It’s pretty easy to say, in general, what streamlining a law firm intake process means. It means there will be less busy work for you at your office, quicker response times for clients, and happier people on both sides of the attorney-client relationship.
However, trying to achieve this can sometimes feel like a moving target. In this article, we are going to look at some concrete actions you can take. We will also explore some of the key concepts of law firm intake, such as acquiring leads and determining intake policies. Here’s what we’ll cover:
The smoothest, most professional intake process in the world can only help you if you have quality leads to process. Conversely, leads can only generate business if your intake process works well.
Getting leads and processing them are two aspects of the same process: client acquisition. This is one reason your law firm marketing strategy needs to take a big-picture view of your entire business.
There are plenty of ways that you can start generating leads for your firm. Here are some examples:
In the previous section, you might have noticed that we mentioned purchasing leads directly as one of the options for getting information about and attention from potential clients. Most firms could benefit from combining purchased leads with self-generated leads.
Buying leads from an agency gives you control over the number of leads you get per month. This is especially useful in the context of the discussion about intake process, because it lets you ensure that your investments in intake are never going to waste. In other words, you can make sure you have a minimum number of leads per month to keep your intake staff busy or to use any automatic tools that you invest in.
On the other hand, generating leads yourself usually comes with corollary, long-term benefits for your firm. For example, increasing your search engine rank could improve your credibility online. Building a blog full of useful general information could help you answer common client questions more efficiently. These benefits are in addition to any clients that you acquire through these lead generation methods.
There are also questions of cost, delayed results, and strategic value, among others. It gets complicated, but the bottom line is that a diversified strategy is usually the best option for getting leads.
The main goal of intake processes for lawyers is to get more clients. That’s a good idea, but it isn’t a particularly useful goal when it comes to advancing your business interests methodically.
To be truly effective in assisting with your streamlining process, your goals and the resulting policies should probably be based on data and analysis. For example, one of the classic goals for incoming calls used to be to never let the phone ring more than three times.
These days, thanks to the Internet and client tracking software, we can quantify much more of the intake process; we can go further than simply counting the number of times the phone is ringing before someone answers. This means you can, and probably should direct your energy towards improving the specific parts of your intake process that will show the most results. Here are some examples of data-based goals:
Again, these are just examples. You would want to look at the details of your own intake process to find the best opportunities for your firm.
Amid all of the data and analytics, it is easy to lose sight of what streamlining really means for an intake process. Obviously, some firms and some practice areas tend to spend more time establishing attorney-client agreements than others.
Setting realistic expectations about the intake process helps both sides of the transaction. On your side, you can make attainable goals and plan for sustainable, long-term growth of your business. On the client side, setting expectations is even more important.
Depending on your practice area, many of your leads might only know about lawyers from movies and television. You could be the first lawyer they ever hire. This is common for many family law, personal injury, and estate planning law firms, for example.
Expectations about every step in the legal process, including hiring an attorney, might be based on fiction and conjecture. Establishing each lead’s general level of experience and sharing a preview of the intake process at your firm could go a long way towards securing the trust, calming the nerves, and earning the business of your potential clients.
With all of that in mind, let’s look at the details of the streamlining process. While this is different for every firm and should be based on your current performance, there are a few things that tend to be of general benefit. One of them is automation.
Automated processes are more efficient on nearly every level. They tend to cost less than doing things manually. They also tend to be faster. For example, a chatbot or live chat service on your website can respond immediately to client inquiries and gather information, all while notifying you of the lead.
Along with maintaining a dedicated intake staff, automating your intake is the best way to make your process smoother — especially from a client perspective. The instant responses available with automation should help you capture client attention before they start looking for other attorneys, giving you an advantage over the competition.
We’ve talked about refining your intake based on firm-specific analytics and data. Tracking and data-entry integration are the prerequisites for doing that efficiently.
Integrating your client tracking software, marketing, and intake systems should give you the top-down oversight you need to quickly see opportunities for improvement. This helps you make decisions and investments based on business facts rather than conjecture or statistics.
An integrated system should also get you closer to peak efficiency in terms of data entry. Imagine how much time you’ll save and the risk you’ll avoid by eliminating unnecessary retyping and copy-pasting.
After you have the systems in place to track and automate intake processes, it’s time to speed up the human element. Here are some examples of how law firms do that:
Streamlining intake is a simple concept, but it will require effort and strategy for you to do it efficiently. FORWARD Lawyer Marketing has helped many firms do this within the greater context of improving law firm marketing practices — and we are ready to help you, too.
It all starts with an initial consultation. Please contact us today through our website to get started. You can also call us at (888)590-9687. We have clients across the country in multiple practice areas, so please reach out with any questions or concerns.