Ultimate Guide to Personal Injury Intake

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Why It Is Important to Optimize Your Intake Department

A lot goes into running a successful Personal Injury practice. Many lawyers and law firms we work with do not focus or are even aware of the new client experience. Your firm may be losing potential clients and you may not even know that it is happening.

According to the ABA Benchmark Study on Law Firm Intake Process, “72% of potential clients hire the first attorney they speak with” while at the same time “42% of the time, law firms take three days or more to respond to a voicemail or web inquiry from prospective clients.”

This is astounding as firms spend 5% to 10% of their annual revenue on marketing and then when their marketing works and potential clients start to call them they do not pick up the phone or respond to inquiries. This is why law firms with sound intake practices end up with the lion’s share of cases as they can attract, respond and retain clients better than the majority of lawyers.


  • 72% of Potential Clients Hire the First Attorney They Speak With
  • 5% to 10% (on Average) of Annual Revenue is Spent on Marketing
  • Less than 10% of Prospective Clients Speak with a Lawyer
  • 42% of the time, law firms take three days or more to respond to a voicemail or web inquiry from prospective clients
  • 3% of callers gave up before the phone was answered and 11% of calls lasted less than 10 seconds
  • 80% of Clients Expect A Response to Texts/Emails Within 1-2 Hours
  • 92% of Small Law Firms Can’t Calculate Return on Investment On Ad Spend
  • 96% of Small Law Firms Do Not Know Cost To Obtain Client

It is important to audit your intake department quarterly or whenever you hire a new intake agent. 

How Successful Firms Handle Intake

Successful personal injury firms have one thing in common, they know the importance of that first call from a potential client and they know how to handle those calls. While there are variations from firm to firm, you will notice the common theme in handling leads.

Here is an example of how a top national personal injury handles incoming calls and the technology behind its success.

An injured person sees an advertisement on television and decides to call the law firm. They dial the phone number and the call is picked up within three rings. A friendly voice on the other side of the line answers the call stating the law firm’s name and asking how they can help.

At this point, a fine-tuned intake department will gather demographic, accident, and insurance information. It is important to gather the caller’s phone number and email so that you can return the call if for any reason it would get disconnected. As a bonus, the intake employee should ask for permission to send SMS messages to the potential client. You can obtain written or recorded permission at a later point in time, but getting a verbal agreement on a recorded line is useful as many consumers in this day and age prefer text messages to email and phone calls. Of course, you should check your local laws in regards to recording calls, necessary disclosure for recording calls and sending text messages.

What you should notice in the exchange above is that the call was answered within three rings, and the caller was NOT put on hold. Far too many law firms do not answer calls within three minutes and even if they do pick up the call, they put the caller on hold before getting his or her name. Many callers are nervous and unsure about hiring a lawyer, they hang up if the phone rings for more than ten to thirty seconds and have even a higher hang-up rate when placed on hold for a few minutes. If for any reason you do place the caller on hold, make sure that your receptionist checks in with the caller frequently and that your phone system logs the caller ID of the caller so that someone can call them back as soon as possible.

This all may seem like common sense to you, but employees fail to do this ALL THE TIME

To recap:

  1. You should have a dedicated employee to handle new clients or intake. 
  2. A dedicated phone number for new clients is preferable.
  3. Make sure the calls are answered within 3 rings.
  4. The caller should not be placed on hold right away. Find out the reason for the call, if it is a new client, live transfer the call so that the receptionist makes sure the caller was connected to a live person or gets his or her name and phone number.
  5. Lastly, whether it is a web inquiry or a voicemail, your intake staff should call back within five minutes. Any longer and chances are the caller will find another lawyer.

We have compiled a comprehensive guide on how to audit your new client department and best practices gathered from successful personal injury law firms.

Law Firm Technology

Law firm technology has greatly improved in the last five years. Options exist for firms of all sizes and budgets. But with the increasing amount of choices, selecting the right technology becomes more difficult and time-consuming.

Let us discuss the vital components of successful intake.

Phone System

A good phone system is imperative to excellent client service. In the very least, your phone system should have the following features:

  • Ability to log and report on all calls – Reports should include how many calls your firm received by hour, day, month, or year. How many calls abounded (hung up), how many were missed (no one picked up), and how many were answered by your employees? 
  • You should also be able to track the amount of minutes each call lasted. Many phone systems today allow you to aggregate information and view summaries on dashboards.
  • Transfer to mobile phones – with an increasingly mobile and work-from-home workforce your firm should not miss potential clients’ calls regardless of whether your staff is at their desk.

As a Managing Partner, you should assign an employee to review the reports on how your firm handled calls on a regular basis but not less frequently than monthly. 

A good practice is to set benchmarks for call performance such as zero missed calls or no hold times over thirty seconds. These benchmarks allow you to measure improvements or catch issues as they happen.

Optional features for a phone system should be to log every call to a known lead or client file. Most phone systems can look up cases in your CRM by caller ID and associate call inbound and outbound call records. If you have this integration, you could then create a report within your CRM to identify leads or clients who called your firm but no one called them back within a reasonable time. According to the ABA Intake Report, clients expect to receive a response from their lawyer within two hours. While this may be difficult, no client should wait longer than two days.

CRM or Case Management System

There is a debate among personal injury lawyers about whether to input potential client information for non-retained leads. 

I think every potential client call should be logged somewhere and their information entered into a database so that your firm can market to these callers in the future.

If you do not want to clutter your case management system with non-clients, perhaps having a separate system for leads is the answer. This system does not have to be complicated or cost money, for many firms, a simple Excel document will be sufficient as long as it is centralized and the staff religiously enters lead information. Whether Excel is the solution for you or your firm will depend on how many leads you receive per month. For twenty or fewer leads per month, Excel should suffice. If your firm receives over twenty leads per month, you may want to look for a free or low-cost CRM.

Generally, any generic CRM should work but if you want to keep records of accident-level information we recommend you choose a CRM that has custom fields.

Here are some CRMs that will work and offer a free tier:

  • HubSpot
  • TigerCRM
  • SugarCRM/SuiteCRM
  • Podio 

For potential clients that could possibly be a case (for example: pending medical records) you should be entering those leads into a system. How else are you going to keep track of these clients and following up to make sure they submitted the information or documents to you?

You could use the above CRMs to keep track of leads or you could choose to enter into your actual CRM or case management system. While there are dozens of systems geared towards lawyers, here is a short list of case management systems:

  • Litify
  • Clio
  • PracticePanther

The systems outlined above are hosted in the cloud and provide advanced features geared towards lawyers. Regardless of the software you use it should have the ability to do the following Intake functions:

  1. Contact information
  2. Basic accident information such as Date of Accident, Accident Location, Injuries, etc.
  3. Lead status (i.e. New Lead, Attempted Contact, Unable To Contact, Qualified, Rejected and Retained)
  4. Activity/Tasks – allow employees to log calls, emails and tasks.
  5. Documents – upload and store Police Reports, Accident Pictures or signed Retainer

E-Mail & SMS Tools

As I am writing those 2022, I can’t fathom a law firm that does not automate its communication with potential leads or clients through e-mail or text messaging. These essential communication tools will simplify follow-up and reduce the time your staff or paralegals spend calling and trying to reach clients.

Preferably these tools are built into your CMS or CRM. The majority of modern systems offer at least e-mail integration and a growing number of software have SMS as well. Litify is flexible in this regard as it allows to integrate with a variety of e-mail and SMS solutions.

Now you may ask why would you want your case management system integrated. The simple answer is that you want to create templates. 

Essential E-mail Templates for Intake

  • Thank you for your web inquiry – an automated email responding to a potential client web inquiry. This should preferably be a ten-email series introducing your firm and reassuring the lead that your firm is the right choice for their personal injury case needs.
  • Electronic Signature Retainer Email
  • Post Retainer Welcome Email
  • Unable to reach lead – automated e-mail sequence urging the lead to call your office.

Essential Text/SMS Templates for Intake

•           Unable to reach

Your firm could also go a step further and automate transactional emails notifying the client of changes in case status or upcoming important dates or appointments.

Mystery Shopper

Before we take on a new client, we often call their firm and pretend to have a case. Going through this experience often gives us a glimpse at how fine-tuned the firm’s intake department functions. There is no reason to generate new leads if your law firm can’t turn these potential cases into clients.

Either yourself or have someone call your law firm and record the interaction. Pay special attention to the following aspects:

  1. What is the attitude and demeanor of the person who picked up the phone? Did he or she sound enthusiastic and willing to help?
  2. How many times and how long were you put on hold? What music or message played while you were on hold?
  3. How many times did the receptionist and employees transfer your call until you were able to speak to someone who could help you?
  4. How many times did you have to explain the reason for your call? 
  5. Did the intake paralegal ask for your contact information in case the call got disconnected? Did he/she ask for all the necessary information to determine whether your firm will accept the case? Did the paralegal or support staff reassure you that they are the right firm for your injury/case?
  6. If the paralegal said they would call you back or contact you with someone, how quickly did the person get back to you? Did they follow up with you via phone? E-Mail? SMS?

Depending on the volume of new cases your firm receives per month, we highly encourage you to assign dedicated staff or a department to handle new cases.

If you already have dedicated intake staff, do they have a direct phone number? If yes, you are already ahead of many law firms.

You should also make sure that you have reporting configured for your phone system and receive a monthly report with the total number of calls to your intake department and how many of these calls were missed, abandoned, or hung up.

In 2022, clients are very impatient and likely not to wait more than three rings to speak to someone. Some clients are nervous and unsure about contacting a lawyer and will often hang up the second their call is picked up as they experience cold feet. For this reason, we urge you to set up a system to call back missed and abandoned calls within 5 of the caller hanging up. Calling back missed calls within 5 minutes generally has a higher contact rate than calling back after an hour. There is also less chance that the caller called another law firm and already was signed up electronically via DocuSign.

  1. Call your law firm’s main number and pretend you have a case. Take note of the following:
    • Employee behavior/demeanor/tone
    • Wait time
    • Number of times transferred
    • Did the employee follow a script or process you’ve set up?
    • Were you asked for contact information at the beginning of the call in case of a disconnect
    • Were you told that someone would call you back? 
    • How long did it take to receive the callback?
    • Did anyone follow up via phone, email, or SMS?
  2. Missed & Abandoned Calls Procedure
    • Confirm you have to report for calls to your intake
    • How many calls go unanswered?
    • How many callers hang up before they speak with someone?
    • Do you have an overflow reception or answering service?
    • It is unlikely that your potential clients will leave a voicemail.
  3. Where do website form inquiries go?
    • Who is responsible for responding to website inquiries?
    • How fast do they respond to website inquiries?
  4. Case Management
    • Does your intake department log all calls into a CRM or Case Management system? Many law firms only log retained clients into their systems. So how do you manage cases that have not been signed up yet? 
    • Do you regularly review new case reports?
      • How many new clients your staff can’t contact and as a result have not signed up? If you are not tracking this metric you should create a status that will allow you to track it.
      • How many clients found another law firm when your intake department called them back? If you are not tracking this metric you should be.
      • What does your staff do with practice areas you do not handle? Do they refer them to the state bar? Do they just say they can’t help? Do they consult you about referring these cases to another lawyer? Referrals can easily provide you with 25%+ of revenue without you having to do any work.
      • Do you schedule appointments with new clients and they fail to show up? Have you considered retaining your clients remotely via DocuSign or a similar Electronic Signature provider? According to a 2021 Legal Trends Report “found that 79% of survey respondents view working remotely with their lawyer as an important factor when hiring a lawyer. Comparing this to a 2018 study where only 23% of consumers were open to the idea of working remotely with a lawyer.

If you have all the above. Here are some ways to grow your practice and grow your lead volume:

  1. Google My Business: Make sure your Google Maps listing is optimized and comes up in Google searches in your area for your practice areas.
    • Set up an incentive structure for your employees to ask clients for reviews. Reviews play a huge role in a potential client’s firm selection journey.
  2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  3. E-Mail Marketing Campaign to current and prior clients. Ask for a referral, you will be surprised.
  4. Social Media Marketing

2021 Legal Trends Report shows that 82% of consumers seek out positive reviews before hiring a lawyer.

Free Intake Department Audit

If you do not have the time to play our mystery shopper exercise, we are glad to conduct a Free Intake Audit. We will call your firm to pretend you have a new case and document our findings in an easy-to-read and understandable report.

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