intake process

ABA Benchmark Study on Law Firm Intake Process: Part II

This post comes from the ABA Law Practice Division’s Social Media, Legal Blogs, and Websites Committee. In this two-part series, the Committee explored the intake process at law firms around the country. During hundreds of mystery calls to law firms, they learned that less than 10% of prospective clients speak with a lawyer. Catch up on Part I here

The Conversation

It can be safely assumed that people calling a lawyer for the first time are often in a delicate mindset. Putting them at ease is extremely important and can be done through a combination of detailed questions, professionalism, and (arguably, most importantly) genuine empathy. We found that while most front desks were evaluated as being polite and professional, few exuded any empathy at all.

intake process intake process intake process

New clients are very wary of the cost of an attorney, fearful of a $400/hour rate for just that initial call, yet few front desks proactively explained pricing options to the caller.

intake process

Following Up

Following up is crucial, especially if most of the callers never speak with a lawyer directly. But front desks only asked for the caller’s number in less than half of the cases and for their email addresses just 14% of the time. We had more than a few calls that ended with the promise, “An attorney will call you back today,” but the front desk hadn’t even collected a phone number. (Now, I know those firms using call tracking may have access to the caller’s number, but it’s creepy on the prospective client’s side, and you should always confirm the caller’s number, cell number, office number, and email address.)

intake process intake process

The final step on intake is for the front desk or attorney to make sure the prospective client knows what the next steps are, like scheduling a meeting with an attorney. Thus, we evaluated how well the intake person oriented the prospective client to the process, and noted if there was a specific time and date set for follow-up. We found most law firms don’t even set up a meeting for two out of three callers. The very simple thought here is that a prospective client who knows they are moving through a clear process and has a meeting scheduled is much less likely to check in with another firm.

intake process

intake process

Firms who fail to get back to prospective clients are leaving money on the table. A law firm who fails to respond to prospective clients within a few hours is essentially telling callers: “You aren’t that important to me.” All of this is fairly obvious, so I was shocked that more than 50% of messages weren’t returned within two days, and many weren’t returned at all. I believe you can reasonably assume prospective clients aren’t going to wait around for that phone call for more than two days—this means that more than half of all online advertising investment is wasted by law firms.

intake process intake process

Conducting Your Own Mystery Shopping Audit

Start by shopping around Nordstrom’s shoe department to level your expectation of great customer service and then call your own firm. You can download a worksheet to fill out, which automatically builds these graphs, along with an accompanying PowerPoint to share your own performance against the benchmark with your firm here.  You can also compare your overall score with other firms who have done the same thing. The score below is a weighted assessment of each of the factors in the audit.

intake process

Webinar Series

We’ll be reviewing the results of this audit during the inaugural webinar of ABA Interest Group on Website, Social Media, and Blogs. All sessions at 2:00 PM EST:

February 8: Social Media Disasters with guest Ruth Carter

February 22: SEO:  Advanced Linkbuilding

February 23: ABA Benchmark Study: Intake Process, with John Reed

March 8: Big Enough Data with Guest, Jarred Correia

March 21: Insiders Guide to Avvo with Guest, Josh King

April 4: ABA Benchmark Study: Law Firm Website Performance

April 18: SEO:  Local SEO


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