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The key to greater financial stability and growth for your firm might be a better legal intake process.

Research consistently shows that law firms are far behind other professionals when it comes to lead tracking and conversion. As markets tighten, improving your intake process can give you an advantage over your competitors.

Here are 12 practices you can use now to sharpen your intake process.

1. Track every lead

This is the first and most fundamental step to radically improve lead conversion. Too many law firms put lead information on slips of paper that are lost or in emails that are ignored. Make sure that all leads are held in one central system, and it’s someone’s job to monitor them closely. Some smaller firms are able to do this through spreadsheets, but many firms find lead tracking software to provide the easiest and most comprehensive solution.

2. Be the first to respond

Many potential clients won’t wait around if they don’t hear from you. They'll start reaching out to other firms, and sign on with the one that is easiest to reach. So make sure you’re the most attentive and receptive firm.

This doesn’t mean you have to be obsessively checking your phone and email. There are tools that make your firm more responsive, while maintaining your peace of mind. Look for virtual reception services that are focused on legal work. These services can cover the gaps when your office is closed or your phone line is busy, giving a personalized, attentive response to callers.

3. Chase incoming leads

Law firms can be sloppy with lead follow-up. Some wait for the potential client to call them, while others only try once or twice to reach them by phone. 

This is an area where lawyers can learn a lot from sales professionals. Research in other industries suggest it’s best to try to reach a lead 5 or 6 times before giving up. This shouldn’t just be phone calls—many people won’t answer a call from an unknown number. Text messages or emails can give you a better response rate. Each one of these messages should allow recipients to say no or to opt out of future communication.

4. Automate tasks

Some intake tasks require complex skills of empathy and active listening. For everything else, find ways to automate. 

One of the most important things to automate is your team’s task flow. They shouldn’t have to spend a lot of time figuring out where each lead is in the process and where they should direct their energy—the system should be able to tell them when and how to reach out to specific potential clients, ensuring that each one receives full follow-up, but none are bombarded with too many messages. 

Also look for ways to use automatic document generation to create outreach and follow-up messages. 

5. Create intake scripts

Intake scripts ensure your team gathers all the information you need to follow up with a potential client. In addition to basic case and contact information, make sure to prompt your team to ask for the lead’s preferred communication methods and times. 

Intake scripts are also useful to define the voice of your firm, building a unified brand that is professional and empathetic. 

6. Build trust with active listening

Even with new technologies, the human element remains a crucial part of the intake process. Long phone conversations with leads are not ‘inefficient.’ They lay the groundwork of trust and care that can make the rest of the process smoother and more satisfactory for all.

You need scripts and check-lists to ensure that intake professionals gather all the information they need. But intake training should also encourage the use of open-ended, empathetic questions, and lots of active listening. 

7. Screen with your client profile in mind

Before intake begins, each member of the team should understand what kind of clients and cases fit the size and scope of your practice. The better equipped they are to make those pre-screening decisions, the less time will be wasted for both you and the caller. 

Intake professionals can also begin screening for potential conflicts, to flag any problems as early as possible. As soon as they receive the names of the parties involved, they can search for them in your system—either within a contact spreadsheet or through your case management software. Your search will be even more thorough with tools like Filevine’s Docs+, which include optical character recognition (OCR) and page indexing to help you search entire documents, rather than just titles.

8. Offer strong referrals

When a potential client isn’t right for you, try to give them a path forward with another qualified professional. Ideally, this can happen during the first call, to help your caller move forward on their journey. It builds your reputation as a helpful source of information and increases the chances of referrals coming back to you. 

When referral fees are appropriate and allowed, make sure you have an efficient system for following up. It’s easy to lose track of referrals and leave money on the table, but lead tracking software like LeadDocket can automate follow-up and make the process painless.

9. Cut down consultation no-shows

All of this work exists to encourage quality leads into an initial consultation. Once you’ve got the appointment on the schedule, you want to make sure the potential client actually shows up. To do this, send them a confirmation email or text message as soon as a date and time has been set. Then give them a clear and concise text message reminder the day before the appointment, along with instructions for rescheduling if necessary.

Tools like LeadDocket can automate and personalize your text message reminders, clearing out time for your intake staff.

10. Seamlessly seal the deal

Make it easy for new clients to hire you. Use automatic document generation tools to quickly create new agreements and client onboarding documents. Give your clients the freedom and flexibility of secure eSignature tools, so they can sign from any device, anywhere.

And don’t forget the human touch. It can mean a lot to send a hand-written note or small gift to new clients, welcoming them to the team.

11. Track your numbers

Most law firms know how many leads they sign up. Fewer know how many they didn’t sign. And even fewer fully analyze their information to see which marketing campaigns are most successful, which intake specialists are bringing in the most and highest quality cases, where bottlenecks exist, and more. 

Ideally, use an intake system that integrates with your case management platform. This will allow you to easily track your cases from first lead to final outcome. You’ll be able to see the final ROI for your marketing efforts, and analyze them by different marketing channels and case types to guide your future marketing and intake decisions.

12. Don’t overcommit

Your intake abilities must never surpass your capacity to follow-through. As your intake success grows, make sure you have the tools you need to remain efficient in each step of the legal process. A unified legal work platform can improve productivity and efficiency, and ensure your new clients receive the care and attention they deserve.

Many law firms are spending tremendous amounts on their advertising, but then ignoring many of the leads that advertising generates. By improving your legal intake process, you can increase your lead conversion rate. This means an increase in the return on investment for your marketing expenses, greater financial stability for your firm, and more clients helped by your services.