How to Turn PDFs Into Online Intake Forms

Law generally tends to lag behind other industries from a technology standpoint, but when it comes to the client facing parts of your practice, you should strive to be at the cutting edge. People these days do everything online, from shopping, to making dinner reservations, to filing their taxes. Why should legal intake forms still be filled out on paper? By offering digital forms instead of PDFs, you can deliver a more seamless experience for clients, and create a stronger sense of professionalism for your firm. In this post, we’ll show you how to turn a PDF into an online intake form using the Lexicata form builder.

Form Builder Basics

Let’s start with the basics. The Lexicata form builder is quite user-friendly, and you can build an online form in just a matter of minutes. Just go into the form builder and click “Create New Form” to get started.

Title & Instructions

At the top of the form, you have a title field and a text box where you can insert some instructions for the person filling out the form, as shown below.

Adding Fields

Now it’s time to add some questions to the form. The easiest way is to simply copy/paste each question from a Word doc or a PDF. Alternatively, you can just type out the questions while looking at the PDF in another window.

There are a variety of convenient field types to choose from, depending on what info you need to collect. Simply click on any type of field from the lefthand side menu to add that field to the form.

Once the field has been added, you will input text for the question and/or answer choices, as needed, and then click “Save Question” when you are finished. It’s that easy!

Below, I added a “single line text” field to the form, and input “What is the name of your business?” as the question.

Overview of Field Types

Here is a list of field options with an explanation of how each one can be used below:

  • Contact Info: this is actually a block of fields, making it extremely easy to add all the basic contact details to your form with one click. The contact info block includes full name, email, phone, and address, and the client can even add multiple options when filling out the form.
  • Single Line Text: this is a small text box intended for 1-2 word or short phrase answers.
  • Paragraph Text: this is a large text box intended for longer answers.
  • Multiple Choice: this allows you to create a pre-defined list of answer options to choose from. The person filling out the form can only select 1 option.
  • Checkbox: this gives you the ability to create a pre-defined list of options, just like multiple choice, but the client can select more than 1 option (e.g. for “select all that apply” scenarios).
  • Dropdown: this allows you to create a dropdown menu, which functions just like a multiple choice question. It’s intended to be used when you have a large list of answer choices because it takes up less space, e.g. selecting from all 50 states.
  • Section Break: this allows you to break up the form into different sections, each with its own title and instructions.
  • File Attachment: this allows you to request a file, such as a Word document, image, or PDF. The person filling out the form can upload the file and submit it to you, and it will automatically be saved into Lexicata for you.
  • Date: just like a single line text field, but with a handy calendar picker to select a date from.
  • Yes or No: just like a multiple choice question, but with only “Yes” or “No” as answer options.

Tips, Required Questions & Custom Fields

Now onto some of the more advanced functionality: tips, required questions, and custom fields!

Adding Tip Text

Sometimes, especially when dealing with legal terms, it may be necessary to define a question in more detail or give the person an example of how you’d like them to answer the question.

Adding a “tip” is the perfect way to accomplish this. Just click the “Question Settings” link on any question in order to add a tip.

In the pop up window, you’ll see an input box where you can type the text you want to add as a tip.

Making Questions Required

Right above the tip text box is a checkbox that allows you to make a question required. This is handy when you need some very important information, because the person filling out the form will not be able to submit it until they have answered all required questions.

Simply check the box and save your changes to make the question required.

Connecting Custom Fields

Lexicata gives you the ability not only to build online forms, but also to connect them to your database using custom fields. And if you are a Clio user, you can also link them to Clio’s custom fields just as easily.

This is a very powerful functionality because it enables you to eliminate data entry. Your clients can enter the data for you simply by filling out an online form which they would have done anyway!

Below the tip box is another checkbox that says “Connect answer to custom field.” Just check the box, select which custom field you want to map the answer to, and save.

In the example below, I have now mapped the question asking where the business is incorporated to my “State of Incorporation” custom field. When the form is filled out, the answer will automatically populate in my database instantly!

Follow Up Questions

The best thing about online forms is that they enable you to do things that paper or PDF firms could never do. Eliminating data entry is one perfect example, and another one is using conditional logic, or “follow up questions” as we call them.

Follow up questions are a great way to keep your form shorter and more focused because they allow you to ask certain questions in response to a previous answer. You can add them to any multiple choice or yes/no questions, as shown below.

You can also ask multiple follow ups in response to a single answer choice, or have different follow ups for each answer choice.

In this example, we have a follow up question if the person selects “yes” which asks them to attach a file. We have another follow up question if the person selects “no” which asks them whether or not they would like to file for a trademark.

You can even add tips or connect your follow up questions to custom fields. And the best part is, the client will not see any of the follow up questions which aren’t applicable, which makes your forms more powerful, but also highly relevant and easier to fill out.

Summary

In today’s fast-moving, digital world, it’s not enough to continue doing things the way they’ve always been done. You should strive to remain at the cutting edge of technology in your industry in order to maximize your opportunities for success.

By converting your outdated system of using PDFs or paper intake forms into a digital process, you will see a number of significant benefits such as the following:

  • Reduce data entry costs
  • Save time and eliminate hassles
  • Deliver a better client experience

If you’re not currently a Lexicata user and you want to turn PDFs into online intake forms at your law practice, schedule a demo today!

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