Stop Wondering How to Setup Intake Forms for Your Law Firm

Collecting an intake form from a potential client is (I hope) common practice for most lawyers. If nothing else, we need basics like name and contact info along with information about the opposing party to do a conflicts check. Beyond collecting that simple info, intake forms are a great way to improve the client experience and your efficiency.

The Benefits

Here are some ways intake forms can do more than collect name and phone number.

Improve the Initial Consultation

While at a minimum you should know the person’s name who’s walking into the consultation, if you had more information about the case, current status, and desired outcome, you could spend more time providing value rather than eliciting basic information. For example, my intake forms ask for information like:

  • County and case number
  • Important dates
  • Assets and debts at issue
  • Settlement discussions
  • Whether there’s hope for an agreement
  • Related cases or issues in other areas of law
  • What success looks like

Because I gather this information well before the consultation, I prepare an initial assessment of the case and tailor questions that dig into areas of uncertainty or concern. If the case appears straightforward, I’ll spend time confirming my assessment but really focus on making sure the potential client feels heard and understands the process. (This may seem fluffy, but it’s actually an intentional sales technique.) If the intake form raises red flags, I won’t waste my time but rather cut to the chase and provide alternative options for representation.

By collecting significant information before I ever chat with someone, my consultations are productive for both me and the potential client. This preparation is one of the reasons my conversion rate is higher than average even though all my consults are done over the phone.

Eliminate Unqualified Leads

If you wait to have someone complete an intake form while they are sitting in your reception area, you will waste their time and yours if you don’t identify them as an unqualified lead until they are sitting in front of you. By collecting more information up front and before they ever walk into your office, you can help ensure the folks you do meet with are qualified to be potential clients.

There are many reasons someone may not be a qualified lead for your firm. They could need help in an area you don’t practice, their case may be too simple or too complicated, or you just may not jive with them (this is one of the reasons I ask what success looks like). If you include questions in your intake form that get at the reasons someone would not be a good fit before they ever drive across town in the middle of the day and spend half an hour filling out a paper form, you’ll be more efficient in your intake process, convert more leads, and likely spare yourself from having “Don’t work with that firm; they just waste your time” comments floating out in the market place.

Complete Data Entry

A great way to improve efficiency and increase profits is removing low-value tasks like data entry from you or your team’s responsibilities. Otherwise, part of your overhead will be spent on very expensive data entry.

Instead, use the intake form to collect the data you need. Not only will you receive the information but the potential client will spend the time inputting it. All you may need to do is quickly review it for accuracy and formatting, which you’ll do anyway before the consultation. Having the potential client input the data will save you time, money, and lots of banging your head against the wall.

And if the potential client doesn’t provide the data, well then, looks like you’ve found another unqualified lead.

The Tech

As you may have guessed, improving the function of intake forms requires technology. While you may be able to reap the benefits from a paper form, it will certainly be more challenging. Instead, using one of the many online tools available will help you reach your goals.

There are many options available for creating online intake forms. You’ll want to first identify your needs:

  • What do you want to be able to do?
  • Is it just collect the info and save it to the file?
  • Do you want to embed the form on your website?
  • Do you need different forms for different case types?
  • Do you want to import it into your case management software or document automation tool?
  • Do you want to be able to expand upon the initial form as the case progresses?

Once you’ve identified your needs, you can review the different options and see what might work. Here are a few providers* to start with:

No matter which tool you choose, you want security and privacy a top priority. Even if you don’t believe you are collecting sensitive data (and certainly if you are), you want to ensure the input and transmission is highly protected. If nothing else, it will show your goodwill by expressing to the client that you care about their privacy.

This is not an ad. I do not endorse or receive compensation from any tools mentioned.

What do you think? Can you update your intake forms to increase your efficiency and provide better value to you and the potential client?