by Raquel Gomes, CEO of Stafi
Law firms have always had a sales function in terms of bringing in new clients, but that has hardly been efficient. Hiring a client intake specialist would completely change the model of many law firms by putting a more qualified, effective person in that role.
The job of an intake specialist encompasses a wide range of duties, including greeting clients, answering and making phone calls, and handling administrative and billing tasks. The role is rooted in business development, which is pivotal in the growth and management of law firms.
The essential element for success in an intake specialist role is having the right personality. A successful intake specialist must love dealing with and helping people, because all the other skills they need to succeed in the role can easily be taught through training.
Qualities of an effective intake specialist
It is important to remember that part of working at a law firm is dealing with sensitive situations. To be successful in a law firm environment, an intake specialist must have great listening skills and empathy. Clients must feel cared for, and these qualities are necessary for success in this regard, but not everyone can handle this pressure every day, all day.
As such, when finding an intake specialist, it is important to emphasize their behavior and psychology. Intake specialists benefit from ongoing psychological support, as this can help prevent the emotionally taxing nature of the job from taking too much toll on the employee’s performance or mental well-being. It is important for law firms to conduct psychological and behavioral assessments of candidates for intake specialist positions, and that they remain stringent about who they hire for these roles.
Many law firms make a huge mistake by just allowing anyone to interface with clients or partners over the phone. Although a good intake specialist doesn’t necessarily need a background in law, they do need a background in client care and dealing with people. It’s important to remember that no one can do every job, and not everyone can do a good job at all things.
The benefits of hiring an intake specialist
Hiring a qualified intake specialist to answer the phones can be a substantial boost to a law firm’s reputation. People tend not to put the right amount of importance on the person answering the phones, but this person is the most important client-facing role. The person who answers the phone has the only chance to cause a good impression, and since it’s difficult to undo a bad impression, it’s essential to put the right person on the phone.
One of the most significant benefits for lawyers hiring an intake specialist is saving time. Time is the most precious resource of a lawyer — after all, lawyers bill for their time, so time is money. Lawyers must be selective about who they use their time for, focusing on clients that can be billed. Wasting time (particularly on free consultations) with clients who are not qualified or are not a good fit for the firm costs money in the long run.
Having a dedicated intake specialist trained to identify ideal clients will ensure less time is wasted, increasing your deal-close ratio and revenue. Properly trained intake specialists will only book calls and consultations worth the lawyer’s time, and although these may not always pan out, their likelihood of success will be much higher.
Intake specialists also help save lawyers time by substantially shortening the consultation process. If an intake specialist asks the right questions beforehand and inserts the answers into the law firm’s management system, that record can have all the information necessary to make the consultation short, sweet, and to the point. Law firms who effectively implement intake specialists into their business model could shorten their consultations from 1 hour to as little as 30 minutes.
Having a dedicated intake specialist also ensures that other people in the organization — such as paralegals, legal assistants, and associates — can do their jobs effectively. Additionally, since answering the phones is hardly in the job description of these individuals, they’re unlikely to be happy to answer the phones. On the other hand, intake specialists have the people skills they need to not only succeed at the role, but enjoy it.
Although hiring an intake specialist might seem like a luxury to some law firms, it is an investment that will pay off, both in the short term and in the long run. Law firms should have someone who is thoroughly trained and dedicated to providing great client service on their phones, as this will ensure that the first point of contact gets off on the right — and most profitable — foot.
Raquel Gomes is passionate about helping business owners, and especially women entrepreneurs, understand that they can, in fact, have it all. That’s why she founded Stafi – a virtual assistant company that finds and places highly qualified, highly-educated offshore staff that can complete all the tasks that keep business owners from their most valuable work: serving their clients and growing their companies.