5 Professional Tips For Improving Your Firm’s Intake Process

Your firm's intake process is more important than you may realize! Here are 5 tips on how to ensure your intake is as efficient and effective as possible.

5 Professional Tips For Improving Your Firm’s Intake Process

When it comes to running a law firm, one of the most important and influential aspects of your business model is your intake process. Do you have an efficient process for answering leads, following up with them, and organizing them internally so you can maximize conversions, get more cases, and grow your firm?

Many law firms struggle with improving their intake process. Some firms do not know where to start, and some firms feel like they do not have the resources in place, but any firm that is not working to maximize the effectiveness of their intake process does not recognize the power of getting to a lead before other law firms do.

From a prospective client standpoint, hiring an attorney is a big decision, so anyone who contacts you will likely be considering a few or many other attorneys as well. If you are able to speak with them first, you increase the chances of them becoming a client, because you are able to qualify and pitch them on your legal services. Whoever is able to contact the leads first “wins”!

This isn’t just conjecture; numerous studies have proven this to be true.

CallHippo identified a 450% difference in response time for leads receiving a follow-up call within an hour of submitting an inquiry and those that didn’t.

Velocify’s survey found the biggest difference in making contact with new leads is following up fast. Their research shows that prospects receiving a call within one minute of their initial inquiry were 391% more likely to convert.

Firms that tried to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving a query were nearly seven times as likely to qualify the lead (definied as having a meaningful conversation with a key decision maker) as those that tried to contact the customer even an hour later - and more to 60 times as likely as companies that waited 24 hours or longer.

The need for a solid intake process is clear. So what are some ways that your law firm can tighten up your intake and see better results? We partnered with LEX Reception, one of the leading legal answering services, for a webinar with over 90 lawyers to discuss best practices and pro tips. Here are 5 of the most important things to ensure your firm is doing when you get calls from leads!

  1. Have a live person answer the phone (with a smile!)

The most basic rule of intake is to always answer the phone! It seems simple, but think about how many calls are missed outside of office hours, when an attorney is in court, or because things at the office are too hectic - if your firm doesn’t have an answering service, and if you don’t realize the monetary value of a call, you might not think much of sending calls to voicemail. But that should never (or, as rarely as possible) happen! 80% of callers sent to voicemail don’t leave one because they don’t think that their message will be heard or responded to. Because people who call you are in need of legal help urgently, they will not wait for your response before calling other firms in the area. If you miss a call, you might be missing your only chance to convert that lead.

What is one missed call worth to you? If you could make thousands of dollars on a single case, that’s how much you can attribute to the missed call - because it could have been a case. You need to make sure that someone is always available to take calls from potential clients.

For solo practitioners or small firms, this can be difficult, which is why answering services like LEX Reception that offer 24/7 support are so amazing. But even if you are answering calls internally (some or all of the time), make sure the person answering the phones is trained and personable. Answering the phone with a smile will literally change the tone of your voice and cause the caller to feel confident as they move into the conversation.

  1. Give them your full attention during the call - show empathy, listen, mirror their tone, be polite, and minimize distractions.

Because this call could be worth so much, it is important that it starts out well. You want to be warm, but it is not always appropriate to be cheerful, which is why you want to take care to mirror their tone. For example, if someone is calling your family law firm because they were denied custody, or if they are calling your estate planning firm because there was recently a death in the family, you shouldn’t say “Great! Let’s get started!”. It’s more appropriate to say “I’m so sorry to hear that. Let me collect some information from you so that we can help.”

Often, if you just listen to what the caller has to say when they are describing their problem, you will get much of the information that you need without having to ask extensive questions. It is important that you listen intently so that you know what to ask and don’t repeat anything they’ve already told you, which can be frustrating for them, and so that you know what to ask for clarification on or elaboration on.

You will want to be as polite as possible. It is easy to ask rapid-fire questions (“Name? Email address? County of residence? Occupation?”), but it is better to frame those questions in order to demonstrate kindness and professionalism (“May I ask who I have the pleasure of speaking with?”,“What is a good email address to reach you in case we need to send information?”, “What is a good phone number to call you back in case we get disconnected?”)

If you are distracted, the caller will be able to hear that in your voice. As much as possible, focus on the conversation at hand. This will build trust with them!  

  1. Set expectations

Before you get too far into the call, you need to show them that you respect their time and also protect yours. It is important to let them know how long the initial call will take. For example, you could say something like “I have a few questions for you so we can better assist you.” Do you have ten (fifteen, twenty) minutes to talk?” This way, they are not frustrated by answering many questions if they were not expecting to, and if they have a pressing appointment and don’t have that time, you can set up another call with them later - but they know that you care and you are getting a commitment from them for another connection, which is always a good thing!

  1. Ask specific questions to help qualify the client

The more information you can get on this initial call, the better. If you ask specific questions, you should be able to assess whether or not that case is one your firm wants to/is able to take on, and also get enough information to start conducting preliminary research or lay the groundwork for an in-person/virtual consultation. The questions you ask will depend on your specific practice area and location.

  1. Have a good CRM

The information you just collected during that call needs to be organized to make future communication smooth and save you time, which is why you need a reliable CRM (customer-relationship management system). Google sheets aren’t enough to keep your leads managed well; many of these leads will require extensive follow-up before they close. Services like LEX Reception integrate with many of the options you have for CRMs - Clio, MyCase, PracticePanther, Captorra, etc. Even if you are only getting a few leads right now, as you grow, your internal processes will need to be streamlined and organized. Whether or not you have an answering service, having a CRM is crucial to the long-term success of your firm.

Have more questions about improving your firm’s intake process? Call our legal marketing experts today!

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