These days, there are a lot of great resources for attorneys to turn to for advice on marketing their firms. Unfortunately, when it comes to lead capturing — a stage that we would argue is just as important for law offices as marketing — the same can’t be said. As a phone answering service that specializes in performing new client intakes for lawyers, we know the value of proper lead capturing quite well, and also know what is necessary to do it right. So in this blog post, we’ll be discussing seven things all lawyers should know about the client intake process, and offering ideas on how to improve your practice’s legal intake.
1- A Lot of Firms Are Struggling With Client Intake
If your law practice hasn’t been all that successful with handling the new client intake stage, you can take some comfort in knowing that a lot of attorneys are in the same boat. As lead generation expert Jan Roos reminded us in his “Let’s Talk Legal Marketing” interview back in June, legal intake is hard work.
“Proper Intake is complicated to set up, and emotionally challenging to follow through with,” Roos said. “On the surface though – you and your staff are ‘just having a conversation’ with a prospective client, which leads people to think that’s all there is to it. It’s a huge blind spot, and many firms let literally hundreds of thousands of dollars walk through the door by not focusing on it.”
Describing the intake process as a blind spot for firms is spot on, as one of the biggest reasons law office’s seem to struggle in this area, is that they don’t realize how costly doing it wrong can be. A lot of firms are fine with letting calls from new leads go to voicemail, and don’t realize that almost all new leads sent to an automated machine these days are pretty much lost forever. People calling into a law office have urgent needs, and are looking for immediate answers. If you don’t always have a live person ready to answer your phones and address a new client’s issues, your firm needs to make changes.
2- Client Intake Can Make Or Break Your Marketing Campaigns
Law firms should always be striving to provide a high level of customer service over the phone, as doing so shows clients that you actually care about their problems and needs. But, if that alone isn’t enough to get you to make serious changes to your new client intake process, consider how poor lead capturing could be affecting your bottom line.
If you’re like most attorneys these days, you’re investing a considerable amount of time and money into marketing your practice. Sometimes a new lead’s phone call is the result of weeks or months of hard work. But, if when a new leads calls into your office, they don’t get to speak with a live person or speak end up talking with someone who is less than impressive on the phone, all of your marketing efforts could be washed away in a matter of seconds.
Remember, new leads don’t owe you anything. Having great online content can do a lot to build up consumer trust, but that trust can be lost in a matter of seconds. Even if a new lead visits your website, checks out your attorney bio pages, and reads a few of your blog posts, there is nothing to stop them from looking for other legal help after a disappointing first phone call. It is up to you and your staff to always be ready to impress new leads, and make your marketing efforts worthwhile.
3- Preparation Is Key To Doing Client Intake Right
Sorry attorneys, there is a major difference between basic message taking and a proper new client intake process. If you simply ask a new lead for their name and number, and let them know they’ll get a call back, your new lead will likely be left feeling underwhelmed after the call is over. In order to get consumers really feeling confident about your firm, you’ll want to begin collecting their personal and case information right away.
Attorneys won’t always be available to get on the phone and answer a new lead’s questions, so you’ll want to have a well-thought out process in place for obtaining information from your first-time callers. You’ll also want to make sure anyone that might be answering calls at your law office is familiar with that process. Many firms will use a new client intake form as their guide, to ensure that all important information is collected during the call. For a helpful guide on creating new client intake forms, check out this blog post from my colleague Nick Werker.
Taking potential clients through an information gathering protocol that is clearly well established, will show new leads that your firm is not only highly organized and motivated, but has also been around the block a few times. Giving the person answering your phones a script to follow during the client intake process will also help them come across as more confident and knowledgeable during the call, which will of course inspire confidence in the caller.
4- The Client Intake Process Shouldn’t Be Rushed
While most lawyers would probably prefer the client intake process to be performed in a surgical-like fashion, with one question being answered after another with brief and concise answers, that’s almost never the case. Usually a prospective client will have a detailed story to tell you, and will often be quite emotional while telling it. It is up to the person performing the intake process to listen carefully, make the customer feel heard, and still collect all the necessary details they need to move forward with a potential case.
Counting on your firm’s already overworked attorneys to be constantly answering calls from new prospects probably isn’t the best strategy. As we’ve already detailed, doing legal intake right takes time, which is something lawyers usually don’t have a lot of to spare. While an attorney is in theory a great person for a first-time caller to your firm to talk to, they can come across as uncaring or just plain rude if they are hurrying through intake form questions, in an effort to get back to their case work as quickly as possible.
Recording wrong information or forgetting to obtain important details can come back to bite you in future conversations with clients. You always want to give yourself enough time to ask for proper spelling of names, ask callers to repeat themselves if needed, and carefully look over your list of intake questions. This is why having staff that can dedicate time solely to phone answering is extremely important for all law offices.
5- Being Rude Can Cost You Business
The 2019 Clio Legal Trends Report revealed that 64% of consumers view the friendliness and likeability of a lawyer’s tone to be important. This indicates that while some customers will tolerate dealing with a cold attorney or staff member over the phone, the majority expect to deal with a kind and courteous individual during the intake process.
Sorry old school attorneys, but it’s no longer just about the results you bring. Today’s lawyers are expected to provide consumers with a warm and comfortable customer experience, and that needs to start with their very first call to your law office. You’ll need to make sure the people speaking with new leads at your firm have been carefully schooled on proper phone etiquette. Take the time to get all of your phone answering staff on the same page when it comes to things like how to greet customers, when and how to go about putting callers on hold, and proper call transferring protocols.
Keep in mind that approaching a law office is scary process for a lot of people, and that they are often calling you on one of their worst days. Making your potential client feel comfortable and cared for during that first call truly means everything. Be sensitive to your caller’s issues as you take them through the intake process, and be sure to let them know they are in good hands with your firm.
6- The Client Intake Process Doesn’t End After The First Phone Call
After taking a prospective client through your list of intake questions, you’ll want to make sure they are clear on what happens next in the process before ending the call. A well performed client intake can do a lot to make a prospective client feel confident about using your firm, but far from guarantees that they will end up hiring you. You need to inform the caller on who the next person they speak with will be, and when they’ll be hearing from that person. Leaving the next step in the process uncertain, is just asking for a new prospect to continue shopping around with competing firms.
Keeping new leads organized is also a must, as busy firms are often guilty of forgetting to follow-up with new prospects in a timely fashion. If an attorney isn’t the one to perform intake on a new prospect, you’ll want to make sure a lawyer or firm manager gets in contact with the caller as soon as possible. Your new leads will likely have questions that only a legal professional will be able to provide detailed answers to. Having your firm stay on top of making follow-up calls with new leads is extremely important.
The good news for lawyers is that when the new client intake process is performed correctly, follow-up phone calls tend to go very smoothly. Attorneys will go into the call fully briefed on who the prospect is, and what exactly it is they are going through. Instead of having to ask a client to reexplain the legal issues they are facing, lawyers can come into the phone call ready to present solutions and a plan of action. You better believe that will impress customers.
7- There Are Experts Who Can Help With Client Intake
While having a well established gameplan for performing the legal intake process is a must for your firm, it is important to recognize your staff’s limitations. This is especially true for solo and small firm attorneys. The simple fact is that a new client opportunity can present itself at any moment. It could come in on a Saturday, the middle of the night, or even a holiday. Even lawyers that already have a lot of phone answering help, will see their practices struggle to answer all of their incoming calls with a live voice. Not to mention legal intake can be a time consuming activity, and you and your staff may not always have time to do it right.
Answering Legal is a phone answering service built specifically to meet the needs of attorneys. One of the biggest things we do to meet a law firm’s need is provide 24/7 live phone coverage. Anytime a new lead opportunity presents itself, one of Answering Legal’s receptionists will be ready to get on the phone. Seriously, our team never misses a single call. All of our receptionists have been extensively trained on performing the new client intake process, and can be counted on to secure a new lead’s information during their first call to your firm. Our service also provides features like live call transferring, bilingual phone answering, overflow call handling, and appointment scheduling that will help your firm impress new leads.