The legal client intake process is a crucial first step on a client’s journey to becoming a loyal client of your law firm. From gathering basic contact information to specific details about their case — law firms must have a streamlined process in place to effectively close more business. 

With 57% of clients searching for lawyers online, there is a need for firms to adopt digital and automated solutions that both enhance their visibility and make it easy for clients to contact them. 

In this handbook, we will discuss the importance of optimizing the client intake process, to close more prospective clients, enhance client satisfaction, and reduce the administrative burden that comes with intake. 

Two people meeting with someone

Why It’s Important to Define the Client Intake Process

A defined client intake process will keep your firm organized and reduce manual processes that can delay onboarding new clients. 

One way to do this is by implementing legal practice management software that allows your firm to process information through automated intake forms and store their data in an organized CRM software.

Some benefits of defining the client process include: 

  • Maintains consistency and compliance: Defining the client process ensures that all clients are treated equally and fairly, with a consistent level of service and attention. This can help your firm stay in compliance with legal and ethical standards.
  • Saves time and resources: Having a clearly defined client process can help your firm operate more efficiently and reduce wasted time and resources. This includes streamlining administrative tasks such as client intake, billing, and communication, and automating routine processes where possible.
  • Improves client satisfaction: A well-defined client process can help improve client satisfaction by providing a clear and transparent framework for communication, case management, and billing. Clients are more likely to be satisfied with your firm’s services when they feel informed and engaged throughout the legal process.
  • Reduces malpractice risk: A clearly defined client process can help reduce the risk of malpractice by ensuring that all necessary information is collected, all deadlines are met, and all communications are documented. This can help your firm avoid costly mistakes and potential legal claims.

Defining the client intake process is essential for any law firm seeking to maintain high levels of efficiency and effectiveness. By establishing a clear and consistent framework for client intake, law firms can ensure that all employees are on the same page, working towards the same goals, and providing a consistent level of service to clients.

Seven Stages of Client Intake

A seamless client intake process involves: 

  • Attracting potential clients: Lawyers can use a variety of marketing strategies, such as online advertising, social media, and search engine optimization, to attract potential clients. Building a strong reputation online will enhance firm visibility and lead generation.
  • Capturing information: Lawyers must collect accurate and detailed information from potential clients to evaluate whether their firm is the right fit for their case. Online intake forms can streamline this process, allowing clients to provide information about their case, contact information, and other essential details.
  • Pre-screening and conflict check: Prior to accepting a new client, lawyers must conduct a thorough pre-screening and conflict check to ensure that there are no ethical issues or conflicts of interest that could compromise their representation. This includes checking for any past or present relationships with the opposing party, reviewing prior representation, and assessing any other potential conflicts.
  • Consultation scheduling: Once a client has passed the pre-screening and conflict check, lawyers can schedule a consultation to discuss the client’s case in more detail. This allows lawyers to assess the potential merits of the case, identify any legal issues, and discuss possible strategies for moving forward.
  • Providing an intake questionnaire: During the consultation, lawyers can provide an intake questionnaire to gather additional information about the client’s case, such as relevant timelines, evidence, and legal precedents. This can help lawyers to better understand the facts of the case and formulate a more effective strategy.
  • Discussing fee agreements: Lawyers should be transparent about their fee structure, billing policy, and payment methods. This includes discussing any potential fees or expenses that may arise during the course of the case and providing clients with a clear understanding of what to expect in terms of costs.
  • Client onboarding: Finally, lawyers should onboard new clients by establishing a clear communication plan, outlining the legal process and timeline, and setting expectations for client involvement. This includes discussing the client’s responsibilities, such as providing necessary documentation and communicating any changes in circumstances that may affect the case. A clear onboarding process can help establish a positive and productive client relationship from the start.
Person using laptop with PracticePanther legal intake feature screens

Legal Client Intake Best Practices

With the right resources, the client intake process can be efficient with little administrative lift from your firm. There are many intake strategies you can implement to make the process easier for your firm and clients. 

Some tips for a strong intake process include: 

  • Identify your firm’s needs and goals to ensure you’re collecting relevant information. Client intake is the essential step for generating new business. Your firm should be clear on the type of information it needs from clients to successfully manage their cases and effectively distribute the workload. 
  • Set expectations. Listen to what the client hopes to achieve with their case and provide specific information about how you can help them. This can help gauge where your firm should allocate resources to their case.
  • Use law practice management software. With PracticePanther, you can complete the entire intake and onboarding process without leaving the platform. Automate tasks with custom intake workflows, manage contacts, send documents, accept online payments, and more to speed up the intake process. 
  • Automate documents. Save yourself time and stay organized by providing access to online documents. This way, updates will automatically save in one place. 
  • Use eSignatures. Quickly sign forms and request electronic signatures online instead of printing, signing, faxing, and keeping track of forms. 
  • Create a communication plan for clients. Set expectations with clients about your schedule availability. Include any on-demand methods of contacting your firm like a client portal
  • Track performance. Use PracticePanther’s custom reporting feature to find out where your firm is making the most money and how well your intake process is working. 

A solid intake process should be a seamless process that quickly converts a lead to a retained client without sacrificing your firm’s productivity. 

Why Firms Are Using Automated Client Intake Forms

Many firms are choosing to use automated client intake forms because they are easy to implement and improve accuracy. Automated intake forms reduce manual entry, which gives you the freedom to prioritize more detailed tasks related to a client’s case. 

The benefits of automated intake forms:

  • Enhanced data accuracy. By having clients fill out their own information, you can ensure you have the correct details and can follow up with them. Clients can leave information like their name, contact details, and address.
  • Standardizes the intake process. You’ll no longer need to hastily handwrite notes or log client data on spreadsheets. By switching to automated forms, you’ll have a uniform process for intaking clients without worrying if you gathered the proper information. 
  • Easy to track. Automated intake forms make it easy to track client information as you won’t have to keep track of physical paperwork. Instead, all necessary information can be found in one place, allowing you to efficiently search for the information you need when following up with potential clients who have expressed interest in your firm. 

Automated client intake forms also enhance the customer experience. Clients can access intake forms anytime, anywhere, without needing to sign any forms in person. They will remember how convenient it was to leave their information with your law firm.

Use PracticePanther To Automate Your Client Intake Process

PracticePanther is the legal practice management solution your law firm has been looking for when it comes to simplifying your client intake process. You’ll benefit from features that include: 

  • Custom fields.  No two firms are the same and the intake information they need can vary. Customize your intake forms with contact information, and relevant details needed for the client’s case. You can also include marketing questions to find out how and where clients find your firm. 
  • Automatic client contact creation. Captured information from intake forms automatically creates a client contact in PracticePanther. This allows you to nurture the relationship you have with a client and speed up onboarding. Use this information to quickly populate documents and details of their matter without re-entry. 
  • Cohesive branding. Adding your firm’s logo to intake forms can increase brand visibility, and credibility, and create a lasting impression on potential clients. It also establishes consistency in your brand’s identity and can help differentiate you from competitors.
  • Lead generation and tracking. Use custom tags in PracticePanther to track where your leads are coming from, so your firm can make informed decisions about where to invest your marketing budget.

Pro tip: You can also embed PracticePanther’s intake forms into your firm’s website and emails, enabling clients to get in contact with your firm from a laptop or mobile device. 

Person using laptop with PracticePanther legal client intake feature screens

Outlook on Client Intake

Your firm needs a streamlined client intake process to keep up with the competition, nurture leads, and turn prospective clients into customers. 

From lead to contract signed — PracticePanther, gives law firms modern resources, to efficiently attract and retain new business with an all-in-one platform. Draft contracts for electronic signature and process online payments to quickly start working on any client’s case. 

To see how PracticePanther can support your firm, you can book a demo or start a free trial today! 

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