A law firm's client intake process sets the tone for the entire legal experience. It starts the moment law firms receive the initial phone call, email, or contact form submission. It also involves the initial consultation, where lawyers gather more information about the prospect and the legal matter. Finally, the client intake process ends with the signing of the fee agreement, marking the official start of the attorney-client relationship.
While incredibly important, the client intake process can take a lot of time for law firms — time they cannot bill. Fortunately, you can make this process more efficient by following these tips.
1. Track leads using a customer relationship management (CRM) system
A CRM system is a software application that records all interactions between you and your clients throughout the entire life cycle of the relationship. During the intake process, this system gives you a bird's-eye view of your client pipeline and lets you track each lead. You can also use the application to store the contact information of leads and set reminders to follow up in order to ensure timely communications.
During the intake process, a CRM system gives you a bird's-eye view of your client pipeline and lets you track each lead.
2. Screen prospects before scheduling a consultation
An initial screening will help your lawyers avoid wasting time. You can do this by having them answer a brief questionnaire that collects the following information:
- Name and contact details
- Source of income or current employment status
- Details about their legal matter
- Names of opposing parties
These details will enable you to gauge if the prospect can afford your legal services, review the merits of their legal matters, and check for any potential conflict of interest. From there, you can determine whether you should bring them in for a consultation with an attorney.
3. Send a confirmation email and reminder about the initial consultation
In your email, make sure to include directions to your office or a link to a map in the email. You should also send them a reminder a day or two before the consultation. Doing these things will limit the risk of no-shows.
4. Collect information using a standardized questionnaire and matter management software
Gathering data about the client and their legal matter is the heart of the intake process. To collect data efficiently, utilize a standardized client intake questionnaire that includes the following questions:
- Have you worked with a law firm before?
- Can you give more details about your legal matter? Have you worked with another attorney on this specific matter?
- Why do you want to pursue this legal matter?
- What is your desired outcome?
- What are you most concerned about regarding this legal matter?
- How can we help you?
- Are there key dates and deadlines that our law firm should know about?
- Do you have any additional information or documents that our law firm should have?
- What are your expectations of our firm?
- How frequent and through what channels would you like our firm to communicate with you?
Instead of using a notepad or a Word document, record your clients' answers directly in a matter management software. This system will enable you to easily search for your clients’ details and use these to generate bills and draft documents, among others.
Read also: 12 Tech tools law firms should utilize
5. Utilize an e-signature tool
The last step in the intake process is the signing of the fee agreement. You can streamline this step by leveraging an e-signature program. With this software, a client can simply click a link on their smartphone or computer, draw or upload their signature, and then click a button to submit the signed copy of the agreement. This process is much faster than having them print the agreement, scan the signed copy, and email back the scanned document.
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