Your first meeting with a potential client ranks among the most important touchpoints. The client interview is an opportunity to determine whether you should work together, discuss expectations and fees, and address questions. The initial interview sets the tone for your entire attorney-client relationship.
So how can you best prepare for these meetings and knock them out of the park? This guide breaks down everything you need to know about client interviews, including:
- Steps to take before the consultation
- Tips for conducting a successful client interview
- Client interview questions your firm should ask for productive discussion
- A lawyer and client conversation script to help you interview efficiently
- Common questions for lawyers that you should be prepared to answer
Five Steps to Take Before a Client Interview
A five-step client intake solution can help you walk into every client interview prepared.
1. Gather Key Client Information
Use a customized client intake form to gather client information before scheduling a consultation, such as:
- Prospect’s name
- Phone number
- Email address
- Business name and information (if applicable)
- Name of the referring party (if applicable)
- Reason for reaching out
- Whether the prospect has worked/is working with another attorney on this matter
With MyCase’s digital client intake forms, you can easily tailor questions to various stages of your intake pipeline and each area of law that you practice. After the prospective client submits their information, the data automatically syncs to a client file on your MyCase law firm customer relationship management (CRM) system. Afterward, your team can conduct a quick phone screen to assess whether the case is relevant to your law firm’s practice area(s).
Tip: Manage cases from start to finish with MyCase. Our case management software offers everything you need in one place, including workflow automation, document management, calendaring, and more. Sign up for your free trial now (no credit card required).
2. Complete a Conflict Check
Conduct a conflict check to determine whether you can represent the client. Doing this sooner rather than later avoids wasting time on a case your firm cannot handle.
3. Schedule an Appointment and Reminders
If the matter clears your conflict check process, schedule a consultation with the potential client. MyCase calendaring software makes it easy to set appointments—simply view your central firm calendar to view availability.
In addition, you can schedule reminders for attorneys and clients to prevent missed appointments. MyCase legal CRM software also offers built-in text messaging to stay in touch with prospects.
4. Form a Contract and Collect Your Fee (If Applicable)
Collect a retainer, if applicable. If you’re collecting a fixed fee for your consultation, secure this payment at the very start. Also, agree upon the scope of your consultation before signing the contract. It’s never too early to manage expectations and ensure everyone is on the same page.
5. Review the File
At the end of this pre-interview period, the client’s file should contain all the preliminary information you need to conduct the consultation. This includes the prospect’s specific matter and any initial communications exchanged. (With the MyCase Client Portal, you can store documents in a central location and securely share them between clients and lawyers.)
Make sure to review all of this information before stepping into the client interview. You’ll put your best foot forward and use meeting time more efficiently.
How to Conduct the Interview
Even the best lawyers sometimes forget what it’s like on the other side of the desk. Use the tips below to direct a successful lawyer-client interview.
Put Their Mind at Ease
People often reach out to lawyers during stressful times. This could include issues such as dealing with an injury, divorce, or crime. Make your client comfortable by reassuring them that you’re here to listen to their problem and offer help. Lead with empathy and speak naturally; few clients are fluent in legalese.
Set The Stage
You wouldn’t conduct a client interview in a dirty suit. Likewise, your meeting space shouldn’t exude unprofessionalism.
- Keep the space tidy
- Securely store documents, particularly those with confidential and/or sensitive information
- Arrange comfortable seating
- If you’re meeting clients virtually, curate an appealing office background or use a virtual background, and test your lighting, camera, microphone, and speakers beforehand
Conduct the Interview
Interview your client, and obtain all of the information you need to determine whether the matter is a good fit for you and your law firm. Also, take detailed notes so you can refer to them as the case proceeds.
Tip: With MyCase legal document management software, you can upload files, such as your notes, to our cloud-based document management system. Then, give relevant team members access to the files to share knowledge across your firm. Documents update in real-time, so everyone has the most up-to-date version.
Communicate Like a Beginner
Cover all essential topics, including:
- Payment methods
- Next steps
- Preferred communication methods
- Team members who would be involved in the case
- Their main point of communication
Communicate clearly and honestly about your capabilities, given the client’s situation. Prospects often have lots of questions. They should leave the interview armed with all the information they need to make a decision.
Assess The Fit
Determine whether you’d have a positive working relationship based on your personality, the client’s expectations of your deliverables, and their ability to pay your fees.
Client Interview Transcript FAQs
What should you cover during the interview? What types of client interview questions should you prepare to tackle? We’ve answered attorneys’ client interview FAQs below.
Questions for Lawyers: What You Should Prepare For
1. How Can You Help Me?
Lay out what your client should expect. Provide a general outline of your process and timeline, and don’t feel compelled to overpromise results. Setting realistic expectations at the start can prevent issues down the road.
2. What Do I Need to Do?
Clients may not understand the extent of their future involvement in the case. Describe the scope of their participation. For example, will they have to take time off of work to attend hearings? Will they need to provide a significant number of documents? How quickly should they return your calls/texts/emails?
3. How Will I Receive Updates About My Case?
Explain when and how your law firm plans to communicate throughout their case. Be sure to indicate their main point of contact, as well as how the client can get in touch with any questions or updates. Like any relationship, a lawyer-client relationship is a two-way street; both parties should feel engaged and in sync.
Tip: Use the MyCase Client Portal to securely provide case updates, invoices, account statements, and documents. Keep clients in the loop 24/7 without constantly being on call.
4. How Much Will This Cost?
When choosing the right lawyer, price isn’t everything—but it is a major concern for many prospects. Explain your fee structure, law firm rates, and billing process so your client can estimate their financial commitment upfront.
5. What Happens if the Outcome Isn’t What I Expect?
For certain legal practice areas, such as criminal defense and personal injury, prospects may want to know the worst-case scenario. Will they have to pay anything? Would they have the opportunity to appeal? Be prepared to outline your client’s expectations if things don’t go according to plan.
How to Structure a Client Interview
While you should tailor your interview to each prospect, you can leverage the following five-part client interview transcript as a general guide.
Start by making introductions and telling the client about your law firm. This is the time to get to know your prospect as well.
Explain the consultation agenda, so your client understands what you’ll be discussing.
The bulk of the client interview focuses on gathering facts. Use the following lawyer and client conversation script to uncover essential information.
- Let’s review the information you’ve provided so far. Is that all correct?
- Have you ever worked with an attorney?
- Have you consulted any other attorneys about this case?
- What made you decide to reach out to a lawyer?
- Why did you contact our firm? Did anyone refer you to us?
- Can you explain your problem?
- Do you have any documents or supporting materials for your case?
- Do you have any questions or concerns?
Discuss your client’s goals. Are they realistic? Do they align with your expectations of the case at this point?
End the client interview with the next steps. If the prospective client is ready to move forward, let them know exactly what they need to do. If you decide to turn down the matter, you may want to consider providing a non-engagement letter to clarify the extent of your relationship.
Use Technology to Improve Client Intake
A comprehensive client interview transcript is just one part of the client intake process. The best law firms use an innovative tracking system to convert prospects into clients seamlessly. MyCase, for example, enables your law firm to build and customize automated client intake forms. When prospects convert into new cases, data carries over into case management.
Experience a faster, easier intake process with MyCase. Sign up for your 10-day free trial today—no commitments and no credit card required.
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