Just like any other business, law firms need clients to sell their services, and that means taking and handling clients. You can have the best practice in the country, but none of your hard work will matter if you fail to attract and keep clients. That is why marketing is crucial for all sorts of businesses. Having a marketing strategy itself is not sufficient. As a law firm, having sales reps is not precisely what you need. That’s why different tools were created to help lawyers attract and track clients in their client intake process.
One tool that helps lawyers significantly is client intake software or practice management software. As you can already guess, these tools are lead management tools that help law firms manage their clients. Many companies offer client intake software, so if you do not have enough information about the tool itself, choosing one might get confusing. That’s why I wrote this blog to teach you about the fundamentals of this tool, what to look for in them, and how to choose the best client intake software for your practice.
What Is Client Intake Software?
For attorneys, client intake is the process of attracting potential leads, following up with and engaging them, setting consultation meetings up, and finally converting them into clients. At different stages of the process, law firms have to collect a lot of important information to figure out if the client’s legal matter fits into their practice area. There are also little details that matter to lawyers, for example, asking if the client has ever worked with a lawyer before. In the final stages, consulting on fees and collecting payments are challenges most attorneys have to put up with.
As you can imagine, this process can take days and a lot of manual work. Lawyers are constantly looking for solutions to handle their client intake process faster and more efficiently. The best client intake software can automate a lot of these steps and securely store all the client information. With automation, most of the repetitive steps of a client intake process will be handled without needing human supervision. This helps lawyers spend more time and focus on their most crucial task; Getting to know the client and their legal issue
Let’s have a deeper look at the client intake process so you can better understand what a client intake software does.
What Is A Client Intake Process?
You already know a bit about the client intake process. It is basically the sales funnel of a law firm. The client intake process starts before approaching a client and includes a lot more than just signing papers and filling out client intake forms. Most lawyers include eight steps in their client intake process. These eight steps are the main stages of the process:
Attracting a potential client
Finding new clients is the first step of a client intake process. You have to increase awareness about your practice so potential clients can find you. There are different ways to attract clients, such as marketing strategies, advertising, and client referrals from previous clients or other law firms.
Collecting contact information
Collecting contact information is an essential part of the client intake process. You can easily collect contact information with contact forms. This step is where a practice management tool comes in handy. A client intake software can help you collect and store contact information through built-in or customizable contact forms.
This step is where the “what’s wrong” question comes up. At this stage, you are already in contact with your client, and they will tell you about their legal issue. You don’t need detailed information here. Clients can share just enough about their issues so you can determine if their case fits in your practice area.
Checking for conflicts
As I mentioned before, the most critical task for a lawyer is to know the client and their case thoroughly. In this step, you have to obtain detailed information to ensure there are no conflicts that would cause a problem in your contract with the client.
Once you are done collecting the information and data you need, you can set up a consultation meeting to advise your client about their legal issue. You can set up appointments through most of the client intake software.
Collecting key information
After the consultation meeting, you need to collect key information. Essential information is every little detail you can use about the case like dates, phone calls, accidents, accusations, basically anything that you need to know and use.
Providing a fee agreement
Now that the case is settled, it’s time to talk about money. Lawyers each have their own fee agreement. You have to create a fee agreement based on your practice, expertise, and client case. This fee agreement will be the contract between you and your client, so it is important that your client signs the fee agreement.
Onboard the client
The next step after your client signs the fee agreement is onboarding. In this final stage, you have to prepare your client for what’s coming next. Everything from informing them about the arrival date of legal documents to teaching them the document formatting happens in onboarding.
The client intake process is entirely a client-focused experience. It takes days, and it all revolves around the client and their initial impression of you. Providing seamless and exceptional customer service at each step of the process increases the chance of them hiring you. That’s why tools like client intake software can help. They decrease human errors and speed up the process by automating manual tasks like sending emails and collecting information.
You now know what happens in a client intake process and have a general knowledge of what client intake software does. The next question is, what should I expect from a client intake software? What should I look for in the tool? Let me show you what to look for when you are choosing the best client intake software.
How To Choose The Best Client Intake Software?
Web-based practice management software or the client intake software is a tool, so many CRM or marketing companies offer. Some even only focus on legal CRM and practice management software. Each company offers different tools and features. Choosing the best client intake software mainly depends on how big your law firm is. Some features that drastically decrease the hassle of running a huge law firm might not be useful for a small law firm or a solo lawyer. I created a list of features to look into when choosing a company to get the client intake software from. Based on your experience, your business book, and your firm size, you can decide on which factors are more important and which are maybe not even necessary. Doing so will help you understand what you expect from the best client intake software.
As I have mentioned before, collecting information is a massive part of the client intake process. To collect the information, you need forms. It doesn’t matter if you are collecting contact information on your website, substantive data for a case, or even advertisement inquiries. They all require forms.
Now, we know that practice management software collects this information for you, but how does that happen? To put it simply, you either have a list of pre-made forms that you can integrate into the tool or use the tools design studio to create your own form templates. Then, you have to configure an automation process for the software to collect information for you. If collecting information is a step you need a client intake software for, look for those companies that offer all or some of the options I mentioned.
Document automation is slightly different than automating the collection of information. This automation helps when you have to reuse information on legal documents, retainer agreements, etc. instead of manually filling in the information you acquired from clients in different documents, you can use a client intake software to automate filling those forms with the data it has already collected. This will buy you hours and hours of valuable time.
Electronic signatures are another important feature when it comes to sending and receiving digital documents. The best client intake software should allow you to send a document to a client, have them electronically sign it, and forward it to you. Fortunately, electronic signatures have been around for a while now, so it is possible that most client intake software does have the feature.
Probably the most remarkable feature of a client intake software is the ability to book online appointments. The truth is, no one has the time to go through the back and forth calls or emails just to agree on a convenient time to meet. The best client intake software makes it possible to create a calendar so you can offer your free time slots to your client. This way, your client can easily pick an available time slot that is also convenient for them.
After choosing the features that you need, you need to decide what type of client intake software you want. Some tools specialize in only one feature. So if you need multiple features, you might end up with several different tools and subscription fees to run your law firm. On the other hand, there are some companies that offer a little bit of everything, as just as it sounds, you get one tool that offers you lots of features, but those features might not work as well as you need. I suggest choosing a client intake software that focuses on some of the options you need and still offers the rest.
Best Client Intake Software for Law Firms
Okay, here’s the good part. Up until here, I think you have made your decision on what you need from a client intake software. I now want to introduce you to the best client intake software. This list includes a little bit of everything, so whatever it is that you need, you can find it in the following section:
RunSensible is one of the best client intake software that offers all kinds of features you need to automate your client intake process and grow your firm. Managing potential clients is a piece of cake with the customizable lead status and sales pipelines. One great thing about RunSensible is that you can add as many standard forms and create your own customized forms. RunSensible offers time tracking and a strong appointment scheduling feature. Billing and invoicing are pretty easy. You can edit invoice templates to match your law firm’s brand identity. The tool is web-based and offers all sorts of third-party integrations. With RunSensible, you can also get your own business phone system.
The most important thing you need to know about RunSensible is that it is a perfect solution for small law firms or solo lawyers. If you are just starting out, RunSensible is pretty easy to navigate and, honestly, very affordable!
Clio is a relatively new web-based practice management software. They are a legal intake software offering many features to help you run your law firm from scratch. Clio works for all sizes of legal firms, whether you are a solo attorney or a giant law firm. They did a good thing by targeting their audience and offering everything they needed. Since the software is web-based, security is a huge matter. Clio offers industry-leading security methods to take care of their clients’ intakes.
The downside of using Clio is that some features are not exactly functioning. Remember, I mentioned earlier that some companies offer all the features, and since there are too many settings to handle, some features don’t work properly. The same happens with Clio. According to customers, document automation basically doesn’t work and invoicing and billing do not create an invoice for you. Clio is a great practice management software, but if you need all your features working as they should, you might want to go with another client intake software.
Lawmatics, as you can guess, is another legal intake software. Lawmatics is the Pepsi to Clio’s Coke! The two companies are close competitors in the industry since they offer the same features. Services that Lawmatics offer are client intake, CRM, and marketing automation. The software’s design is sleek, modern, and intuitive. One of the best features of Lawmatics is its form builder. The online intake form builder allows you to create custom forms based on your law firm.
The biggest problem with Lawmatics is the lack of document management integration. This basically means that clients have to transfer documents manually on the tool. This lack of automation really slows things up for busy law firms.
Just like RunSensible and Clio, MyCase is a web-based practice management software. They offer client intake, document automation, billing and invoicing, time tracking, etc. Their strongest feature is their lead management. They are also a case management software. According to reviews, MyCase’s new email and text message integration holds all communication at one place.
The downside about MyCase? UI and UX. Some users reported that there are some problems with the design. For example, they cannot customize buttons associated with payments they request from their clients. Some features like the Dropbox integration are vague, and you need assistance to figure them out.
Interaction, the practice management software that holds one-third of the market. Interaction is one of the best client intake software that offers a lot of features. They offer document storage options and business development features. Interaction is the full package that will help your law firm grow.
There are two cons to Interaction. The ridiculously huge pool of features makes installation hard. That means that you need IT assistance and training to even get the tool working. The other problem is that Interaction really is a tool for mid-sized and large law firms.
LawRuler is the oldest industry-focused software that was introduced in 2012. They were initially a CRM tool, helping law firms improve client relationships. As the years went by, they improved the tool to cover most features their clients need. LawRuler claims that it can help you increase your law firm’s revenue by 20%. I know this is a bold claim, but they do have the tools and features to back it up.
I know I spoke highly of LawRuler, and they truly are a great tool. But, the most disappointing fact about LawRuler is that they lack third-party integration. Meaning that you basically cannot integrate your Gmail and Microsoft Outlook accounts. That’s a huge downfall because this is a fundamental feature all the other companies offer.
uLaw is a cloud-based practice management solution. The tool is very easy to navigate and offers high-level security. You can generate court forms and manage client intakes. The best part about using uLaw is that they offer great one-on-one customer service and personalized demos.
Now uLaw’s downside is a pretty serious one. It is expensive. Users complained that if you are a small firm or just starting out, the tool is basically unaffordable. There are also some problems you cannot unsee. When a company is as good as uLaw, you do not expect to see grammatical errors in forms and letter templates.
To Sum It Up
Client intake solutions are needed to run a law firm, no matter how big your business is. They can help your business grow and improve your business book by automating tasks in your client intake process. This blog post is a guideline for understanding the client intake process and why you need a practice management tool. I also added seven of the best client intake software so you can check them out when you decide what you need. Remember, you can always request a demo to check out all the fantastic features on RunSensible!