Client Intake for Law Firms: Is Your System Working?

“If you work just for money, you’ll never make it, but if you love what you’re doing and you always put the customer first, success will be yours.”  – Ray Krock, McDonald\’s Founder

Is your firm making a great first impression?

Put the customer first. It sounds easy, but in the fast-paced and competitive legal space you are increasingly at risk of alienating the single most important person who comes in contact with your firm: New potential clients. New client inquiries come from all walks of life and are generated through referrals, traditional media and online channels. The one thing that they will all have in common is a single first impression with your firm. Will it be a good one or will it be a nightmare where poorly trained intake staff are not 100% engaged, mishandle initial client contact and botch the hand off to the appropriate attorney.

I hear stories from many busy law firms that have drifted away from excellent customer service and wonder why their new business numbers are falling. Firms specializing in Social Security Disability lead intake, Bankruptcy or Workers Compensation matters are often most at risk due to the subtle “autopilot” mentality that begins to set in from having to deal with troubled clients, language barriers, fatigue, lack of training and staff turnover. It’s not easy to stay at the top of your game when dealing with dozens or even hundreds of potential new clients every month, but the intake process is crucial to the long term success of your practice.

What can you do to improve your intake process?

1.  Hire well. This one single act will have a profound effect on your overall customer retention rate. Don’t limit yourself to people who have only worked in law firms, great customer service can come from a variety of industries.

2.  Train new staff effectively. It starts with ensuring that all intake staff have a deep understanding of how important their position is and show a high level of empathy to every single call they handle. Most people who reach out to a law firm are enduring a stressful period in their life and are looking for someone who understands and can really help them. Train your people to be the helpful, safe on ramp to outstanding advocacy.

3.  Fast follow up. Studies have shown that when consumers are looking for an attorney, they will often call more than one and the firm that is able to connect first has a much higher chance of retaining the client. There is research that shows a dramatic fall off of retention rates as quickly as one hour after the client leaves a message or fills out an online form. Fast follow up is crucial to improved retention.

4.  Record calls and critique staff. Great training requires great feedback and a very effective way to accomplish this is to record intake calls and then set a time to review with staff. This should be done in a very positive light and not be overly critical or demeaning in any way. Recording calls works really well when staff members are not fearful of the feedback they receive.

5.  Invest in good case management software. Managing a high volume of calls every month and staying organized with your sales funnel requires a good case management system. The good news is that costs are coming down on many of these systems and they are becoming much easier to use.  Most are now “cloud-based\” where you are able to log in and monitor the system from any computer, tablet or smart phone.

6.  Watch for burnout. An intake staff position is not the highest paid role in a law firm by a long shot. And the expectation of managing the first impression is a big responsibility. Making sure that staff are well compensated, receive breaks and are encouraged to take vacation time is extremely important for this position.

At JurisLead, we see a huge improvement in lead conversions with a well-run intake system in place. Frustration with low close rates can often be traced back to the fundamental issues discussed above and cutting corners on this process can end up costing your firm a lot of business. It makes sense to look at it as an investment that will allow you to focus on your core case management strengths while relying on a conscientious intake person to provide a great introduction for your firm.  Following these guidelines is a great recipe for improved client retention and increased revenue.

Find out how JurisLead can generate new leads for your firm