In today’s legal technology space, there is case management and e-discovery software galore. Literally hundreds of different companies with largely indistinguishable products, all vying for your firm’s business. But at Lexicata, we are pioneering a new breed of software designed specifically for one overlooked aspect of running a practice, and that is client intake. In this post, we will illustrate the value client intake software can bring to your firm and show exactly how it can help you retain more clients and grow your practice. Here are the top 25 reasons why you need client intake software in your law firm.
1. Stop Letting Leads Slip through The Cracks
Law firms, on average, do a poor job of tracking and following up with all their leads. The root cause of the problem is not having a system in place for managing them, and the result is that your firm is losing potential revenue, creating a substantial barrier to your growth.
By adopting client intake software, your firm will have a very specific database of potential clients to focus on, which will help ensure that no business opportunity slips through the cracks due to oversight or poor organization.
2. Create A Structured Sales Process
Most lawyers don’t even realize their job involves sales, much less have a sales process in place. But as it turns out, a law firm is a business, just like anything else. You have to sell your services and clients have to buy them.
Client intake software helps create structure around the sales process, much like a CRM does in a more traditional type of business. You can use client intake software to create a systematic, step-by-step process for intaking every new lead that comes calling, which makes your firm much more operationally efficient and helps you sign up more clients.
3. Eliminate Data Entry
When you do intake manually, taking down information into paper forms, emails, fillable PDFs, Word docs, or handwritten notes, this data cannot be utilized very easily. You first have to manually transcribe the data into a database, which can be a very time consuming and error-prone process.
When intake information is input directly into an online form, the client intake software can store it for you in a nice, organized fashion. You can export it to a spreadsheet, or send it directly into other software programs such as your case management system via a direct API integration.
4. Make Life Easier on Clients
Today’s consumers are comfortable doing anything online, from ordering food to booking a hotel to filing their taxes. By asking your clients to perform a manual task like printing and filling out intake paperwork by hand, you are placing an enormous burden on them, which makes them less likely to get it done.
By implementing a technology-driven process for clients to provide their information and sign your fee agreement, you can make the process of working with your firm as seamless as possible and deliver a much more satisfying client experience.
5. Have A System for Follow Ups
Law firms are notoriously bad about following up with potential clients. In fact, 42% of the time, it takes a law firm three or more days to respond to a message from a new prospective client.
Three or more days! That is completely unacceptable, and you will drastically inhibit your ability to grow when you are letting potential clients slip away by failing to respond.
With client intake software, you can implement a systematic approach to following up by creating a series of templated emails which you can pre-schedule to be sent automatically, or which you can send manually with just two mouse clicks. Being too busy to follow up will no longer be an excuse.
6. Improve Your Conversion Rate
Conversion rate can be measured by counting the total number of new clients acquired in a given time period and dividing it by the total number of new prospective clients who contacted you over that same time period. The more conversions you make, the more revenue you will bring in, so clearly optimizing your conversion rate is a worthwhile goal.
All of the features of client intake software, from the improved tracking of leads, to the easier client experience, to the systematic approach to follow up will help maximize the number of potential clients who hire you and contribute to an increased conversion rate.
7. Maximize Your Marketing ROI
As your conversion rate goes up, your marketing ROI will also improve. But if you don’t have a strategic plan in place, it’s incredibly easy to waste money on law firm marketing. You should do everything possible to set yourself up for success before you invest your hard-earned money into advertising or any other paid marketing channel.
By using client intake software to create a structured process for tracking leads and intaking them as new clients, you will ensure that nothing slips through the cracks and that you get the maximum return on investment from your marketing spend.
8. Automate the Drafting of Fee Agreements
Drafting fee agreements can be very tedious, but it’s also a necessary step to signing a new client. When you do it manually each time, not only does it take valuable hours out of your day, but you also face an increased risk of errors due to hasty editing.
With client intake software, you can save time and eliminate the potential for simple mistakes like failing to insert a client’s name by automating the drafting process.
9. Track Your Referrals
Referrals are a very important marketing channel for most law firms. If you are hoping to grow your firm, you should be actively building up your referral network. But it’s challenging when you don’t have a clear understanding of who is referring the most business to your firm.
With client intake software, you can easily track the source of any potential client so you know what percentage of business is coming from referrals compared to other marketing methods. You can also link people to a specific referral source and get an idea of how many clients each referral partner is bringing to your firm each month.
10. Produce Key Data Points and Business Metrics
Growing a business requires you to undertake strategic initiatives to drive more revenue, improve your operating margins, or both. But beforehand, you have to establish some baseline business metrics, or KPIs, so that you can determine whether or not your new strategy is working.
Some of the metrics you should be tracking on a consistent basis include the lead source of each potential client, your conversion rate, the reasons why clients are not hiring you, the services clients are coming to you for most, the average value each client brings to your firm, etc.
By using client intake software, you will have a systematic process for capturing all of these data points, and you can even generate reports to measure how they are changing with time.
11. Reduce Potential for Malpractice Claims
A surprising amount of malpractice claims result from simple, avoidable mistakes such as clerical errors, lost evidence or files, or missed deadlines. It may seem trivial or foolish, but these mistakes can happen to anyone and they can be extremely costly.
The more systematic your firm is about all its processes, the less likely these kinds of mistakes will occur. Using software to manage your client intake process helps to create a structured process for collecting information and an organized way of storing it, which can greatly reduce the likelihood of a costly mistake or oversight.
12. Automate The Drafting of Emails
Reading and sending emails and managing your inbox can take up an extraordinary amount of your day. But it’s also a necessity since email is still one of the primary communication mechanisms between law firms and their clients.
Anything you can do to cut down on time spent writing emails is sure to be an efficiency boost. Client intake software can help by enabling you to create custom, templated emails which can be drafted and sent out to a client or any other contact in a matter of clicks. They are perfect for introductory emails, follow ups, instructional emails, periodic updates about the status of a matter, or any other kind of standard email you may send.
13. Create A Luxurious Client Experience
Law firms have not quite caught onto the trend yet, but in every other industry, customer experience is becoming the single most important way to differentiate a brand from the competition, ahead of price and even the product itself. The primary means of improving the customer experience is almost always through the use of technology.
Using iPads or tablets in your office is one great way to create a more luxurious and high-end client experience. Rather than handing someone a clipboard and pen to fill out an intake form or sign a contract, hand them a digital device and have them e-sign or fill out web-based forms. You’ll set yourself apart from the competition and your clients will appreciate the more seamless experience.
14. Visually Track the Progress of Every Potential Matter
With so many things happening in your firm each day, keeping track of potential clients is a huge challenge. But just having a list of names and phone numbers in a spreadsheet doesn’t do much to help because you have very little context about each person’s situation.
With client intake software, you will have a matter pipeline which gives you an instant, visual representation of the current status of every potential client in your system. This makes it much easier to take action because you know exactly who to follow up with and when.
15. Schedule Templated Emails in Advance
It can be tough to find the time to check in with every contact in your network on a regular basis. But, the better you are at networking and building relationships, the more referrals you will get. So it’s well worth the effort.
Pre-scheduling emails can be an excellent way to save time while still keeping engaged with important contacts, including prospective clients and referral partners. With client intake software, you have the ability to create unlimited email templates and schedule them to go out automatically after a specified period of time. For example, you could trigger an invitation to a coffee meeting to be sent three months down the road right after you meet someone new who you think could become a referral source.
16. Send Automated Appointment Reminders
Consultation no-shows can be a common problem at law firms, resulting in wasted time and lost business. Naturally, the more proactive you are about following up with potential clients before an appointment to remind them to show up, the less likely they will be to flake on you.
With client intake software, you have the ability to generate an automatic appointment reminder email to be sent a specified amount of time before any appointment, saving you the hassle while still staying on top of your clients.
17. Keep on Task with Custom Checklists
Creating standardized processes is one of the biggest steps you can take toward building a successful law practice. But it’s difficult to manage these processes without some structure in place to track your progress.
Using the custom checklist templates in Lexicata, you can create unlimited workflow processes, assign tasks to specific people at your firm, and track the progress of each and every step to ensure that processes are standardized and all deadlines are met.
18. Have a Centralized Intake Database
Many law firms have implemented software to handle some of the processes outlined in this post. For example, you might use Google forms to collect intake information, and you might use Docusign to get retainers signed, and you might use HotDocs to automate drafting, and you might use Calendly for appointment reminders.
The problem is, managing a multitude of different databases like this can become unwieldy and actually make life more difficult than doing things manually.
With client intake software, all the client intake related processes are brought under one roof, giving you a centralized database to manage all your client intake tasks and store any relevant information.
19. Capture Website Leads Automatically
Just about every law firm has a website, and every law firm’s website has some kind of contact form to request a consultation or get in touch. But not many law firms have hooked this form up to any kind of useful system on the backend. It usually just dumps into an email, which can be easy to overlook or forget about.
With client intake software, you can hook up your website contact form to a CRM so that it automatically captures the lead into your database for tracking and follow up, ensuring that no leads are lost in the shuffle.
20. Avoid Unnecessary Bottlenecks in Your Sales Process
Any salesperson will tell you that one of the keys to closing a sale is removing any potential barriers that could be deal breakers. The more frictionless your sales process is, the more likely you will close a deal.
The law firm sales process is different, but the same principles still apply, and at most firms, it’s anything but frictionless.
By using technology, you can streamline processes which might otherwise act as barriers to signing a client. For instance, you can offer e-signatures for fee agreements, or you can offer virtual meetings with Google Hangouts rather than requiring the client to come across town to your office.
Anything you can do to eliminate bottlenecks will help increase conversions and generate more revenue for your firm.
21. Determine Which Marketing Channels Yield The Best Results
If you don’t have a process in place for tracking the effectiveness of your marketing efforts, it’s impossible to know which channels are producing clients or how well any channel is performing relative to others. With such a haphazard approach, spending money on marketing is basically a shot in the dark, and you run the risk of losing money.
To ensure that you are investing your marketing dollars wisely, it’s critical to track how many clients every marketing channel produces over a certain period of time, as well as how much each client yields in fees for your firm. Using client intake software helps you capture this kind of data and produce reports on it with ease.
22. Capture New Potential Clients from A Virtual Receptionist
Using a virtual receptionist service is an excellent way to improve communications between your firm and your clients. There’s always someone there to pick up the phone, even when you are busy or unavailable, and without the high cost of hiring a full time employee.
However, since your virtual receptionist operates in isolation from you, there can be gaps in communication and things can more easily be overlooked.
The nice thing about client intake software is that all the calls from your virtual receptionist can be tracked automatically to help ensure that no potential clients are slipping through the cracks.
23. Leads Should Be Managed Separately from Cases
Most small and medium law firms have adopted one of the major case management systems to help with contact management, billing, calendaring, file storage, and other aspects of managing a case. But these systems are simply not designed for managing leads or handling client intake, which are very distinct processes.
Trying to make your case management system do something it isn’t designed to do is sure to result in frustration and a less than optimal result. Client intake and lead management should be handled separately, in a system that is designed specifically for the functions involved with the legal sales process.
24. It’s An Investment, Not An Expense
Many law firms are hesitant to purchase software because they believe that every added expense is just cutting into their potential earnings. But this way of thinking is completely wrong because certain expenses are capable of producing an ROI, and thus actually making you more profitable.
Law firm software is one such expense which lawyers should not shy away from so easily. Sure, you have to spend money to have access to it, but when you think about the opportunity costs of not using software – reduced efficiency, losing track of leads, reduced conversion rate, dissatisfied clients, etc. – you’ll realize that you are in fact much more profitable as a result of using software to run your business.
25. Because It’s The Future
Law firms are certainly nowhere near the cutting edge when it comes to technology. But technology is undeniably the future, and in fact, law firms of the future will probably be software companies.
By adopting new and innovative solutions today, such as client intake software, you will be getting ahead of the curve and setting your law firm up for long term success, while your old-school, change-resistant competitors fall by the wayside.