As the first touch point in your working relationship, client intake can help you make the best first impression and lay the foundation for long term client satisfaction. For many people, visiting a lawyer’s office can be an uncomfortable experience. Establishing a professional, standard client intake process can ease tensions and ensure you meet their expectations, while building a competitive, distinctive firm.
Here are a few tips to improve your client intake process and set the tone for the next stage: engagement and fee agreements.
Establishing a pre screening method
Pre screening the client can help you assess and manage expectations even before the formal intake process begins. The simplest way to accomplish this is to create a checklist of standard questions to ask about the client and their legal matter when they contact you or visit your office. Not only can their answers prepare you for the intake appointment, but it can help you determine if the client’s matter is a good fit. If not, you can save yourself and the client time by referring them to another lawyer.
Don’t have a receptionist or paralegal to manage pre screening? Consider employing a virtual receptionist to manage inbound calls and help you improve your customer service experience.
Personalising your intake appointment
Based on the pre screening, you can structure the intake appointment to the client’s matter and personal needs. Depending on the potential client, the intake appointment could include an explanation of:
- your firm’s general business and legal philosophy
- the attorney client relationship
- the ongoing communication process (including tools)
- your billing processes
- the information the client will have to complete
Creating a standard intake form can help you collect the personal and matter specific information you need to represent the client, without being overwhelming. For instance, for a civil case, your intake form can request information about the adverse party, when the matter occurred and a short recital of the facts.
Using technology to save time on client intake
Your case management system can help you automate the administrative side of client intake so that you can focus on managing and addressing your client’s expectations.
- Use checklists, tasks or workflows in your case management system to define your intake process, stay organised and avoid missing a step;
- For both pre screening and intake, online forms can help you gather data in a standard way and avoid manually entering data into your case management system
- To keep track of your potential clients consider defining different stages, like “Needs follow up” or “Intake form pending” so that you can a clear idea which need your attention;
- Keep prospective clients interested and engaged by e mailing educational material (i.e. FAQ about their rights and the benefits of having a lawyer) or personal messages that will help them overcome their concerns.
The more effective the client intake process is, the better the case outcomes are likely to be. Luckily, having the right technology can help you step up your client intake game and ensure you establish a good relationship with your clients at the outset.