Best-of-breed software companies focus on building, enhancing, and supporting an application that belongs to their core area of expertise. They typically offer the same usability that all-in-one companies offer, while providing industry-focused solutions. This type of undivided attention results in a superior software solution that is fine-tuned to business needs.
Best of Breed vs All in One
Consumer-focused law firms tend to be behind other businesses when it comes to adopting new technology that best fits their needs. For example, many other businesses connect directly with consumers using text messaging. They use online reputation management tools to manage their reviews. Relatively few consumer law firms, however, have embraced these technologies. Due to the desire for simplicity, or oftentimes simply complacency, law firm owners tend to try and stretch the capacity of a single software application well beyond its capabilities. What a lot of these law firms do not realize is that this decision is ultimately impacting their bottom line in a very negative way.
Consider case management software. Attorneys can benefit greatly from this technology—when used correctly, it streamlines many aspects of client and court interactions, optimizing workflows and the organization of client information. Yet case management software cannot effectively handle potential client interactions. Law firms often find their case management software ill-equipped to manage the unique concerns of the intake process. These shortcomings are built into the software itself, as the tasks and mentality of managing an active docket differ considerably from that of acquiring new clients.
In short: case management solutions are designed with the intention of streamlining processes after you’ve already landed clients. Acquiring those clients is another matter altogether—and it warrants unique software specifically tailored to this critical endeavor.
Picking the right tool makes all the difference in landing new clients
So how do you know when you’re trying to shoehorn your current technology into something that’s not the right fit – in particular, using case management software to capture new clients? When it comes to landing new clients, ask yourself these questions:
Do we keep increasing our marketing spend but not seeing a comparable increase in new clients?
Does our primary competitor keep growing while our growth has stagnated?
Are we finding there’s not enough time in the day to respond to potential clients inquiries?
Are we returning prospects’ calls and emails only to find they’ve already hired someone else?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then the odds are great that you have prospective clients falling through the cracks. Consumer-focused law firms need to stop trying to fix their client intake gap by spending ever more on marketing. Instead, they should consider using the tools designed to better track marketing analytics, follow up on leads, qualify potential clients and ultimately sign them up. Lead management programs are designed very specifically to help law firms capitalize on all of their marketing efforts. When implemented, they actually increase firms’ caseloads and allow them to decrease their marketing spend.
Change is never easy, particularly when it comes to technological advancements. This is doubly true for attorneys. Ultimately, however, a best-of-breed approach centered on strategic intake could pay dividends for your law firm. The sooner you make the leap and switch to a dedicated intake system, the better outcomes you’ll see in terms of staff morale, client response, and conversion rates.
We get it: intake is difficult. Opportunities for mistakes abound, even among today’s most successful law firms. Unfortunately, seemingly small errors can prove damaging down the road, leading to fewer conversions and general dissatisfaction, even among those who ultimately choose to work with your law firm.
Your current intake process may be in shambles, but it’s far from unfixable. With a few adjustments, you can transform your department and reap the rewards. First, however, it helps to know what, exactly, an ideal intake department looks like. The following are among the most valuable signs of effective intake.
Skilled Staff Members
Intake individuals and departments deserve your utmost respect. They form the bulk of your law firm’s initial impression and can spell the difference between an immediate conversion and a lost lead. As you seek new talent for your intake team, picture your staff members not as receptionists or paralegals, but rather, as sales professionals equipped with the powers of persuasion. Of course, even after they’re hired, your staff will require ongoing training to ensure that they remain true to your brand.
Properly Equipped Teams
Even the most impressive intake specialists will struggle to convert leads if they’re not equipped with the proper tools and technology. A dedicated lead management system is particularly important. This system should include several features designed to meet the evolving needs of today’s law firms. An automated workflow, for example, streamlines current intake processes to ensure that attorneys can be promptly reached when necessary; it also optimizes the turndown process. Other essentials include contact and list management capabilities so the firm can follow up on leads.
Intake teams should also be equipped with customized scripts developed according to the unique conditions posed by different case types. Scripts should encourage intake staff members to sound natural while still ensuring that they cover all essential information.
The more time that passes between initial contact and law firm follow-up, the more likely leads are to jump ship. Conversion rates drop from 78 percent in the first 5 minutes to a mere 22 percent after just 15 minutes of lag time. Ideal client interactions begin with picking up the phone on the first ring to avoid the dreaded prospect of voicemail.
Today’s clients are notoriously unwilling to put up with even the slightest hint of inconvenience. They don’t have to acquiesce to your demands—another law firm is only a phone call away. The easier the process, the less likely they are to seek counsel elsewhere. Every step should be as quick and as seamless as possible.
Questioning, for example, should be cut down to the bare essentials. Prospective clients don’t appreciate interrogations—they want to feel as if they are in control.
Beyond efficient question and answer sessions, modern technological solutions could dramatically improve convenience and increase the likelihood of conversion. With eSign, for example, prospects can skip the hassle of extended paperwork and in-person visits. All that’s required on their end is a simple smartphone response.
Your efforts to overhaul your law firm’s intake process may seem overwhelming at the outset, but trust us: improved intake will pay dividends down the road. Invest in better intake now, and you’ll enjoy impressive conversion rates and stronger relationships with your clients.
For lawyers, the most important step in securing new business is the client intake. This is your moment to set yourself apart from other law offices, demonstrate your concern and provide an empathic ear. During client intake, you’ll also want to be sure to get all the facts and necessary information about your potential client and their case.
The right client intake questions will not only help determine whether the client is a good fit for your business, they will also make your potential client feel like you understand their needs. This first interaction sets the tone for the entire attorney-client relationship.
Execute these four steps to ensure a successful client intake — every time.
1. Complete All Intake Questions
Save yourself a future hassle. Ensure that your client intake questions are complete before moving forward. Missing information can cause major headaches and wasted time. Conflict checking will be a nightmare if you don’t have a full overview of the client and all of their contact info.
2. Do It Digitally
The more of the client intake process that you can complete digitally, the easier it is for you and the prospective client. Offer clients the option to submit questionnaires electronically and sign documents via E-signature.
Faxing and scanning signed documents is often a major inconvenience for clients. As you move more of your business online, you’ll be able to streamline your workflow and maximize your time.
3. Stay On Track
Don’t let potential clients slip through the cracks. Develop a system and track where each client is in the intake process. Be sure to follow up with clients who have not completed all intake questions. You’ll also want to make it a priority to respond to all prospective clients in a timely manner.
4. Remember to Listen
If a client is seeking your help, chances are they’re going through a turbulent time in their personal life or business. While remaining professional is always the number one priority, a caring and empathetic lawyer can help their client in many more ways.
Don’t forget that what may seem like a simple problem for you could be life-shattering to your client. A kind word coupled with your legal advice will go a long way. and engage when speaking with clients.
Find What Works for You
Efficient and thorough client intakes are the foundation of any successful law practice. As you build your practice you’ll learn what does and doesn’t work. Be sure to share your intake policies with any support staff you employ.
Legal intake forms the starting point for every client-attorney relationship. Phone calls can set the tone for a strong connection—or drive away the most promising leads. Hence, the importance of vetting intake specialists thoroughly not only during the hiring process, but also long after they’ve joined your legal team.
Top Benefits of Intake Call Quality Control
Today’s busy attorneys often claim that they lack sufficient time for monitoring client intake. What they fail to realize, however, is that even a few minutes of tracking could yield major dividends down the road. Quality intake leads to quality clients while also reducing the need for time-consuming follow-ups.
Benefits abound, but these are among the most important considerations when determining whether and how often to listen to client intake calls.
Maintaining Accountability Among Intake Specialists
Even the most talented and diligent intake professionals require guidance from time to time. Many are entirely unaware of problematic vocal tendencies and other habits that might bother potential clients. These issues may not be evident until staffers answer calls, as many people speak differently over the phone than they do in person. Regular feedback is critical as new concerns may emerge over time.
Beyond offering constructive criticism, it’s important to encourage staff members to listen to recordings of themselves. While few enjoy hearing their own voices, this exercise will quickly drive home the need for improvement. The more often they hear themselves, the more likely intake specialists are to make the adjustments necessary to connect more effectively with promising leads.
Even if you aren’t able to provide regular feedback, the mere awareness that you’re involved in the intake process offers a valuable element of accountability. While trust is essential, some staff members may conduct calls differently when they know that somebody is either currently listening in or will be in the near future.
Learning How Prospective Clients Respond to Different Types of Interactions
Call listening sessions should prove a valuable learning experience at the attorney level. By gauging client responses and associated conversion rates, you can determine which types of clients respond best to your current intake approach.
During this process, you may discover a need for more thorough segmentation and personalization. If clients simply aren’t responding to a specific type of script, you’ll want to know sooner rather than later so that you can adjust accordingly.
How Often Should Lawyers Listen to Intake Calls?
Quality control is important, but it’s not necessary to listen to every call. The ideal frequency for intake listening sessions will vary somewhat based on the breadth of cases your law firm handles, how many intake specialists you employ, and whether you also utilize outsourcing solutions. Consider mixing up the times and days on which you listen to calls, as intake staff and prospects may interact differently in the morning versus the afternoon—or on a Monday versus a Friday.
The importance of lead intake cannot be understated. Even occasional efforts to listen in on calls will promote the accountability needed to elevate your law firm’s intake protocol—and to boost conversion rates.
The intake process forms a core component of your legal marketing efforts. Unfortunately, it’s also a source of lost opportunity for lawyers, many of whom lack a fundamental awareness of key intake processes.
Ready to level up your law firm’s approach to intake? Begin by mastering these critical terms.
Case Management Software
Not to be confused with intake software, case management software primarily focuses on handling client interactions after the intake process has been completed.
Any action spurred by marketing efforts. In law, a conversion typically occurs when a prospect completes the intake process and signs the documents necessary to move forward with a selected attorney.
This term references the extent to which prospective clients understand and re invested in a given firm’s brand, messaging and website content. Engaged leads are more enthusiastic about the brand’s message, and are therefore more likely to convert.
eSign (Electronic Signature)
This involves mobile options that allow clients to sign intake documents from remote locations. By removing the need for an in-person visit, eSign solutions can dramatically improve the likelihood of scoring a first-call conversion.
This common marketing analogy references the movement of prospects from initial awareness-building efforts through a process designed to produce high conversion rates. Legal intake constitutes a key component of the marketing funnel for law firms — and an unfortunate source of lost conversions.
Any person who expresses interest in the products or services offered by a specific brand can be referred to as a lead. For lawyers, a lead consists of any potential client who might be interested in working with a particular law firm.
Nurturing constitutes the process of developing a stronger relationship with prospective clients.
This term typically references the primary types of cases a given law firm handles. These can be broad or specific, but they should be confirmed during intake to ensure that the prospective client is actually a good fit for the practice in question.
This specific type of lead has already expressed interest in a brand’s offerings or is in some way deemed likely to produce an eventual conversion. With law firm marketing, a qualified lead has often already offered contact information online and is therefore more likely to respond to follow-up calls or actively reach out to a particular practice.
This term relates to any prospect gained through a direct recommendation from a client, a fellow attorney, or some other trusted individual.
When sending prospects to other legal professionals, lawyers are permitted to arrange for fees in exchange for such recommendations. However, the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct only allow for referral fees under a select set of circumstances.
Technological solutions that automate or otherwise streamline the referral side of intake are known as referral management systems. These offerings allow attorneys to integrate intake information, track referral sources, and keep tabs on outgoing referrals.
Often relied upon in sales, scripts feature preselected content shared with prospective clients in an engaging, yet informative manner to increase the likelihood of conversion. Intake staff members who use customized scripts are more likely to share necessary information with clients while also moving them through the marketing funnel and towards conversion.