How to Win at Intake with Gary Falkowitz


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Are you struggling in the intake process as a lawyer? Is your firm finding it hard to maintain clients? In this episode, attorney Gary Falkowitz shares his insights on how to win at intake. 

Gary works with law firms to patch up the holes that exist and make firms better. Intake involves the process of when a potential client connects with a law firm. There are many steps to ensure the intake process is top tier.

1 | Clients

One of the many important things to consider when going through intake is understanding the mindset of a client. Living in a fast paced digital world, people want quick responses. If a firm wants a new client, that firm needs to be swift and respond as fast as possible. If not, the firm risks losing them to another law firm. 

Clients seeking legal representation are usually dealing with heavy things. Whether it be an injury, criminal case or a divorce, no one wants a lawyer. With that said, make sure you are showing compassion and speaking to them in plain language. Many cannot understand legal jargon!

2 | Training 

What makes intake a significant part of working with a client is the training process. It is important that those that work in a law firm are equipped with ongoing training to stay up to date on the intake process. Training can include how to respond to clients when they first reach out or how to run a successful intake call or meeting. Lawyers need to know how to make a decision on the fly, especially if a prospective client calls and wants a quick response. If the lawyer is up to date on the criteria, they should be able to know at that moment if the client can be represented. 

3 | Follow Up

Following up during the intake process is where some clients actually make a decision on a law firm. Most times, potential clients are submitting inquiries to multiple firms just waiting on the first response. If a client emails an inquiry question, respond once and then follow up again. Most times, clients are juggling a lot of different priorities and that inquiry fell off their radar. The follow up might just be the thing that reminds them and pulls them in.

The best way to keep a client is having a strong transition. Once a client is signed, give them homework. Give them all the information they need to feel supported. Provide information materials about the firm, contact information for the team, what you as an attorney expect from them and vice versa. Managing expectations is key. You need to express what you need from them and they need to express what they as a client need from you.

Take a listen to learn more about how to have a successful intake process!

Episode Highlights:

  • 2:09 Understanding the mindset of potential clients
  • 3:53 The significance of training and ongoing education
  • 9:27 Staff should be trained to make decisions
  • 11:58 Law firms should continue following up
  • 17:04 The importance of maintaining communication with clients

🎥 Watch the full video on YouTube here.

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    Transcripts: How to Win at Intake with Gary Falkowitz

    Speaker 1 (00:00:00) - In today's episode, we're sharing a presentation from Max Lakhan 2022. Keep listening to hear Gary Falco's as we share his talk. How to win at intake. You can also head to the maximum Lawyer YouTube channel to watch the full video. Now to the episode.

    Speaker 2 (00:00:15) - Run your law firm the right way. The right way. This is the maximum lawyer podcast podcast. Your hosts Jim Hacking and Tyson Tricks. Let's partner up and maximize your firm. Welcome to the show.

    Speaker 3 (00:00:38) - Gary Falco is here. I'm going to make this. We're going to go fast. We're going to be loud. We're going to go fast. I'm going to give you as much information as possible to make sure that you can grow your firm appropriately, efficiently, effectively. Understand this. I should tell you why I understand this. I have spoken at many conferences, some of which have law firms that are pretty large, signing 4 or 500 cases a month, and some of which do have a law firms that are just getting started. Everything I said I'd say today, regardless of the size of your law firm, will help you do a better job at intake.

    Speaker 3 (00:01:14) - My bio, I'm an attorney. I worked with a large law firm. I wrote a book on intake, have my own call center. I still get involved in cases where a co-counsel other law firms. This has become my career. And if you told me that in law school, I think you were crazy. I didn't never heard the word intake before, but something about the business of law and being an entrepreneur and wanting to fill the holes in a business really appealed to me. And here I am jumping all the way in. Okay, here are your keys to winning at intake. And we're going to get let's move this over here. We're going to get into each of these today very quickly. You need to know the mentality of a new claimant. You need to create a team of experts and advocates. The big one here, we need to remove the weight. I'll talk about that momentarily. We have to appreciate the competition, follow up aggressively, decide immediately. We need to make the process of signing a new client easy.

    Speaker 3 (00:02:09) - We have to have a smooth client transition Once they become a client, the next steps and then we have to hold all of our teams, both internally and externally, accountable. Again, loud apology. It is not I'm not yelling at you. I am passionate about the topic. Let's start with the knowing the mentality of a new claimant in this day and age with how advanced we are with technology and the iPhone. We want them. When we want something, we want it now. I want to buy a new pair of shoes. I'm going to get them on the way to the airport. If I want to order Uber some food, Uber eats. I'm not waiting till I get home. I'm not stopping to pick it up. I could do it at the you know, when I'm waiting outside picking up my kids. Right. We want things immediately. And that's what wins, by the way. And I'll be repeating that sort of theme throughout the next 15 or so minutes. Speed wins there.

    Speaker 3 (00:02:58) - A claimant's interest is highest when they first contact you. Okay? Which means that we have to be prepared to give them the response that they deserve and need to make them a client. Now, as every day their interest kind of decreases because distractions increase. You need to understand that that doesn't mean you stop following up. You just need to appreciate that that first time they reached out to you, if you're not throwing out every potential weapon in your favor to bring them in, you might be losing them to another another law firm. They're looking for reassurance, guys. You're looking for compassion, reassurance and confidence. Now, most of what most of my clients, when I consult law firms on intake or I speak on a stage, most of my law firms are personal injury law firms. But everything I'm saying could be adopted for other law firms as well. Here's what's interesting about it You never need a lawyer until you need a lawyer, and most of us will never need a lawyer. Most of us will never need a personal injury lawyer.

    Speaker 3 (00:03:53) - If I asked you right now, I probably see about 50 or 60 people in the audience. Raise your hand if you ever needed a personal injury lawyer. You. I see. Two, three, four, five, maybe five. Hands up. Five hands. Right. That is less than 10% of the people in here. Which means that. And raise your hand if you need a personal injury lawyer twice in your life, raise your hand. One person needed it twice in their life. Which means that if you ever need a personal injury lawyer, you probably don't need it once in your life. You've never had those conversations, The ones that you're having internally in your office about all the legal issues and and the filing and the administrative and the fees. They don't know anything like that. They just want to know, Hey, can you help? So we've got to make sure that if we can give them that reassurance, Hey, Mrs. Johnson, you did the right thing by calling. We handle blank cases every single day.

    Speaker 3 (00:04:39) - Perfect. Because I was nervous. I didn't know if you guys did this type of case. Boom, That's how you start the conversation. They don't believe that hiring an attorney is a priority, which is why it takes so long sometimes for them to even reach out. They talk to their family, they talk to their friends. They talk to their colleagues. They don't know that it's necessary. They just see the commercials and say, maybe it's a good idea, maybe it's not. We also have a bad reputation, unfortunately, guys, so we have to constantly go up against that. They don't want to be intimidated. Don't use the legalese on the conversation, the conversations. And they're looking for trust. Right. And the people that you have picking up the phone calls, they're the ones that have to create that trust. Two years, one mouth. Right. Do more listening than speaking. Answer their questions. They want to be reminded, even if it's been three or 4 or 5 weeks or months since they reached out to you.

    Speaker 3 (00:05:26) - Keep reminding them only stop following up when they tell you or you go a significant period of time, which I talked about in a moment with radio silence. They're filled with anxiety. It's likely their first time they'll tell you if they're not interested. They'll even tell you why. Do not hesitate about asking why. I speak to the claimant. They say, You know what? I'm not going to go this route. May I ask you what happened? Oh, you're going to learn a lot of information. Maybe you're someone. Something. Somebody in your office said to them. Maybe another lawyer told them something that just isn't true. Ask them why. And they don't believe that their case is large enough for you. I cannot tell you how many times a claimant thinks that because they don't have a surgery where their arm was taken off and they got to somehow fix the arm, they think they see the commercials. They've got to have like a $27 Million case. I've seen those commercials. I don't have a $27 million case.

    Speaker 3 (00:06:13) - I've just been to the doctor for the past year. Wait, that's exactly the type of case we handle. So they're not sure of that. Create a team of experts and advocates, which requires a strong initial training. I'm actually in the process, really excited about it. By the end of the summer, it'll be live where I have a virtual training and certification course for intake specialists. Receptionists of most. This one is for personal injury lawyers, but it's going to be tremendously impactful and valuable for your firm. They need continued training. Just like we get close, they need continued training about maybe the dialogue or the criteria has changed. I'm going fast. I only got a few more minutes here. Daily huddles, frequent internal meetings with attorney involvement. The more that they get to speak to attorneys about their job, the more valuable they feel. If you're creating this Chinese wall of intake over here, lawyers over there, and they don't even talk to each other, I'm telling you, it's a recipe for disaster.

    Speaker 3 (00:07:05) - They need to talk to each other. They're going to feel like, Oh, the lawyer knows my name. These are the conversations. I've managed an intake department. I know this. The lawyer knows my name. He said, I did a good job at this intake. Oh, guys, I just learned that we don't want these type of cases because of A, B, C, D, and E, Right. Let the attorneys speak to their intake staff. Make sure they appreciate the intake staff. Too often, intake specialists are so nervous to speak to the attorneys about a case that they just tell the claimant. I don't think it's something we can help you out with. Can you imagine it's happening? I promise you it's happening. I'm not making it up. It's because they're scared. They're scared to say the wrong thing. They're scared that an attorney might yell at them. Right. Tell your attorneys how important they are to your firm. Recurring updates to your intake manual. If you don't have one, reach out to me.

    Speaker 3 (00:07:47) - You need to have an intake manual. Give them respect and credit rewards and thank you's right This day and age, money is not enough, right? Hearing a thank you is so important, right? If they reach a certain goal, let them get a reward. That's fantastic. That's how you create a strong environment. Ask for their input. They are the boots on the ground. They know what's going on. Ask them, Hey, what's what are the challenges you're having right now? You'll be surprised what you're learning. Remove the weight. My biggest one, guys, In this day and age, I understand how important it is to have people speak on the phones. Okay. Not saying that's not important. You know, it's more important. What's number one? Number one, priority response time. Response time wins ten out of ten times. All right. You could be. The solo practitioner has never practiced law and picked up the call first. And you might win over Morgan and Morgan because they took five minutes.

    Speaker 3 (00:08:39) - They don't know when someone calls you up, they don't know your resume. They don't know how many cases you resolve. Last year. They're not much money you made last year that not many lawyers are in your firm. They don't know what the budget is. All they know is they spoke with someone immediately and they were great in the phones. That's a huge plus. Makes you wonder why your intake staff are getting paid so little. But that's for another day, right? I mean, the response time Remove the weight from response time. Ring time. Here's a stat for you. I'm going to throw it out right now, guys. On average, 10% of your inbound calls are abandoned. Sorry, 10% of your inbound calls are banned. That means someone hung up midway through. On average, 20% of your inbound calls get picked up and more than 30s. Would you guys wait 30s if you needed a lawyer? I wouldn't. That's a problem in the industry. Remove the weight would transfer time.

    Speaker 3 (00:09:27) - Let me get you to a lawyer. Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah. Right. For two minutes until a lawyer picks up the phone. Got to remove that decision making. If we need to train our team to make decisions, we cannot have them say, Let me go ask the lawyer and get back to you or let me think about this or can you get that police report for me? We can't do it. We don't have the time. Time's not a luxury anymore. Competition is too intense. Train our staff to make decisions. Here's the best thing about decisions, guys. If you're a personal injury law firm specifically, and most other law firms as well, you could reject them after you retain them. Right? I have this thing in my book where I say it's better and I'm probably repeating myself. It's better to retain that investigate, then investigate than retain. You don't have time to investigate a matter if it meets criteria, you sign it up under review, pending considering investigating.

    Speaker 3 (00:10:11) - That's what your CRMs are all saying you're doing. Don't do it. Remove that status. Don't even use it. It's just a black hole. Call back scheduled meetings. If I speak with a law firm that is still, Oh, I need to meet with them in person before I sign them. Well, I can't help you. Then. I can't help you. That's a problem. Remove the weight. Appreciate the competition. Let's start the assumption that the claimant reached out to two of the law firms. But before reaching out to yours. It's a competition. There's no way that your reputation, even your cousin, I mean, think about this. How many calls have you heard where someone says, I'm not going with you, I'm going with my cousin? Think about that from a from a different angle. They've always had their cousin, yet they still called you. Where's the loyalty to family? Right. Point is, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. You're competing. The moment you think you're not competing, you lose.

    Speaker 3 (00:11:03) - You are competing. So now what is your response? Like the like the doctor yesterday talked about? What's your response to resolve that? Right. I have to have better staff. I have to respond faster things of that nature. Is your staff more likable? They faster Are they selling better? Do they have accolades? Do they know about if you were on the top 50 firms in the history of law firms, they should know that if you resolved 4000 cases, they're all auto accidents last year. They should know that if you have a Harvard Law graduate, they should know that. Let them know about what to brag about for you. You're competing. Okay. Follow up aggressively said this before. Let's start with the assumption that we should not stop following up until the claimant tells us, Hey, Gary, please stop calling. Yes, sir. I'll call in again. You told me not to or we followed up for an extensive period of time without success or with radio silence and by extensive period of time, guys, I mean a few weeks.

    Speaker 3 (00:11:58) - I don't mean four times. I don't mean four times. They could be on vacation. It bothers me when I go in and I work with a law firm and I talk about their follow up process and they tell me when they quit following up, I go, Come on, you know, they could be on vacation. Their grandmother could be sick. They could be they could have Covid. They could be there's a million things that could be distracting them where they don't realize that the priority is to hire a law firm just because you know it's a priority, just because, you know, you can get them three and a half times more money for their injury they can get on their own. Doesn't mean they know that, Right? Put yourself in their shoes. Ensure that your team is reviewing open leads on a daily basis. That's the most obvious thing here. And yet I have to put it in there. Make sure every open lead, regardless of the status, is being reviewed every single day.

    Speaker 3 (00:12:47) - Every single day. I don't care how strong your your lead docket, your file vine, your smart advocate, your capital, whatever you're using, I don't care what it is, you got to review it every single day. Someone has to have that responsibility. And by the way, someone not hey intake staff of again, we have some people out here that have no intake staff. They have a receptionist. This is still valuable to you. We have some people out here that have 18 intake staff members out there. It can't be it's got to be a specific responsibility. You, Mary or John, I want you to review those open leads every single day. Example, five attempts in the first three days. That's not crazy. You should be following up on, let's say a web lead reaches out to you through your chat or through through a web inquiry. And oh, by the way, just to go, go back to the competition for a moment. How simple do you think it is when someone types out a summary in a web inquiry and then copies it and goes to three other websites, goes to the web inquiry and paste, submit, paste.

    Speaker 3 (00:13:43) - Submit, paste. Submit. It's pretty easy. We all do it and could do it. Got to understand how competitive this is. Example minimum of three weeks of calls, texts and emails. If you're not using text messages, you're in trouble. You have to be using text messages. One of the companies that I'm involved with, what we do is do you know what I think is more valuable than Google? I was talking to someone last night about this. You know, it's more valuable than Google your phones, the contacts on your phone beat Google because you won't go to Google if you have an AC repair guy that's saved as AC repair guy, you're not going to Google for a painter. If you got a painter saved in your phone, you're not going to Google for a P.I. law firm. If you have personal injury law firms saved in your phone. But Gary, how do we do that? Easy. I could do it for you. I could tell you exactly how to do it.

    Speaker 3 (00:14:30) - And this way, everything that comes into your firm gets your V card, and now they potentially become advocates. And now when they're in a group chat with their friends and their friend says, Anybody have a good lawyer? I do. Let me show you. Let me give you his contact information. I did it a few days ago for an electrician. For a painter a few months ago. I don't remember who the electrician was or the painter was, but I have them saved in my phone and I recommended them. Texting is a necessity. Make signing easy, right? Don't delay. Don't wait for in-person meetings. You have to use electronic signature. As long as you know your state and your field allow it, you have to use it. By the way, walk them through the electronic signature. None of this. Hey, I just sent it to you. Once you sign it, you'll become a client by. No, no, wait. Say to have ten more minutes on the conversation.

    Speaker 3 (00:15:17) - Hey, Mrs. Johnson just sent you a retainer. What I'm going to do right now in our agreement, by the way, use the word agreement. I hate the word retainer. Retainer. Scary. It's intimidating. This is an agreement. I'm doing work. I'm paying you. If I'm successful and doing my part. You're doing your work. You're hiring me. This is the agreement. Get the freaking word retainer out of your dictionary. When you're speaking with the claimant, it's scary. It it implies money up front. It implies blood sucking lawyer. It just does. Okay. Agreement. So, Mrs. Johnson, I just sent you our agreement. What I'm going to do right now is I'm going to stay in the phone, wait for you to sign it, so I can confirm for you that we received it. And now we can start working your case today. That's one call sign. That is the goal. Now, everything I'm telling you today, by the way, guys, it's gold standard stuff, right? Not everything I'm saying you're doing, but it should be the goal.

    Speaker 3 (00:16:05) - It should be what you're striving for. It's what your competition is likely doing. Okay. Retain that. Investigator. I talked about that rather than investigate, then retain. Shorten your agreement. Right. You should not have a 13 page agreement. Who reads a 13 page agreement, right? Make it 1 or 2 if you can, and then have them sign other documents after they become a client. Don't say I'm going to throw everything out there so that I'm protected. You're going to lose out on signing clients. That's what you're going to do. Keep your intake packet simple. Don't put a questionnaire in there. Right. The conversation that your intake team has when they sign decide to sign up a claimant, that's the questionnaire. Then after they become signed and they become a client, now you want to go have them fill out a five page questionnaire. That's fine. They're clients. They're willing to do it. But if I got two if I'm a claimant and I got two different law firms I'm thinking about and one gives me just a three page agreement and one gives me a 13 page agreement, a five page questionnaire.

    Speaker 3 (00:17:04) - I know who I'm choosing. I want to quick write speed. Speed matters. Okay, Smooth client transition. Now they become a client. The worst fear you should have now is which unfortunately we've all felt in the past is, Damn it, why do we lose that client that we signed? Because you can have a strong transition. You have to become a client text call, email, promotional material material. After they become a client, they should know who are they going to hear from next now that they become a client? When should they hear? How often is it? Once a week? Once a month? Once every few weeks when they hear via text or they hear via email will be a phone call? What do they have to do now? Give them some homework. Now you got to go to your doctors and you got to keep us updated. If the doctor says something new to you, right, give them homework. Make them feel like part of the agreement. Team Introduction. Here's who your attorney is.

    Speaker 3 (00:17:51) - Here's your legal team. Here's who the legal assistant is. Here's your paralegal. Manage the expectations. How long this should take, right? We all feel comfortable when our expectations are managed. I think one of the great failures of relationships is the lack of managing expectations. We have an opportunity here where we just retain them. Now we can tell them what to expect. Really important. And by the way, it won't result in them calling every single day what's going on in my case? Because you told them you should hear from us about once a month normally, but we'll call you otherwise if we have some updates for you. Oh, great. Avoid regret. Don't give them reasons to regret their decision. Hold your team account accountable. I'm going to sift through this really quick. I want to you need to know certain percentages in your firm. You know, your conversion rate of all the leads that qualified, how many retained. That really tells you how the front end of your business is doing.

    Speaker 3 (00:18:41) - I'll tell you right now, for an average PR law firm nationwide, it's around 70 to 75%. A strong law firm is close to 95. 98%. That firm I was telling you about before, 9400 cases per month in their state, they're at 98. 99%. Yes, they are. I promise you. Okay. You got to know your numbers. You got to know your lead response time. You have to know how many cases are retained, then rejected. It might have something to do with your criteria. You have to know how many abandoned calls you're getting so you can call them back. Retain the first call, sign up. Four seconds to go, guys. The clock is ticking. It's a competition. You can do this. Thank you very much.

    Speaker 2 (00:19:22) - Thanks for listening to the Maximum Lawyer podcast. Stay in contact with your host and to access more content, go to maximum Have a great week and catch you next time.

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