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What Is Intake Case Management: A Guide

You run a law firm. The phone is ringing. Someone answers. And just like that, the fuse is lit and you’re on the clock. The intake process you have in place is going to determine whether you can sign and keep that client.

If you subscribe to the idea of case management phases, intake is the first phase. If done correctly, intake can make the rest of the case management process remarkably easier and more efficient – how you start determines how you end. That is intake case management.

In this series, we’re going to offer tips to help handle intakes easier and illustrate how managing a case is more straightforward with a good intake methodology.

Your ability to manage a case effectively begins with the first client contact. If you’re not doing intake right, you’ll be playing catch-up as you work the case moving forward, if you even sign it. Here’s what we’ll be discussing over the course of this series:

TIP: The American Bar Association has many intake resources for firms in its toolbox. That’s just a list of files, so circle back after finishing here.

The Marketing and Intake Cycle

There is no intake unless prospective clients contact you. If the phone is not ringing enough (figuratively or literally), you need to address your marketing efforts first and foremost. Any lawyer can land a client on a referral. We want to get clients out of the pool without knowing them first. After all, you have to have a client before you can get a referral.

We’ve written about the dos and don’ts of marketing in detail, so we won’t reinvent that wheel here. There are, however, a few things that any firm, regardless of size (or practice area), should keep in mind.

Marketing isn’t “set it and forget it”

Your intake procedures need to include something to help determine what marketing programs work (or don’t). This is how you measure the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of ad dollars and marketing initiatives. Put another way, if you measure and adjust your intakes, you can make every marketing dollar work harder.

Marketing makes the phone ring, but people sign clients

Understand that marketing may predispose prospective clients to liking or wanting your service. However, most of the time, the person who picks up the phone when they call – or who calls them back – is going to have a much greater impact on their choice to sign or not.

Marketing is an investment, not an expense.

Too often, when things are tight, firms cut the marketing budget. Beware that path. If you have sufficient data, you should know where your marketing is working best and where it is not. Imagine your intake pool as a literal pool, with several hoses filling it. Now imagine you can’t see which hoses are pumping water and which are dripping. Shutting one off may have no effect, or it may leave your pool virtually empty. Make decisions from a position of knowledge, not a knee-jerk reaction.

Intake and Marketing Are Codependent

Your intake process and marketing feed each other. If you are not asking questions during intake that give you marketing insights, you should do so. Implement that knowledge when you plan marketing campaigns. In this way, intake case management is the first and last part of your marketing cycle.

If you’re having trouble with your intake process, do some digging. Is it your marketing? Your people? Training? Tools? Remember to take an objective look at all the facets of the problem and the things that relate to it.

In our next installment, we’ll discuss how to create an intake department at a law firm.

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May 17, 2022