Intake Action Plan: Yes, Your Client Intake Process Needs to be a System

Convenience is the driving factor for consumer decision-making in the modern economy. For law firms that want to compete, delivering an intake program that respects the emphasis consumers place on convenience is essential. Oftentimes, convenience is driven by systems, which must rely on consistency and speed. Not only do law firm systems provide a hedge against malpractice (checklists limit mistakes), but the application of systems also provides for a more consistent (and improved) experience for both leads and clients. Systems also yield data, including information about which interaction options legal consumers prefer, when and how. And, the first step in analyzing data is collecting it in the first place. Using data analytics in law practice allows law firms to make better business management decisions So, if you can focus on consistently supplying convenient options to your customers, through pre-built systems that yield the data that will allow you make the best decisions about client interactions, well that’s just the kind of business cycle the best law firm managers employ.

In this second part of a three-part blog post series, we’ll review how to build an intake system. 

The first post in this series covered why it’s important to have two types of intake systems.

Attorneys don’t like the idea of a ‘factory practice’; in fact, in legal circles, it’s meant as an indictment. Many lawyers still cling to the notion that was inculcated in them at law school: that the practice of law is a cerebral activity, and that every new case is an exceedingly interesting puzzle, worthy of a significant time investment. So it is that attorneys driving mass-produced cars, and sipping drive-thru coffee, can internally debate whether it makes sense to automate.

The fact of the matter is that your cases are not as special as you think they are. Sure, they’re all unique little snowflakes; but, the outlines that differentiate them, one from the other, tend to be pretty blurry. Take a particular case type your law firm intakes; I’d bet you can identify 10 things you do the same way every time for those sorts of cases. And, if you’re not distilling those things down to a process or workflow = aggregation of tasks, you’re just wasting you time . . . over and over again.

Resistance to efficiency is the most crippling hang-up for 21 st Century attorneys. And, it’s the main reason you’re not making more money.

Certainly, the need for speed, which is what efficiency amounts to, helps in all phases of law practice, including those not directly related to case work. With respect to intake, building an efficient system for onboarding clients will increase the numbers of leads you can convert, which is directly correlated to your bottom line.

Of course, attorneys feel much more confident about creating case-related workflows than they do about building intake systems, since they understand the former far better than the latter. But, diving in on lead management is necessary, especially when consumers are choosing law firms that can generate the quickest, most compelling engagement. If a law firm can engage a lead effectively, the potential client will hear that law firm’s pitch before moving onto another one. Now, that doesn’t guarantee that you will close; but, it does effectively guarantee that you get the first bite at the apple, without competitors immediately nipping at your heels.

The question for most law firms is, how does one even begin to create an intake system? One of the reasons law firm owners don’t start and complete projects is because they often quickly get overwhelmed thinking about the scope, the breadth of the full project – and so never get going in the first place. The obvious trick, then, is to break the project down into specific components, so you can progress step-by-step. Don’t even start by thinking about the technology you’ll use yet. Just write out your notions of an intake system; literally, just sketch out your ideas on paper, or even on a napkin—don’t let any imagined requirements of formality stop you from heading down the road.

When you’re conceiving of your intake workflow, get very granular about the sorts of leads you take in, and also about how you want that process to appeal to clients. Start by running down one lead type, to build a template for others, e.g. – If you have a family law practice, that, in part, deals with divorce clients, figure out where those clients come from. Maybe a significant component of intake is managing website contact form leads. Ask yourself:

  • What does that process look like? 
  • Who gets those notifications? 
  • What do they do next? 
  • What do you need to follow up with the lead about? An initial consultation meeting? Signing the fee agreement? Making payment? 
  • What does that string of interactions look like? 
  • How can you automate as much of that as possible, in order to reduce staff involvement, for the parts of the engagement that do not need to be high-touch?

Break down your preferred intake methodology to the molecular level, and you won’t miss a step.

That’s how you take a step forward.

Then, rinse and repeat. If you can build an intake program for one lead type, you can build a comprehensive system maximizing conversion for all of your potential clients.

Jared D. Correia, Esq. is the CEO of Red Cave Law Firm Consulting, which offers subscription-based law firm business management consulting services for law firms, bar associations and corporations. Jared is also the COO of Gideon Software, Inc., which offers intelligent messaging and predictive analytics software built exclusively for law firms. A former practicing attorney, Jared has been providing services to lawyers and law firms for over a decade. He is a regular presenter at local, regional and national events, including ABA TECHSHOW. He regularly contributes to legal publications ‘Attorney at Work,’ ‘Lawyerist’ and ‘Above the Law.’ Jared is the host of the award-winning Legal Toolkit podcast on Legal Talk Network. Jared also teaches for Concord Law School, Suffolk University Law School, Solo Practice University and Becker College. 
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