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Process Improvement Tips

Law Firm Intake: Save Time and Convert More Clients With These 3 Tips

By David Skinner and Karen Skinner

When you get your intake process right, not only will you convert more people into clients, you’ll save time on every single matter that comes through your firm. That’s why so much has been written about law firm intake and sales here on Attorney at Work and elsewhere. It is the most important process in your law firm.

Today, we’re pulling together our top three tips for improving your intake process.

law firm intake process

1. Pre-screen All Potential New Clients

Most lawyers tell us they waste precious time every week on potential clients who just aren’t a good fit for the firm. Instead, build a pre-screening step into your law firm intake, so that people can self-select the right service for themselves or move on if they don’t see what they need. Here’s how:

  • Know your ideal client. Be very clear on who you want to work with and who you don’t. That way, you can ask pre-screening questions that get more of the right people into your process.
  • Be clear about your services on your website. If you do more than one type of work, have buttons for each service. Use the buttons to lead people to a few short questions that further qualify them, provide them with service-specific information, or stream them into the next right step in your intake process.
  • Automate the pre-screening. Use chatbots, online forms, or a platform like Lawbrokr to lead people through a quick pre-screening quiz, capture data, and move them through (or out of) your process.
  • Be upfront about your fees. Research finds that fee information is one of the most important things potential clients want to know. Be transparent about fees and payment structures, so potential clients can make informed decisions before moving further along in your process.
  • Deal professionally with unqualified leads. Whether you’re going to politely refuse to work with them, refer them out or offer them information about your local bar, make sure you’ve built this element into your pre-screening.

2. Capture Phone Numbers and Build Texting Into Your Law Firm Intake Process

If you’re relying on email to move potential clients toward engaging you, you are definitely missing an opportunity. Think about it. How many unread messages do you have in your texts right now? What about unready emails? If you’re like us, you don’t have any unread texts. We can’t say the same thing about our email!

Text messages have a 98% open rate, but emails hover around 20%. On top of that, potential clients are far more likely to respond to your texts. Gartner reports a 45% response rate to texts versus only 6% for email.

Because texting is fast and convenient for most people — and you can automate responses in many practice management and intake platforms — you’ll be able to follow up immediately. Use automations and auto-responders to send quick responses with links to schedule an intake call or consultation, or even a link to your engagement letter.

Potential clients expect a quick turnaround, and they’re likely to go with the first lawyer who gets back to them. Make sure that’s you!

3. Use a Pricing Tool to Provide Accurate Flat Fee and Hourly Estimates … Fast

Most potential clients want to know what your services are going to cost. They appreciate transparency and price certainty. If you use a pricing tool like AltFee, anyone who answers your phones will be able to answer many rate-related questions. Your firm will be able to provide an accurate estimate early in the intake process. And you’ll be able to refine that estimate later if necessary as you gather additional information.

Scoping work and quoting flat fees that provide accuracy while accounting for things like complexity and urgency can feel daunting. A lot of lawyers worry that they’ll lose money when they move away from hourly billing. But with flat fees, you get paid for your value and experience. You’re not limited to charging only the minutes you spend working on it.

Note: If you want to learn how to set profitable, accurate flat fees, join us on June 25 for “Fearless Flat Fees: How to Earn More in Your Law Firm.” Together with the folks from AltFee, we’ll show you how to use your data and experience to confidently set profitable fees quickly and consistently.

Bonus Tip: Get the Lawyers Out of Intake

If you’re still doing your own intake, it’s time to take a hard look at your process. Most of what happens in intake can happen without lawyers. In fact, in many firms, the entire intake process, including the engagement letter, takes place without the lawyers getting involved. They don’t touch the file until their first client meeting.

With a solid intake process (including some easy automations), you can train other people in your firm to handle intake for you. That way, you’ll be able to spend more time in your power zone: doing the work you love and the work that delivers the greatest value to your business.

Editor’s Note: Gimbal has created a complete intake package including instructions, a customizable process map, a script builder tool for intake scripts, tech recommendations and more. The Ultimate Intake Package is designed to help you streamline your intake process and it’s available at a 50% discount for Attorney at Work readers. Use this code at checkout: INTAKEAAW.

Catch Up With Process Improvement Tips, Including:

New Client Onboarding: 5 Tips to Win Over New Clients

Time to Build Your Team: 5 Steps to Improve Your Hiring Process

From Hire to Higher: 6 Ways to Improve Employee Onboarding


Karen Dunn Skinner and David Skinner help lawyers and legal professionals build more efficient, productive and profitable practices. They’re the co-founders of Gimbal Lean Practice Management Advisors and lawyers with over 20 years of experience each in Canada and Europe. Together, they’re the exclusive Global Advisors on Legal Process Improvement to the International Institute of Legal Project Management. They write and speak regularly, facilitate legal process improvement projects across North America, and have taught Gimbal’s LeanLegal® approach to thousands of legal professionals.


Image © iStockPhoto.com.

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