Legal client intake is a necessity for every law office. There are a lot of legal client intake methods available, all of which involve capturing the necessary information. Choosing the right intake solution for your law office is important. We’re looking at six things you should keep in mind so that you choose the right solution for your needs.
Using a Traditional Legal Client Intake Form
If you’re not solely a virtual law office who has a fully automated or online intake process and document delivery and storage system through law practice management software or by utilizing various pieces of existing software, you need a traditional legal client intake form. Most law offices do not have computer stations set up that they allow walk-in traffic to use to complete a digital intake form. They have a paper form that is completed. That form is reviewed by the attorney during their appointment and added to their file. It may also be scanned to become part of their digital file.
Creating Your Own Online Intake Form
Google, Wix, and several other online services make it relatively fast and easy for anyone who wants to create an online form. There is no need to be well-versed in HTML, CSS, or any other coding language. You can choose which fields should appear, such as first and last name, address, phone number, and email address. You can also design your own form fields, such as a field that allows the new client to explain why they’re looking to hire your law office.
Once you build the form, you would need to embed it into your website. Depending on the website provider you have (i.e., WordPress, Wix, etc.), this may or may not be easy for you to do. Take WordPress as an example. It’s popular because it’s easy to set up even if you have no experience designing a website. You buy your domain. You can pay as little as $48 for the year. You choose a theme. And you do a little design work. The problem is that you don’t get to add downloads (such as a PDF version of your traditional intake form the prospective client could print out, complete, and bring in with them) unless you upgrade to a more expensive plan. You either need to really understand code or hire someone to set up an online intake form (as opposed to a contact form because an intake form will ask for substantial information compared to just sending you an email).
Google forms are easy to create, but you need to test them before you deploy them. You could certainly create one, test it to make sure it works, and then put a link to it on your site. Before you go this route, though, you should ensure that using a Google form would meet any privacy regulations in your jurisdiction. The information would be emailed to you, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Using a Chatbot to Walk New Clients Through the Intake Process
Another great option is to deploy a chatbot on your website that has the ability to walk new clients through the intake process. This method automates the legal intake process. The new client can complete intake from the privacy of their own home. The data is captured and is transferred to the client intake form. Then, it is provided to you for the consultation either in a digital format or as a printed document.
A chatbot doesn’t need to be and shouldn’t be your only means of intake. However, it is still a valuable tool since the public at large seeks out services online. A chatbot can be used to answer basic questions about practice areas and encourage site visitors to call your office, schedule a consultation, or complete the legal client intake process.
Legal Intake with an Answering Service
Your receptionist or an answering service can also assist with the legal intake process. Of course, if you share an answering service with another lawyer who is not a partner in your firm, this may not be a viable solution because of ethical concerns. In that instance, the answering service can still transfer the call to your legal assistant or paralegal and the legal intake process may still proceed over the phone.
To conduct the intake process over the phone, it’s important to keep it short. Set the time and date for the consultation. Get the necessary personal information, including contact information. Collect the facts necessary for the consultation. Keep in mind that you need to read the facts before the consultation and then ask for additional facts to fill in any gaps during the consultation itself.
Customizing the Intake Process to the Needs of Your Prospective Client Base
It’s important to note that you certainly cannot please everyone. Even if you incorporated every legal client intake method that exists and even made up a few of your own, at some point you’d run into a prospective client who would think you’re just not doing enough to make the process easy for them. You are not pizza…you cannot make everyone happy even if you offer lots of options. But that doesn’t mean that you stop offering options.
The most important thing to remember to get the legal client intake process right is to think of the client and their needs. If you were in their shoes (and, don’t worry, you won’t get compassion fatigue by thinking about this), which intake processes would be most convenient for you?
Considering the Law Office
And it’s also important to consider the law office as a whole. If you’re embracing tech, more tech solutions make sense. You may be more interested in automation. You need to consider intake measures that make law office life easier from the technological perspective (but that also make the process easy for the clients). It’s not always an easy balance to strike, but that’s why it’s important to offer options.
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