Many of us are trying to build in efficiencies with client intake. At our firm, we’ve moved from paper forms, to fillable PDF’s and now to a more automated intake process, with the goal of saving costs for our clients while making sure we get the essential information we need in advance. But many clients found it off-putting, or even overwhelming, if we asked for too much personal information electronically, so we have been working on a balanced approach.
Once a potential client reaches out to us by phone, email or on social media, we start by collecting very basic information in an automated format – their name, the name of their spouse/partner, contact information, kids’ names and ages, and also their preference for how our administrative assistant contacts them. Would they prefer phone, email or text? Is there a better time of day for a phone call?
Then, we schedule a free 10-minute lawyer-client call to say hello and build rapport. In that short call, we ask things like, “how are you doing?” and “how can we help? This way we can tell if they need an urgent meeting (because they have burning questions keeping them up at night) or if they are good to wait a week or so, and want to prepare for their work with us using our innovative Resource Package, Our Family in Two Homes. I would say about 25% need urgent attention (a meeting) so they can get some sleep, and 75% appreciate the opportunity to prepare for their meeting using our Resource Package.
Clients tell us how much they appreciate personal contact before their first meeting. We like it because it fits our brand (You get to speak to a lawyer if you call our office!) and helps us tell if the client is a good fit us. We tell clients we want them to be as comfortable as possible when we meet. They are almost always appreciative of the 10-minute time limit and do not push the boundaries. We have had clients who cry - out of relief – just to be able to be human with a lawyer. And to learn that lawyers are human, too.
We find this to be a good balance to meet the diverse needs of our clients, while also getting the information we need to get started.
How do you balance intake with your clients?
Jacinta Gallant is a respected Canadian collaborative lawyer, conflict trainer, mediator and innovator in her field. She is recognized internationally for her insightful and experiential approach to teaching and managing conflict, and has been welcomed as a trainer throughout Canada, the United States, Europe, Australia and Southeast Asia.
Find out more about Jacinta Gallant at www.jacintagallant.ca