Legal intake — the process of converting contacts into clients — is one of the most important processes in your law firm. Think of it as the crucial final stage of your marketing efforts. A great intake process can bring in new clients — a bad one can lose them.
Not all law firms have people dedicated to intake. It is often handled by whichever staff member is available to answer the phone at that moment, leading to inconsistent responses that may not reflect your firm at its best. With these six tips, you can develop an intake process to turn more leads and referrals into clients.
Why Does Legal Intake Matter?
People’s first impression of your firm is built on a mixture of your marketing messaging and their personal contact with your firm. Most leads — 74% according to a Findlaw survey — say a phone call is their preferred method of contacting an attorney. So, for the majority, the first impression is made over the phone. Every aspect of that first call, from the questions asked to the tone of voice, helps shape their decision to hire you — or to hang up and continue calling other law firms.
Six Ways to Improve Your Legal Intake Process
At the very start of the call, there are a few questions you need to ask before the prospect begins to explain their problem. Your priority is asking for their name and contact details.
If they seem reluctant, you can explain that you want to be able to call them back to ensure you have every detail of their matter in case of disconnections during your call. Without knowing what the service is like on their end, you’ll want the insurance if the call drops.
2. Use Active Listening Techniques
Callers often want to launch straight into their stories, which can actually be good for your intake. They will often include key information about their case as they speak, but to pick up on it, you’ll need to practice active listening.
Active listening is a technique that helps you remain engaged during a mostly one-sided conversation. It can also be a way to overcome distractions if you are working in a shared space. By focusing on the exact words a person is saying and regularly repeating these back to them or paraphrasing, you ensure that you hear what the other person is saying, not what you are expecting to hear.
3. Ask for Permission
You’ll know from experience that legal intake takes time. That’s why it is a best practice to ask your lead whether they have enough time when they call. There’s nothing more frustrating, for both you and your lead, than being halfway through the intake and hearing that they have to hang up.
Give them an idea of how long you’ll need to complete the intake. If they don’t have the time right then, you can organize to call them back at a more convenient hour. Leads generally appreciate the consideration, and you’ll have a more productive intake if they’re not watching at the clock.
4. Ask Specific Questions
Have you ever completed an intake only to realize there was one piece of important information you forgot to get? It helps to have a rough script to make sure you are gathering relevant information for the firm’s different practice areas.
Learn specific questions that are most helpful in identifying whether the caller has a valid case and, just as important, whether that case is the right fit for your firm. If you have multiple people answering your phone calls, record these questions in a document to create a consistent structure across all your calls.
5. Get a Commitment
If the case or matter is a good fit for your firm, don’t end the call on an open-ended or uncertain note. Set concrete actions that drive the case forward. For example, use booking tools like Calendly or Setmore to schedule a callback or meeting with a relevant attorney. People are much less likely to shop around and contact other firms once they make a commitment like this. It will also help them feel like they have made a positive step toward dealing with their legal issue, which can be a huge help.
6. Assess the Impact
Just as you would analyze a marketing campaign for its success, you should regularly assess your legal intake to identify areas for improvement. By listening to calls, checking in with staff, and asking for client feedback at the close of the matter, you can determine which elements of your legal intake are working well and which need more work.
You’ll find that a great legal intake process can show fantastic results for your firm, improving conversion rates and client satisfaction.
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