“Everything you’ve been told about building
an injury law practice is wrong”

The Ultimate Intake System

Most lawyers assume that they rarely, if ever, lose quality leads.  Not so fast, my friend.  More than anything else, law firms screw up the intake process.

How many law firms have a system for recording leads?  10-20%. And that is a shame.  Most law firms minimize the intake process based on their rationalization that their law firm is profitable and their misguided belief that they are not losing the good leads. These lawyers are horribly mistaken.

“The single most important position at a law firm is the intake specialist.”

                   --Chris Mullins, the “Phone Success Doctor”

The Almighty Conversion Ratio

The conversion ratio is the most important metric. You should ask this question: “If you have 100 cases that qualify for retention, how many did you retain?”

Nationwide, the ratio of qualified leads that are retained is 70%-75%.  The conversion ratio should be 90% for plaintiff’s personal injury law firms.

The Most Important Number for Your Intake Process

The most important metric for intake is the number of qualified leads, e.g., leads that meet your criteria for a viable case. The number of leads alone are irrelevant. If you have 100 leads, but none of them meet your criteria for a qualified lead, they have no value to your law firm.

For our firm, a qualified lead is one that merits further evaluation and is not declined during the initial phone call.  The qualified lead is placed in our lead intake software, Lead Docket, and case management software, SmartAdvocate, as “under consideration”.

Every month, you should run a list of the number of:

New leads:  Anyone who contacts your law firm with a potential case.

Qualified leads: Leads that merit further consideration and are not declined following the initial intake call.

Accepted leads: Leads that are accepted for litigation.

Document the Criteria for a Qualified Lead

The threshold determination for your intake specialist is whether the lead could have a case that you resolve for a fee—this is a “qualified lead”.  Document your criteria for a qualified lead. For example, our criteria for a qualified lead consists of five factors:

  • Must have a catastrophic injury or death
  • Must have a minimum settlement value of $500k
  • Decline unreasonable or rude clients
  • Do not accept cases having questionable merit
  • Only accept clients who agree with our core values

How to Quickly Disqualify Leads

Empower your intake specialist to determine whether a case qualifies on the first call.  The goal is to qualify or disqualify the lead on the first phone call.  Create a list of questions that will disqualify a lead. Begin with yes/no questions to disqualify the lead (a/k/a cross-examination of the client).   Do not let your client give a rambling narrative until you’ve determined that they meet your criteria for a qualified lead.

Our firm has 3 disqualifying questions.  Leads can be immediately disqualified based upon these 3 disqualifying factors. 

  • No long term injury
  • Expiration of statute of limitations
  • Outside of our practice area

Disqualification #1:  No Long Term Injury

If the client has no permanent injuries or physical limitations, the damages are not substantial enough to warrant the substantial expense of a malpractice lawsuit. We disqualify leads where our client has recovered from their initial injuries.

To determine whether our client has a permanent or long term injury, our intake specialist asks:

  • “How are you doing now?”
  • “Are you back to work?”
  • “Do you have any physical limitations now?”

If the client has returned to good health and has no significant physical limitations, they do not meet our criteria for a qualified lead.

Disqualification #2:  Expiration of Statute of Limitations

If the statute of limitations has expired, the lead is instantly disqualified.  We have a list of the statutes of limitations for every personal injury and medical malpractice claim in New York State in our online policies (Fisherpedia.com), so our intake specialist can quickly determine whether the deadline to sue has expired.

Disqualification #3:  Outside of Our Practice Area:

If the lead is outside of our practice area, e.g., a divorce or bankruptcy, do not tell our client, “We do not handle those types of cases.” Instead, tell our client that, “We will be happy to refer you to the best lawyer for your case.

Building referral relationships with other lawyers is essential to our business.  If we do not refer cases, we will not receive referrals.

13 Tips for the Perfect Intake Call

You don’t want to sound like just another law firm or your competition. Your intake specialist should give 5-star treatment that makes your clients feel like they just walked into the Ritz-Carlton.

#1:  Be Excited, Smile and Slow Down

Before your client begins rambling, stop them and express gratitude for their call. Welcome the client to your practice and get their name.

“Hi, Lisa, my name is Brent.  First, I want to thank you for calling us. I
 have a few questions for you, would that be okay?”

“What is it that got you to call today?”

Now, you are in control of the conversation. You need to control the conversation as soon as you can.

#2:  Show Empathy

Imagine holding your client by the hand and looking them in the eye.  You are here to build a relationship. It’s about love, care and concern. These are the things required on every phone call. You need to express compassion throughout the phone call.

“This is terrible, Lisa. I am so sorry to hear this.  
We will do everything we can to help you.”  

List the top 3-5 empathy phrases that you can say throughout the conversation and post them in your intake specialist’s office.

  • “I am so sorry to hear this. What a terrible experience.”
  • “Your family is so fortunate to have you make this phone call.”
  • “I can’t imagine what this is like for you.”
  • “I know this must be a really difficult time for you.”

This shows empathy and reassures our client that they’ve found the right law firm .

#3:  Use the Client’s Name...Repeatedly

You should repeat the client’s name throughout the conversation.

#4:  Compassionate Interrupt

When your client begins to ramble, redirect the conversation and get to where you need to go. 

“You’re doing great, Lisa.  Just so I don’t waste your time, would it be alright
if I ask you a few specific questions?”

You might need to do a compassionate interrupt more than once.

#5:  Mirror and Reflect

Write down the last 3 or 4 words the client just said, and repeat them back.  The client tells your intake specialist that the hospital did not do even “the most basic testing” to rule out a heart attack.

“Lisa, I heard you say that the doctor didn’t do ‘the most basic testing’ to
rule out a heart attack. That’s interesting, can I ask you more questions about that?” 

Mirroring and reflecting the last 3-4 words used by the client shows that you are listening and you care.  Nothing is more important during an intake call.

#6: Screening Questions

You need to have screening questions to determine if the new client is someone you can help. The screening questions will be used by your intake specialist to ask the appropriate questions relevant to each of your practice areas.

Our intake lead management software, Lead Docket, is customized to auto-populate the questions that are relevant in each of our practice areas.  If the new case involves an alleged failure to diagnose a stroke, our intake specialist will know exactly what questions should be asked for liability and damages.

#7:  Identify the Source of the Referral

Always identify the source of the referral.

“Who can we thank for referring you to us?”

This should occur at the end of the conversation. When your client gives the name of a law firm, always ask for the name of the referring lawyer.  Perhaps your new client will think, “Maybe I will refer someone to this law firm.”  

#8:  Explain the Next Steps

Be assertive and tell your client what you are going to do for them.  Explain the next steps in detail.

“Here’s how we’re going to help you.”

  • First, we will get the medical records.  
  • Second, we will review the medical records with a board certified physician. 
  • Third, we will call you to advise of our expert’s opinions.

“Do you have any questions about our process?”

If you need to have a power of attorney signed, do not tell the client to go to a bank or lawyer’s office.  Tell your client that you will send a paralegal right away.

#9:  Salesmanship is Okay

Your intake specialist should take the opportunity to explain why your law firm is unique.

“You called the right place. Our law firm is unique.  Medical malpractice
is the only thing we do and we’ve handled cases just like yours for
more than 20 years.  You are going to love our attorneys and paralegals.”

If you don’t share how your law firm is unique, your clients will think your law firm is just a generic law firm.

#10:  The Single Most Important Question

Why should your client choose your law firm over all the rest?  Ask your staff, “What makes our law firm different from other law firms?”  Everyone in your law firm should know the answer. 

Your law firm’s uniqueness should be conveyed to every qualified lead.  This conveys to your client that they’ve found the right law firm and can stop lawyer-shopping. 

#11:  Client’s Contact Information

Do not hang up without getting all of your client’s contact information.

#12:  Declining Cases

Provide your client with e-books (“The 7 Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims”) or resource guides (link to file a complaint against a doctor with the Department of Health) for help.

“I’m sorry we can’t accept your case, but here’s how we can help you. Do you have a pen handy, please write this down.”

#13:  How to Finish the Phone Call

Finish the conversation by asking your client if there is anything else you can do to help them. Your intake specialist should have a direct phone number, or cell #, and give new clients immediate access to them.

“If anything else comes up, you can call us anytime. My cell phone number
is 845-802-3744. You can call me any time day or night, including weekends.”

Remember, your law firm is in the customer service industry. Giving special attention to your clients should be the focus of your intake process.

How to Follow Up with Qualified Leads

Every client with a qualified lead should be contacted every day for the first 5 days after the initial intake.

Follow Up Process for Qualified Leads

If the case qualifies, get a lawyer on the phone.  No other law firms are doing this. No one will be better than a lawyer at locking up the case.

Your follow up process for qualified leads might consist of the following:

Day #1: Follow up by email with introductory video email explaining your process for evaluating the claim (ideally, a custom video that is relevant to the claim)

Day #2: Follow up by email with e-book, The 7 Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims

Day #3: Follow up by email with infographic explaining your process for case evaluation

Day #4:  Follow up by phone to ask if your client has any questions.

Day #5: Follow up email with a client survey (e.g., Survey Monkey) asking about the intake process

There is no such thing as too much follow up. If your client does not want follow up, they will tell you. The real risk is too little follow up. Will your client call other law firms?  You’re kidding yourself if you don’t think so.

Weekly New Case Call Meetings

Give feedback to your intake specialist at least once a week.  Make sure your intake specialist knows that they can speak about qualified leads during your daily huddle. You want to respond to qualified leads immediately.

How to Follow Up with Your Referral Partners

Never lose sight of how valuable referrals are. When you refer a case to another lawyer, you are building good will and establishing the groundwork for referrals from that firm.

When you refer a client to another law firm, what is your process for following up with your referral partner?  First, create a list of law firms that you refer cases to and their practice areas. Empower your intake specialist to make the referral during the initial phone call with the client.

The follow up process with your referral partner might consist of:

  • An introductory email acknowledging the referral to the client and referral partner and explaining the next steps
  • An email with your “Rules of Engagement” for cases referred to your law firm
  • Periodic follow up with your referral partner regarding the status of the lead (via Lead Docket)

3 Steps for Mastering the Intake Process

Keep in mind one thing, the goal is progress, not perfection. Take small steps to continually improve your intake process.  These are the 3 steps you should take first:

#1:  Hire a Full-Time Intake Specialist

Do you have someone who manages your intake process?  Lawyers should not handle the intake process—this is a waste of your time. However, once a lead has been qualified as meeting your case criteria, a lawyer should always speak with the client—ideally, during the initial intake call.

#2:  Record and Monitor Intake Calls and Give Feedback to Your Intake Team

Record and listen to at least one intake phone call every week. With software, CallRail, you have the ability to listen to all of the intake calls.

“You have to inspect what you expect.”

--Chris Mullins, The Phone Success Doctor

Your intake specialist wants your feedback.  You will probably be shocked and disappointed by your intake calls.

#3:  Coaching for Your Intake Team

Want to get feedback about intake calls every month?  Chris Mullins, the Phone Success Doctor, is a master at training intake specialists.

“The goal is progress, not perfection.”

--Chris Mullins, The Phone Success Doctor

As part of Chris Mullins’s intake training, she works one-on-one with attorneys and intake specialists to listen to recorded calls, and play, review and critique the calls as a team.  Your intake specialists will improve from one month to the next.  And just remember, “without an intake specialist, you don’t have a need for a law firm.” Chris Mullins (PhoneSuccessDoctor@gmail.com).  


Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels


Leave a comment below telling me what surprised, inspired or taught you the most (I personally respond to every comment). And if you disagree with my take on running a personal injury law firm, or have a specific, actionable tip, I’d love to hear from you.
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