Investing in marketing can bring an abundance of leads to your law firm. But are you prepared to handle them?
If your legal intake process isn’t properly optimized, you may lose many leads along the way. In turn, an inadequate intake process can drag down your entire marketing campaign’s ROI.
In this article, we’ll review a few ways you can create a robust legal intake process that allows you to expand your caseload without sacrificing lead retention or client satisfaction.
What is the Legal Intake Process?
Simply put, the legal intake process starts when a lead reaches out for the first time and ends when they officially become a new client of your law firm.
The stages involved in this process are as follows:
- Attract potential leads
- Capture their contact information
- Pre-screen them to find out if they’re a good fit
- Check for conflicts of interest
- Schedule initial consultations with them
- Collect key information about their cases
- Draw up engagement agreements
- Get them to sign these agreements
- Onboard them as official clients
A robust lawyer marketing campaign can help you with step one. After that, it all comes down to the quality and efficiency of your legal intake process.
The Pitfalls of a Poor Legal Intake Process
If you haven’t optimized your legal intake process yet, you’re doing your business a major disservice. A poor intake process can cause the following problems:
- You leave money on the table – Your legal intake process encompasses the first interactions you have with new clients. You want to use this time to make a great impression. If your intake process is slow, inconvenient, or disorganized, it may plant doubt in prospective clients’ minds about your competence. In turn, they may switch over to a competitor. Even worse, they may also leave a negative review online.
- An inefficient firm – Your legal intake process also impacts the efficiency of your internal law firm operations. If your intake infrastructure is outdated, it’s most likely impeding your teams’ productivity.
Furthermore, a poor intake process may allow data entry errors and miscommunication to go unnoticed. While some mistakes may be harmless, others could land you in a malpractice suit. For example, a disorganized intake process could cause your firm to share private documents with the wrong contact or fail to assess an existing conflict.
How to Optimize Your Legal Intake Process
So how can you avoid these pitfalls? With the following optimization, your legal intake process can be transformed into a well-oiled machine.
Just follow these steps:
#1 Respond To New Leads ASAP with Automation
After a lead has reached out to you, whether they filled out a contact form or left you a voice message, you need to get back to them as quickly as possible. This is the most time-sensitive step in the legal intake process. This response should have an automated aspect to it with an instant email or text followed up by a phone call as soon as possible.
That’s because nearly 90% of law firm leads go with the first law firm that gets back to them.1 By responding swiftly, you can secure more marketing leads and turn them into revenue-producing clients.
According to research on legal lead inquiry response times, 70% of the top law firms respond within an hour.2 Fifty-nine percent respond within 30 minutes. If you want to earn your spot as a top law firm, you need to reply like one.
A fast response time that has an automated aspect to it can help you swoop up clients before your competitors do.
#2 Pre-Screen Potential Clients With Care
Your marketing efforts may bring a lot of new leads your way, but not all of them will be suitable for your firm. Some leads’ cases may be out of your area of expertise or a mismatch for the size of your firm. Other leads may present conflicts of interest.
You don’t want to spend a longer time or resources on a lead if a conflict of interest will take them out of the running. An optimized legal intake system will weed out unfit leads early on in the process.
Your pre-screening process should take place before you schedule a consultation meeting. You can qualify a lead by sending them a pre-consultation form or giving them a call. After learning a bit more about their case, you can determine whether they’re a great fit or better-suited for another firm.
#3 Be Empathetic and Attentive
Most lawyers pride themselves on their professionalism and knowledge. However, it’s also essential to lead with empathy too.
After all, most people seeking legal services are going through some of the most challenging times in their lives, whether they’re facing bankruptcy, divorce, a terrible injury, or a dying loved one. Being empathetic to these circumstances can help you forge a personal connection with potential clients.
Empathizing with your clients will also help you provide them with superior legal service. If a new client has never worked with a lawyer before, they may have additional questions about the legal process. Understanding where they’re coming from and assisting them accordingly will enhance your client satisfaction. As a bonus, happy clients are more likely to refer you to friends and family in the future.
#4 Update Your Intake Technology
Back in the day, most law firms relied on telephones, fax machines, and file cabinets to track new leads. As with all paper systems, these tools are prone to errors and inefficiencies.
In 2021, there’s no excuse for maintaining such outdated legal intake software. Instead, you should invest in the following technologies:
- Online intake forms – Rather than requesting information via pen and paper, give new leads the ability to fill out secure online intake forms. Clients love the convenience of online forms, since they can be filled out from the comfort of their own homes. Better yet, online intake forms eliminate the need for manual data entry, which is a notoriously error-prone process.
- E-signatures – Getting clients to sign contracts quickly is a lot easier when you use e-signatures. Signing documents digitally is also more convenient for your clients, since many of them may not have reliable access to a printer, fax machine, or scanner.
- Self-scheduling software – Both you and your clients have busy schedules. In turn, getting a consultation meeting on the books can involve a lot of back and forth. Online self-scheduling streamlines this process significantly. It allows clients to schedule appointment slots that work for them at their own convenience.
- Automated reminders – Automated text and email reminders for consultation meetings can help prospective clients make their appointments. With automation in law firms, you will enjoy increased efficiency that comes with fewer late and missed appointments.
While updating your intake technology requires an initial investment (and may present a temporary learning curve for some legal team members), it will pay dividends. Greater office efficiency means more revenue for your firm.
#5 Use a CRM to Track New Leads
Another helpful tool is contact relationship management (CRM) software. A CRM allows you a centralized place to manage and record all of your interactions with leads.
For example, legal CRMs allow you to:
- Receive and store online intake form data
- Automatically fill in leads’ contact information
- Qualify leads based on their form responses
- Cross-check for conflicts of interest
- Set up workflow automation for follow-up messages
- Update leads’ statuses (“newly added,” “needs follow-up,” “consultation scheduled,” etc.)
When you can easily identify where a lead is within your intake process, you can reach out to them at the right times. Having all of their client data in one place will also keep your team much more organized.
#6 Don’t Forget to Follow Up
Even if you had a successful consultation with a prospective client, it’s important to follow up with them if they don’t get back to you in a timely manner. Many law firms let potential clients slip through the cracks by neglecting this step.
Fortunately, a robust CRM makes following up an easy process with automated follow-up reminders.
#7 Create Pre-Prepared Text and Email Messages
With a growing caseload, you don’t have the time to write every text or email message from scratch.
By preparing a few formatted messages, you can stay on top of your client communication and automate the following:
- Lead inquiry responses
- Consultation reminders
- Follow-up letters
- Retainer responses
Whether you have 10 leads or 10,000 leads, you’ll have no problem getting back to them on time when you use automated messages.
#8 Get All Intake Specialists on the Same Page
After ironing out your legal intake process, getting all of your legal team members on the same page is important.
Everyone involved in the intake process should follow the same protocols, whether they’re requesting essential case information or following up with a lead who hasn’t signed their contract yet.
By training your legal intake specialist on your law firm’s official intake best practices, all of your clients will enjoy the same quality of service.
Convert It: Legal Marketing and Intake Made Easy
Growing a law practice is a complex undertaking. Fortunately, an updated intake process can simplify it significantly.
Need help with your legal intake process? Here at Convert It, we’re experts at marketing and legal intake solutions. We offer several game-changing website and conversion tools, such as legal CRM, call answering, and more. The best part: it’s all put together for you in one cohesive, easy to use platform.
Find out how we can help you transform more leads into clients today.
- Legal Talk Network. FindLaw 2015 U.S. Consumer Legal Needs Survey. https://legaltalknetwork.com/podcasts/legal-toolkit/2016/07/findlaw-2015-u-s-consumer-legal-needs-survey/
- Yahoo! Money. Hennessey Digital Releases Online Lead Form & Lawyer Response Time Study, Shares New Insights on Legal Marketing Landscape. https://money.yahoo.com/hennessey-digital-releases-online-lead-140000472.html