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How Lawyers Can Use AI to Improve Client Intake

How Lawyers Can Use AI to Improve Client Intake

June 24, 2024   |   Written by Micayla Frost

Client intake is often the first of many administrative processes that law firms engage in throughout the course of a legal case. The process of onboarding new clients can be time-consuming and prone to errors, impacting the overall client experience and the firm’s productivity. Clients, who are often experiencing the most troubling period of their lives, can also become frustrated by the steps needed to get them in the door.

Efficiently acquiring a client’s information and storing this data is essential for administrative purposes, in addition to developing relationships. AI can assist with acquiring clients, onboarding them, storing their data, and evaluating the relative strength of their case. This can help law firms of all sizes to improve the efficiency of their administrative processes, saving time for more pressing case concerns.

Client Acquisition Using AI

Traditional client intake involves collecting vast amounts of information through forms, interviews, and documentation. AI can automate this process by using intelligent forms and chatbots. These tools can gather client information in a structured manner, working so that all necessary details are captured accurately and efficiently:

  • Smart Forms and Chatbots: One of the most common uses of AI for client intake is chatbots. AI-powered forms can adapt based on the client’s responses, asking relevant follow-up questions and skipping irrelevant sections. Chatbots can interact with potential clients on the firm’s website, providing instant responses to common queries and collecting preliminary information. The simple language models employed by AI can further interact with clients and their documents. Depending on the sophistication of the chatbot, its functionality will vary somewhat, but the core purpose remains the same: to communicate with clients by answering and asking questions.
  • Data Validation and Verification: AI can cross-check the collected data against various databases to ensure accuracy and completeness, reducing the risk of errors and omissions.

Chatbots have certain obvious advantages for law firms. They can communicate instantly with hundreds of potential clients at once, receive critical documents and other information without the need for a manual upload, and inform clients of their legal rights. A positive chatbot interaction can lead to a new client, with minimal human labor. Chatbots, however, are not without their drawbacks. These are:

  • Complex Conversations: Many, if not most, aspects of the law are complex; as a result, conversations about these areas of the law are complex as well. Chatbots are not always able to parse such nuanced ideas and concepts. A more sophisticated chatbot may be required for a law firm, which could see a resultant increase in cost.
  • Technological Literacy Can be Required: Chatbots assume a degree of technological literacy on the part of the client that they will not necessarily always possess. This can be a stumbling block for new clients if another option, like an obviously accessible phone number, is not available.
  • Misinterpretation: Chatbots can misinterpret user inputs, especially if the language used is ambiguous or slang-heavy.
  • Personal Connection: Chatbots lack the empathy and personal touch that human interactions provide, which can be crucial in building client trust and rapport. Additionally, clients may need emotional support and reassurance that a chatbot cannot provide. Users can get frustrated with the rigid and repetitive nature of chatbot interactions, especially if the bot fails to understand or address their issues adequately.
  • Technical Limitations: Chatbots can make errors due to bugs or limitations in their programming, and they are only as good as the data they have been trained on. If the training data is biased or incomplete, the chatbot’s responses will reflect those issues.

AI in Client Onboarding

Computers can process data far more efficiently than humans ever could and, as such, clients will have an easier time delivering their data to a firm when interacting with AI. Sending one email or uploading one document is significantly simpler than sitting in a waiting room with a clipboard and pen. This can alleviate one burden from clients and allow some of the administrative legwork to be handled by AI. It can upload and process documents in the blink of an eye, while storing all of this information for convenient retrieval down the line.

On top of its ability to handle and store data, AI can also process this data into useful information. AI has been developed that can assess the merits of a case with startling accuracy and speed. This can help to inform a lawyer’s decision as to whether they would like to take the case on or not. For firms with plenty of potential clients, the assistance of AI can go a long way.

For example, AI can analyze the information of clients to determine if any of them would be viable for a potential class action lawsuit. This can further aid law firms with their administrative work, saving time for other tasks.

Client Communication and AI

Constant client communication is an important part of the job of any attorney and one that often takes a large portion of time. AI can assist here, and it can even anticipate the needs of clients based on their stored information.

Many emails that a law firm sends through the course of acquiring a client are quite similar from person to person. These can be automated using AI to reduce the administrative burden on law firms and improve communication with clients.

An email cannot be forgotten if it is automated — ensuring frequent updates for the client. This can also help to ensure that clients are reminded of important documents or information that they need to send from their end.

One anxiety over the use of AI for communication is that it can feel too impersonal and potentially overbearing. An automated email is typically quite apparent to the client, and this could make them feel a lack of personal connection to your firm. This is why it is vital to carefully select the kind of emails that are automated. Case updates are very much better left to the attorney or firm receptionist, since these updates can be delicate and require human sensibilities.

Multiple automated emails could become increasingly overbearing for clients when they are dealing with an emotionally fraught and stressful matter. A careful touch is encouraged to resolve these issues before they even become a problem. Integrating human-written emails into your client communication can help to develop a personal connection that can aid in the client’s case. On top of this, making sure that emails are only sent when necessary can nullify spam and ensure that the client is not bombarded or overwhelmed.

AI: Help or Hindrance?

AI is a useful tool that has to be wielded with a deft hand. When these considerations are taken into account, AI can really help lawyers and law firms with their onboarding processes. AI can be used to streamline the communication process using chatbots and email automation. It can help with data onboarding, storage, and evaluation which can save law firms plenty of man-hours and administrative headaches. It is, however, a balancing act. Attorneys need to carefully balance the combination of human interaction and AI automation in order to leave clients cared for, informed, and tended to.

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