At its best, your client intake process can assure prospective clients that your firm will consistently deliver personalized, timely services—or treat them as an inconvenience. It can demonstrate that your firm genuinely cares about their legal well-being—or regard them as strangers at every interaction.
In this guide, you’ll find 10 practical tips to optimize your legal matter intake procedures. Many will help your firm save time and reduce redundancies and errors.
But most importantly, the tips will aid in enriching your clients’ initial experiences with your firm, helping you show you value their business, and inspiring confidence in your firm’s capabilities to provide exceptional service from day one.
1. Incorporate automation to add technological speed, accuracy, and reliability.
Infuse your legal intake process with automated efficiency, accuracy, and reliability. This frees you and your team to focus on a truly competitive differentiator—proactively delivering the personalized services more clients are demanding in our ever-changing, fast-moving legal landscape.
Automated workflows define the steps and timing to complete intake tasks. You can set up automated workflows to quickly tackle the majority of intake tasks, such as:
- Prompt users to enter key details as the system records information
- Create and send communications based on editable templates
- Assign and track tasks, alerting responsible team members of what to do next
- Schedule appointments, send follow-up reminders, and more
Relax knowing you’ve built a structured pipeline that monitors every client intake matter until complete. And at each step, the workflow ensures that all required information is included, and all required actions are taken before moving forward.
2. Create and customize a digital client intake form.
When learning why a potential client contacted your firm, you need to record:
- A brief description of the situation giving rise to the matter
- The names and contact information of all parties involved
- The legal services the prospect needs
Develop a list of 5-10 questions designed to elicit useful details. An automated form builder will allow you to create and customize a digital client intake form to collect the details consistently.
Consider allowing prospective clients to fill out the intake form themselves through a “Contact Us” link on your firm’s website. Also, when prospects call in, a legal professional can ask the questions and fill out the form for them.
3. Process all your new client intake forms through a single platform.
Set up your system to process all intake forms through a digitized practice management platform with modern client management capabilities. The platform will automatically log every communication to a comprehensive intake matter file.
Legal professionals can look at a single dashboard to determine whether someone followed up with a prospect and the next actions required. Any team member the prospect speaks with has access to the most up-to-date information regarding the matter and its progress.
Your firm’s professionals answer questions quickly and knowledgeably, helping prospects feel known and confident that your firm cares for them. And when a prospect becomes a client, the platform assimilates all client intake activities, matter management, file requirements, and billing procedures in the same location.
4. Automate conflict checks for legal matter intakes.
Before bringing on a new client or matter, the Model Rules of Professional Conduct require that firms check for any conflicts of interest. To complete a firmwide conflict check, your digital intake form should seek to capture:
- The prospect’s name, position, address, phone, and email
- Their company name, street address, state, county, and city
- Any related assumed, trade, or fictitious names
- The names and contact information of all other potential parties to the matter
Many firms then send a firmwide email asking everyone to review these details and advise of any conflict. However, software that offers a one-click conflict check function can deliver more thorough results much faster and easier.
As mentioned above, an all-in-one practice management platform incorporates all of your firm’s time recording, billing, and matter management data into a single system. This lets the one-click conflict check feature automatically search all firm emails, matter files, and contacts. It targets precise details to return only the most relevant results.
As a result, you can eliminate the conflict-check limbo and start addressing a prospect’s needs quickly.
5. Create automated workflows to accomplish most legal matter intake tasks.
Automate tasks and communications to avoid re-entering data, reduce errors, and save time. Set up automated workflows to delegate intake tasks to appropriate staff members and add appointments and follow-ups to calendars.
After a prospect or staff member submits a digital intake form, automated workflows can instantly:
- Assign a task to follow up with the prospect and notify a staff member via e-mail and their notification bar.
- Send a thank-you email to the prospective client letting them know you’ve received their inquiry and will be in touch soon. This simple assurance helps calm anxious prospects who fear their inquiries will be ignored (which is a legitimate concern as we’ll see in Tip #8).
- Quickly convert the information into a matter, transferring all details to the correct data fields in your system. No one else will need to ask the prospect for their contact information again. Prospects will not have to repeat their story multiple times, which can be exhausting and frustrating. This shows prospects they are highly valued every time they speak with your firm’s professionals.
6. Monitor, measure, and optimize your law firm’s client intake process.
A digitized client intake process that is part of an integrated system enables you to monitor, measure, and report on a variety of factors, such as:
- Number of new client inquiries
- Number of calls versus online inquiries
- Number of consultations scheduled
- Intake response times (i.e., determine the time passed from intake form submission to final disposition. The clock starts ticking when the system receives an inquiry and creates a follow-up task.)
- Prospective clients’ demographic and geographic details
- Referral sources
Monitoring and measuring your client intake process assists in assessing and improving efficiency with metrics-led decisions.
Based on what you learn, you may opt to fine-tune your intake forms or specific steps in your workflows to better support the most common situations your firm handles. You might add or remove questions or automatically route intake forms to specific individuals in each practice area. Over time, you may decide to create individual intake forms for various practice areas.
7. Uncover ways to generate additional value for the firm.
Your client intake process is a strategic part of your sales pipeline. And with a customizable form builder on hand, you can ask prospects for any detail you like (though be careful not to overwhelm them). Tracking your intake data can reveal:
- What areas of your practice generate the most interest
- What types of organizations contact your firm most often (e.g., small to mid-size companies, large corporations, entrepreneurs, etc.)
- Who or what resource refers the most clients to your firm
This information can help firm leaders evaluate whether they should expand services in high-demand areas and where to amplify their marketing efforts.
Tracking how prospects learn about your services reveals how organic online search, online ads, billboards, TV or radio commercials, or personal referrals factor into attracting new clients. From there, firm leaders can allocate marketing dollars more wisely.
8. Quickly respond to new client inquiries and build trust.
Respond quickly—within one hour if possible and 24 hours at the latest—to gain the advantage. The research is clear on this point. One digital firm reached out to 701 of the top law firms across the US and found:
- 59.3% responded to their lead form submissions
- 40.7% didn’t respond at all
- 70% of firms that responded to an inquiry did so within an hour
- 59% responded within 30 minutes
FindLaw’s 2021 US Consumer Legal Needs Survey found that 67% of legal consumers looking to hire an attorney place a call during regular business hours, and most expect a response the same day.
Corporate legal departments likewise value responsive communications—some even over outcomes and cost, according to a 2022 Wolters Kluwer report. Sixty-five percent of legal departments said they most commonly measure “responsiveness/communications” as the top key performance indicator for outsourced providers.
Another survey found that nearly two-thirds (65%) of US general counsels said they expect to be able to reach their outside lawyers at all times—even if there’s not a current emergency.
Also, use plain, straightforward language to build trust with prospects. Take it from Jonathan Lea of Jonathan Lea Network. At the Law Society Gazette-Actionstep Roundtable, he explained how his firm establishes open communication with clients, starting with the initial conversation.
“Always try and get to the nub of the issue as quickly as possible and make sure you show that you understand both their business and what their actual concerns are, and always display a good tone as well – positive, upbeat, that you can resolve their issues,” he adds.
9. Communicate effectively to ensure prospects understand the next steps.
Set clear expectations for what will happen next as your firm guides prospects in the appropriate direction.
Legal professionals no longer need to generate every letter from scratch or search high and low for templates that could be outdated. An automated workflow will pull the prospect’s information into document templates to instantly generate the necessary correspondence.
Complete control over editable templates ensures new prospects receive clearly unambiguous, up-to-date communications that align with firm policies for declining representation, referring prospects to other resources, and engaging new clients.
Is your firm unable to assist the prospect?
Upload standard referral and declination letter templates to your system. When a staff member indicates that a prospect should be “declined” or “referred,” it triggers workflows that automate the tasks and communications to decline to represent prospects and refer them to other resources.
Ready to schedule a consultation?
Automated appointment scheduling saves time, and many people appreciate the efficiency of online scheduling. With an integrated calendar function, the software can send emails confirming the consultation date. As the date nears, it sends reminders. When the consultation begins, the lawyer can click to open the prospective matter file directly from their calendar screen, ensuring the appointment runs smoothly.
10. Engage new clients with confidence.
Client intake is just one of many processes you can make more efficient. When it’s time to send matter engagement documentation to a new client, you can also automate the tasks and communications to:
- Send a retention agreement for signature
- Request specific documentation from a client based on matter type
- Instruct clients on how to fill out standard paperwork
- Send a video showing how to use the client portal
- And much more throughout the client relationship
Create a Superior Client Experience
A clearly defined, automated client intake process fosters trust while preventing valuable leads from slipping through the cracks.
Get in touch with our team to see how Actionstep can help you optimize your client intake process and set the tone for a superior client experience from day one.