In many ways, client intake has been an overlooked aspect of the lawyer client relationship. Most law firms don’t really spend much time thinking about it or trying to optimize the process at all. Perhaps because there really hasn’t ever been a need to change. But here at Lexicata, we take client intake seriously and we believe that optimizing your client intake process is the first step to improving your operations and growing your practice. Read on to learn about 4 key things that may be missing from your client intake process.
Effective communication is one of the most important parts of the lawyer client relationship. But for some reason, lawyers tend to forget about it. In fact, the most common complaint received by state bar associations is that the attorney was not responsive or did not communicate well during the representation.
That may seem surprising, considering that most clients are also dissatisfied with the cost of legal services, and oftentimes the outcome of the service is less than optimal. But it goes to show that what really matters to clients is having an advisor who shows them empathy and cares about their legal issues as much as they do.
Good communication needs to be a priority for lawyers right from the start of a new client relationship. Not only will proper communication during the intake process set the right tone for the rest of the representation, but more importantly, it will make the client more likely to hire you in the first place.
After a client calls your office or you meet with them for the first time, you need a systematic process for keeping a record of that and setting reminders to follow up if you don’t hear back from them.
Being proactive about communication rather than reactive can drastically improve both your client retention and new client referral rates. Failing to follow up is probably the number one mistake made during the legal sales cycle – just remember, the more communication, the better.
Easy Client Experience
Legal issues are stressful and difficult to handle. As a legal advisor, your job is to make the process as painless as it can be. And just like having good communication, it needs to start from day one.
Creating an easy, streamlined process for people to sign up as a client at your firm will not only make their experience more enjoyable, but also will make them more likely to hire you over another firm, just like good communication. It’s a win-win situation.
You can create an easy experience for clients by streamlining or eliminating any burdensome steps from the client intake process. In particular, things like filling out long forms by hand and scanning and faxing documents tend to be difficult and tedious.
If you offer the option for clients to fill out their forms online and e-sign their retainer agreements, it cuts out quite a few steps from the process. No more downloading, printing, scanning, uploading, or faxing is required.
Clients can access digitized forms and documents on the web from any device, fill out or sign, and submit them to you with ease. Once again, this not only makes their lives easier, but also improves retention rates and helps minimize delays in the sales process.
Consistency and Organization
Despite the major technological advances happening all around us, the client onboarding experience at most law firms today is still incredibly cumbersome and manual. There often isn’t an organized protocol, and information is gathered haphazardly through a combination of emails, paper forms, and handwritten notes.
The lack of organization in the workflow makes the process inefficient, and worst of all, creates a greater likelihood of errors and exposure to malpractice claims. Plus, hours spent during the intake process aren’t billable, so the longer it takes, the less time can be spent actually getting paid.
A product like our own Lexicata can manage all of the common client intake processes with one, all-encompassing solution. But it’s possible to develop a good workflow using other tools as well.
You will need a CRM to track leads and set follow up reminders, an online form tool, and probably a case management solution where you will ultimately input all the data once the casework begins. At the very least, you should try to go paperless to minimize waste.
The best way to really optimize your process and implement a consistent, organized workflow is probably by using actual client intake software.
Last, but not least, is automation. A lot of lawyers worry about automation because they don’t want to feel like they are giving up control. Also, legal issues tend to be nuanced and intricate, and don’t always lend themselves to standardized processes.
However, automation does not have to be done on a wide scale in order for it to be effective. Even finding ways to automate little, repetitive aspects of common processes can make a huge difference in your efficiency over the longterm. That’s why we have said that automation is key to lawyers’ success.
For example, below are a few of the simple automation tools built into Lexicata. Regardless of whether you use Lexicata or not, this will give you an idea of how implementing automated processes can save time and improve your client conversion rate:
- Automatically send an email reminder to a client who has not filled out an intake form or signed a document by a certain time
- Automatically draft an engagement letter based on data about a particular contact and his/her legal matter
- Automatically draft and personalize an email to send out a common email communication to a client
- Automatically fill out a fillable PDF with data stored in a record for a contact or matter
- Automatically populate a new matter in Clio with data collected from a client intake form
These types of processes – following up with clients to perform tasks, drafting standard letters and emails, filling out PDF forms, and doing data entry – lend themselves perfectly to small scale automation. Each task may only take a minute or two when you do it manually, but as you can imagine, automating them can save hours of your precious time in the aggregate.
We hope you have found these tips useful, and that you can find ways to improve your own law firm’s client intake process based on the 4 most common things that most firms are currently missing.