testing the waters? Are they committed? How do they feel about the issue in question? This can also give you important information about the case that can be used later.
This is a good, open-ended question that allows you to skip asking a ton of others. It also allows the potential client to use their voice, and it makes them feel heard. By putting their story in their own words, rather than answering a series of other questions, you can also get a better feel for what they’re willing to tell you, what you’ll need to dig into further, what their priorities are, and more.
Have the potential client come right out and tell you what they want to see in terms of results. This can help you determine if those expectations are realistic or if you need to provide insight and guidance in terms of what’s possible in such a situation. It might also help you determine if the client is a good fit for your firm.
This question allows the potential client to provide supplemental information and documentation. It can also shed light on things you still need to learn and provide information the potential client forgot or failed to mention when replying to other questions.
Give the potential client the driver’s seat and let them dictate how they would prefer to communicate. While some might prefer phone calls, more will opt for email, which can be a time-saver for you. Others might want snail mail or text messages. It would help if you also discussed communication frequency and other related matters.
Get the potential client to lay out their expectations of your firm. This helps you address misconceptions and set realistic expectations. However, their expectations mustn’t predicate a specific outcome. Remind them that the case’s outcome hinges on many factors, quite a few of which are outside your control, and predicting a specific outcome is impossible.
Finally, give the potential client the chance to ask questions of their own. This can help you gauge their confidence and knowledge and provide opportunities to guide the conversation further. It also provides a framework to build upon for the first initial meeting, where you can provide answers to some of their more pressing questions.
The legal intake process is essential but can be time-consuming. It also represents an investment of time that might not pay off. This is one reason that many offices outsource their intake process to legal assistants.
At Smith.ai, our live virtual receptionists have deep experience working with law firms, handling inbound calls 24/7, and even handling lead screening and legal intake to ensure that you only communicate with pre-qualified leads who are good fits for the practice. We help you save time, money, and hassle without sacrificing the legal intake process.