Improve Legal Intake Process

In Lawyerville, intake — or how you convert leads to cases — is the lowest hanging fruit. An established intake protocol could mean a stronger caseload, not to mention the reliable revenue boost that comes along with high-quality cases.

If intake is the low-hanging fruit, why don’t more attorneys grab the apples and run? Well, it’s not that lawyers are ignoring intake altogether. In fact, most are working on it — very hard. It’s just that many attorneys don’t know the best processes to efficiently gather a whole bucket of apples. I have always said, “What you don’t know, you don’t know.” You do not know what you are not getting. You only know what you have in your hand!

Often legal marketing dollars are spent on generating more leads, rather than executing better intake. Say you have a successful ad campaign that’s making the phone ring. What happens when those calls come in? Does your busy office manager drop the ball? Or do you have intake procedures in place to monitor, track, and vet and convert leads in a consistent way? What happens when the prospect says he will get back to you or she needs to speak to her other half first?

From that moment on, it’s game on! What is your game?

Top intake mistakes: Lawyers, you are not alone

If your inadequate intake program is leaving ripe fruit dangling on the tree, you are not alone. Here are some of the biggest mistakes attorneys make every day.

MISTAKE: Not collecting any (or appropriate) information from callers. Far too many law firms are unable to build a viable prospect database because they don’t even collect basic information. How could you convert a lead from someone who saw an ad if you don’t know who they are? How would you market to referrals from past clients if you don’t collect their contact credentials?

FIX: It’s common courtesy to first ask for a caller’s name and number to ensure you can reconnect in the event that you are cut off. This also creates a more personal interaction since you can address the caller by name. After that, have a system for collecting enough information (phone, email and communication preferences at least) for follow-up, but not so much that a prospective client feels like a number rather than a person.

MISTAKE: Not following up fast enough—or at all. Statistics have shown that anywhere from 30% to 50% of sales go to the vendor that responds first. And, depending on your average case fee, a 3% increase in conversion leads to $500,000 in revenue! Do the math. You have paid for the lead. Your costs are already sunk in. There is simply no reason for not following up with a caller for whom you have contact information or who leaves a message after-hours.

FIX: Establish a practice. If you can commit to returning a call within 24 hours, say so in your voicemail message. Also, consider a two-prong approach by sending a recognition email or text (if you have the caller’s information) to acknowledge that you have received the message and the appropriate attorney will be in touch soon. Better yet, get some intake and conversation software, such as, which has an entire protocol built right in.

MISTAKE: Not dedicating an intake professional to handle calls. Some front-desk people don’t even identify their own law firm upon answering a call. Others answer with a distinctly annoyed tone that can leave a bad impression. Being short, rude or too quick to turn “unqualified” cases away is extremely off-putting and could quickly cost your firm a lucrative client.

FIX: Empower an intake person or team with the right tools, technology and direction to begin seeing (and valuing) leads as potential cases. Which existing specialists are converting the most calls to cases? Do you need to consider hiring, firing or re-training? Would a script help with consistency? Can you task your office manager with working on a consistent tone of voice that conveys compassion and caring? (Or at least fake it ‘till you make it. Studies show that just smiling can improve a person’s mood, something that could certainly impact verbal delivery over the phone.)

MISTAKE: Not paying attention to the small details. An embarrassing number of large, lucrative law firms leave callers on long holds or can’t even verbally spell their own website right. Beware: A lot of little intake mistakes can add up to an undesirable impression of what your lawyers might be like to work with. Don’t give an anonymous caller the chance to rule out your law firm before you’ve even had a chance to meet in person.

FIX: Create an action plan that intake specialists can use during that critical first-impression phone session. For example, try the one-minute rule: If a caller is left on hold past one minute, a live person must at least re-acknowledge the caller’s existence or ask for a number to return the call. Similarly, have a cheat sheet readably available with your firm’s accurate website URL and other key details. Also consider quicker ways to disseminate information correctly, such as asking for an email address and including all relevant firm details in an email that goes out immediately following the call.

Still don’t think you’re among these mistake-makers? If you don’t believe me, try recording each intake call and you will hear for yourself exactly what you have. Just like powerhouse firms that do it, you can “secret shop” your own law firm. Today’s call-recording programs offer a simple yet sophisticated way to help you uncover communication flaws. Plus, intake and conversion software like, among others, can track statistics about call volume, time of day, length of calls and other key metrics that will hone how you market over the phone.

Remember, the law firm that masters an intake process aligned with its brand will ultimately find more cases that fit the firm — and more ROI in the long term. If you better understand the process and can face honestly that “what you don’t know, you don’t know,” I guarantee that you will increase your net earnings and not have to spend an additional dime to do it!

Call me if you would like more tips on intake, no strings attached. Harlan Schillinger: 303-817-7313.

by Harlan Shillinger
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