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Good client intake is like a good handshake. Both people can feel something from the beginning.
Back in the day, a strong grip might suggest a strong constitution and commitment. People were as as good as their word. Today, however, client intake is not about handshakes. It includes intake forms, engagement letters, and fee agreements. But if you really want to improve, you have to think about how it feels.
A Good Fit?
The initial client interview is literally a job interview. The client is the employer, and the lawyer wants the job. But good intake should apply some scrutiny all around. It's time to ask: Is this a good fit?
"You need to look for signs of problem clients, especially clients who are shopping for their third or fourth attorney," says FindLaw's William Peacock. "You need to consider whether you can handle the case -- is it an unfamiliar practice area or niche issue?" Sometimes, the best case is the one you don't take. That's because problem clients are not worth it, such as those who are:
Of course, they say you can't judge a book by its cover. But you can if you have read a page or two.
A Good Form
When it comes to new clients, intake forms, engagement letters, and fee agreements can help with that. A good intake form should require enough information to adequately represent a client. Name, address, phone number, and email are basic, but more is better. The form should require a mix of personal and matter-specific information. A reference, like an employer, would be best. That way you can check for bona fides. If your clients are not who you thought they were, you can show them the door before they get too comfortable.
Do it with a handshake, of course.