First impressions are everything, particularly for a law firm. When clients are choosing which firm to put their trust in, lawyers and attorneys must do everything in their power to create a high-quality experience. If not, you not only risk losing the client to one of your competitors, but also potential referrals down the line.

Because of this, client intake is arguably the most important part of the customer journey, despite it being a fraction of the process, as it sets the precedent for everything to come.

With that said, you’re not actually making any money yet. Striking the right balance between being professional, setting expectations, building your reputation as an organized and professional firm, and not spending too much time and energy on the initial stages of your client intake process can be challenging for law firms. 

In this article, we discuss the importance of high-quality interview form templates, how you can use them to streamline your client intake process, and what questions you should ask to enhance the customer experience.

What is a legal client interview form?

Many lawyers liken client interviews to a first date. Using the same analogy, in today’s digital first world, you could compare a client interview form to an online dating profile. The interview form gives you information about a potential client before you meet them, and forms part of your intake process.

It allows you to screen leads to see if they’re a good fit for your services, and ensure there are no conflicts should you take them on as a client. 

From here, you can advise them what can be done to solve their problem, the next steps, and the approximate investment, so they can decide if they want to move forward.

What a legal client interview form is NOT

  • Setting expectations is critical to building a good relationship with potential clients and maintaining a maximum realization rate for you. The purpose of the client interview form is not to give legal advice based on their answers.

  • Legal counsel will come after you and the client have decided you’re the right fit, fee estimations have been provided, and contracts have been signed. 

  • A quote that sums this up well is the aphorism often credited to Abraham Lincoln: “A lawyer’s time and advice are his stock in trade“. So be sure not to give too much of these away this early in the process. 

The importance of using a client interview form template

Your marketing efforts and excellent customer service have paid off with a lead inquiring about enlisting your firms’ services. You could take some details over the phone or ask them to send you an email with more information, but you’d be doing yourself, and your potential, a disservice.

Why should you use an interview form template at your firm?

1. Realization rate

At this point, you’re not making any revenue, so you want to optimize this part of your customer journey to be as efficient as possible. Spending time gathering all this information for yourself, or chasing information you don’t have can drastically lower your realization rate.

You need to shift this task from sitting with individuals within the firm to the client. Instead of spending time on the phone asking these questions or going back and forth over email, all you need to do is send your pre-made and approved template for them to fill out.

2. Speed

It’s far quicker for people to complete a form than to relay information. Digital forms, in particular, speed up this process because they don’t need to be printed, hand written, scanned in, or typed up by someone at your firm. 

The likelihood of converting leads into clients decreases as time goes on, so moving potential clients through this process in a timely manner improves your client numbers and revenue.

3. First impressions

The most important assets clients look for in a law firm are their credibility, professionalism, and efficiency. These attributes all point towards you being a business they can trust to take care of their problems and hopefully get them the outcome they desire.

A form might not seem like a significant detail, but it could mean the difference between losing and gaining a client. A well thought out interview form makes your clients feel like they are being listened to and supported. It also shows that you want to understand their case in great detail to give them the best, personalized advice. 

4. Firm wide efficiency

As already mentioned, these templates remove a lot of time-intensive manual work from your legal secretaries or whomever communicates with leads and initiates their intake. They also inform future processes, such as in-person client interviews.

By using a standardized form, your lawyers and attorneys know exactly what information to expect when they’re assigned a case. This allows them to plan their client interviews appropriately, saving time in preparation and during the interview itself. This stops their workdays being monopolized by any particular cases, and their attention is not removed from other clients.

What should you include on a client interview form?

Asking the right questions and obtaining as much information as possible is the key to an efficient and effective intake process that solidifies your firm’s status and the relationship with your potential client. 

With that said, here are several things you should include, or at least consider including, on your client interview form:

Personal information

This is a non-negotiable. You need to know who your potential client is, how to contact them, and any additional personal information pertaining to their case, such as business address in addition to their home address. This information also allows you to run a conflict of interest check to take this case further.

You may want to include some information about how you store and use any personal information you’re given to make your clients feel more comfortable providing this, build all-important trust that makes the progression of the case far smoother, and ensure an excellent client experience.

Explanation of the case

Another must-have on your client interview form. You want to get a brief understanding of someone’s case to you can advise on next steps. 

If you specialize in a particular area of law and handle a higher volume of particular cases, such as divorces and custody agreements, you might want to consider a template for each. You can then ask very specific questions such as ‘number of children’ that might not be relevant to other cases.

Their desired outcome

Legalese is complicated and unknown by most people if you’re not in a legal profession. Clients may not know what route to take with their case, but they know what they want out of it. 

Understanding what they want out of your transaction helps determine if this is something you can achieve for them, and allows you to set expectations about what is and isn’t possible. 

As this question is open-ended and not guided by the firm, you should also spot any red flags that would steer you away from working with someone, for example, if their intentions are not morally acceptable.

Their expectations of you

You want to ensure you and your client are on the same page from the get go. If they expect something of you, and vice versa, it needs to be clearly communicated during your first conversations. 

For example, a client going through custody agreements wants all communications from their previous partner to go through their lawyer who will then communicate with you. You can factor the extra time this will take into your price estimate to avoid unpleasant surprises that damage your relationship with your client.

Ask if they’ve worked with an attorney before 

This question will help you set out your client interview and following consultations. If they have not worked with an attorney before, you’ll want to explain how everything works, such as what you’ll need from them, any decisions that need to be made, approximate timelines based on similar cases, etc. 

After explaining this, your client will likely have questions, so be sure to factor in this additional time so you’re not going over schedule and reducing the time you have to spend with other clients.

Determine how they found you 

While not relevant to their case, this information is necessary for your firm to track where leads are coming from. Tracking and measuring this data will give you insights into your activity and tell you what you do well, and what you need to improve. 

For example, if your firm puts a significant chunk of budget into print marketing, such as magazines or newspapers, but you’re not seeing a good ROI (Return on Investment), you might want to redirect that money into something else. The data you have will allow you to make an informed decision that benefits the firm by increasing leads and revenue.

PRO TIP: Be specific 

This is vital if you need to know particular details or information. While your questions should be open ended to get an accurate account of the client’s problem in their own words, some people will likely miss details when filling in their forms due to being overwhelmed (this is likely a difficult time for your potential client), or simply uninformed because this isn’t their area of expertise.

Your clients likely will not know what information is important to you. This will save you time and effort to secure additional details, improving the efficiency of your intake process. 

How Woodpecker’s online questionnaires and automated documents can make your client intake process more efficient

Woodpecker’s shareable, client-facing questionnaires standardize and automate data collection to improve the client experience while amplifying your operational efficiency.

With the click of a button, you can send a pre-made, standardized questionnaire to your potential client. They will be sent the questionnaire via email, and once completed, you’ll get a notification to let you know.

The best part is that you don’t need to manually add your client’s answers to the interview form. Woodpecker automatically generates the completed document for you without ever having to open Miscrosoft Word, and delivers it straight to your inbox.

Not only are you saving time for yourself now, but also later in the process, because you can use answers from the intake questionnaire (such as personal information) to populate future legal document templates.

Discover how Woodpecker’s online questionnaire’s can save you time and money today