Clients are the soul of every law practice. And arguably, the client intake process to procure those clients is the most critical part of managing your law firm. The initial client consultation, whether done via phone call or meeting, sets the tone for the entire case, so make sure that you start off on the right foot, every time.

12 Simple Steps for Law Firm Intake:


  1. Standardize Your Conflict Check Process. Your entire office should be trained on how to properly run these. You never know when staff will be out of the office, and you do not want to risk losing out on growing your potential client base.
  2. Narrow Down Your Lead Sources. Start keeping track of how your clients heard about your office (i.e., referral, Google, etc.), so that you know where to start putting more marketing money. The goal is always prospective clients that are a good fit for your firm.
  3. Have the Client Fill Out Their Intake Paperwork Using Online Forms and In Advance. The goal is to make things as seamless as possible for your client. Your practice management system can also help with this! Imagine collecting client contact information once, and never losing track of it for the duration of the client relationship.
  4. Beware of Waiver of Privilege. Notify clients that if they want to bring someone with them to their initial meeting, it could constitute a waiver of Attorney-Client Privilege.
  5. Be Clear About the Cost of the Case. The retainer is NOT the actual cost of the case, and that should be made abundantly clear to the client. It’s best to handle this during the onboarding process, to set clear expectations.
  6. Give the Client a Roadmap and Set Realistic Expectations. Clients should never have to Google next steps in their case. You need to give them an idea of what a typical case lifecycle looks like, and keep expectations reasonable.
  7. Have the Fee Agreement Already Filled Out. If the client decides to retain you, the only thing that you should have to plug into your fee agreement should be the retainer amount.
  8. Have the Client Initial by the Evergreen Clause. If you bill hourly, as opposed to flat fee, you should utilize an evergreen retainer. This means that, when a client’s retainer dips below a certain amount, the client’s retainer will automatically be replenished up to the original amount. Put this provision in your fee agreement!
  9. Collect the Consultation Fee Prior to the Meeting. If you charge a consult fee, make it clear (in writing) to the client that the meeting will not take place unless the fee is received prior. As above, your practice management software can help you with this!
  10. Seal the Deal. You should never start work on a case unless you have received BOTH the signed fee agreement from the client, and the retainer payment. This should be made clear to the client.
  11. Trust Your Gut. When it comes to red flags during the initial consultation, be prepared to decline representation. Would you be the fifth attorney on the case? Pass on that.
  12. Send a Follow-Up Email to Potential Clients Who Did Not Retain You. Treat intake like a business; follow up with outstanding leads.

About Smokeball:

Smokeball is the industry’s leading cloud-based legal practice management software.  Members of the State Bar of Texas are eligible for a 10% discount on new Smokeball subscriptions.

Jordan Turk is a practicing attorney in Texas and is also the Legal Technology Advisor at Smokeball. She earned a B.A. in Classics, History, and Religious Studies from the University of Texas, and went on to earn her law degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law. Prior to Smokeball, Jordan worked with a high-asset family law firm in Houston, Texas.