Mastering the client intake process can be one of the most difficult skills to learn, especially as a new attorney.
On the one hand, you want to hear the details and listen to the client’s story. On the other hand, your overwhelming workload for your current clients demands your attention.
Every current client was a potential client
Whenever I find myself overwhelmed with work, and seemingly unable to call back a potential client, I remember that every client was a potential client at some point.
That said, you obviously cannot blow off a deadline just to return a phone call. But you can send a quick email to let them know you will be in touch tomorrow, or ask for a good time to talk. You can also take a break from your current task to return phone calls for twenty minutes.
Do not be afraid to cut to the chase
I know that some attorneys will send bills to every person they talk to over the phone. That is not our policy. At the same time, that does not mean I am interested in a forty-five minute discussion on the state of the legal system.
Be an active listener and ask questions that drill down to the root of the issue. If you need details, ask for them. Potential clients may not know which details are relevant, so it is your job to gather that information.
They might not be a client now, but they could become one later
Never forget that situations may change, or another situation could lead the client back to your office. Even if you cannot help them now, you still need to be as courteous and professional as possible. You only have one chance to make a first impression, so make it a good one.