At many law firms, client intake is a disjointed process of back and forth calls and emails, and manual paperwork. The process can be arduous for both clients and staff. Worst of all, poor organization can expose law firms to liability when mistakes are made and result in lost business when things slip through the cracks. The better job you do at managing your intake process, the more efficiently your law firm will operate, and the more business you will close. Read on for our list of four client intake best practices to help get your law firm on track for success.
1) Use your website as a marketing tool, not an intake tool
Your website is a major part of your law firm brand. It’s like an online storefront where your potential clients can browse around, learn more about your services, and contact you if they’re interested.
Having a website for your law firm is mandatory these days. But, a lot of attorneys make the mistake of trying to use their website for client intake, when it’s really meant for marketing.
Sure, it seems like a great idea to have a comprehensive intake form on your website that will just collect all the information you need to assess a legal matter without you ever having to talk to anyone.
But in reality, doing it this way just creates a barrier between you and a client who is interested in your services.
Why using your website for intake is a problem
Purchasing legal services is a big decision, and it requires a lot of trust. Before you have established this trust, expecting someone to fill out a comprehensive intake form and provide their sensitive information is probably asking too much.
The primary goal of web marketing is twofold:
- Generate interest in your services
- Create an easy transition to the next step of the sales process
For most law firms, the next step in the sales process is an initial phone call or a consultation, which provides a perfect opportunity to build enough trust to seal the deal. You should make the process of getting to this step as easy as possible on your prospective clients.
Here are three tips in mind to maximize conversions on your website and make the transition to the next step of the sales cycle as seamless as possible:
- Display your phone number prominently on every page and encourage people to call
- Use a virtual receptionist service so someone is always available to pick up the phone
- For people who wish to inquire online, include a simple contact form on every page with just basic fields: name, phone, email, and message
Treat your website like a marketing tool, and save client intake for later in the funnel, once you’ve had an opportunity to build rapport and establish trust.
2) Automate follow ups with drip emails
One of the biggest mistakes law firms make during the intake process is failing to follow up enough.
Just because someone didn’t book an appointment right away or didn’t sign their retainer yet does not mean they are a lost cause. But if you never check in and follow up with them, they will be far less likely to move forward.
In sales, persistence pays. Law firms are no different. The more you check in and follow up with potential clients, the more they will trust you and the more likely they will be to hire you. It’s that simple.
How to follow up automatically with drip emails
The biggest challenge with following up is simply having a good system in place to manage all the potential clients and keep track of the communications. Without a system, it’s virtually impossible to know who to follow up with and when.
Fortunately, you can automate much of the process by using drip marketing. Drip marketing is basically just a process for sending an automated sequence of emails at predefined time intervals.
It eliminates the hassle of having to remember to follow up, and saves time because you don’t have to manually type out and send emails to each person. Everything just runs in the background.
For example, Lexicata has an email campaign feature which allows you to initiate a drip email sequence with a single click. Not only that, but we also offer the ability to trigger automated reminder emails for consultations, pending intake forms, and unsigned fee agreements.
Both of these features together will ensure that you are following up with your prospects frequently during intake and not letting any business slip through the cracks due to poor organization and lack of communication.
3) Use online questionnaires to streamline data entry
Legal work requires collecting a lot of information, which is a big reason why having a good client intake process is so important.
Many law firms utilize intake forms to help create a structured system for collecting the necessary data. This is smart because it helps prevent important information from being overlooked, which can be costly.
However, there are also quite a few downsides to using paper or PDF intake forms. These things may impede your workflow, result in inefficiencies, or cause errors in your data.
Here are a few of the biggest issues and challenges that can arise:
- Data collected in the forms has to re-typed into a database or case management system later, which wastes a lot of time and can result in data transcription errors
- Illegible handwriting can cause errors or confusion
- There is no ability to require important fields to be filled out
- There is no ability to validate the formatting of information (e.g. you can’t guarantee that an email address or date will be in the proper format)
- Paper and ink costs can be high from having to print out every single form
- Scanning and uploading paper forms into a document management system takes up a lot of valuable time
How online questionnaires streamline the process
Fortunately, using online questionnaires makes the process of collecting and entering data much easier for both law firms and their clients. Here are some of the key advantages that online forms can provide over paper or PDFs:
- No duplicate data entry – the fields on the form can be mapped directly to a database or contact management system
- No printing, scanning, faxing, etc. – forms can be filled out online, even from a mobile device
- Organized, clean data – no issues with poor handwriting, plus you can have required fields for the most important info and validate the formatting of your inputs
- Data in a useable format – the data can be mapped to fields and inserted into documents automatically or exported into a spreadsheet for reporting purposes
For more info, see our post about why innovative attorneys use online intake forms.
4) Offer e-signatures to speed up retention times and improve conversion rates
These days, most legal work is done remotely. Less and less time is spent interfacing with clients in person.
Instead, law firms rely heavily on email, scanning, and faxing to send documents back and forth with their clients. But these processes can be quite cumbersome and inefficient for both parties.
Downloading, printing, signing, scanning, uploading, and emailing is a lot of steps just to sign a fee agreement. Yet, you can’t legally establish an attorney client relationship without one, so it’s a critical step.
This is why getting a fee agreement signed can be one of the biggest bottlenecks in the intake process.
How e-signatures will save time and boost conversion rates
Compared to the cumbersome back-and-forth process for signing paper documents, e-signing is a breeze.
You can simply click a link in an email, and draw or type in a digital signature in a matter of seconds. The document can be sent back to the other party with a click of a button, and everyone automatically receives an executed copy of the agreement once it has been signed by all parties.
No one has to deal with downloading, uploading, printing, faxing, or scanning, saving time and eliminating hassle. It also helps cut down on wasted paper, saves money on printing costs, and make life immensely easier for everyone.
Most importantly, the amount of time required to get an agreement signed will be reduced significantly. This helps increase your conversion rate and saves you from the hassle of having to continually follow up about pending agreements.
Although it’s often overlooked, the client intake process is one of the most important parts of a law firm’s operations.
Client intake is how you convert a prospect into a paying client, and how you capture all of the important information you need in order to do your job. A poor process can result in wasted time, costly mistakes, and lost business.
Essentially, client intake is really just the legal sales process, and by improving your client intake process you can increase the efficiency and profitability of your practice.
If you’re looking to grow your law practice, these four client intake best practices are the best place to start.