As technology continues to overhaul the legal industry, finding ways to improve law firm efficiency has become imperative to survival. Lawyers everywhere have had to confront the cold hard truth that the practice of law, just like everything else, is a business. And in business, operational efficiency often means the difference between profits and losses, between growth and stagnation, and between success and failure. For that reason, how to improve law firm efficiency has been a question on every partner’s mind in recent years. While there may not be a well defined answer to the question, I’m here to tell you that finding law firm efficiency starts with implementing a better client intake process.
What Law Firm Efficiency Really Is
Efficiency, or lack thereof, is really just a function of all the processes running behind the scenes. It’s a measure of the total output compared with the inputs of time and cost. When you’ve got good processes that are organized, effective, and systematic, efficiency comes naturally. When your processes are unorganized, or worse, nonexistent, inefficiency is inevitable.
The best way to figure out how to improve law firm efficiency is to break down the workflows into their component parts. But it’s not necessary to worry about all the little details and nuances that happen along the way. You really just need to look at things simply, from a bird’s-eye view.
The Process of Rendering Legal Services in its Simplest Form
What does it take to provide legal services for a client? Here are the 4 fundamental steps involved.
- Initial Interaction
- Before anything else happens, there has to be an interaction between lawyer and client, in some form or another. It may happen on the phone, in person, by email, online, or in any other way. Generally, it involves the client getting in touch with you somehow, and then seeking out help or advice from you.
- Information Exchange (Intake Process)
- Upon the client’s decision to retain your firm, the next step in the process is normally an exchange of information. Some information will flow from law firm to client, and other information will flow from client to law firm. For example, you’ll need some more specific facts and details about the client’s legal issues, you’ll want to have the client sign an engagement letter laying out the expectations and formalizing the relationship, and you will typically need some retainer or upfront payment. All of these steps together make up the client intake process.
- Actual Labor (Legal Process)
- Once you’ve formalized the lawyer-client relationship, received any required upfront payment, and collected as much information as needed from the client, the actual legal work begins. This is the research, the drafting, the filings, the analysis, the discovery, and the court appearances. This is the actual practice of law.
- Delivery of Service
- Finally, there is the resolution step. This may be at the end of a lawsuit when a judgment or settlement is reached. Or it may be the delivery of signed documents to all the parties. Either way, it involves delivering to the client some actual, tangible outcome from your legal representation. Ideally, there is sufficient value in the legal services so that both you and the client are able to profit.
Why Better Client Intake is Key to Efficiency
When you look at this process in such a simple manner, it becomes easier to isolate the specific areas that are inefficient in your practice and find ways to improve them. Considering the 4 fundamental steps above, it’s readily apparent that most of the inefficiencies are likely to occur in steps 2 and 3.
While the legal process is undoubtedly laden with inefficiencies, the client intake process, as simplistic as it seems, is truly a crucial step in the efficient rendering of legal services. And unlike the legal processes which are numerous, varied, and complicated, client intake processes are simple and easy to improve.
The client intake process is at its core an exchange of information. By getting more information, getting the right information, and getting it promptly, you can drastically improve your ability to do your job and reduce wasted time to an absolute minimum.
The intake process sets the tone for the legal processes, which make up the vast majority of time spent on any client matter. Your legal processes will be better when your firm knows exactly what needs to be done, and which attorneys and other staff members need to be involved right from the get-go.
The better the intake, the easier the legal processes are to execute. But good intake will not only lead to more efficient legal processes, but also better results and ultimately a more satisfied client. For this reason, improving your client intake processes can have a disproportionately positive impact on your overall law firm efficiency.
How to Improve Client Intake for Greater Efficiency
Once you are aware of the significance of the client intake process on the ensuing legal representation, it’s fairly straightforward to think of what you can do to improve the process. Here are a few suggestions:
- Make it as Easy as Possible – clients don’t like dealing with hassles and the easier you make it on them, the better information they will provide, so you should do anything possible to make the intake process fast, easy, and painless
- Provide Clear Instructions – make sure the client is well-informed and has a clear understanding of what you need from them, as well as what they should expect when working with your law firm
- Be Organized – use checklists or another means of keeping track of what is done and what remains to be done, because good organization is key to getting through the intake process efficiently
- Use Technology to Your Advantage – technology is your friend and it can benefit your law practice in many ways, so use it to aide communication and streamline the intake process
- Analyze, Iterate, and Improve Your Process – you should have mechanisms in place for feedback and analysis so you can find ways to incrementally improve the intake process over time, from one client to the next
Lexicata provides a seamless, cloud-based, client intake solution. We offer online intake forms that are easy to build, edit, and fill out, as well as file attachments, one-click client reminders, e-signatures, appointment scheduling, and more.
It’s an end-to-end client intake platform, optimized for mobile devices like iPhone and iPad. It will not only make your life easier, but more importantly, your clients will love it and they will have a better experience working with your firm as a result.
We firmly believe that implementing a better client intake process will improve law firm efficiency and lead to greater client satisfaction, as well as longterm client retention. Interested in trying out Lexicata? Sign up here for a free demo.