Pick a Path: Why Data is Essential to Your Law Firm Intake 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 final entry of a three-part blog post series, we’ll review how data analysis can positively affect your law firm intake system. 

Part 1 in this series covered why it’s important to have two types of intake systems. Part 2 addressed the process for creating intake workflows.

The challenge most managing attorneys face in implementing anything is that much of the process is trapped in their heads. Of course, this is not an uncommon occurrence for business owners who know their work intimately; and, it’s just one of the reasons why it’s so hard to effectively scale any business, especially in a service industry, like legal.

The ultimate question becomes: How do I get all this stuff out of my head, and distill it down to a definitive program that my staff can also utilize effectively, without pestering me about what to do constantly?

The answer, for a modern business, is to generate workflows (task lists), and add those processes to a technology system, that can combine personal competency seamlessly with automation, save time and effort, while returning effective results. Over the last decade, law firms have continued to lean into the value provided by law practice management software; but, even as those tools continue to add features surrounding intake management, attorneys have been less aggressive about adopting lead conversion strategies centered around tailored technology solutions. Those who do, however, engage a significant advantage over their competitors.

The use of custom technology programs for lead intake (be it a case management system, customer relationship management software, chat or automated calendaring program) allows for law firms to effectively and efficiently engage leads, without heavy staff or attorney intervention. But, this is not about giving up on the ability to speak directly to lead or clients; this is about making those personal engagements even more meaningful. If you think everything in a law firm needs to be high-touch to keep clients happy, try sending multiple, personalized emails asking your leads to please make their retainer payment now. The fact is: some things are better left to automations.

And, of course, that’s only one example. The use of marketing software featuring automations for follow up means that you can gently nudge potential clients to do things (schedule a meeting, make a payment, sign something), without bothering to do it yourself, while still providing them an immediate option to take a next step (select a calendar appointment, pay by credit card, sign a fee agreement electronically), simply and conveniently. That’s helpful because that stuff can get done in the background, and without distraction to office staff; but, it is also useful to place some of those items on autopilot, because attorneys who rely on their memories to generate task lists like that are depending on a faulty and flawed engine.

Now, while a chief advantage of intake management programs is to save time and expense and to increase conversion by generating consistent and effortless followup mechanisms, another important aspect of those systems is that they host and aggregate data about law firm intake. That may seem like a secondary consideration; but, attorneys that rely on data-based decision-making usually make better choices about how to run their businesses than those who opt for the lawyer’s traditional methodology for making choices: gut feelings, and ad hoc suppositions. The deal is: if you’re not using data to make business decisions, you’re just guessing.

Many attorneys are now familiar with reporting tools within case management systems, which law firms can utilize to generate lots of different reports, from client lists to aged accounts receivables. But, in part because most law firms don’t utilize CRM programs or, if they do, they don’t utilize those systems to their full extent, there is less familiarity and experience with data management in intake systems.

The good news is that there are certainly greenfields in that space for enterprising lawyers. An attorney who relies on her gut to make decisions might not think to look at an intake report, whereas the lawyer who does will see that a significant percentage of new leads are generating from Facebook, and can double down by converting more marketing funds to that channel.

Related: [Blog Post] Now is The Time to Transition Your Firm From Premise-Based Legal Software to the Cloud

But, keeping track of trends is just one advantage that lawyers can gain from linking reporting to intake management. It also helps to have clarification on:

  • Raw numbers (leads per month) 
  • Preferred conversion methodologies (conversion rates are significantly higher when an intake meeting is booked)
  • Personalized information (relative staff and attorney conversion rates).

So, if you haven’t started using intake management tools yet, what are you waiting for?

And, when you do adopt those, start by diving into the shallow end of the analytics pool, to engage another competitive advantage over those law firms that don’t effectively utilize marketing data in their practices, and take your intake to the next level.

Jared D. Correia, Esq. is the CEO of Red Cave Law Firm Consulting, which offers subscription-based lawfirm 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 builtexclusively for law firms. A former practicing attorney, Jared has been providing services to lawyers andlaw firms for over a decade. He is a regular presenter at local, regional and national events, includingABA TECHSHOW. He regularly contributes to legal publications ‘Attorney at Work,’ ‘Lawyerist’ and ‘Abovethe Law.’ Jared is the host of the award-winningLegal Toolkit podcast on Legal Talk Network. Jared also teaches for Concord Law School, SuffolkUniversity Law School, Solo Practice University and Becker College. 
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