In law, as in life, first impressions last. The client intake form is the first look a new client has into how your firm works and it sets the tone for the relationship going forward. A strong intake form says you’re a competent, professional lawyer who they can rely on.
Client intake is your first opportunity to build trust and give your client a seamless and professional experience. You can impress potential clients right off the bat by collecting the right information in the intake form and scripting, the key element of the proper intake process.
When a potential client calls your law firm, your legal intake form is critical to ensuring you have the information you need to assess their immediate needs and effectively screen and qualify each prospect. It’s important to have individualized forms based on your particular areas of practice, but there are five essential items every legal client intake form should have—regardless of your specialization.
Improving your intake process can increase your conversion rate, return on investment (ROI) and client satisfaction. As you are developing intake forms for your law firm, make sure each one has the following elements:
1. Basic Contact Information
Client intake is essentially the law firm’s sales process. It’s your opportunity to turn prospects into paying clients. As such, you need to maximize this time to focus on serious clients and avoid tire-kickers, people who keep inquiring about your legal services without any intention of hiring you or have no sufficient budget for your services. Collecting the necessary information is the first step to screening these people out.
As for the serious clients, you need to make sure you have all the information you need to address their legal matters and to quickly follow up on them. Every form should capture the prospect’s contact information, allowing you to properly follow up with him or her once qualified. Neglecting to record this information will cause you to lose the lead. Make sure your intake form has a place to store the following information:
- Full name
- Phone number
- Fax (if applicable)
2. Case Information
Aside from their basic contact information, you need to collect the names of the opposing parties, their income, their current employment status and preliminary details about the legal problem they’re facing, or legal needs they might have going forward. This information will give you an idea of the services they want to acquire and provide you with an opportunity to examine any potential conflict of interests, as well as ensure that they can afford your services.
You can also gather information about the case tailored to the type of law practiced. This will help you screen potential candidates more effectively. The best way to gather this information is to add questions to the intake form. For a personal injury lawyer, for example, potential questions may include:
- What was the nature of the accident?
- What injuries occurred?
- What was the date of the incident?
- Where did the incident occur?
These simple routine questions will greatly save lawyers’ time and energy. The more details you collect, the better you will be able to qualify prospects.
3. Annual Income
To appropriately set your law firm’s fees, you need to consider your desired revenue, the income goals of your clients, the average fees in the marketplace and most importantly, the value of your work. The value you provide can mean different things to each client. Some clients give importance to the emotional relief of getting rid of the legal issues while some will value your efficiency in negotiating for their business.
Your onboarding process and marketing campaigns should give your potential clients an idea of what value they’ll get in exchange for their fees. Ideally, these ventures will attract the right kind of customers for your firm, so you won’t have to defend your pricing to your clients later.
The ideal client also has a sufficient budget for the value you’ll provide for their business. An average person spends $250 on legal services annually, while businesses usually spend $200 per hour on attorneys. Startups usually incur $1500 to $5000 on legal fees per transaction. Keep these figures in mind when setting your law firm’s fees and make sure your clients can afford to invest this kind of value in your legal services.
Your law firm is looking for paying clients. This means you need to ensure the prospect is not only qualified but also has the income to pay your client fees. While target incomes will vary between law firms, this piece of information will expedite the screening process and help you identify the ideal clients.
4. All About Fees
Leave no stone unturned during your initial consultation, especially your billing process, accepted methods of payments and whether your law firm offers payment plans. After the discussion, leave time for the clients’ questions and clarifications.
This will ensure that you are on the same page when it comes to your services and their monetary value. As necessary as it is to convey the right value for your services, you need to be sensitive to your client’s budget and limitations when discussing fees. If necessary, discuss and highlight in your intake forms any alternative billing methods or payment plans to make sure hiring you won’t cripple their business financially.
This is also the place to outline whether you’ll be offering flat fees or will charge them on an hourly basis, or take a percentage of their settlement. Each service and manner of payment should be tailored to your practice and the client’s needs. By thoroughly documenting money matters right off the bat, you’ll improve your rapport with clients and increase their trust in your law firm.
5. Follow-up Appointments
Before your prospect hangs up, you need to schedule a follow-up appointment. This helps stop potential clients from shopping around because they’ve made a commitment to your firm. When scheduling an initial consultation, consider offering options that are most convenient for clients, such as in-home visits. Be sure to record this information in the legal client intake form.
However, it can be a pain to schedule an appointment with clients. Looking for a common free time through back-and-forth emailing already takes up too much time. Use text, email and/or phone calls only to send appointment reminders to prospects and utilize calendar integrations to automatically add appointments to your calendar.
By using digital calendars like Acuity Scheduling and Calendly, you and your clients can seamlessly schedule an appointment and it will automatically be integrated into each of your calendars. This way, both you and your clients will receive reminders through email and notifications.
Acuity Scheduling also offers customizable availability that auto-adjusts time zones. Clients can even fill out any necessary intake forms through this app. What’s more, Acuity Scheduling can take care of fees with popular payment platforms like PayPal, Square and Stripe.
Calendly also allows clients to book the available slots provided by your law firm and integrate the appointment with other e-calendars like iCal, Google, Office 365 and Outlook. It automates tasks with other apps like Salesforce or Zapier. Lastly, you wouldn’t have to worry about going beyond the allotted time for each client or overlapping schedules as Calendly allows users to set buffer time between appointments.
6. Retainer Agreement
Even when you’re using a standardized template for fee agreements, this process can still be tedious as you need to replace names, contact information, fee amounts and other details about each client. Some staff members can move hastily through this process, causing errors that may damage your professionalism and reputation.
As such, you should end your legal client intake process by sending a retainer agreement. This will require the client to verify that their information is true and that they understand the costs of representation. It also gives you a chance to outline the policies and procedures your firm uses to ensure the client fully understands and complies with them.
Partnering with a client intake services provider makes this process easier with user-friendly document automation tools. This cuts down admin hours and minimizes human errors. Client intake providers use software that can replace all the relevant information in the fee agreement templates depending on each client. What’s more, they can follow up on your cold leads to generate more new business for your law firm.
A well-constructed legal client intake form is essential to your overall intake process. It allows you to gather the information needed to effectively identify and capture new clients. Ultimately, that is the goal every time someone calls or submits a web form to your law firm. Incorporate these elements into your intake forms to help improve your lead capture rate, thus converting more leads into paying clients.
7. Push Data into Your CRM/Case Management Software
Streamline future marketing efforts and improve customer service and client retention with a CRM/Case Management Software (CMS) system. This way, you can store and manage important client data for future use without lifting a finger.
The most successful law firms optimize their data collection and management process by pushing client intake data directly into their trusted CRM/CMS system like Zapier, Captorra, Lead Docket and Clio. This allows firms to keep all their data in one place to build better client relationships and improve customer service. Having all the data at your fingertips will allow you to personalize your services depending on each client, leading to better client retention and satisfaction.
Using these technologies will also allow you to analyze data and derive statistics to help your practice make better, data-driven business decisions in the future. With reliable data, you can identify growth opportunities, discover errors and improve your ROI.
Always put your best foot forward with new clients by ticking off all the boxes in this client intake checklist for law firms.
You can also partner with a client intake services provider like Alert Communications so you can worry less about paperwork and spend more time on providing value for your clients.