How to Create an Intake Department for a Personal Injury Firm (or Any Firm)
We tend to focus on personal injury firms because that’s where GrowPath has its roots. However, best practices are best practices – widely applicable regardless of the type of law your firm practices. You may learn something you can use, regardless of your preferred practice. Also, we’re very aware small-firm and large-firm intake departments may vary significantly in practice if not in method. We’ll treat them differently, but you may find insights in the other perspectives.
We’ve also woven in some principles from our Five Qualities of World-Class Law Firm Intake report, and we encourage you to read them in full. Whether you’ve got a four-person firm or 400 employees, there’s something for you below.
ICYMI: In Case You Missed It
This is the second in our series of blogs that cover intake case management for law firms. Here are links to the series:
- Preamble: The Marketing and Intake Cycle
- How to Create an Intake Department for a Personal Injury Firm (or Any Firm)
- 3 Keys to Successful Intakes Part 1: Before the Call
- 3 Keys to Successful Intakes Part 2: On the Call
- 3 Keys to Successful Intakes Part 3: After the Call
- How to Determine the Best Intake Tools for Law Firms of Any Size
TIP: Regardless of the size of your firm or who may be taking intake calls, training is essential. Even professional intake representatives train on their lists and forms. If you’re not taking the time to train, your intakes will suffer.
Small Firm Intake Departments – Firm-wide Commitment
Helping small firms become large firms is not magic. It takes the will to work, implement good processes, and get the details right. Small firms tend to either assign intakes to one person – usually not an intake specialist – or take an all-hands-on-deck approach.
As such, “building an intake department” is a bit of a misnomer. You may need an intake strategy, checklist, or basic method. You can create this yourself or use intake-focused software solutions. Just make sure you’re collecting and recording data, and take a client-centric approach.
Your intake department (or person) should seek to accomplish the following with every single call. Callers may be a bit discombobulated, so some of this might not happen in a given order.
- Communicate with empathy. In personal injury firms especially, people call when they’re in a tough spot – crisis mentality. Smile when you answer. They’ll hear it in your voice. Understand this person or someone they love is likely injured and needs help. That’s you. And your firm depends on the commission or hourly billing this potential client may bring to the table.
- Actively listen. A caller will often tell you a great deal of information very quickly, and if you ask them questions they’ve already answered, you’re not listening. Confirm information.
- Gather data. Your firm should have a list of information required from each call to determine if the case is a “take.” If you do not have a list, here’s a basic list we suggest as a starting point:
- Client name
- Date of call
- Contact information (address, phone number, email address)
- Nature of call (car accident injury, workers’ comp, etc.)
- Injury details (date of injury, circumstances)
- Insurance company (and any additional information they have)
- How client found your firm
- Define next steps and set expectations. Before you get off the phone with or send an email to a prospective client, tell them what you will do. Set an expectation. Show them a path forward, and give them progress toward a resolution.
- Follow through. This technically does not happen on the call, but it has to be mentioned. It pains us to know how many firms simply don’t call back or call back quickly enough. Yes, the life of a case is long, and a day or two may not mean much in the long run to you. Remember, however, that a prospective client isn’t in “patient” mode. They’re in “crisis” mode. Respond accordingly. Meet the expectations you set. Better yet, exceed them.
The truth is that it does not matter who answers the call, text, or email. What matters is that whoever answers does so according to a method. An intake call may be the most important call of the day. Treat it as such.
Create a plan, a form, or a guide so that whoever may take an intake call knows the tone to use, the information to obtain, and the actions necessary to land the client. Train!
Large Firm Intake Departments – Be Efficient and Consistent, Measure What Matters
The bigger the firm, the greater the potential for waste. Global businesses, especially in service industries, are only successful if they deliver efficiency and consistency. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about fast food, jumbo jets, data analytics, or large law firms with multiple practice areas. Efficiency and consistency are vital.
The largest firms can get thousands of calls a day. You have to maintain consistency across all those calls and intake representatives – whether they’re on-staff and on-site or outsourced to a call center (or both). How you approach that challenge and the tools you use to meet it will determine much of the result.
Measure Your Data: Scale Up Intake Case Management Controls and Analysis
If you generate hundreds or thousands of inquiries or calls a day, you’re also generating reams and reams of data. You can evaluate your marketing, intake processes, and personnel with this data, but only if you can measure it.
Here’s where good tools and services come in. Some firms use an intake service or intake case manager, and that’s fine. Ask them what they can measure. Better yet, decide what you want to measure and ask them to do it. If you have a team or an on-staff intake case manager, what software or tools are they using? What can they measure? Is it enough?
Here are five key intake metrics you can use to build a stronger firm:
- Marketing Spending Percentage: What’s your marketing budget compared to expected firm revenue?
- Cost Per Lead: How much does each outreach from a potential client cost your firm?
- Cost Per Case: How much does each signed case cost your firm?
- Call to Case Ratio: How many intakes do you process compared to how many cases you sign?
- Case Conversion Percentage: What percentage of the cases you wanted did you sign?
Measurement leads to consistency. It also gives you an accurate idea of how efficient you are. A good intake should convert 90% of cases. If you’re at 80% or worse, you should consider more training, or make changes to your intake process.
You Have the Department, But Are You Ready for the Call?
Once you’ve got your department set up, you’re almost ready to take calls. Having a department and being prepared aren’t exactly the same thing. Just because you have a sports car doesn’t mean you can drive that car to its limits.
Our next piece will cover the key steps to take before the call – preparing your firm and intake department for success!
Want to learn more about GrowPath and how its patented tools can help you manage your firm? Schedule a demo today.