Unfortunately, small law firms across the country struggle with prospect intake, leaving many potential clients on the table because no one followed up with them.
The prospects you never speak to, the ones you didn’t call or email after receiving a message, are often a silent danger. Many are ready to rate or review your firm based on your ability to contact them in a timely manner. Why? Because they’re vulnerable and making the first step of reaching out to an attorney is a difficult one. They want to be heard, and it’s disappointing when they’re met with silence.
Those connections are easy to miss when you’re in and out of meetings or in court. Your day is jam-packed, and while a prospect may need to wait until you’ve finished your work for a current client, that waiting period shouldn’t be too long. An organized intake process will help ensure that no matter how much you have going on each day, you have the time to communicate with those legal consumers contacting your firm.
FindLaw’s own research found that one-third of law firms neglected phone call messages and half did not send a return email within a 24-hour timeframe. Those missed connections are people with a legal need who found your law firm and are taking the time to reach out.
And that simple act doesn’t happen too often with legal consumers. Most people who need an attorney will only call one or two lawyers when they’re looking around. When the phone rings or you see an email in your inbox, you need to treat it like any other important communication.
There are four main pillars of good intake. Mastering them can lead to more new clients without increasing your marketing budget.
Your sense of urgency should match that of your prospects. Now that so many are finding attorneys online, it doesn’t take long for someone to decide on what law firm they want to contact. More than half of legal consumers take action within a week of their original need. When they’ve made up their mind, they move fast.
That means you don’t have much time to put off a phone call or an email in the digital age. According to FindLaw research, 49 percent of consumers expect a response from an attorney within a 24-hour window. And while that may seem like a blip on the radar from your end, to a vulnerable person in need it’s a lifetime.
You don’t need to take a phone call in the middle of court to be considerate of a prospect’s time. It could be as easy as spending the first part of each day, enjoying a cup of coffee and catching up on emails and phone calls.
When it comes to intake, empathy is the art of being present in a conversation and understanding the other person’s needs on an emotional level. It’s especially important when speaking to a new prospect because they’re probably in this situation for the first time and didn’t know they’d need an attorney. They probably won’t respond well to legalese or a cold-hearted intake process.
Making a human connection, even if it’s over email, will go a long way toward building trust. Try to limit the kind of jargon that only law students comprehend. If it’s necessary, a simple explanation about what you’re saying and why it’s important can break the barrier between what you understand as an attorney and what a prospect needs to know.
Related to empathy is not making a prospect tell the same story over and over again. Collecting a contact’s information in one place, somewhere that everyone at your firm can access, helps with this issue. When you gather everything about a caller in one place it lets everyone know who has spoken to that person, when conversations occurred and where they are on the journey to becoming a client.
You should be collecting all the relevant case information from a new prospect in one place, but an organized process intake can do much more. You can customize questions to see if a caller’s case is right for you. You can record information about how they’re finding your firm. Understanding their journey can even streamline your digital marketing budget in the future.
You never know why a prospect doesn’t answer the phone when you return their call. Or why they haven’t responded to the email you sent. Much like an attorney, a legal consumer can’t stop everything they’re doing to respond to a phone call. Hiring an attorney may be their top priority, but they still have lives to lead in the meantime. Don’t let a potential client slip out of your hands because you don’t want to call time a second time. You can and should assume that they want to hear from you and that it may take a few tries to reach them.
Practicing good intake could mean more clients without increasing your marketing budget. All it takes is discipline, a routine and an organized system. To find out how FindLaw can help make your intake process more efficient, make an appointment with your local consultant.