13 Tips for Improving the Legal Client Intake Process
Clients are the blood that keeps a law firm's veins pumping, so it's critical that you have a steady stream of leads coming in at all times. Regrettably, many lawyers may be excellent at practicing law, but they’re clueless when it comes to capturing and converting clients. The fact of the matter is that a law firm is a business just like any other. In order to succeed and keep up with the competition, you'll need to start thinking like a CEO.
If you observe the most successful law firms out there, you'll notice that they share critical similarities.
7 Characteristics the Most Successful Law Firms Have in Common
They Have a Solid Client Intake Process
Once upon a time, law firms had to depend on a good old system of a telephone, paper, and pen, and file cabinets to keep track of all of the leads coming in. It goes without saying that this system left a lot of opportunity for human error and things getting forgotten. It's impossible to keep track of all of your leads coming in when you're relying on an old-fashioned intake process like this. How can you possibly know where each client stands in their part of the client journey when you're busy handling open matters?
They Use Technology To Their Advantage
The answer to how to take on the maximum amount of matters while still keeping meticulous detail on each lead and where they stand? — With a client intake software.
The second a lead fills out an intake form or calls your practice, the first part of their client journey begins. It's critical to be as sharp as possible during your first interaction since first impressions are everything. A timely response is everything when a lead first comes your way. Successful firms know the importance of getting back to leads quickly and efficiently, which can only be done with automation.
Not only do they get back to their leads immediately using automation, but they track every step of the process carefully and can tell you at any moment who's been followed up with when. They don't use spreadsheets or their email inbox, but rather a sophisticated and robust software that gives them total control over their leads in clients' information. With so much control over where each lead stands, their conversion rates are significantly higher, and therefore so is their profitability.
The strongest firms know that client intake software isn't the only technology that can help boost and optimize their process, either. A client intake software pairs with a CRM for lawyers, which manages all client information and tracks each interaction in one single database.
Rather than losing hours of their workweek on monotonous administrative tasks like data entry, they rely on their CRM for attorneys to turn potential leads into loyal clients by automating and streamlining processes. Without technology, managing the progression of client relationships would take significantly longer.
They also make use of tools like case management software which tracks all of the details for each case in one place, from billing to essential documents and legal timekeeping software to help improve productivity. There's no need to dig around in multiple file cabinets or search desperately through their email inbox. Everything is on a cloud in one place and can be accessed from anywhere at any time.
They Have a Clear Intake Strategy
Regardless of the size of your law firm, you need to have a strategy in place. Attempting to expand as a law firm is impossible without a clear and intentional system set in place. Think of your intake strategy as a plan that serves as a road map for you to reach your objectives and optimize your legal client intake process. A strategy means inspecting your strengths and weaknesses and discerning where to make changes for improvements.
The most thriving practices know that strategies are best created through the help of observing their data. Data can help you uncover any bottlenecks in your law firm and sharpen your strategy so that it's the most future-oriented possible.
They Aim For Referrals
The best strategies are the ones that strive to meet the clients' needs as a top priority. In turn, high client satisfaction leads to referrals. When a business model is built around the client, it creates excellent reviews and loyal customers who provide plenty of referrals. If you can manage to keep and retain clients, they, in turn, tell their friends, family, and colleagues—bringing in even more business.
They are Data-Driven
When people think of data, they often think of complicated charts or an alarming amount of numbers that they don't know how to decipher. The truth is that with the right technology using data isn't as hard as you think it would be. Law firm data analytics make it possible to see your law firm's trends and identify any places where you're in trouble.
Yet looking at data alone isn't enough to call yourself data-driven. A strong strategy takes data and metrics and puts them into action. The best law firms identify where the bottlenecks are in their practice and make changes immediately rather than hoping it will get better.
They Pay Attention To What's Going on Around Them
In addition to paying attention to their own data and marketing analytics for law firms, the most competitive law firms know the importance of also paying attention to market trends. By studying trends inside and outside your firm, you can build a stronger strategy that stands up against the competition.
They Put Their Clients First
The most forward-thinking strategies are the ones that keep clients in mind above all else. Law firms who hope to keep up with the competition will have to start adopting a customer-centered mentality. In a world of online reviews and competing firms with client-centered business models, it's no longer acceptable for a practice to give a mediocre client experience. Customers expect more than ever now, so it's your job to not only help them resolve their legal concerns but also make sure that every step of the way is completed efficiently and to their delight.
The best strategies are client-centered and well thought out, and consider how the client will be affected every step of the way.
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6 Most Common Client Intake Mistakes
Relying on Outdated Processes
Despite all of the technology out there available to optimize the legal intake process, an alarming amount of law firms are still relying on outdated processes. For example, if your law firm takes down clients' information with a pen and paper, you're already headed in the wrong direction. Not only are you opening yourself up to the possibility of human error, but you're also wasting precious time that you could be practicing law. If you're running a small practice, chances are it's you that's handling most of your incoming calls. So, when you have to do it all manually yourself, you’re losing hours a week when you add it all up together.
Leave the legal pad and ballpoint pen in the past and catch up to us here in 2021. It's time to embrace technology to optimize and streamline your intake process through a client intake software and law firm CRM!
Failing to Deliver a Consistent Intake Process
If you have multiple people working in your firm who all take part in the intake process, then everyone must be on the same page. The most successful firms have their intake process down to a T so that there is no confusion about what needs to happen.
When your practice lacks a consistent client intake process, you risk leads falling through the cracks. There's nothing more frustrating or inefficient than trying to figure out whether a lead has been followed up with or not. If you're still relying on things like post-it notes to share information about leads with other staff members, then your clients' experience will be impacted but the lack of efficiency in communication.
When everyone is approaching legal intake differently in your firm, then you won't wind up with the same information. You should always have the same person answering the phone, and everything should be entered into a legal CRM system. That way, your whole team knows exactly where each lead stands in the client journey.
Wasting Time on Data Entry
Your client intake process should be as quick and efficient as possible so that you can go back to taking care of what matters most at your firm— getting the best possible results for your clients. If your intake process involves manually entering a client's name, contact information, and information like where they heard about you from into a spreadsheet, then your intake process is taking too long.
Not only are you wasting time on an overly long client intake process, but you're also wasting your client's time. Nobody wants to take more than a few minutes to give you their details. The point of client intake is to take down a lead's needs and make sure that you're a good fit, not wasting an hour of your day on a questionnaire.
Taking Too Long to Follow Up
A startling amount of lawyers take far too long to get back to inquiring leads. Statistics show that as little as 52% of law firms call leads back. It goes without saying that this is a considerable opportunity thrown away. After all, how can you expect to turn a lead into a client if you don't even call them back? Ideally, you should get back to leads immediately to increase your chances of conversion. Studies prove that taking any longer than a few minutes can lower your chances of a sale significantly.
This is where workflow automation for law firms can come in to take care of the hard work for you. A legal CRM can send a follow-up email immediately after a client fills out a legal client intake form. The best part is that it's personalized in a way that best targets your lead. All this can happen without you having to lift a finger thanks to automated email workflows for law firms.
Not Relying on Data
One of the biggest mistakes that you can make in 2021 is failing to make use of data. The most successful firms are the ones that are data-driven and use analytics to make better business decisions. Without data, you can only guess what the best marketing sources are for your firm and what methods attract the most clients.
With visual analytics, you can observe things like how many clients you've acquired this year compared to last year and how many are currently in the pipeline as opposed to the previous month. Tracking critical data like this will help you strengthen your strategies and stand a chance against the competition.
Wasting Time on Back and Forths
Once you manage to establish that a lead is a good fit for your firm and you're the right fit for them, it's time to make an appointment. This is the part where many old-fashioned law firms lose time on a lengthy back and forth proposing an appointment time. Between your schedule and the leads, you lose precious time sending emails back and forth, trying to find the right time that works for everyone. Eliminate this waste of time in your client intake process and automate your appointments instead. It's as simple as using self-scheduling software that allows your clients to choose the best date and time based on your availability.
Not only does it make your life easier, but it also makes your clients' lives easier. Chances are they have busy schedules too, and the last thing they want to do is waste time emailing back and forth.
Now that you've got a better idea of why the client intake process is so critical for your firm's success let's explore the 13 best tips for how you can improve yours.
13 Tips for Improving the Client Intake Process
1First Impressions are Everything
First impressions are everything when it comes to onboarding clients. With so many different law firms out there for clients to choose from, you must shine as a lawyer. If you can manage to present yourself as easy to work with, friendly, and fast-paced with cutting-edge legal technology, you're already off on the right track.
Clients will love that you offer them a seamless intake that doesn't require long phone calls or scanners and printers. Fast, efficient, and polished is the best possible way to make a great impression on your leads from the minute they contact your firm.
2Pre-Screen Your Clients
Ideally, you should pre-screen your clients before the actual consultation. The reality is that not every lead that comes through will be the perfect fit for you and your team. Before taking time out of your schedule to see a client, make sure that you pre-screen them to ensure that you're a good match.
If you have a receptionist, make sure that they pre-screen clients. If you don't have the luxury of someone at your front desk, you should try to get as much information as possible through custom templates. That way, you can get whatever pre-screen answers you need quickly without having to lose time you could be practicing law.
3Stop Manually Entering Contact Information
Need we repeat it? Put that pen down and stick that legal pad in a drawer! —That also includes spreadsheets. It would be best if you weren't manually entering anything about your clients. It's time to start relying on a CRM that automatically intakes your clients' information for you. No more wasting time on manual data entry when you can rely on automation and never lose track of a client again
4Let Your Clients Self-Schedule
Stop wasting time trying to find an appointment slot that works for everyone's schedule through email. Clients will love having direct access to your schedule and being able to set an appointment time based on whatever you want them to see is available thanks to automated appointment scheduling.
A solid client intake process is all about eliminating bottlenecks and offering the most efficient and smooth process possible. Self-scheduling is one of the most convenient features that you can offer your leads and clients.
It's as simple as syncing your personal calendar with your attorney intake software. Choose only the dates and times that you want your clients to see, and allow them direct access to you by automatically setting up an appointment themselves.
5Be a Good Listener During The Consultation
One of the first things that people look for in a lawyer is strong communication skills. It's critical that you're an effective listener so that all of the essential details of the case are discussed upfront. One of the most powerful ways to show leads and clients that you value them is to listen. Avoid interrupting and ask plenty of questions. During the consultation, make sure that you allow your client to do most of the talking.
The last thing you want to do is miss critical information because you weren't listening closely enough. This is your moment to clearly understand what your potential client needs and show them why you're the best person for the job. Make sure to show them a healthy balance of listening and participating.
6Discuss Fees Upfront
One of the points you should ensure that you go over during the consultation is your fees. Whether you charge a flat fee or by the hour, you must cover basics like these upfront. Discuss how you accept payment and any other important details like payment plans. That way, you'll easily be able to draft up a contract already having gone over everything.
7Automate Email Replies
Email automation for law firms is the easiest and fastest way to ensure that your clients are followed up with promptly. Use a CRM for lawyers and follow up with your clients automatically. Use audience segmentation software to tailor each massage to your client with a personalized and targeted approach.
8Track Each Lead’s Status
The most effective method for strengthening your relationships with clients and ensuring that they are delighted every step of the journey is by tracking every single interaction. From the moment your lead first fills out an intake form to the moment they sign a contract, a CRM will show you each step of the way. That way, you never miss an opportunity.
9Use E-Signature Tools
As any lawyer knows, drafting up contracts can be a lengthy and tedious process. Use automation software to eliminate the risk of errors and make the process go much faster. Quickly fill out document templates using custom fields, and get important documents out in a fraction of the time thanks to legal document automation.
Simply export the information from your CRM directly into the custom form builder. Once it's time for the client to sign, make things even easier for them by offering a client e-signature tool. E-signature technology makes it simple to onboard your client without having to worry about printers and fax machines, and scanners. — oh my!
10Don’t Assume All Leads are The Same
You can't expect to get the kind of results you want from an all-in-one marketing approach. The truth is that every lead is different and needs to be targeted in a unique way. Use audience segmentation software to take your marketing to the next level. Separate your leads into different categories that work best for your firm and send the right message at the right time to the right person using marketing automation for law firms.
11Send Out Reminders
One of the biggest frustrations that lawyers have is time lost on late or missed consultations. Lawmatics law firm client intake software makes it easy to keep everyone on track with automatic reminders. You'll never miss a beat or waste time on missed appointments again thanks to SMS for law firms and automated follow ups.
12Make Sure Your Everyone On Your Team is Consistent
Get everyone on board on your team and deliver a consistent, reliable intake process. Using the right legal client intake software, anyone on your team can access where lead stands in the journey and anything they need to know about their client details. Consistency is the key ingredient when it comes to delivering a superior client intake process free of errors.
13Use Data To See Your Most Valuable Lead Sources
Run regular reports through law firm reporting software to see where the bottlenecks are in your client intake process. Goal tracking for law firms makes it easy to keep track of the most important metrics like where your leads are coming from and how many of them are being converted. Without data, business decisions are nothing more than guesswork. The only way to take your client intake process to the next level is by tracking the most critical metrics and becoming a data-driven firm.
Take Your Firm’s Legal Client Intake Process to the Next Level With Lawmatics
The success of your law firm relies on the most important part of the client journey— the intake process. By embracing technology and becoming data-driven, you'll not only kick your client intake process up to a notch you didn’t even imagine was possible, but you'll also have more time to dedicate to what you're trained to do best— practice law.
Are you ready to see how best CRM for law firms Lawmatics can help you step up your firm’s client intake game? Sign up for a free product demo today! We have solutions for every practice area — personal injury software, family law software, immigration client management software, and more.