Client onboarding is the process by which you bring a new client into your firm. If you don’t have a client onboarding process, you should.

You should welcome new clients, set expectations for the attorney-client relationship, teach them anything they need to know about working with you, and complete the administrative tasks necessary to open their client file. A little effort up front makes for a positive experience, makes it less likely you will miss things, and makes it more likely your client will become a promoter.

The backbone of your client onboarding process is your file-opening checklist. Here are the things you should check off as soon as possible after a new client signs your retainer agreement. (I’ll be using MyCase as an example of how to implement a file-opening checklist in your practice-management software.)

Welcome Your New Client

Your client welcome package can be digital or physical. Either way, you should give it to your client as soon as possible after they sign your retainer agreement. You could hand your client a folder, send them an email, or mail them an actual package.

At a minimum, you should include a copy of their retainer agreement, your preferred contact information, and any tasks you need the client to complete. If you want to do something a little extra to make new clients feel welcome, you might include a care package with a thoughtful gift.

Align Expectations

Give your clients a roadmap to their legal matter. This could be a conversation (that you will probably have to have more than once) or it could be a timeline you prepare for them.

Tell your clients how often they should expect you to check in, and commit to returning their calls and emails within one business day. If you don’t want clients to expect you to respond immediately after hours, make sure they know that at the outset of your relationship.

Also, make sure you and your client are on the same page when it comes to the outcome of the representation. If you are pursuing one goal and your client is hoping for another, they are probably going to get angry.

Talk to Your Clients About Computer Security

Make sure your client knows how to get access to your secure communication portal, and make sure you follow up as necessary to get them up and running with it.

Since clients’ comfort level when it comes to technology may vary, you might want to help them set up their login credentials in person. It would also be a good idea to discuss basic computer security with them. Make sure they know not to open correspondence from you on their work computer, and show them how to set up their own, password-protected account on their home computer so their family cannot access your communications and other information about the case.

Administrative Tasks

Finally, you obviously need to take care of the administrative bits, like making sure you have scanned all the documents from your new client, entered all the relevant contact information into your practice management software, given them a receipt for any retainer, etc.

Get it All Done

The key to making sure your client onboarding process goes off without a hitch is to use a checklist. Every. Single. Time. The good news is that your practice management software should have templates that let you build your file-opening checklist once and reuse it on every new case.

Now, all you have to do when you open a new case is apply the Workflow.

If you do that every time you open a new case, you will never miss a step.

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Last updated November 12th, 2015