5 Ways to Improve Your Intake Process

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Episode Description

Are you losing potential clients during the intake process? Many attorneys overlook this critical step. In this episode, I’ll share five easy ways to transform your intake flow and start every new client relationship off on the right foot.

From providing helpful info upfront to streamlining your engagement agreement, optimizing intake sets your clients up for an amazing experience while also saving you time and headaches. Implement just one tip from this episode and you’ll notice more qualified leads signing on with your firm.

Tune in to get the step-by-step on building rapport and trust from the first interaction. You’ll also discover how to create consistency and follow through without having to lift a finger. Say goodbye to fumbled handoffs and drawn-out back and forth. A smooth intake process means more time practicing law, not chasing paper.

Press play to level up your intake game and stop leaks in your sales funnel. Your future clients are waiting to work with you – don’t keep them hanging!

Listen now!

Episode Resources

The Pricing Toolkit 

Engagement Agreement Templates

Episode Transcript 

LAUREN: [00:00:00] This is something that I have done for a few years now and it was a total game changer in my practice. I wish I had done it sooner. When I implemented this system, it took off so much time from the admin perspective of my business, really relieved me of having to deal with any of it, kind of just ran in the background.

Welcome to a different practice. I’m your host Lauren Lester, and I’m obsessed with all things business, wellbeing, and optimizing the practice of law for solo and small firm lawyers. I started my solo practice right out of law school, built it from the ground up, and now work four days a week while earning well over six figures.

I’m here to share tangible, concrete tips and resources for ditching the legal profession’s antiquated approach, and building a law practice that optimizes growth and enjoyment. Think of this as grabbing coffee with your work bestie mixed with all the stuff they didn’t teach you in law school about how to run a business.

Pull up a seat, grab a cup, and get ready to be [00:01:00] encouraged and challenged. This is a different practice.

Hi y’all, welcome back to another episode of A Different Practice. You’ve probably heard the quote before, you never get a second chance. to make a first impression. While historically we aren’t quite sure who that quote should be attributed to, some say it’s Oscar Wilde, some say it’s Will Rogers, either way, it’s still true.

So where are your potential clients getting an initial impression about how your law firm works? Well, that happens in your intake process. The intake process is going to set an expectation whether you want it to or not, so why not control the narrative? And if you’re not quite sure what that narrative is now, this episode is for you.

We’re going to talk about ways that you can start off on the right foot with a potential client and build a fan of your firm starting from day one, even if they don’t end up signing with you. I’m going to talk about five ways today to improve your [00:02:00] intake process so that your firm’s First, you want to freely provide information on your website to attract qualified leads.

You may not think of it as this, but your website is really the first step of your intake process. That’s where potential clients are going to get a first impression about your firm. And you want to make sure that the folks who are scheduling a consultation with you who are identifying themselves as potential clients are actually qualified so that you don’t end up wasting time with people who are maybe just kicking the tires or are just not a good fit with your firm.

So providing information on your website will help legal consumers. Self qualify to see if there actually might be a good fit. So what’s some of the information you want to include on your website to help make a good first impression and to make sure that the folks that are contacting you have a higher chance of being a qualified lead?

Well, first, pretty basically, it’s going to be the types of [00:03:00] case that you handle. The difference here is that most lawyers write this as, I handle personal injury cases. But to the average legal consumer, that may not mean a lot. So instead, we want to write the types of cases that you handle in language that the consumer is actually using.

So if you’re a personal injury attorney, you’re not going to say that you handle tort cases. Instead, you may ask, have you been injured in a car wreck? If you’re in a creditor or debtor practice area, the language might be something like, does someone owe you money? Or, do you owe someone money that you can’t pay?

For an estate planning firm, it may be something like, do you have a plan in place for your family once you’re gone? Think about language even within a practice area. Keeping on the estate planning example, there’s a document that many estate planning practitioners create, which is legally called an advanced directive, but the client has no idea what that means.

So instead, including language that asks something like, do you [00:04:00] have instructions down about what decisions should be made if you’re in a vegetative state and can’t communicate them? That’s going to make a lot more sense. to the potential legal consumer, then do you have an advanced directive? You might be in a practice area like immigration where the common legal terms have become so ingrained in the general lexicon of society that you can use terms like immigration or green card or asylum because the average legal consumer actually does understand those.

But you do want to make sure that that’s the case before you make that assumption. And even if you do have a practice area where the general legal terms are more understood by the public, you still may want to mix in alternatives like, are you able to work? Are you at risk of being sent back to your country of origin in the immigration example?

So that if you do have folks who may be. aren’t as familiar with the legal terms, you’re still catching those. You’re casting out a wide enough net [00:05:00] that you’re getting both populations. Those who understand the legal terms and those who are going to maybe use more general questions. Something else that you want to have really clearly stated on your website is going to be expectations about the client’s experience.

Some examples here might be, well, how long is their case going to take? This can be information about the actual length of the claim, the legal process, how long that takes, but it can also be something like, what is the timeframe that your office takes? If you’re slammed right now, or in general, it takes you maybe three weeks to get a case up and running.

You want to go ahead and set that expectation up front because while you may weed out folks who need help right now. That’s okay because you’re not able to help those folks anyway and you don’t want to spend time on a consultation with somebody who at the end of it says, Oh, and by the way, I need to get started on this next week when you don’t have the availability to do that.

So setting those expectations up front will help the [00:06:00] consumer get educated about what they can expect, not only with the legal claim itself, but with also working with your firm so that you’re getting people who are contacting you who are going to work within those expectations. Another expectation to set on your website as much as possible from the beginning is going to be around communication.

Is your firm going to be able to provide immediate responses or do you have maybe an expectation that you’ll respond by the next business day? This is something that I do with all of my services. That’s a clear expectation that I set from the beginning so that the potential client knows that I will be responsive, but they’re not going to be able to call me 24 seven or be able to expect an immediate response.

Also, around expectations for your particular practice area, you may want to explain what your approach is to practicing in that area. For example, in family law, there’s a couple of different ways that practitioners approach those types of cases. Some folks are aggressive, [00:07:00] they’re litigious, they have a sort of scorched earth approach, and for some potential clients, that’s exactly what they want.

But there’s other practitioners who want more to help folks stay out of court. They don’t want to drag the other side through the med. They’re really looking to take a more collaborative approach, or at least just be somewhat kind and respectful to the other party. If you want clients who want that approach, because that’s how you practice, you want to make sure that you set that expectation on your website so that those are the folks who are contacting you.

and not maybe the folks who fall into the other camp that is not your approach to your particular practice area. And if you do happen to chat with someone who you’re not quite seeing eye to eye in terms of how they’re going to approach their case, it’s also really helpful to have some colleagues to refer them to who maybe do have that slightly different way of practicing.

The third thing that you’re going to want to have on your website pretty clearly is pricing. And I know that this is one that makes most lawyers pretty nervous. They don’t want to [00:08:00] share what their pricing is going to be. To be honest, I think it might be because they will think that no one will call them because that number can be quite large, but there is a lot of value to the legal consumer to know what is this going to cost me?

They have to be able to answer that question. Not being able to answer it puts them very much on edge. They are very worried throughout the case. You’re not starting off on the right foot because they have this seed of doubt and uncertainty and concern that they’re not going to actually be able to pay for this or that the cost is going to put a huge financial strain on themselves or their family.

The average legal consumer doesn’t have any clue what legal services will cost. So while ideally you would provide predictable, transparent pricing on your website, Even including something like starting at a certain cost or a range is incredibly helpful for the legal consumer to have an expectation of what the cost is going to be.

Of course, you’ve heard me talk about it [00:09:00] a ton before. We have an entire toolkit about implementing value based pricing into your law firm so that you can provide predictable, transparent pricing to the consumer in a way that is highly profitable for your business. Again, you can find that all for free at the Pricing Toolkit.

So now that we’ve provided all of that information freely on our website so that we can attract qualified leads because we’ve set those expectations, we also want to make sure that scheduling a consultation is easy and automatic for your potential clients. And that’s the number two improvement that you can make to your intake process.

The idea here is that you want to remove friction points from scheduling a consultation. Think of Amazon’s one click buy feature. Whatever you might think of Amazon as a company, that one click buy feature is super helpful when you’re trying to buy something. They have removed all of the friction, even down to the clicks that a consumer has to take to actually purchase [00:10:00] something from their website.

We want to do something similar for a potential client looking to schedule a consultation with us. So think, are there parts of your intake process that includes Transcripts Transcripts Transcripts Transcripts wait for a return call, maybe if the staff person or your And you can see here that I’m using a format of, um, um, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh.

Every one of those events is a friction point and should be examined to see if it can be [00:11:00] reduced or eliminated. So here we’re really trying to streamline the process. The best way to do this is to allow consultations to be scheduled online on your website by the potential client where you’re not involved in the process at all.

Softwares like Acuity and Calendly make this super easy. All you have to do is set the limits around the consultations themselves, like how many do you want to have each day and each week in total? What times will you have available for those consultations? Say maybe you only want to do your consults in the morning, so maybe from 9 a.

m. to noon, you can set. set that limitation. You also want to determine how long each consultation would be scheduled for. This is really helpful because when the potential client gets the confirmation, it will say on there, your 20 minute consultation is scheduled at 11 a. m. on this date. I have found that in most of my consultations, the potential client actually [00:12:00] brings up the time.

They are very cognizant of it. I will get to about 15 minutes and they’ll say, okay, no, we only have five minutes left. So let me make sure I get these questions in. So again, setting that expectation upfront, most legal consumers want to be respectful. They want to follow the rules of your firm. You just have to tell them what that is.

And in addition, they have other features where you can even schedule buffers in between consultations. So let’s say your consultations are 20 minutes, but you don’t want to do them back to back to back. Maybe you want to have a 10 minute buffer in between just in case either the consultation goes over or because the rest of your intake process, you can kind of knock that out in that 10 minutes, gives you a little time to breathe before going on to the next one.

So all of those settings you can apply. through the software on the back end. And additionally, they will also sync with your calendar to avoid double booking. So if you have a consultation block from 9 a. m. to noon, four days a week, [00:13:00] but you happen to have a client meeting or a court appearance that also gets scheduled on a Wednesday at 9 a.

m., then that Wednesday is not going to be available for consultation. So it all works together. These softwares are really powerful and they really make it like having a. scheduling assistant that you only have to pay a pretty nominal fee per month for. And they do so much work to make sure that your calendar is available to potential clients, but you’re not getting overbooked.

This is something that I have done for a few years now, and it was a total game changer in my practice. I wish I had done it sooner. I had spent a lot of time going back and forth. Does Wednesday at 10 work? No. How about Thursday at three? No. How about Monday at four? Whatever it is. And going back and forth, dealing with folks who need to reschedule, dealing with folks who want to cancel and having to do all that manually.

When I implemented this calendaring system, and allowed potential clients to schedule consultations on their own right through my [00:14:00] website. It took off so much time from the admin perspective of my business really relieved me of having to deal with any of it, kind of just ran in the background. It also allowed me not to get caught in the, Oh, I just have a quick question.

When you call someone back to actually get a consultation scheduled, I don’t know if any of you have been in that situation, right? But they say, Oh, I just real quick. Can I just ask you this while I have you on the phone? phone, and then that turns into a 10, 15, 20 minute call. You don’t have to feel rude.

You don’t have to have that awkward conversation of like, Oh, actually I know I’m calling you to schedule this consultation, but I don’t have time to answer that question right now or I don’t want to answer that question right now. So you can avoid all of that because the potential client is doing all of this through your website and they’re not engaging with you directly.

It also allows me, in particular, because I’m so focused on trying to keep my overhead low, of not having a receptionist, not having to have someone answer phones or have to manually do the scheduling [00:15:00] process. You might find in your firm that having a live person answer phones is really important to your target market.

So maybe you do have someone who still does that because you get other value in it, but you can also reduce that particular staff’s person’s time in terms of scheduling. If you also have the option on your website, so folks who don’t call in, they can do it right away. If you do have a segment of your potential market that does want to call in, you can still have someone do it.

So you can take both approaches, but having this availability on your website is only going to improve your intake process because it really streamlines. the first step that you want a potential lead to take, which is to call and book an appointment with you. One extra note about using these calendaring systems that happen automatically is you can also integrate them into your CRM if that’s what you have to manage your intake flow for your potential clients.

For me, Once a consultation is booked, it automatically [00:16:00] adds a potential client to my CRM. And that way I can pull them through the process and know exactly where every potential lead is at, whether I’ve had a consultation with them, whether they’re ready for a follow up, whether I need to do an engagement agreement.

That is all set up. It’s all streamlined. So I’m not doing any extra work when a consultation gets booked.

All right. So let’s talk about the third way you can improve your intake process. And that is to Simplify the intake form itself. You likely will need some basic information to avoid wasting your time and the potential client’s time before you have a consultation. So you want to collect basic information that you need.

That might be their full name. the other party’s name or any other third parties that might be involved for conflicts checks, maybe the case type that they have that they need help with and probably how they heard about your firm so that you can do some reporting about [00:17:00] what marketing strategies are actually having a return on that investment.

But really the standard here should be what information would immediately disqualify the lead. without your having to talk to them. So for me in my practice, that’s going to be the opposing party’s name. Obviously, if there’s a conflicts check or if you have cases where there’s other parties involved that you need to do a conflicts check, whether or not this person vibes with my firm, has a great case, would be a great client.

If there’s a conflicts checked, right, that’s just immediately going to disqualify them. So I ask for that information. And then I also ask for basic information about the type of work or the case type that they have, uh, because it may be that they need help with a case type that I don’t offer in my practice.

I’ve had some folks schedule a consultation and then in the form field that says, what are you looking for help with? If they say, Oh, I have a. Uh, misdemeanor criminal case that I need representation for. Well, I don’t handle criminal cases, so it’s [00:18:00] very easy for me to immediately go and respond to that person and say, thanks so much for considering our law firm.

However, we’re not able to help you. We don’t want to waste your time. Here are some referrals that you may want to talk to as well. So that way you don’t have to get on the phone with somebody for five or ten minutes even and then find out immediately that this is not going to be a qualified lead for you.

So really you only want on your intake form that very basic information that’s going to immediately disqualify the lead so that you don’t have to waste time talking to them. The other information that you would need to make an assignment. Assessment about the case itself and decide if the client is a good fit for you.

That’s going to happen during the consultation itself This is going to give you an opportunity to have a dialogue with the potential client It’s going to allow the potential client to see how you interact with them How you answer questions just sort of what your personality is And you want to give the potential client the option to do that So if you’re collecting All of this [00:19:00] information in an intake form where they aren’t engaging with another human being, the client isn’t able to get that information.

So while it might be tempting to create an intake form when someone signs up for a consultation to include information like what is the client’s goals? Where is the case at? Procedurally, what are some of the basic case facts? What is the client’s timeline? What is the client’s budget? All of that type of information is going to give you what you need to make an assessment about the case during the consultation.

But more importantly, having a discussion about each of those is going to give the client so much value in terms of deciding whether or not to work for your firm. So when you think about a particular piece of information and whether or not it should be on the intake form, where the client is just filling it out when they schedule and they’re not having any human interaction, or whether it’s more appropriate to maybe have it as something that you discuss during an actual live consultation, the standard that you want to use here is.

What [00:20:00] information allows me to make an assessment or judgment call about the case? If you have a bit of information that falls into that bucket, like what is the client’s timeline? Is this an immediate rush or is this something that they can wait a couple weeks to get started? That allows you to make an assessment or a judgment call that is probably more suited for the actual consultation itself.

self rather than an intake form. And the reason for that is that if the client does say, Hey, my timeline is I need to get started on this next week. Sometimes you can talk through that with them. And while they might say that when you actually dig in a little bit more, you find out that the reason that they think they need to get started on this next week is actually not something that’s a factor in the case.

could actually start in three weeks when you have more time on your schedule, and that’s not going to affect their case at all. So if that’s something that you were to put on that intake form and the client says, yes, I need to start next week and you just read that without any context or without any [00:21:00] ability to be able to ask them more questions about it, you could potentially.

Disqualify a actual qualified lead because you weren’t able to get that context. So again, you want to include on your intake form, very simple information, the very bare bones that you just need to make an immediate disqualification. Everything else should be on your consult checklist that you go through and discuss with the client.

Now, if you’re thinking, well, if I ask all of these contextual judgment based questions during the consultations, I’m now doubling the time that I need to spend on consultations, or I just need to ask a lot more to assess the case, and if I can have the client do that on the intake, that’s going to save me time.

I totally get it, and that is a fair concern to have. So if you find yourself in that situation just because of the nature of your practice area or how you like to do your consultations, that’s okay. We can still work around that. We can still simplify the intake form and just [00:22:00] adjust potentially how you do your consultations.

One option could be to charge for consultations. I would do that if you are going to provide value beyond your own personal assessment of the case. If you are charging for consultations just because it is your time that is being used and because you need to gather this information and you need to make a judgment about the client’s fit with your firm, you’re not really providing any value to the client.

And so charging, um, you will find that you’re not going to get. as many leads because the client isn’t going to take the money out of their pocket when they’re not getting any value in return. Now, if you have a longer consultation where you are, of course, doing your own assessment of the case as you’re gathering these facts and you are providing the client with additional value, you are giving them the strengths and weaknesses of their case, you are giving them some basic advice, you are giving them some options for how they can go forward, then I certainly think that a [00:23:00] charge there is more appropriate because you can discuss with the client the value that they particularly are going to receive.

So if you take that approach where the consultation with a fee is more like a case evaluation for the client where they walk away with a detailed analysis and options for going forward, it essentially kind of becomes its own service. It’s not just a consultation. And that is certainly one way to approach it where both of you have sort of a mutually beneficial relationship there that you’re getting the information you need, but also the client is getting something for their money.

other than just the opportunity to talk to an attorney, because quite frankly, there are many of us out there who do not charge for consultations. And so if what the client is paying for is just the opportunity to talk to you and get basic information about how your firm works, but nothing of true value for the client and their case, most likely you’re going to see a decrease in potential clients because they are going to find.[00:24:00]

other attorneys who are offering free consultations or they are offering paid consultations that give the clients a lot more value. But if you take that approach, that should help balance the equation so that you don’t feel rushed during a consultation. You don’t feel like I have to get all this information out because I want to keep my consultations free, but I need a lot of information to make an assessment on this case and I’ve only got 10 or 20 minutes.

You can take off that pressure. But it will still allow the client to get a sense of what it’s like to work with you. And that’s really important for the consumer at the end of the day, they are going to be the decision maker. And so we don’t hold all the cards, although a lot of I think attorneys feel that way, especially on consultations, right?

The potential client really is the driver here. They should have an opportunity to understand what it’s like to work with your firm so that they can make a decision and y’all have a mutually beneficial relationship for that reason. It’s very important to build the like and trust factors during a consultation, right?

So [00:25:00] if you’ve heard anything within marketing, there is the no like and trust factors. And that is typically what a potential consumer goes through. They have to first know about your firm. It even exists. Hopefully that is happening through your website and through some marketing efforts that you have.

So once they know about your firm, they have to like it and then they have to trust it enough to part with their hard earned money and actually hire you. So during consultations, you’re really giving the potential client what they need to make a decision about whether they like you and whether they’re going to trust you enough to help them solve their legal problem.

Like I mentioned, it’s equally about the potential client choosing you as it is about us choosing them as a client for our firm. And if you think about this in any other context that you might hire a professional, if you were to go out and look for a real estate agent or maybe a general contractor, even a dentist, how would you feel trying to gather information about who [00:26:00] you might want to hire in those contexts?

If they are unwilling to give you anything else other than basic information about their business without you having to fork over some money, without some sort of retainer. If I called up some real estate agents to figure out who I want to help sell my house and I get a response saying, great, this is my brokerage.

This is when I work. I’d be happy to chat with you more, but you need to give me a 250 retainer. To be honest, that doesn’t help me like or trust this potential real estate agent. I’m likely not going to go with them. That’s a pretty big barrier because I can’t make an informed decision as a consumer. And so our legal clients and legal consumers feel very similarly.

I’ve certainly had feedback, at least anecdotally, from folks that I have talked to on consultations who have had that experience and who have just said, I just didn’t go any further. with those firms who wouldn’t even tell me anything about how they practice, [00:27:00] how they approach my case. What’s the timeline going to be?

What can I expect in terms of cost without me first paying them some money? And our legal consumers need that information to make informed decisions. The more that we can give that to them, the more that they will have a good experience, good first impression with our firm and are going to be more likely to be clients.

Alright, so now let’s move on to the fourth way that you can improve your intake process. Once you’ve had a consultation with a potential client, you’ve provided the information upfront, you’ve made it super easy for them to schedule something, you’ve provided all of the value and the know, like, and trust factors during your consultation, a great way to improve your intake flow is to implement automatic intake.

Email follow ups. If you’re not already, you’ll want to send an email follow up immediately after the consultation. In that follow up email, you might want to summarize your call very generally, provide important information like your pricing or services, and then certainly next time. steps. That’s [00:28:00] going to be the most critical to give the potential client clear next steps on how they can either engage with their firm or how you might follow up if they needed a little bit more time to decide.

And that brings us to our follow up email. So the easiest way for you to do this is to set up one that’s going to be scheduled and go out automatically after a certain time period from the date of the consultation. This not only shows your potential client that you’re on top of things and that you’re going to follow up when you say that you’re going to follow up, but it’s super helpful to you because you don’t even have to think about it.

You don’t have to remember that you even needed to send this out. You kind of set it and forget it. Many CRM systems have this built into their software, so it’s really easy to implement. I would recommend creating some sort of template for that follow up email and having it scheduled to go out after a certain period of time, and that will depend on the case type that the client has.

For some folks that it might be more immediate or they [00:29:00] need to make a decision rather quickly. Maybe your follow up email goes out three or four days later. If it’s something where the client. indicated that they need more time. They’re not quite ready to pull the trigger or they just have a case type.

That’s a little bit slower. Maybe your followup email goes out a week or two weeks later. So it’s all going to depend on your potential client and the type of case they have. But what’s important is that you have that followup email automatically scheduled to go out at that certain period. What should you include in your template?

I would include things like recognizing the client’s responsibilities. So my follow up email starts off with, I know you’re busy. I know that you’ve got a lot going on. This is probably one of the many balls that you are juggling in the air. So I want to recognize and be respectful that they probably aren’t just sitting around only thinking about their legal case.

That’s one of the many aspects of their lives. And then I want to remind them of the next steps that we talked about in my email. After the actual consultation, I [00:30:00] note to them that, um, I’m going to follow up to see if they’re ready to start their case. So in the follow up email, I remind them next of those steps.

So it says something like. I wanted to see if you were ready to begin your case. So there’s some continuity there and it shows for the client that I’m following up on what I said I would follow up. You may also want to include in your follow up template, maybe a summary of the goals that the client indicated to you during the consultation call.

So this will show the client that you were listening. that you understand where they’re coming from, that you’re going to work towards those goals, hopefully. But when you set this up right after the consultation, you don’t have to go back and remember, review your notes. You can do this all in real time and then just schedule the follow up email to go out later.

So you can say, you know, I know it was really important to you to make sure that your family is protected after you die. It’s really important to you to make sure that you’re still able to provide for your family financially, even though you [00:31:00] have this outstanding debt. Whatever their particular case is, summarizing their goals will just help show them, again, that you are listening, that you’re actually there to help support them.

One thing that I think a lot of attorneys probably don’t do, and even, quite frankly, a lot of business folks don’t do when they send out these follow up emails, is actually give the potential client the opportunity to say no. For some folks, the reason that they haven’t followed back up with you is just maybe that it’s not the right time for them.

They don’t feel like your firm is the right fit, whatever the reason is, they just need to say no. And that’s okay. Not every single person on the planet is going to be a client of our firm. It happens. It’s no hard feelings, but giving the potential client the opportunity to do that, saying that in your followup email.

in a way that doesn’t make them feel like they’re hurting your feelings, um, or you’re sort of giving them permission to say, Hey, it’s okay if this isn’t going to work out right now. It’s just a really nice gesture. So it [00:32:00] looks like for me and my follow up email is something like, you know, if I don’t hear from you within the next week, I’ll assume you aren’t ready to get started.

I’ll assume that. You know, this isn’t a priority for you right now, and that’s totally okay. So I let them know that saying no is totally fine. And honestly, from my standpoint, that’s a huge benefit if they will actually respond and say, yeah, you know what, Lauren, you’re right. Now’s just not a great time for me to move forward.

That helps me easily in my CRM say. this potential client is a not ready. So that way I can keep my CRM really organized and up to date and I’m not wondering if somebody is going to pop up. Getting that hard no is actually helpful for me. So along those same lines of giving them the opportunity to say no, you certainly want to set a timeline within the follow up email and indicate that you will close their inquiry after that period.

So if I don’t hear from you in the next week, if I don’t hear from you in the next month. Whatever timeline is appropriate given the client’s particular legal matter, that gives them a line in the sand to [00:33:00] know even if they aren’t going to actively respond and say, Hey, this isn’t the right fit for me right now, they will know that you will after a time period.

That also helps spur maybe those folks who are on the fence that if they actually do want to work with you, they want to make sure that they get on your roster of clients, that they have a deadline and that can spur people to action. So I often have had folks who will respond saying, Oh no, no, no, no.

Don’t close my inquiry yet. Um, I just needed to, you know, it was a busy week. I just needed a little bit more time. Um, so you can, again, get feedback from those potential clients that yes, this person is actually still interested and they probably will result in a sale. When you give them that deadline, if you have it available in your firm or you’ve created a legal product in that follow up email, it can also be an opportunity to sell that alternative.

So if somebody maybe isn’t ready to sign up to work with a lawyer for their divorce ship, For me, for example, in my practice, I also say, you know, if you’re not ready to hire a lawyer yet, or you [00:34:00] do want to go through the divorce process on your own, check out my DIY guide that will walk you through the entire process so that you don’t miss anything.

So that’s a legal product that I’ve created. I’m not involved at all. It doesn’t involve any legal representation, but that follow up email could be a good opportunity for that alternative. you do generate some revenue from the business, uh, particularly if that potential client isn’t a great fit when it comes to being a actual client of your firm, but could use some sort of support.

So this flow of having a consultation, sending a follow up email immediately, and then sending a follow up email a couple days or weeks later, depending on whatever timeline is appropriate, is based on a One consultation, and then the client makes a decision about whether or not that they want to work with your firm.

You may have a practice area that requires multiple touch points. Maybe the price point of your services is a lot higher. Maybe it’s more in the corporate field, or there are [00:35:00] other. decision makers that need to be involved. So sometimes the person who initially reaches out, gets some qualifying information, talks to a bunch of lawyers and starts to weed them out is maybe not the person who actually is going to make the final decision for that particular maybe corporate entity.

And so you talk with that kind of first gatekeeper and you get through that initial phase. But then the final decision makers also want to have a call with you. They also want to do some vetting. And so if you have an intake process. that involves multiple touch points like that. You might want to replicate this same immediately after a meeting follow up and then maybe a follow up if you don’t hear something after a certain period of time.

You may want to do those steps repeatedly depending on what the actual flow looks like for your particular type of client. Either way, whether you is sort of you do one and then you send a follow up and then you’re done, that’s kind of the end of the line, or you have an intake process that has several [00:36:00] iterations of this sort of contact touch points.

The point here is that you are still following up quickly. And you’re following up automatically so that the potential client, whether they’re a consumer or a corporate client, sees that you are on top of it, that you have clear communications, that you identify next steps and you follow through when you’re going to follow through.

So just adjust it for your particular practice, but know that you may have to do a little bit of iterations there depending on the type of client that you have.

All right, so finally, that brings us to the last change that you may want to consider making to your intake process to improve it. And that is templating and automating your engagement agreements. So for me in my practice, I probably have 20 to 25 templates for engagement agreements. And the reason for that is, is I have multiple practice areas that I practice in.

And then within each of those practice [00:37:00] areas, I have different service levels. So I have different engagement agreement templates for each of those. But once I’ve created the template, all it takes for me to quote unquote, write it for this new client who wants to sign up is to just click a button, fill in a few individual details for that particular client.

For me, it’s their name. I include some assumptions about their case, uh, that I’m relying on based on the information that the client has told me, and then the cost that it’s going to be. So I fill in those. three details, and then I click a button and send it off for the client to sign. It takes me probably less than two minutes in most cases, so it’s become a very automated process that doesn’t take a lot of overhead.

So what are some of the terms that your engagement agreement template might want to include? Certainly the scope of work, what you are going to be responsible for, what the client is going to be responsible for, what is included in that scope of work, and what is not. [00:38:00] Ideally Something around pricing, how that’s going to be billed to the client, what the total cost is going to be, what should happen if something out of scope occurs.

There may need to be an addendum to the engagement agreement or additional services added on. Certainly including something around communication expectations is really important. That’s something that should be on your website like we talked about in the beginning. So just reiterating that. same language about how the client can expect to communicate with you.

Do they always need to schedule something through a link that you’ll send them? What’s the response time that they can expect? What if an emergency does come up? How should all of that be handled? If you want to. Set a certain amount of communication that is included in the scope of the particular service that you are selling that should be included in there.

That way everybody’s on the same page, but if you have already expressed some of that on your website, if you talked about some of that during your consultations. So [00:39:00] I’m going to go ahead and click on that, and I’m going to go ahead and click on the I feel like I’m staring at a blank page and have writer’s block and not entirely know how I should word something and get tripped up on words, so having a starting place is really helpful.

I have engagement agreement templates on the website that you can grab and then use either as a plug and play with just filling in some basic information about your phone. or using them and tailoring them as needed for your firm, but they’ll give you a starting point, which is going to save you a ton of time and you’re not reinventing the wheel.

So you can find those engagement agreement templates at a different practice. com slash downloadable [00:40:00] dash forms. Again, a different practice. com slash downloadable dash. forms. So if you need help creating your engagement agreement templates, you’ve got one right there that you can start with. But having those templates is going to make your intake process so much smoother.

You’ve already thought through everything. You just click a button and you can assign it to this new client who’s ready to sign up. Additionally, a lot of CRMs. Include the feature that you can actually get an e signature on those engagement agreements by, again, clicking another button. They make it super easy.

So once you’ve created the engagement agreement for that particular client with their information, click a button, send it off to them for signature, the client signs it, comes back to you, everything happens probably, um, all in all in less than a minute, although it may take a little bit longer by the time the client gets it and does it and sends it back to you, but the actual work is really easy and fast.

And also the CRMs, when you send out something for eSignature, include auto reminders as well. So if you [00:41:00] send it out on a Tuesday for Signature and the client doesn’t sign by, let’s say, you put in Thursday because you want it signed within a few days, it’ll send them an automatic reminder. Again, nothing you have to think about, you don’t have to put any effort towards, but the client is going to get an automatic reminder so it doesn’t get lost in the cracks and forgotten about.

And then one extra bonus while we’re talking about getting a client signed up, having that automatic engagement agreement sent out to them, using templates to make it really easy to generate, once the client does sign up and they are officially a client of your firm, you may also want to look at your CRM and make sure that it is easy to export all of the information that you collected during the intake process into your case management tool so that you set up a new matter for that new client, but still retain all of that historical information that you’ve gathered.

Some CRMs and case management tools work together natively, and so they’ve already built in that software. If that’s not the case between your [00:42:00] CRM and case management tool, you can also look at workflow automation tools like Zapier, which can help you create that bridge so that it is really easy to export from one to the other.

One thing that’s a little bit more on the onboarding side, so once a potential client becomes an actual client and we go through the onboarding process with them, but I wanted to include it here so that you could see how these phases of intake to onboarding will flow very easily from one into the other and also gives you the opportunity to make that transition really seamless for the client is that when you export this potential lead into a client on your case management tool is to allow for that action to trigger some sort of welcome or onboarding email to the client that will give them something to either work on or at least give them a touch point while you’re working on getting their matter set up, which for your firm may take a day, a couple of days, maybe a week.

depending on how y’all work and [00:43:00] what the case type is. But that way the client at least has something in that interim. They don’t sign up and potentially pay you and then not hear anything. That can be pretty scary for a new client. That’s really not the experience we’d want someone to have when they first start working with us.

So when you do that export from CRM to case management tool, you can use that as a trigger to send that welcome or onboarding email. Some things that you might want to include in that email is maybe information on a timeline. So when the client can expect you to follow up next, what the overall timeline of their type of case might be.

That’s some nice information to give them up front. Then you can obviously supplement that and remind them of that throughout the matter. You can also give them next steps, particularly if there’s something that the client needs to work on or start gathering. So maybe they sign up and the next step that you will need to do as part of your representation is go through all of the existing documents for their particular type of case.

So in that welcome or onboarding email, you can say, [00:44:00] here’s what I need you to do while we’re working on getting set up on our end. Go to this secure place that you can upload these documents, gather these 10 things, whatever it is, and then let the client have some homework to do so that they’re working on something that keeps things moving forward.

Of course, including any expectations, particularly of when you will follow up, what the next steps will be, what the client can expect is going to be really This can be even if these expectations were in the engagement agreement, it’s still helpful to remind the client of them and keep them top of mind.

And then something else you may want to consider in your welcome or onboarding email is just something fun. Maybe there’s a video that introduces you or your staff, how you work, your firm. It just helps the client get a little bit more about your personality, about what they can expect in working with you.

This can be really nice, especially if you have a practice area that is supporting clients through really difficult times in their life, not to lighten what their [00:45:00] seriousness may be of their cases, but just do something to, you know, give them a little bit of a smile, um, give them a little bit of fun in working with a lawyer.

It’s usually not top of mind of what most people want to do. So if you can incorporate something like that into your onboarding or welcome email, that’s really nice. For me and my firm, um, I’ve committed to donating a portion of my profits every year to local organizations so that I can be a member of the community in that way.

And so what my onboarding email includes is that my new clients actually get to vote on what organization they would like. the donations to go to. So at the end of the year, I tally up the votes and the organization that gets the most gets the most of the percentage of profits and then kind of goes down from there.

So again, it allows the new client to see that I am more than just a lawyer. Do you believe myself to be a member of our local community to help others who are in need? And so it gives the new client kind of a sense of what they can expect in working from me. [00:46:00] So just some ideas there for that welcome or onboarding email.

But you can see from that initial touch point that your potential client has, whether that’s your website or an ad or something that they saw to get to know your firm. All the way through signing up as an actual client. There’s a lot there, which also means that there’s a lot of opportunity to make that experience a very positive one so that the first impression that your firm makes is a positive one.

So those are five ways that you can easily improve your intake process with hopefully not very much work, but you’re going to see it pay dividends in terms of the experience that your potential client has. Again, remember, your intake process is likely the first real interaction that a potential client is going to have with your firm.

It will set an expectation. And so you want to make sure that you are controlling the narrative. So why not start off on the right foot and build a fan of your firm starting on day one, using these five ways to improve your intake process. Thanks so much for [00:47:00] listening. As always, I deeply appreciate your time.

I love this time that we spend together. Until next time, keep building.

I’m over here giving you a virtual high five because you’ve just finished another episode of A Different Practice. For more from this episode, head over to adifferentpractice. com slash podcast for show notes and links to resources. If you found this episode helpful, let me know by leaving a rating wherever you listen to your podcasts and don’t forget to subscribe so you never miss an episode.

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