Before representing a new client, you have to know the basics of who, what, when, where, and how their legal issues came about. Intake forms help create structure around this process by ensuring that all the necessary information is collected, and no details are overlooked. This not only makes life easier for staff members tasked with the responsibility of intaking clients, but more importantly, it helps you identify the right clients and minimize liability from malpractice claims. But, if you’re still using paper intake forms and filling them out by hand, you’re missing out on a number of additional benefits that online forms can provide. In this post, we identify 9 reasons why online intake forms are a game changer.
9 Reasons To Start Using Online Intake Forms
1. Automate your data entry
The problem with using paper intake forms (or even fillable PDFs or Word docs) is that this requires you to re-enter the data later on, whether into your CRM, case management system, email marketing software, or all of the above.
This can be tedious work. If you actually add up all the hours spent by you and your staff inputting data into various databases, it can amount to thousands of dollars lost every month.
With online intake forms, the data is captured directly into a database. And with today’s API-powered software ecosystem, this means you can often transfer this data between various software programs automatically.
For instance, with Lexicata’s Clio integration, you can seamlessly populate all your client and matter information from an online intake form that a client filled out for you, eliminating data entry altogether.
2. Minimize transcription errors
Much like a game of “telephone” where a message’s meaning changes each time it is passed to the next person, transferring data from a handwritten intake form into multiple different databases exposes you to a greater likelihood of transcription errors.
These data errors can cause confusion, wasted time, or in the worst possible scenario, even expose you to potential malpractice claims. It’s a good idea to avoid them however possible.
When data is entered from an online form, it doesn’t have to be re-transcribed at all, which helps minimize errors. Plus, it is nicely structured into fields for easy editing later, if needed.
3. Eliminate paper waste
These days, paperwork ends up just getting scanned into a computer anyway, and the original paper is shredded and recycled. By using online intake forms, you can eliminate the need for paper in the intake process and significantly reduce the amount of paper your office wastes.
Printer paper and ink are not cheap. So not only will filling forms online help you save the earth, you can also save a ton of money by becoming a paperless law office.
4. Work more efficiently
When you think about the actual workflow of getting intake forms filled out, there are a lot of little steps along the way:
If you send forms to your clients to fill out, you have to draft an email and attach the form, and then the client has to download it, print it, fill it out, scan it, upload it, and email it back.
If you fill the forms out in your office, you still have to print the form and have it filled out by hand (which tends to be much slower than typing).
After that, you have to scan it into a computer, save the file somewhere, and then transcribe the important client information into various software programs.
That’s a lot of steps! By having forms filled out online, the entire workflow is streamlined. You simply email a link, the client opens it, types in their information, and clicks “Submit.” Online forms eliminate many tedious steps, which saves time and helps maximize your productivity.
5. Provide a better client experience
We are living in an online world. When we buy things, we go to Amazon, not the store. When we make travel plans, we go to Kayak, not a travel agent.
People compulsively check their mobile phones multiple times per hour, and instead of speaking to each other, we send texts, Facebook statuses, Snapchats, and emails.
If you aren’t noticing a trend here, it’s that more and more of our daily activities are handled online, and the reason for that is because it’s easier.
By providing today’s clients the option to fill out their intake paperwork online, you are making their lives easier and providing better service. This goes a long way toward their overall satisfaction, and as you know, that means they’ll be more likely to refer you business in the future.
6. Tracking capabilities
When you or your staff member sends somebody a form attached to an email, it’s not very easy to track the fact that it happened. You end up getting carried away with your day, and that email thread gets pushed way down to the bottom of a cluttered inbox.
The nice thing about online forms (at least the ones you can send through Lexicata), is that each form is sent as a unique request, which means you can easily track the status. You’ll know instantly whether it is pending, submitted, or past due, and you can take action accordingly to follow up or move on to the next step in the process.
7. Automatic client reminders
Related to the tracking problem is another potential issue that can arise from sending out paper intake forms via email. Even if you do manage to track the fact that a client never returned the form on time, you would need to go into your inbox and draft a reminder email to them manually.
With an online intake form solution like Lexicata, you can schedule automated client reminder emails which will only go out if the client has not completed the form by the data you specified when sending the request.
8. Mobile accessibility
Have you ever tried to fill out a PDF from a mobile device? It is actually possible believe it or not, but it requires you to download specialized apps, and the process takes forever.
Needless to say, it is not a good client experience. And since everyone likes to do everything on their mobile devices these days, it’s nice to be able to provide a mobile friendly option for filling out intake forms.
Online intake forms can be easily accessed on mobile by simply clicking a link in an email, and they are designed to be mobile responsive, meaning they shrink down and fit within the mobile browser nicely.
9. Better and more organized data
You’ve probably heard the chatter about “big data” and how important data analysis is going to be for everything in the future. Well, it’s true. Data is incredibly powerful, and it’s even important for law firms to be capturing and analyzing data.
A paper intake form is likely to be scanned, uploaded to a computer, and shredded. Only the most important data points from the form end up being transcribed into fields in a database. The problem is, you’re missing out on a lot of other data points which could potentially provide useful insights down the road.
With online intake forms, all the questions can be captured into separate fields in a database automatically. This gives you much more data to work with, and keeps it all neatly organized.
Down the line, you can manipulate and analyze this data in order to measure KPIs or glean other valuable insights about your business. Very few firms are doing anything like this right now, but we are big believers that data will play a big role in the practice law in the future.