The client intake process is one of the most critical elements of running an efficient law firm. Without a solid intake process in place, your practice doesn’t just risk being disorganized but also risks losing clients and, in turn, revenue.
Part of the client intake involves scheduling a consultation with a lead to learn more about their case and what they’re looking for. Wowing leads in a great consultation can be a defining moment that convinces them to choose your firm over the competition. Yet, it’s only effective if all the right elements are in place and you know the do’s and don’ts of legal client intake.
An effective client intake process breaks down into four stages.
4 Stages of an Effective Client Intake Process
A significant part of a lawyer’s job other than practicing law is finding their own clients. After all, without clients, they wouldn’t have anyone to represent in court. Yet, as critical as attracting leads is for a legal practice's success, they don’t teach you law marketing in law school.
An effective client intake process requires marketing efforts that pull in high-quality leads who are more likely to convert. Once a lead contacts your firm, it’s critical that you know where they stand in the client journey from that moment on. Your firm should know how they found out about your firm and collect all of the necessary contact information you’ll need to stay in touch with them.
The next stage of the client intake process is a follow up. Contacting a lead after the initial contact is most effective if it’s done swiftly. Years of business studies prove that the longer you take to get back to a customer, the less likely you are to close a deal.
Sadly, this is where many law firms get it wrong. Recent statistics reveal that lawyers take as long as three days to get back to leads, and in some cases, don’t call back at all. Yet, a quick follow-up can significantly increase your chances of winning more business. For this reason, the most efficient firms rely on automation to follow up with prospects right away.
If a law firm manages to respond effectively with all the right information within the right window of time, it’s an opportunity to schedule a consultation. It’s a lawyer’s big moment to show why they’re better than the competition and convince them to sign a contract.
One of the biggest challenges for lawyers is getting prospects to commit to a consultation time. The easier that you can make it for them to schedule, the less likely they are to put it off. In an efficient client intake process, automated appointment scheduling makes it easy for prospects to self-schedule by giving them direct access to your calendar. They can choose the best time that works for them based on your availability.
4Securing Your Client
Assuming you’ve carried out a successful consultation and managed to convince a lead that you’re the right person for the job, the next step is finalizing the attorney-client relationship. Any lawyer knows that drawing up contracts and other legal paperwork can be incredibly laborious.
The most efficient client intake processes use attorney intake software like Lawmatics to automate and auto-fill all of the information with custom fields. Not only does software make it faster and easier to draw up the paperwork, but also to get it signed and returned. The client e-signature tool makes it possible to sign important contracts and send them back immediately from wherever your client is, getting the ball rolling even faster on their case.
Why The Consultation is So Important
Each stage of an effective client intake process is important; however, the consultation can make a tremendous difference in the overall quality of client intake quality. Preparing your questions ahead of time can help you better prepare for giving the best possible impression, and perhaps most importantly, get all of the important information that you need so that you don’t risk errors or missed opportunities.
The first meeting with a potential client is the defining moment that will set the tone for the rest of the case. Make sure that you prepare as best as possible for the consultation to ensure that it goes well.
How to Best Prepare For The Consultation
It doesn't matter how long you've been practicing law; if you hope to deliver a fantastic client experience, then it's important that you prepare as much as possible for every consultation. Developing the right structure for how the appointment will take place is critical to ensure you don't miss any important questions and that your soon-to-be client feels well taken care of.
Here are some of the best tips for preparing for your consultation and providing an excellent experience.
Send a Confirmation
The first thing you should do to prepare for the consultation is to take precautions to avoid a no-show. Time costs money, especially when you offer free consultations, so make sure that you follow up with a confirmation as soon as a consultation gets booked.
Lawmatics law firm client intake software automatically sends out confirmation emails for you without you having to do a thing. Workflow automation for law firms makes it easy to send out a confirmation as soon as a confirmation gets booked on your site, making sure that everyone stays on the same page.
In addition to the initial confirmation, legal intake software also sends up a reminder a few days leading up to the consultation. Using tools like legal client intake software is highly recommended for reducing your no-show rates and maximizing your time.
Conduct a Thorough Pre-Screen
Pre-screens are beneficial for you and your clients because they avoid potentially wasted time. Since not everyone that contacts your practice for a consultation is going to be right for your services, you must anticipate having to turn some people away. Ideally, sending someone elsewhere for legal services should happen before a consultation.
Offering free consultations costs time, so it can be a real loss to carve out time in your schedule for a consultation that could have been avoided in the first place by conducting a pre-screen. To ensure that you’re both a good fit for each other before moving forward with the consultation, you should ask important questions through a questionnaire such as what their case is about, what kind of results they expect, and whether paying their legal fees is a concern.
Review Clients Information
Get to know your client's file before they come in for the consultation so that you’re ready to answer their questions and ask questions of your own. Part of providing an excellent customer experience is avoiding shortcuts that make you look unprepared.
If you’re fumbling through papers, forgetting important details that the client already answered during the pre-screen, then it’s not going to set a very positive tone for the legal services you’ll provide. Know all of the basic information of the case so that you seem prepared. Knowing the details of their case before they come in helps you better anticipate any questions that they may have for you, which is where a law firm CRM becomes incredibly useful. Technology like Lawmatics makes it easy to access important information about each client in one single database, anywhere at any time, ensuring you’re as prepared as possible.
Remember, your job during the consultation is to prove why you’re the right person for the job over the competition. If you take the time to thoroughly go over all the details, then you’ll make a positive impression that makes your client feel valued from the first minute they walk into your office.
Prepare Your Questions
Preparing the questions that you need your client to answer for you is critical for ensuring that no important information gets forgotten; you establish trust from the beginning and set clear expectations. While some questions may not come up until the consultation itself and may vary depending on your client's specific needs, it helps to have a set of pertinent questions prepared.
Here are some of the most important questions that you should always ask during a client consultation.
8 Best Consultation Questions
1Why do you need a lawyer?
It’s always important to start with the basics, and in a consultation, that means understanding why a client needs a lawyer in the first place. Get to know what their case is about, what their legal concerns are, and why they think a lawyer is important for the circumstances. That way, you’ll know whether it falls into your practice area, and if so, how much work and time is involved, which will ultimately determine your decision of whether you can take the case on or not.
2Have you hired legal services before?
It’s important to know whether someone has worked with a lawyer before because then you know how much attention and facilitation they require throughout the process. People who have never hired a lawyer before may require more explanation and instruction than someone who has already hired legal counsel in the past and is more familiar with the process.
If your client has worked with a lawyer before, it’s a great opportunity to ask questions about their experience. What did they like about the lawyer they worked with, and what didn’t they like? Getting to know their feedback from working with another lawyer can be great insight for how to better improve your services.
If there were things they didn’t love about the last lawyer they worked with, don’t shy away from asking what you can do to avoid that in the future.
3What are your biggest concerns?
Depending on what kind of case it is, your client may have a lot of concerns. If you can get to know what their worries are from the beginning, you’ll get to know the kind of person you’re working with upfront and what kind of relationship you can anticipate.
For example, if their main concern is pricing, then you know that it’s probably a good time to start discussing fees before moving any further with the consultation. If their main concern is losing their case, then offer your expertise on whether you think they have a chance or not. Having an opinion or answer for any concern they have demonstrates authority and knowledge.
Feel your client out when they go over their biggest concerns, and you’ll have a better idea of what kind of client-attorney dynamic you’ll have as time progresses.
4What are your communication preferences?
Nowadays, there are so many different ways to communicate that some people may have preferred methods over others. From voice memos to encrypted third-party messaging apps, to physical mail, to email, there are many different forms of communication that people use in 2021. The more flexible that you are on communication methods, the better of a client experience you can deliver. If your firm offers SMS for law firms , it can be a great selling point for clients during the consultation for those that prefer texting. The right client intake software like Lawmatics makes it possible to give your client direct access to you through instant two-way text messaging for law firms.
Any time that your client communicates with you, you receive an instant notification ensuring that your client never feels forgotten or waiting. Faster response rates are one of the biggest concerns for clients, so make sure that you cover that during the consultation, so you know their communication preferences.
5Do you have documents relevant to your case?
If you require specific documents relevant to the case, then it’s a good time to ask for them. Rather than bothering asking clients to come in with a stack of printed papers, or scanning and email individually, legal file request automation requests files by sending a simple upload link to clients. Within the database, you can review the documents they have ahead of time and whether they are relevant and useful for the matter, speeding up the case even more, and in turn, modernizing your practice.
The types of documents you ask for will vary depending on the case type, so make sure that you are clear with them prior to the interview about what you need, whether you need a police report or property deeds, examining the documents before the initial consultation is the best way to get the ball rolling.
6What are your expectations?
One of the greatest tools you have for providing the best possible client experience and gauging what kind of a person you’re working with is to get an idea of what they expect from you. The last thing you want is to put yourself in a position where someone expects unrealistic results.
If they have extremely high expectations for the case, it’s important to remind them that although you plan on representing them zealously, you can never guarantee the results of a legal dispute. Remind them that the result of a case depends on a wide variety of things, many of which are out of your hands. Any good lawyer knows that there are no guarantees and avoids building up any unrealistic expectations that clients have at all costs. It’s better to approach a client's expectations by explaining the realities of the case and that it can always go both ways.
It’s a good time to bring up your experience on cases like these in the past and what factors came into play. Doing so gives you a chance to show that you’ve worked on cases like these and are knowledgeable about what's needed.
7What’s the most important quality for you
in a lawyer?
When it comes to offering a client-centered approach, each client is different, so the type of service you give them may vary. Get to know what makes your client tick during the first interaction and note what the most important thing for them is in the case.
For some clients, speedy communication may be their biggest priority, while others may place higher importance on getting the most favorable results for their case. Believe it or not, there are some clients out there who are thrilled with their lawyers despite not having gotten them the best outcome for their case. Some clients place more importance on communication and attentive service than the actual case itself. The best way to create a favorable reputation for your law firm with plenty of referrals is to know what’s most important to your client from the first meeting so you can deliver whatever that is.
8Do you have any other comments or questions?
This is a highly underestimated question yet incredibly important. You’ve probably been doing most of the talking at the consultation, so make sure that you’re giving your client ample opportunity to get a word in.
It’s a great idea to wrap up your consultation with an open-ended question like this so that you make sure everything has been covered. Even though you may have the impression that you covered everything important up until that point, your client may not feel the same. A final opportunity to get any other thoughts, comments, questions, or concerns on the table is a great way to ensure nothing gets forgotten.
Best Tips and Practices For The Consultation
Be Clear About Fees
There’s no shortage of lawyer jokes out there, and unfortunately, many of them stem from truth.
One of the biggest stereotypes about lawyers is that they’re too expensive, and sometimes clients don’t even know what they’re paying for. The more that lawyers continue to perpetuate this stereotype by being vague about their pricing system, the less favors they’re doing themselves.
You’re doing yourself and your client a huge disservice by providing service without clearly defined fees. The best way to delight and retain clients is by establishing trust, and your fees are the first place to do that.
Explain whether you work on a flat fee system or by the hour, and give them a clear estimate of what they can expect to pay. Make sure that you go over your billing system and any other relevant details regarding payments.
Another stereotype about lawyers is that they are poor listeners. In many cases, this is also a stereotype with truth at its roots. Lawyers have so much going on that their heads are often stretched in ten different directions. With everything that goes into running a practice, it’s easy to get distracted.
Show your client that you value their time and what they have to say by listening to them. You should also rely on automation in law firms to take care of your administrative tasks so that you can be entirely present during a consultation. Pausing in the middle of the consultation to send emails or take down a lead's information won’t set a great tone.
Client intake software takes care of the busy work for you so that you can give your clients all of your attention.
Go Over the Process and Timeline
It’s a good idea to provide a timeline of the events related to their case. As always, legal cases can vary in duration due to all sorts of factors, so make sure that they understand that the timeline is nothing but an estimate based on past cases. Although it isn’t a guarantee, a timeline will provide an idea of what they can expect.
Make sure that each part of the timeline includes each stage and event they can anticipate. The more that you can paint a picture of what to expect, the fewer concerns and questions they’ll have as the case progresses.
Answer Questions Thoughtfully
Answer any questions that your client has thoughtfully and clearly. Rushing through their questions with hasty answers can lead to miscommunication and client dissatisfaction. Take the time to discuss all of their questions and concerns in a way that’s easy to understand.
Don’t waste their time using complicated legal jargon that only attorneys can understand. Instead, use comprehensible and direct language that anyone can understand.
Optimize Your Client Intake Process With Lawmatics CRM and Client Intake Software
From the minute a lead first fills out a client intake form to the consultation to signing the retainer, a CRM for attorneys tracks and manages the entire progression of your client's journey. Clearly see what actions need to be taken next and any important information you need to access on their file.
Lawmatics will ensure that you provide a consistent client journey that you promised by ensuring that no client feels left behind or forgotten. Lawmatics keeps you on top of each stage of the client journey and automates repetitive tasks that take time to carry out. Automation makes it easy to follow up with clients and make them feel valued every step of the way.
Are you ready to see how Lawmatics can help you grow your law firm? Sign up for a free product demo today!