Online Client Intake: The Ultimate Guide for Attorneys
By Nichole Naoum
Lawyers are on the front lines of all legal matters—resolving disputes, making court appearances, and juggling demands of the justice system.
With looming deadlines and other work-related pressures, it’s easy to let certain things fall through the cracks, especially when it comes to law firm client intake. Client intake occurs when a law firm collects information about a potential client to determine whether or not the firm can represent them.
Many lawyers view this process as time-consuming and redundant. Since most law firms’ client intake procedures aren’t billable, it’s lower on the priority list.
However, client intake can be a fundamental building block to your law firm’s success. A well-designed client intake system can help your firm build a more robust client list that attracts more cases and better clients when implemented correctly.
In this guide, we’ll address the ins and outs of legal intake and ways you can optimize your approach to improve your firm’s legal operations and services.
Why Law Firm Client Intake Matters
As is the case with any trade, clients create value for your law firm. In the reputation-driven legal industry, you need to deliver an outstanding client experience from start to finish.
It’s best to think of the intake process as a server showing a guest the dinner specials. If the server is rude and careless, the guest may settle for an appetizer or, worse, leave altogether. However, if the server is professional and knowledgeable about the menu items, the guest might order a five-course meal and likely return.
As the adage goes—“You only get one chance to make a first impression.” Every aspect of a person’s interaction with your firm will ultimately help shape their decision to hire you, which is why it’s essential to establish the right relationship at the outset.
What Legal Client Intake Process Looks Like
Contrary to popular belief, client intake is about more than filling out a law office intake form–it covers every step of the process, from the initial consultation to signing a fee agreement.
Intake provides a well-honed way to screen clients who may not be the right fit for your firm. Simultaneously, it allows clients to evaluate whether your firm is the right choice for them.
Developing a process that can accommodate your needs and that of your potential clients is vital to keeping your firm on track. Below, we break down the steps needed to maximize your client intake strategy.
The client intake process starts when a potential client first interacts with your firm. Some of these leads may have come across your website, heard about your firm through word of mouth, or because of a referral. Post first contact, they will typically fill out an online intake form or contact your firm directly to ask for more information related to their case.
Without an efficient intake process, these leads can pile up and get buried. And lost leads equate to lost revenue. Remember that while leads aren’t paying clients yet, it’s up to you to win over prospects that are still on the fence.
Not every prospect is a good fit. Some may have a limited budget or need an area of practice that you don’t offer. But by capturing your lead’s information and checking for conflicts of interest early on, you can save your business time and effort in the long run. Additionally, you can refer the client to another lawyer, who may someday do the same for you.
However, follow-ups are where many law firms struggle. That’s why it’s critical to get back to your lead inquiries within a day or so. If you don’t meticulously track your lead’s journey, you could be missing out on significant opportunities for your business.
Once you’ve established that both parties are interested in moving forward, it’s time to schedule a consultation to learn more about your client’s case details.
Meeting with prospective clients will help you determine if you can provide them with what they need and give you the chance to pitch your firm as their best choice.
Onboarding New Clients
Your client will want to know what to expect once they retain your firm. Onboarding should involve providing detailed information about their billing cycle, signing the fee agreement, and setting expectations regarding the future of their case.
What to Include on a Legal Client Intake Form
Building a solid client intake form is a critical piece of your law firm’s client intake puzzle. This form sets the tone for the relationship between you and the client. It also helps showcase your firm’s professionalism and competence and gathers vital information necessary during their representation.
Although most firms may need to customize their forms to accommodate their specific practice areas, your client intake form should always include the following information:
Basic Contact Information
In addition to the prospect’s name, address, phone number, email address, mailing address, date of birth, and social security number, you’ll want to ask them what their preferred contact methods are. You can then determine if a conflict exists that prevents your law firm from handling their legal matters.
Once you’ve determined that there are no conflicts, understanding the scope of your client’s legal issues will clarify whether your firm can be of service to them.
For example, for a family law attorney, potential questions may include:
- Does your spouse have an attorney?
- Do you pay or receive child support?
- Will there be agreement on custody of the children?
You want to know upfront if your client will be able to pay their legal fees. After all, the extent of your involvement will differ with each client’s needs. Some may want their problems resolved quickly, while others would rather have you take your time negotiating. So, make sure your client has a sufficient budget to cover the fee of your services.
Scheduling a follow-up appointment will quicken the process of getting them to commit to your firm. Part of this step may involve sending over your representation agreement for signature.
Technology’s Role in Law Firm Client Intake
It would be an understatement to say that technology has completely transformed the client intake process for law firms.
Instead of playing phone (or email) tag with clients, lead management software has made it easier than ever to track leads and ultimately convert them into paying clients.
When asked, more than half of the legal professionals surveyed in a recent MyCase Industry Report admitted that tracking and managing leads was a challenge for their firm. But, according to the survey results, firms that used lead management tools and legal client intake software to streamline the entire lead process claimed that these tools were a valuable time-saver. 20% reported that their firms saved six hours or more each month.
Another tool that has skyrocketed in popularity among attorneys is eSignature, with 28% of survey respondents saving six or more hours each month. In a traditional law firm, getting a signed document from a client usually entails asking them to print, sign, scan, and email or fax it back. However, eSignature speeds up the process, making it easy to securely share and collaborate on documents with potential clients.
The Bottom Line
The benefits of creating a great law firm client intake experience are immeasurable. If you can design an intake process that ushers valuable leads, keeps them engaged, and closes them, it’ll mean more cases and more revenue for your business moving forward.
Investing in client intake software for law firms will make your job easier and strengthen the relationship between you and your future clients.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What are the benefits of moving the legal client intake process online?
For decades, lawyers and their staff spent much of their time on tedious administrative work. Instead of manually filling out contracts and digging through filing cabinets, legal client intake software gives your firm complete control over the intake process, which explains why so many law firms are making the transition to this type of software.
MyCase allows you to create Intake Forms, which will auto-populate within MyCase when sent to potential clients. These online client intake forms streamline the process of gathering case and contact information so that you can focus on more important work.
2. Which features should be included in law firm client intake software?
While legal intake software runs the gamut from comprehensive to rudimentary, the main features law firms often need are:
- Intake Forms
- Analytics Dashboard
- Lead Status Board
- Staff To Do’s per Lead
- Customizable Stages
3. Who can use MyCase online client intake forms?
MyCase client intake forms are intended for lawyers to collect information about potential new clients.
4. Are MyCase intake forms customizable?
Yes, MyCase allows you to create and customize multiple reusable intake form templates for each practice area. All the data on your intake forms is saved automatically to MyCase and linked directly to a case and client or a potential case and lead. You can further automate the lead creation process by embedding a “Contact Us” form on your website.
Interested in exploring how MyCase can streamline your client intake process? Start your free trial today!