Leveraging Online Legal Client Intake Forms for a Smooth Experience with Your Law Firm
June 21, 2023
In this day and age, it’s likely that your law firm uses some form of legal software, whether it’s for billing, practice or case management, time tracking, or research. But one of the more modern forms of software for law firms isn’t as well-known or widely used, yet—despite the tremendous impact it can have.
If your legal software doesn't have lead management for law firms, specifically, that includes online client intake forms at your law firm, now's the time to get informed.
In this post, we’ll discuss:
- What online client intake forms are
- How these forms work to help you run your best firm
- And how they make an impact for law firms throughout the legal process
Then, we’ll examine the specific benefits that online client intake Forms can have for law firms based in different states, or practicing law in different areas—including Personal Injury, Family Law, Litigation, Estate Planning, Business & Employment Law, and Real Estate Law practices.
Online Client Intake Forms for Law Firms
Legal software to make client intake for law firms simple and efficient
Online client intake Forms were created to help the legal industry solve one of the biggest hassles faced by staff: how to collect detailed information from clients and potential clients in a quick, streamlined, and accurate way.
These legal forms bring a software solution to the problem by replacing pen and paper, back-and-forth emails, and tedious data entry in spreadsheets; instead, online client intake forms enable potential and existing clients to enter data about their case of matter themselves—saving the legal staff’s time and energy. Moreover, they enable client relationships to start off on the right food.
How Online Client Intake Forms Work
The way legal intake forms work is simple: A lawyer or member of the firm’s staff chooses the appropriate form from a number of pre-created or completely custom templates, to send to a prospective client or lead. The client or prospect then fills out the information online—using their computer or mobile device—in a format that’s familiar to modern audiences because of how often they already enter data online in their daily lives. Or, these intake forms may also be embedded directly into the law firm's website for a visitor to fill.
Once the client or prospect fills out and submits the form, their information then goes immediately into the law firm’s legal software. This means that the information imports either into a firm’s legal lead management and client intake software, case management software, or, for firms that use software providers like Smokeball, end-to-end legal practice management software that encompasses both intake, case management, and billing.
And as soon as the client or prospect’s contact information and pertinent case information enters the legal software system, it can be viewed and updated by anyone at the firm. This means that everyone who needs to can locate and edit client files from wherever they are, whenever they want, on any of their devices.
Legal Forms Help with Every Stage of Client Intake
The terms "lead management" and "client intake” can have different meanings depending on who you ask. Smokeball looks at client intake as a number of connected “stages,” including:
- Web enquiry intake, when a potential client first visits a law firm’s website and/or reaches out to the firm
- Lead intake, when the firm works with a potential client to see if there’s a fit and, if so, agree to work together
- Matter intake, when the client has signed a retained and the law firm begins working on the client’s matter or case
- Document intake, when the client and the firm share documents with one another
Ways to use Online Client Intake Forms
Depending on which stage of intake you’re in, online client intake forms serve a number of different purposes.
During the Web Enquiry stage of intake, you can link intake forms directly to your website so potential clients can begin submitting information about their matter online—so you’ll have background details about them from the very beginning.
During the Lead Intake stage, you can send more detailed intake forms to potential new clients so they can answer any relevant questions and fill out the specific information you need to move forward with their matter. This is particularly useful if your legal software provider offers practice area-specific online intake forms, as Smokeball does.
During the Matter Intake stage, the information that you’ve already gathered via online intake forms is at your fingertips in your legal software—so you can get right to work on a client’s matter as soon as they sign a retainer. You can also easily send additional forms to gather any more details that you need at this stage.
During Document Intake, which happens whenever you and your client share documents with each other, you can build and share custom forms and create custom documents using pre-existing templates that you can modify as needed to fit your client’s situation.
The Benefits of Online Client Intake Forms for law firms
As alluded to above, online client intake Forms offer many benefits for both law firms and clients. These benefits include:
- Increased organization, thanks to the way that legal intake forms import data directly into your firm’s legal software
- Once the potential client's information is in your legal software, you have easy conflict checking functionality
- Higher conversion rate of potential to retaining clients, thanks to the simplicity and ease with which clients can access and complete legal intake forms
- Streamlined communications, as the intake forms eliminate the need for lots of back-and-forth emails, calls, and texts to gather certain information from clients
- Reduced data entry for you and your staff, because the legal intake forms automatically import data into your firm’s legal software—so you don’t have to
- More time for billable tasks, thanks to the greater efficiency that legal client intake forms provide
- Fewer lost leads and data errors, as the instantaneous data import of potential and existing clients means that someone at your firm can never misplace information, forget to enter it, or rekey it incorrectly
How Online Client Intake Forms Positively Impact Your Firm
Now that we’ve covered the benefits of legal intake forms in a general sense, let’s explore how these forms can help your law firm—by enabling you to adapt the legal software as needed to meet your firm’s unique nice and clientele.
Navigate Legal Specifications in Your State
As you know, every state (or country) is unique from a legal perspective—and staying compliant within your state of practice is essential.
Online client intake Forms help you meet your state’s specifications because you can easily customize the forms you send to clients and prospects. So, you can add custom fields to the online forms and update the language or terminology to match your state’s specific requirements. You can then save these forms as templates that you can reuse, over and over again, for any similar clients or matters.
This customization of legal intake forms is a critical aspect of what makes them so useful to your firm: The more tailored that a legal form is to the needs of your clients and practice, the more valuable that form is.
Online Client Intake Forms for Personal Injury Practices
In a Personal Injury practice, legal intake forms enable you to get new prospects and clients into your system, quickly.
Particularly if you have a high-volume practice, client intake forms give you the ability to start collecting information from potential new clients the moment they first visit your website or email you regarding their legal matter.
So, you don’t waste any time—you learn immediately what their situation is and can rapidly identify whether their matter is a good fit for your firm. If you do want to move forward with them, the legal intake forms make it simple to get all of the details you need to start on their matter. And, you can customize the forms to fit whatever information your practice desires.
Online Client Intake Forms for Family Law Practices
For a Family Law practice, custom intake forms are key for providing client-friendly experiences with your firm and getting the detailed information you need to handle your clients’ complex matters. When you send intake forms to potential new clients, it provides them with a professional entry point into your firm—and one that saves them time and energy by allowing them to fill out the forms in their own homes at their own leisure.
Some legal software providers, such as Smokeball, provide Family Law-specific intake forms that are designed specifically to help you in your practice. These pre-built templates help you identify a client’s family information, guardians, assets, and many other details that generic intake forms might miss. And you can customize these templates as much as you’d like, for as many different variations as you need.
Online Client Intake Forms for Litigation Law Firms
If you have a litigation practice, client intake forms are helpful because of how they import data that instantly syncs across your firm. So no matter how many different attorneys or staff members you have working on a case, you can rest assured that as soon as a potential client enters information via one of your online forms, it will immediately go into your legal software system and be visible to anyone at your firm who has access.
Additionally, this technology is extremely useful for document intake—as you can easily share documents with paying clients, get them filled out and signed (using E-signature functionality), and have all of the data at your fingertips.
Online Client Intake Forms for Estate Planning Law Firms
In Estate Planning, as you’re well-aware, you need lots of specific information about your clients and their situation. Legal intake forms are the best way to gather this information, quickly and accurately, via a method that works great for both you and your clients.
Especially thanks to legal software providers like Smokeball, you can use custom Estate Planning intake forms designed specifically for practices like yours—so you can learn about a client’s estate, executors, beneficiaries, assets, liabilities, and many other essential details that you need in order to represent them.
You can also integrate your legal software with an Estate Planning client portal, as Smokeball does with DecisionVault. This legal software integration enables you to instantly import information from your intake forms into the client portal.
Online Client Intake Forms for Business & Employment law firms
In a Business & Employment law firm, legal intake forms help you create a professional-looking client experience when new prospects first engage with your firm. The software handles any information-gathering that can be simplified and automated to create a professional client experience when new prospects, so you can focus on getting to know your new clients and how you can help their businesses.
Additionally, online intake forms enable you to make document sharing and data entry simple and efficient. If it’s common for you to share many documents for clients to complete, sign, and send back, customizable intake forms make that very easy—especially if they utilize E-signature capabilities, as Smokeball’s software does. And once clients submit their information, it goes immediately into your system and can be accessed across your firm.
Instantly Import Real Estate Online Client Intake Form Information
In a Real Estate practice, legal intake forms are valuable because they enable you to quickly get the information-gathering process out of the way so you can move on to more pressing matters.
And, thanks to customizable templates, online intake forms allow you to create standard documents that you rapidly share with potential or existing clients to get the specific information you need from them. This information enters your system in seconds, and it all happens via a quick and easy process that your clients will appreciate. This works the same for intake forms during your initial meetings with clients and during document intake when you generate contracts or other important documents to share with your clients (and even get them signed electronically).
A Vital Aspect of Legal Practice Management Software
No matter what state or practice area your law firm operates under, online client intake forms are a valuable tool that can help your firm become more efficient, client-friendly, and successful.
And as mentioned in this article, these legal forms become even more powerful when they are part of a comprehensive legal practice management solution like Smokeball. Using end-to-end legal software can be transformative for your firm because it covers the entire client journey at your firm—from the first time clients ever seek out your services through their matter or case, and even to the point that they pay you and provide reviews or referrals later on.
Legal intake forms are an essential component in this process because they are the best way to get clients’ information into your legal software system, particularly when your software offers practice area-specific and customizable intake forms.
So, when you’re evaluating legal client intake or case management software options for your law firm, keep this in mind.
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