Client Intake Guide for Lawyers
Law firms conduct client intake when they have new or prospective clients. The intake process involves signing up or onboarding new clients. When performing client intake, law firms gather basic information about the client, like their contact details and the information needed to take legal action.
When done manually, the client intake can be time consuming for the client and law firm, especially for small firms. Also, it is unbillable, so lawyers don’t make money from client intake. Therefore, it is better to have a streamlined process for client intake, whether you are an established firm or a new one.
A streamlined client intake process is crucial to making a good first impression on your clients and to running your law firm effectively. This ultimate client intake guide for lawyers discusses all you need to know about the process, including how to improve your client intake efforts.
An Overview of the Client Intake Process
As a lawyer, your job is more than representing clients. You must also act as a salesperson to attract clients to your firm. However, once you’ve attracted your target audience, you must conduct client intake and do it well in order for the person to stay.
So, what is client intake?
Client intake is the process of attracting and retaining new clients. It begins with the prospective client’s first interaction with your firm – whether phone call, online chat, or another method — and ends when they enter into an attorney-client agreement. Also, it involves onboarding new clients and getting their basic information.
Law firms that fail to optimize the client intake process experience low conversion rates.
There are several stages involved in the client intake process. They include:
Attracting Potential Clients
Law firms get clients through different means. It could be through a social media campaign, search engines, word-of-mouth marketing, or referrals. When clients contact you through any of these means, you have attracted them and completed the first stage of the client intake process.
Capturing New Clients’ Information
Once you have attracted the new client, the next step is capturing their information. Ensure the data-capturing process is easy, because it improves the chances of the client’s staying with you. The information needed at this stage is the client’s name, contact details, emergency contact info, preferred communication, and other relevant information.
Not every client is a good fit for your firm, because you may not offer the services they need. Therefore, the prescreening stage allows you to determine whether you can handle the prospect’s case before booking an initial consultation.
The rules of professional conduct make it unethical for lawyers to work for a client if there is a conflicting interest. As a result, you must check to ensure there’s no conflict of interest before accepting a client.
Scheduling and Holding the Initial Consultation
The next stage is booking and holding an initial consultation in person, on Zoom, or by phone. Make it easy for clients to schedule a meeting by providing forms on your website or a phone number for them to call. You can also use automation tools to make the process faster and easier.
Gathering Key Information Using an Intake Questionnaire
Use an intake questionnaire to get information about the case the client wants you to handle. Ensure that it covers all relevant details, including the legal issues and the remedy sought.
Creating the Fee Agreement
After gathering the relevant information, you can create the fee agreement based on the agreed-upon payment structure. There are automated tools for generating a fee agreement based on the information provided in the intake questionnaire.
The onboarding process starts after signing the fee agreement with the client. Typically, it involves sending the client information on billing, meeting days and times, initial documents they should gather, and what to expect during the legal process. However, the onboarding process may differ depending on your law firm and how you operate.
Pay close attention to your law firm’s client intake process to know where there are issues and ways to improve the experience. For instance, if you use paper forms, create an online version that prospective clients can access at their convenience and without coming to your office.
What Makes a Good Intake Form for Lawyers?
It is crucial for a law firm to know how to create effective client intake forms. Below are the components a good client intake form should have.
The client intake form is used to identify prospects and convert leads to paying clients. With it, you can identify those that are unsuitable for your firm and avoid wasting time with dead-end leads. You need vital information to help you address the prospect’s needs, proffer solutions, and follow up with the person.
When requesting contact information, ask for the following:
- Full name
- Home and office address
- Phone number
- Email address
- Fax, if needed.
The client intake form sets the tone for the attorney-client relationship. Therefore, it must show the firm’s professionalism and competence.
The client intake form should also contain the case information. This includes the parties’ names, the client’s status (whether the plaintiff or defendant), current employment status, income, and legal issues. These details let you know the type of legal service the person needs and help you identify whether there is any conflict of interest.
You’ll also discover whether the person can handle the legal fees and other costs and if there are obstacles that will affect the case. If your law firm has different practice areas, you will be able to identify the area under which the client’s case falls.
The referral section of the client intake form provides information on your client acquisition process and the success of marketing campaigns. Ask questions about how the client discovered the firm, adding the types of marketing you engage in. For instance, you can create a referral section asking if the person found the firm through word-of-mouth.
If not, ask if they learned about the firm from social media, search engines or television ads. The answer lets you know if paid advertising effectively lands clients or if referrals work best. This way, you will understand whether you should invest more in paid ads or focus efforts on referral marketing. If it’s a referral, you can thank the referring attorney, judge, or neighbor.
Legal services are not free, but clients often shy away from seeking legal help because of fees. For this reason, fees must be addressed during the intake process. Let prospective clients know how much your services will cost. Even if your attorneys work on contingency, these back-end costs should be explained during the intake process.
The intake form should state whether there will be extra costs, e.g., for filing court documents. Also, include the firm’s billing process, method of payment, and available payment plan. Every aspect of legal fee payment should be clear before signing the attorney-client agreement.
Retainer agreements are essential to the client intake process because they outline the client’s and law firm’s expectations and roles. They also contain the firm’s policies and procedures, so there can be no room for error. You can include a template for the agreement as part of the client intake form or use legal management systems to streamline the process.
Finally, the client intake form should have a section for a follow-up appointment. This encourages the client to return to the firm and, to a large extent, keeps them from seeking legal services elsewhere. Also, it lets you know when you can have scheduled visits in cases where the client is hospitalized or in jail awaiting trial.
How Do You Improve Your Client Intake Process?
When trying to improve the client intake process for your law firm, divide it into stages to improve structuring. If your client intake process is poorly structured, it will not produce the desired results. Also, being disorganized will delay the intake process and might cause you to lose prospective clients.
Investing time in your client intake process helps your law practice to grow and thrive.
Use Excel, Google Sheets, or a case management system to divide the process into stages. Classify prospects as:
- Not yet contacted
- Needs follow up
- Intake form pending
- Retainer pending
- Awaiting payment.
Segmenting prospective clients shows you where each person is in the process and when to give them your attention. Aside from dividing the intake process into stages, take the following steps:
- Send appointment reminders to clients.
- Use checklists to stay organized.
- Reduce or eliminate manual data entry by using online forms.
- Allow clients to self-schedule by taking advantage of automated appointment scheduling.
- Automate the drafting of fees, retainer, and attorney-client agreements.
- Provide e-signatures in the intake forms to streamline the process.
- Discuss fees upfront.
- Educate and engage prospective clients using drip emails.
- Track the source of new clients to know your conversion rate.
- Be consistent in taking the above steps.
Improve Your Law Firm’s Conversion Rate Using Client Intake Forms
The client intake process contributes significantly to the client journey and the success of your law firm. Therefore, pay close attention to it, and use technology to make the process easy for prospective/new clients. By following this ultimate client intake guide for lawyers, you can improve your intake process and convert more clients.
If you need help setting up the client intake process or marketing your law firm’s services, contact Gladiator Law Marketing. Our award-winning team can discuss your law firm marketing strategy and support your firm’s growth through customized campaigns. Call us for a free initial consultation at 855-204-0291.
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