Client intake is an important part of the attorney client relationship. It’s basically the process where law firms collect all the information they need in order to assess the person’s legal matter and devise an appropriate solution.
Despite the technological advances happening everywhere around us, client intake still tends to be a manual and disorganized process. It involves lots of back and forth communication via emails and phone calls, and most of the paperwork is filled out by hand, and then scanned or transcribed into a database later on.
Most law firms have adopted a case management solution for inputting all of this client information (Clio and MyCase tend to be popular options). But few law firms have adopted software for the process of collecting the information in the first place. That’s where online intake forms come into play.
Here are 4 major benefits of using online intake forms to help your law firm make the switch.
1. Save Time on Data Entry
Case management programs offer many benefits in terms of organization and efficiency, but they also require a substantial amount of data entry – you have to get all the information into the system somehow in order to get any value out of it.
Data entry is tedious, unfulfilling work. Whether you do it yourself or hire someone, when you add up all the hours spent entering data, it amounts to a significant drain on your resources.
The good news is, online intake forms can drastically cut down on data entry. When clients fill out intake forms online, that data can be automatically entered into a case management solution later, which means you can offload some of the data entry onto your clients (the ones providing you with the information to begin with anyway).
For example, Lexicata allows law firms to build custom, online intake forms to collect contact and matter information from clients. Because Lexicata’s forms integrate with Clio’s API, that data can be exported into Clio to automatically populate the fields for a new matter.
2. Eliminate Transcription Errors
Most firms’ typical workflow involves collecting information via PDF forms, emails, and call notes, and then transcribing it later into Clio or MyCase to associate it with the correct matter and client.
But just like a game of telephone, where a message gets miscommunicated and altered each time it is relayed to another person, the process of transcribing data is prone to errors.
These errors may result from typos, illegible handwriting, or simply a momentary mental lapse. No matter the cause, they can be extremely problematic for law firms, resulting in further mistakes, wasted time, and even malpractice claims.
When data is captured into an online intake form, it doesn’t have to be re-transcribed later. Rather, it can be automatically exported in its original format, ensuring greater accuracy and reducing the potential for human errors along the way.
3. Store Data In A Usable Format
The easiest way to get data from a piece of paper into a computer is with a scanner. But scanners aren’t sophisticated enough to actually parse out the data and store it in a usable format, meaning somebody will have to type it in at some point, making data collection with paper forms highly inefficient.
When data is captured directly into a database from an online intake form, it is already in an easily usable format. It can instantly be plugged into a wide variety of other programs, using the power of APIs which are becoming so commonplace in today’s open-source software world.
The Clio integration mentioned above is one great example, but there are many additional ways to utilize the data from online forms. For instance, you could export it to MailChimp or Constant Contact for email marketing purposes. You could upload it to HotDocs or another document assembly program.
Or, with Lexicata’s newly developed document automation tool, you can use the data to instantly draft a retainer agreement or engagement letter with the appropriate client details. That letter can then be emailed to a client and e-signed online, eliminating the need to download, print, scan, or fax any physical paperwork.
4. Provide A Better Client Experience
Filling out paperwork is not exactly an enjoyable experience for most people. Scanning and uploading documents is even worse, and most people don’t even have fax machines anymore.
Fortunately, the benefits of using online intake forms are not just limited to the law firm’s operations. Online forms tend to be much easier on clients as well.
When you move your intake paperwork online, your clients no longer have to print, scan, or fax anything. They can fill out forms and sign documents on their iPhone (or Android if you’re not an Apple person) from anywhere in the world.
This makes life easy for clients. Not only will they be more likely to actually submit the information you need to do your job, but more importantly, they will have a better experience working with your firm and be more likely to recommend you and make referrals in the future.
Related: CRMs for Lawyers
Online intake forms are a win-win solution that help law firms and their clients get work done in a more efficient manner, leaving more time to focus on the details of the actual legal issue being handled.
If you’re interested in adopting a more streamlined intake process for your law firm, we invite you to check out Lexicata to find out how our online intake forms and documents can help.