Posted by Rachel Ho Nov 30, 2022 8:46:53 AM

A 2021 Legal Trends report found that lawyers only spend up to 2.5 hours each workday on billable work. Law firms often struggle with the amount of non-billable work they do, with administrative tasks taking too up too much time. For example, racking up non-billable hours is common in the client intake process when you have to repeatedly fill up your client’s information in your legal software.

Client onboarding software helps you automate and organise the client onboarding process with the goal of easing the customer journey for both potential and new clients. This includes collecting information on new clients, scheduling consultations and meetings and analysing client data. A great client onboarding software streamlines your law firm to achieve higher customer retention and lower churn rate, reduces operating costs, time spent on repetitive tasks, and standardises your client onboarding process to offer an even better customer experience. 

At the same time, a totally automated onboarding process may be clinical and lacks a personal touch. A manual intake process encourages more interaction enables you to build support with your clients but it can also be extremely time-consuming with repetitive administrative tasks. For the modern client intake process, the best path forward would be a middle ground that balances efficiency with an appreciation of human relationships to establish trust and rapport. When a client approaches a law firm, they are seeking professional help to solve their specific problems. 

They would consider a variety of factors, such as terms or whether the law firm can help them. Conversely, when a law firm engages with a potential client, their main concerns lie in whether their firm can provide the help the potential client need. Thus, the client intake process allows for an efficient exchange of information, management of expectations, and a building of trust.

A client onboarding process that suits your business needs will help to improve your bottom line with the following value-added benefits:

Retain knowledge

Store key customer information in a single cloud-native storage platform, making client onboarding knowledge accessible to anyone at any time.

Act efficiently

Save time, energy, and money by building agile workflows that reduce time spent on your repetitive tasks. Instead, focus on what truly matters - nurturing client relationships and growing your business.

Continuously improve

Your customer's onboarding experiences can be improved constantly by updating and optimising all your client onboarding processes. Respond to your customer’s needs by adapting what works best for them.

Create consistency

Standardise your client onboarding process with templates and custom forms. Increase efficiency with digital workflows and put your customer at the centre of their experience.

Guide to creating a client intake process 

Client intake is where you make the first impression with a potential client. Not only does a good client intake software reduces time spent on unnecessary administrative workflows — but it also gives the client the confidence to choose you as their lawyer. Client intake is a key aspect of your client’s journey. It’s the first opportunity to shape your client relationship by building trust and demonstrating your firm’s ability to provide an outstanding client experience. It’s also a good opportunity to educate your client on how they can best work with you and your team. The client intake process enables you to fulfil your Know Your Client obligations in the most efficient way possible. 

A good client intake process would look something like this:

Client Screening

Your initial intake forms gather adequate information so that you can identify whether potential clients are a good fit. Client screening helps to ensure you are taking on the right clients for your practice. In the case where the client is not a good fit for your firm, you can refer the client to other lawyers or organisations that might provide the information they’re looking for. This saves both you and the client valuable time and enables you to keep a good and professional impression of your firm.  

Initial Consultation + Conflict Check

After the first step of client screening, you can schedule an initial consultation to find out specific information about the client’s case. The ultimate goal of the initial consultation is for both the lawyer and potential client to gather enough information to make a decision about the next steps, making it important that you respond appropriately to your client to make them feel cared for.

After the initial consultation, you can then conduct a conflict check to make sure that you can actually take on the prospective client. There is no single objective test that determines conflicts of interest. Identifying potential conflicts is a judgement that rests on your practice and one that that is justifiable.

Fee Agreement + Client Onboarding

When your client has given their confirmation to hire you, it’s helpful to discuss your fee arrangements and billing with the client before anything is signed. However, discussing fees with potential clients may be difficult for even the most seasoned lawyers. The best approach is to address fees directly. Be confident and have a straightforward discussion that ties back to defining the scope of your engagement. One key tip includes:

  • During your discussion, walk your client through the scope of work and explain how the scope is tied to fees. It’s okay If the scope is hard to define early on. Address the difficulty in defining the scope and how related costs are calculated later on

In a “Fixed Fee Agreement”, the lawyer and a client should agree to the specific amount of work the lawyer will undertake, like time-based fees where a lawyer charges a fixed amount per hour. For a client to be clear about the amount of work which the lawyer would need to do, the lawyer must explain to the client the extent of the work which is required, the firm’s billing policies and related information. Concurrently, a client should also explain to the lawyer exactly what they require to be achieved (if it may be achieved).

After consulting the lawyer, it is also imperative for the client to ask the lawyer to clarify what exactly needs to be done. Here are examples of the types of work that are clearly defined:

  • Sale and purchase of real estate;
  • Some areas of criminal law work, such as a plea in mitigation;
  • Uncontested divorce applications.

With Tessaract's Workflow feature that deals with Letters of Engagements, you can automatically generate the fee agreement form with the client’s information. Additionally, your law firm can create a welcome kit for new clients so they know what to expect in the following interactions. For example, you can send clients information on when to expect and how to pay their bills. This helps set expectations and paves the way for a smoother client experience moving forward. Tesseract's centralised platform offers multiple services from client onboarding to invoicing clients, providing the ease of convenience for clients 

Why firms are moving to online client intake

Traditionally, new law firm clients fill out a paper form, which staff then type up afterwards. With automated client onboarding tools, you don’t need to struggle with printing, scanning, or photocopying client intake forms. Legal document management systems like Tessaract provide custom digital forms which automate and organise your work.

Improved organisation and workflow

Some firms continue to utilise manual methods when new clients come in, such as writing down information by hand in Microsoft Office or Google Documents.

An automated client intake solution enables you to minimise risks and liabilities and reduce the possibility of errors common in manual data entry methods. Your legal firm is protected from the operational risks of transferring data and information manually when utilsing a client intake software like Tessaract. Thus, you can work smarter, and not harder by staying organised and reducing time spent on trivial intake tasks. Focus your time on what matters the most — practising law.

Reduced data entry

Data entry is undoubtedly repetitive and consumes too much time. 

Utilising online forms for your client intake process makes your clients do most of the data entry for you. Data from client intake forms can easily be recorded in your client intake software and exported when you need it. Tesseract's document management features

Better client experience

With digital disruption and digital acceleration, we communicate mostly through online messaging and apps like Whatsapp and Telegram. We use mobile devices and computers for both our work and personal lives. We also expect the apps to be user-friendly.

Allowing clients to fill out forms online makes life easy for both you and your clients, providing the most seamless and optimised client experience.

Better data tracking and analytics

Most law firms need to do a more robust job of utilising data to make better decisions. As the legal market becomes increasingly competitive such as the emergence of highly specialised boutique law firms, leveraging data helps you to differentiate yourself from competitors.

In this age of digitalisation, law practice management software will help to lighten the load of the time spent on client onboarding tasks. It’s important to impart a good first impression with a streamlined client intake process on a digital adoption platform. A simple yet efficient client intake process shows your clients that you care about meeting their needs. 

Tessaract offers versatile workflow automation tools such as time tracking, digital signing, and so much more for law firms of all sizes. Tesseract's centralised platform offers multiple services from onboarding to invoicing clients, providing the ease of convenience for clients.  Power your business with Tessaract and enjoy the ease of sharing important documents with clients through our secure platform without having to meet up in person. Kickstart your law firm’s digital transformation by requesting a demo with us today.

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Rachel Ho

Written by Rachel Ho