Are outdated law firm procedures stunting your growth?
Client intake is one of the most important functions at any law office, yet it is often one of the most overlooked. The truth is that the life of a lawyer is a busy one, so it can be hard to dedicate time to growing the law practice. More than 40% of the time, it will take three or more business days for a lawyer to get back to a prospective client.
The process of onboarding new clients gives them their first glimpse into working with your firm so you want to provide a great impression. At the same time, you need to take care of all the important details so that the client is properly entered into your firm’s computer systems.
Today, we’ll explore how your law firm can improve its existing procedures with the following seven tips.
1. Create an Intake System
First and foremost, you need to create an intake system. Identify the steps that are necessary for bringing new clients on board. Every law firm has different requirements so don’t assume that everyone automatically understands the procedure. Review the tasks that must be included as part of the intake process.
Each of these tasks can be evaluated to determine if there is a better method for completion. If so, you should streamline the process as much as possible without forfeiting customer service. You certainly want to make sure that the intake process is easy for employees to complete while at the same time provides complete customer satisfaction. When you improve law firm procedures you will also improve the level of customer service that your firm provides.
Related Article: Implementing change in a legal environment can be difficult when you lack a detailed action plan. Read our “Blueprint to Increase Law Firm Efficiency” so you can start initiating positive change the right way.
2. Make a Checklist
Make sure that you design and utilize a new client checklist. The checklist should provide information so that anyone accessing the client’s file will understand what is needed and what is still left to do. The checklist acts as a guideline for new client paperwork. Include every step that is required to properly process new clients.
Once you have the checklist in place you can use it for every new client. The checklist should be easy to review so that anyone who accesses the file can immediately find out what steps have been completed and what still needs to be done. The simple step of utilizing a checklist can immediately improve law firm procedures by ensuring that everyone can see the steps for each client.
Related Article: What about your law office would your change? It’s never too early or too late to shake things up. If you feel the technology, legal software, and procedures in your office are out of date or there are too many bad habits, read our article: “How to Re-Envision Your Law Firm”.
3. Automate Client Agreements
Client agreements are the most important part of client information. Contracts can be automated so that all of them include the same basic terms. Develop standard client agreements that can be used as basic starting documents for every new customer. Then, make any changes necessary to customize the agreement for a particular customer.
When you automate client agreements you will find that they are much easier to administer. Everyone will be utilizing the same basic standard form, even if there are some minor changes. The entire document doesn’t need to be created each and every time there is the need for one.
These types of legal agreements can take time to write if you’re starting anew each time. The use of a basic agreement ensures that the correct terms are included and that the firm’s important provisions are never left out.
Related Article: Legal document automation software is giving lawyers more time to focus less on tedious legal procedures like document creation and office correspondence, allowing to focus more on the big picture and creating a positive work/life balance. Read how legal document software and some other tips can help in our article: “8 Ways Lawyers Can Improve Their Work/Life Balance”
4. Utilize Standard Forms
There is no need to continue to make new forms again and again for each new client. This not only takes time, but it also allows room for error. Software designed specifically for law firms allows employees to create and maintain their own set of templates. These templates can then be accessed by anyone who needs to use them.
Templates aren’t new technology but the way the fields are populated is new. It is now easier to start a new document from a template and merge with other programs to populate the necessary areas of the form. Standard forms are developed specifically for your law firm so they are unique to your particular client intake needs. An administrator can create new templates and organize them so they can be accessed as part of the intake process.
Related article: Read “Why Legal Templates and Legal Document Software are a Must for Law Firms”.
5. Keep Track of New Clients
Law firms need to adequately keep track of new clients. There are followups that may need to be done and meetings that must be scheduled. All of these details need to be stored in one place so that you can properly service your new client.
You can improve law firm procedures in order to track the individual needs of each client. For example, you can set a reminder to let you know that the client requires a callback or some other type of attention. It is important to set up these types of procedures so that you don’t inadvertently forget to handle a new client’s needs.
6. Use Notes for Improved Service
When different employees handle various parts of new client it can cause confusion. When anyone takes care of any part of the intake process they should leave notes. These notes can become part of the client’s file. Electronic notes are easy to use and are accessible by everyone. This means that anyone who accesses the client’s file can read the notes to see any important details or concerns.
The use of notes can increase customer satisfaction and improve law firm procedures. When notes are used on a regular basis it helps everyone who needs to access the client’s file. Train employees to update and read client notes in order to ensure that every client is provided high quality individualized service.
7. Train Employees
Finally, once you have a new client intake system in place you need to make sure that all employees are properly trained. We’ve discussed the value of training your law firm in a past article. If employees are not aware of the proper process, the system won’t help to improve law firm procedures. There are several methods you can use to inform employees of your client intake process.
If you’re making changes to the process you need to let everyone know. This can be done through a company memo that outlines the new process. If the procedures include new software or other technology you will need to provide training.
Sometimes training is minimal and can be done through an email or handout. Other times, more concentrated training is needed. Once the client intake system is in place you simply need to train new employees as part of their onboarding process. Refresher training can be provided as needed.
For further insight into how you can upgrade the procedures and standards of your law practice, stay tuned to the Infoware blog.