Back to Top

How to Create A New Client Welcome Kit

Lawyers in the Lawyerist Insider and Lawyerist Lab communities know that good communication is essential to establishing trust, which is the foundation of any successful attorney-client relationship. But no matter how well you explain your services to your client during your intake and initial consultation, there is only so much your clients can absorb during that initial meeting. A good new client welcome kit can help build trust with new clients by providing them with a tangible guide to your services and a ready reference for those inevitable follow up questions that occur after the initial consultation. It is an excellent tool to add to your client service arsenal.

Your welcome package can be sent as a hard copy through the mail or electronically via email or as a secure part of your website. A welcome package in the form of a folder or binder may also provide a place for clients to keep important documents or information in a central location throughout the engagement.

What to Include in a New Client Welcome Kit

A good new client welcome kit should include three categories of materials: information about the client’s issue or matter, tools to aid your client throughout the engagement, and information about who you are and what you do. Much of this material is designed to answer client questions for you even when you are not available.

1. Information about the new client’s issue or matter

First, the welcome package should include a copy of your signed engagement agreement, which governs your relationship. This is a document both you and the client may need to refer back to from time to time during the engagement.

Good client service means ensuring clients understand your policies and procedures, and you make it easy for them to pay your bills. In addition to the formal engagement agreement, provide your clients with a copy of your billing policies and guidelines. If you accept credit cards, include a credit card authorization form.

Provide new clients with a roadmap to their case in the form of a timeline, process outline or flow chart that details the stages the client’s case must go through in order to reach its conclusion.

Many clients have similar questions and concerns during their matter. Provide them with answers to frequently asked questions and a glossary of terms they may encounter during the engagement.

If you have written blog posts or articles that explain the client’s issue or concern, give the client copies of those articles as well. These materials will not only help your new client to be more comfortable with the issue, but they will reinforce your status as an expert, and they may answer questions new clients are afraid to ask.

2. Tools to aid your client (and you)

If the client will need to gather information for you, provide them with a list of documents or develop forms to help them give you necessary information, such as a chart to record complaints and doctor’s visits in a personal injury case, a log to track contacts or problems with a difficult spouse in a matrimonial proceeding, or a spreadsheet to record account information for estate planning.

Your welcome package could also include a list of helpful resources and information or links to websites where clients can seek information or related services.

A good gauge of client service is the client survey. Include one in your welcome package so clients can give you feedback before the engagement is over.

3. Who you are and what you do

Make it easy for your clients to contact you during the engagement and in the future. Provide them with the names and contact information for all those with whom the client will be working in your office, and let them know whom to contact if they have a problem. Include your billing department or office manager in this list for client billing questions.

Your welcome package should also include information about your office hours and policies and procedures that affect clients.

In this age of multi-media, many lawyers have begun providing additional materials to clients in the form of audio or video on CD or DVD explaining more about their practice or particular issues of interest to clients.

Don’t forget to cross-sell the other areas of practice to your new clients by providing them with information on all of your practice areas.

Finally, you may want to include other marketing or promotional items in your welcome package as well, such as extra business cards or a copy of your firm newsletter to generate referrals.

Originally published 2011-01-12. Updated and republished 2019-11-19.

How I Stopped Taking Unscheduled Calls

The most common complaint made by lawyers is that the constant flow of interruptions (phone calls and emails) throughout the day prevents them from getting any work done. However, the most common complaint made against lawyers is the failure to respond to clients.

Fixing these two problems may seem like a zero-sum game, like you can’t correct one without worsening the other. As counterintuitive as it may seem, the move to stop taking unscheduled phone calls in my practice simultaneously increased my productivity and client satisfaction.

My improved productivity is probably not a surprise but why would client satisfaction increase? I think it happens for a few reasons.

  • The common complaint “my lawyer didn’t get back to me” really means that the client would like to know that their matter is being handled and progressing, that someone is listening and helping, or something along those lines. Those underlying needs can often be addressed by a team member who isn’t a lawyer, and I would bet money that a properly trained team member with the right personality will do it better than you. If the matter does require a lawyer, the call is scheduled so the client knows that you now have time set aside to contact them and assist.
  • Scheduling calls guarantees that the client gets a response from you. That means less chance of things getting missed or falling through the cracks.
  • Phone calls are more productive since you have a chance to prepare before the call.
  • When something is available in limited quantities, we automatically assume it is more valuable and higher quality and we desire it more. When clients know your time is limited but they have a spot reserved in your busy schedule they feel special and are more appreciative, not to mention we’ve noticed they are more inclined to be punctual and respectful of your time.

You might worry about losing potential new clients if you don’t answer the phone every time it rings but scheduling all calls has increased our engagement rate as well. The potential new client speaks with a team member who is able to give some initial information and schedule an initial phone call with me. The key is to help the potential new client feel heard and clearly set out their next steps.

Your practice doesn’t need to be chaotic. You can take large volumes of phone calls in an organized, calm, and deliberate way that makes your clients happy and helps you be more productive. Here is the process I followed to stop taking unscheduled calls:

1. Create rules for your calendar.

I decided the times each day during which phone calls can be scheduled. I do my best work in the morning, so on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday my phone calls are scheduled in the afternoons when my energy and focus typically dips. On Thursdays, phone calls can be scheduled any time during the morning or afternoon since I try to schedule deep focus work earlier in the week. I do not take phone calls on Fridays.

I set rules for how far in advance calls need to be booked and how close together calls can be booked.

My calendar has “flex time” built-in where I can make calls or send emails even if a true emergency disrupts my schedule. Every practice area is different and you might have legitimate things that unexpectedly upset your schedule. Build some flexibility into your calendar to account for this.

Your system can be created manually in your Outlook or Google calendar, or by using scheduling software like Calendly or Acuity. We use Calendly.

2. Create a phone script to handle incoming calls.

Over thousands of inbound calls, we discovered that almost all phone calls could be grouped into three categories. We created a detailed decision tree/phone script for our Client Coordinator to follow based on those categories.

If someone asks to speak with me, the default answer is “He’s not available. Is there something I can help you with?” I am unavailable for unscheduled phone calls so even if I am in my office is the truth to say that I am unavailable. It is crucial that the person answering the phone asks they can help the caller. At this point in the conversation, we likely still don’t know the reason why the caller wants to speak with me and offering to assist will often leave the caller to disclose more information which the Client Coordinator can use to determine the appropriate next steps. Often it will be something that the Client Coordinator can help with, even if that help is scheduling a phone call.

The caller is almost never put through to my voicemail. The only exception is if the Client Coordinator is certain that the purpose of the message is only to pass along information to me and does not require a call back. The Client Coordinator explains that my voicemail messages get just get sent to her to determine how to handle them, so by speaking with the Client Coordinator they are making things move faster.

3. Train your team.

Our Client Coordinator knows the calendar rules inside and out and must follow them. The phone script decision tree has been tested out on thousands of callers and must be followed.

The Client Coordinator is not allowed to override the rules on her own and must consult me if she thinks an exception should be made – yes, sometimes I make exceptions in special circumstances. For that reason, she needs to have a good idea of what constitutes a true emergency and what does not.

Our Client Coordinator is more involved in our files than a traditional receptionist. She knows our clients very well and usually knows the status of the project we are working on for a particular client. This allows her to offer more help to the caller than a traditional receptionist could. This is where an in-house team member can provide far superior service to the client compared to a virtual receptionist.

4. Train your clients.

From the first contact with our firm, potential new clients are learning to rely on non-lawyer team members since that is who they speak with.

In my first conversation with potential new clients, I let them know that our Client Coordinator is the best point of contact since they will get a much quicker response.

New clients receive a welcome package that includes an introduction to the team, explains our roles and once again points out that I only take scheduled calls and that our Client Coordinator is the person to contact if the client needs anything. It explains the benefits to the client that come from our call scheduling policy.

New clients usually see the benefit of our call scheduling policy right away, but we have many clients who have been with us long before the policy was in place. The key to transitioning these clients to the new call scheduling policy has been to explain the benefits to them. When you are working on matters for those clients, they don’t want you to pause to take every incoming call as that type of multitasking reduces efficiency and performance and increases the chance of errors.

5. Follow the schedule.

Make sure that you are punctual making calls at the scheduled time. If you don’t follow the system, your team members and clients won’t respect it either.

Sample File Closing Checklist

Closing a client file is pretty simple. You just have to gather everything into one place, notify your client of the end of the representation, and archive the file. There is a bit more to it, of course, but a checklist can help you follow the same procedure every time and get valuable feedback from your client.

When To Close Files

Promptly. One of the important things you will do as part of closing a file is formally terminating the representation. The longer you wait, the greater the chance the—technically—open and ongoing attorney-client relationship leads to a misunderstanding. The risk may be small (or great, depending on the client), but you can head it off entirely by closing your files and notifying the client promptly when your work is done.

Usually, it is easy to identify the point at which the representation has ended and your work is done. In litigation, your work is probably done when you give your client their portion of the settlement in full. Or when you get a verdict (post-trial motions and appeals are probably separate matters, although that may depend on your retainer agreement). If you are preparing estate plans or business formations, your work is probably done when the documents are signed and filed or delivered. If you are negotiating a deal, your work is probably done when the deal is signed.

The point is, you know when your work is done, so close the file.

Gather The File

No matter how hard you try, The File is probably scattered all over the practice. Even in well-organized practices, emails need to be gathered from multiple users, original documents need to be reconciled with scans, statements need to be generated and added, etc. It is possible to minimize the extent to which the file is scattered, but your file-closing procedures will probably involve more than just moving a folder from one file cabinet to another.

Gathering The File does not need to take long, but you should have a procedure for doing it. If you have a clear paperless workflow, it will be easier than if you have to scan piles of documents before you can close the file.

Return the File to Your Client

You don’t have to return the file, but there aren’t many good reasons to keep it unless you like storing things. There are exceptions to this, of course. Estate planning lawyers may keep official, paper copies of the wills they prepare. Business lawyers who expect more business from their clients may keep the official copy of the business’s record. But get rid of all the paper you can, keep only digital copies, and give the client a copy of their digital file, too.

Give all the paper back to the client.

Also, notify the client how long you will keep their file. Ten years seems to be a commonly-recommended time frame. You should tell your client something like this:

Enclosed are all original documents in our possession and a CD with a copy of our digital file. Please note: we will destroy our copy of your file in ten (10) years without notice to you.

Find Out How You Did

Call your client. Yes, pick up the phone and have an actual conversation. Don’t just send a survey by email. Ask what you could have done better. Be persistent. Get a real answer. Even happy clients can offer you suggestions for improvement.

Take the answer seriously. Depending on how frequently you close files, sit down with your staff and consider how you could improve client service for all your clients based on the feedback you receive.

(Bonus points: do this in the middle of your representation, too.)

Sample File Closing Checklist

Most importantly, follow the same procedures when closing every file. Make sure to complete a file-closing checklist every time. There is a lot to do, and a checklist will ensure you (or your staff) don’t miss anything when closing a file. You can use a paper checklist, but it is more effective to use practice management software that lets you use task-list templates to ensure consistency.

Sample File Opening Checklist

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.

9 Law Firm Client Intake Best Practices

When a potential client calls your firm, submits a web form, sends you an email, shows up for an initial appointment, or walks in off the street, what does your firm do? Who answers the call? Who greets the prospective client? What questions do you ask? What issues do you address?

Your law firm client intake process sets the tone for your relationship with your client. Effective client intake can be one of the most difficult skills to learn. It may also be the difference in obtaining a favorable outcome for your client, avoiding malpractice, and can have a significant impact your overhead.

Unfortunately, the client intake process at many firms either goes largely ignored, handed-off to folks without much guidance or experience, or becomes an inefficient resource suck for the attorney.

Fortunately, there are a lot of great resources available to attorneys for free.

First, I recommend contacting your State Bar. Many of the State Bar websites that I have come across provide very helpful resources on the law practice management, including sample client intake forms. While I encourage you to put some thought into tailoring a client intake form (read process) for your own practice, these sample forms are a pretty good starting point.

Second, contact other experienced lawyers you know. Most lawyers should have intake forms. Whether they’ll be willing to share is a different story. On the other hand, even if they’re unwilling to share their actual form, they’ll probably be willing to describe their intake process and some of the mistakes they have made over the years.

Best Practice’s for Law Firm Client Intake

Didn’t have time to get through all these? Here are a couple of best practices:

  • Trust your instincts on first impressions.
  • Get multiple points of contact. Provide name, email, address, telephone number of potential client, as well as, relationships and contact information of people specifically authorized to give updates on the matter.
  • Has this potential client worked with another lawyer on this matter?
  • Ask Yourself: Is the matter within my primary area(s) of practice?
  • Ask Yourself: Are there any imminent deadlines or time limitations?
  • You should have both an intake form and an intake checklist.
  • First, truncate questions to determine whether this is potential case you want take. Once you determine that it is, get as much detail as possible so you do not have to go back and obtain more information a second time.
  • Ask Yourself: Do calls from prospective clients go to the top of the pile of messages or the bottom?
  • Outline the scope of proposed representation.

You might be surprised by how many firms don’t have a comprehensive law firm client intake process that they periodically review. Then again, maybe you’re one of them.

Even if you’ve set a client intake process, you should periodically review and test it to make sure it’s being executed the way it was intended. One broken link in the intake chain may mean loss of new business or even exposure to malpractice liability.