Who doesn’t love it when new clients come in the door? It’s great to have business and a sign of effective marketing. But no matter how many leads come in the door, if you don’t have a solid intake plan in place they won’t convert. Or, even worse, they do convert but end up unsatisfied because of a poor attorney-client fit.
Great intake can prevent these problems, yet according to the ABA’s 2018 Tech Report, 71 percent of law firms don’t have a formal intake process at all! Where do you get started?
What do you need for great intake in three bullet points
Great intake doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are components of a quality intake process for your clients. Your intake should:
- Gather a full scope of client information
- Facilitate your relationship with your client
- Offer a consistent client experience
Your website ≠ intake process
Your law firm’s website does a lot of heavy lifting for you. That’s great – it should! It’s an amazing marketing resource for you and your clients. But you shouldn’t expect your website to replace a thorough client intake process.
Your clients need to have trust in you. To do that, they need face time with you, not your website. Inserting your intake too early in the marketing and sales funnel disrupts that process.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put your intake process online
Even though your website shouldn’t replace your intake process, your intake can still benefit from using digital tools. They can streamline the process for clients. They can make the process easier to track. They facilitate remote lawyering.
What are parts of the process that benefit from implementing online?
Online forms and e-signatures
Online intake forms are a huge time saver. They reduce data entry time and the likelihood of errors. Storing intake information in a cloud-based platform also means that you can work from wherever and still have easy access to client information. Perhaps most importantly, online intake forms are much better for client experience – no more printing, scanning, and faxing!
Speaking of client experience, make sure that your intake forms allow for e-signatures. E-signatures cuts the amount of time needed to get agreements and contracts signed. In turn, this increases your conversion rate and decreases the need to follow up with clients.
Drip emails to follow up and engage your clients
Speaking of follow up: it’s hard. Few attorneys enjoy checking in with potential clients over and over again. It can feel like pestering. Yet consistent communication is key to conversions and relationship building. Drip marketing can take the legwork out of this process.
With drop campaigns, you can initiate email sequences that ensure followup during intake and keep potential clients engaged in the process. Nurturing these relationships from early on builds client satisfaction – easily the best marketing tool you could ask for!
Know what you’re asking (from them and yourself)
A large part of client intake is gathering information: about the client; about potential conflicts of interest; and about the scope of their needs. But are you gathering what you need from them?
For client intake, organization is one of the best tactics to create structured processes for your firm. So how do we achieve this?
Go back to basics with a checklist.
Checklists give rise to more efficient and consistent operational practices. They also create a culture of thoroughness that can help reduce the likelihood of costly mistakes. And once you’re ready to scale your operations, you won’t be scrambling to put processes in place.
Your intake process isn’t just about bringing a new client on board. It’s about whether you should. The intake process provides an important opportunity to evaluate whether the following apply to your prospective client:
- Their needs match your practice area AND your experience and ability to provide competent representation.
- You’re interested and able to take on the client’s work
- There isn’t evidence of conflict of interest
It’s important to listen to your instincts, too. Your intake process should ideally provide you with enough information to give you a holistic view of the client. Are they a good fit for you? Are you a good fit for them? How do your respective needs and expectations line up?
This is important for marketing because if you onboard a new client despite a poor fit, you run the risk of poor client service, ineffective outcomes, and potentially damaging your reputation. The short term benefits aren’t worth the long term risks here!
Track your intake
Where are your clients coming from? Your marketing team needs to know this to invest in the right channels. Your intake process is the perfect opportunity to track this information. It takes the guesswork out of your data collection – you can easily determine your referral sources, and then track your conversion rates, which is one of your most important KPIs.
Building an intake process is an important investment for your law firm. By creating streamlined processes, you give your law firm a solid foundation for growth, create important touchpoints for your marketing team, and improve client experience. While each law firm will have its own needs, keeping these points in mind will help you get started.
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