Zack sits down with Wouter IJgosse from DecisionVault to learn more about how their platform can streamline client intake for attorneys. DecisionVault takes a portal approach, making intake an iterative process for your clients.
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- . What is DecisionVault?
- . Seamless intake vs. structured intake
- . Customization
Welcome to The Lawyerist Podcast, a series of discussions with entrepreneurs and innovators about building a successful law practice in today’s challenging and constantly changing legal market. Lawyerist supports attorneys, building client-centered, and future-oriented small law firms through community, content, and coaching both online and through the Lawyerist Lab. And now from the team that brought you The Small Firm Roadmap and your podcast hosts
Zack Glaser (00:34):
Hey all, I’m Zack Glaser the legal tech advisor here at Lawyerist, and this is episode 420 of the Lawyerist Podcast. And we’re diving into a sponsored podcast episode in these, we’re joined by a legal voice or company and we discuss the newest features, happenings and trends in the legal world. We’re excited to offer these episodes to our audience and we hope you enjoy them. Today I’m joined by Wouter IJgoose, the founder of DecisionVault, and we’re talking about gathering client information in a structured and consistent way.
Wouter IJgosse (01:07):
Hey, my name is Valter and I’m the founder of DecisionVault. DecisionVault’s an intake portal that streamlines the handling of client data across your practice, resulting in a better experience for your client, and time saved for the practice on getting data into the right shape and getting it from one system into the next
Zack Glaser (01:22):
Wouter, thanks for being with me. I like digging into this DecisionVault area. You went ahead and took care of my first question, which is what is DecisionVault? But it is right now for estate planners, right?
Wouter IJgosse (01:38):
Yes, that’s correct. Yeah. Or Well, it’s mostly used by estate planning attorneys and then some of those attorneys have somebody else that they might be working with another partner in the office who might be doing real estate or they might be getting into some family law. But yes, mostly it’s kinda spreading word of mouth in the estate planning community because that’s where it came from.
Zack Glaser (01:57):
So it’s not limited in its abilities to estate planning, it’s just that, I mean, obviously there’s a need there. There’s a need for intaking information in that area, but it can be used wherever somebody feels that they can use that, right?
Wouter IJgosse (02:13):
Yeah, right. So estate planner, so my wife’s estate planning attorney, that’s kind of where the idea came from. in the beginning of 2020, she had a client matter where the client, we joke in the estate planning world that all the single people show up and say that their case is really simple but actually married couples are pretty simple because they typically leave things to their kids. But if you have a single person, they typically will have nieces, nephews, other people. So this client wanted to nominate 37 beneficiaries, and that doesn’t fit into a fillable pdf, right? And it barely fits on one shoot. Then my wife did that, got the info, get onto a design call with the client, ,and then the client had all these other people that we needed to capture their information, their names, their date of birth, they’re addressed, their phone number, and the estate planners are specific in that they don’t just gather some info to get a sense of what happened here.
It’s a worker’s comp case, and what went wrong, and we need to know that, and then we kind of go on with our day. No, a lot of the information that an estate binder captures needs to either find its way into the documents, so all those names need to go into the documents or we need to build funding instructions, so we need to gather financial information from the client. So there’s lots of data being gathered, and that’s kind of where when we tried to do that or when she did that with these 37 beneficiaries, that mostly resulted in her copy pasting stuff around and doing lots of follow up over email. That was the seed of, Hey, there must be something here to maybe streamline.
Zack Glaser (03:47):
Okay, so this is an area of intake. An intake, as you and I have discussed, is kind of a broad word that means multiple different things, but the area of intake that we’re talking about is somebody has a client and we’re trying to intake information about them, about the case file and put it into our system so we can use it.
Wouter IJgosse (04:08):
Yes, that’s correct. Yeah.
Zack Glaser (04:09):
Okay. So yeah, we’re not in leads management or anything like that. That’s for another platform, like a CRM or something like that. But this is to bring information in because we all estate planners especially need our data kind of sanitized. I can see where if I’m in taking somebody and they say, we’ve got 37 different beneficiaries, I may write a name differently in one mechanism, or we may have said 35 of them on the first time they came in, and then we’ve got two more and there’s a need to connect this data to where we can actually use it on the backend. So what do you call these guided intakes, guided interviews?
Wouter IJgosse (04:54):
We typically call ’em a questionnaire.
Zack Glaser (04:56):
A questionnaire, yeah. Okay. And so with these questionnaires, are we able to manipulate this data in DecisionVault specifically? Are we able to manipulate this data to where a lawyer <laugh> can create these questionnaires themselves?
Wouter IJgosse (05:11):
Oh yeah, absolutely. So further illustrate a little bit of how the tool is set up and how it works. So you touched on it, right? We’re not here in the area of capturing leads like that. There’s several CRMs, or case management tools that have CRM capability. We integrate with all of those tools. What decision Valve does is it puts up this intake portal. So the questionnaire is a questionnaire, but it lives inside of a portal. So the first step is for the client to create an account so they can come back to this over time. So even this is again, very specific to estate planning, but the benefit goes also probably in other areas like client will tell you something or they tell you as little as they can, then you have a meeting with them in a design meeting, four other people come up.
How do you get that information then from the client to say, “Hey, please provide me the contact details, the date of birth, the social security number” in any other of these intake forms. Everyone has intake forms. There’s no sort of going back reopening the form and building on the information. So instead we have a portal approach where the client can come back in later, they can add more info until of course we can lock them out when we don’t want to have them making any more changes. But that’s how the overarching piece works. And yes, when people register for an account with decision involved, it does currently set up this standard outline of an estate planning questionnaire with all the people. Questions are already in there. It has a fully specked out asset intake that you can fully customize to follow. But there are enough questions there, even with welcome to this questionnaire, those kind of things. So you could register for an account, take the link, send it to a client, and you wouldn’t look bad. It’s probably a little shorter than you might want and you might want to add some extra questions to it, but you could do that if you wanted to.
Zack Glaser (07:02):
Okay. So in y’all’s experience, and I get this from estate planners, a lot of times when I’m talking to them about trying to take their clients online. In y’all’s experience, are you having difficulty with people filling these things out appropriately?
Wouter IJgosse (07:19):
It depends. So the patterns that we kinda see is that the younger generation typically tends to come in and fill in all the information that they might want to fill in and can fill in and then they’re gone. Probably there’s a good portion of people who don’t maybe yet trust the attorney very much. So they might fill in a little bit in the financial intake, and that’s okay. That’s one of the things that I noticed that I need to at times need to emphasize to the attorneys. We’re not sending them a fillable PDF where you want them to complete everything because otherwise you don’t get this info. This is an itriative of process and in the past it wasn’t really possible to do it as an iterative process, but now we can have the client come back in, they may not trust you, they may not give you much financial info, that’s fine, have a meeting with them. Then it depends a little bit on where people sign the engagement agreement, but at some point they engage, you then ask them to go back in and put the info in. The info all ends up in the same spot, where then at the end of the process you push a button and it shows up in your draft platform, your document automation tool or your crm. So don’t, we’re not trying to get it all at once. And that’s okay.
Zack Glaser (08:30):
That’s an interesting take on that cause I think that is as something that estate planners run into is where do we start to gather the majority, the bulk of our information? I mean I think we touched on it a little bit earlier of there’s this area of pre-client, potential new client, and so we want to gather a certain amount of information there. But then even once we get that client, once we sign the engagement letter, estate planners that I know a lot of them have clients come into their office because people like to have a touch point a lot of times, but having, it seems that this is a portal that is more, Hey, you’re introduced to this, give us the information as you go, and we’re kind of seeing you through it as opposed to having, here’s a drip campaign for lack of a better word of questionnaires that I need you to fill out in this exact method and I need all of it every single time.
Wouter IJgosse (09:30):
And then also because it’s in one place, you can kind of build on the info. One of the things that is definitely more specific to estate planner is we have captured all these contacts in a structured way. So now we can assign those people into roles on the person’s plan. These people are going to be the trustee, these people are going to be the successor trustee, the power of attorney, and that is just point and click. I don’t have to go copy paste that stuff around. I push a button, I get a nice list that I can show to the client to say, Hey, this is what we have so far, this is what we’ve captured. Because clients also will do what clients will wanna do. If the client wants to email you stuff, they’re going to email you stuff. The more important question is what’s sort of the next step into process? Well, with decision involved, you can open up their matter, put that point of data in, and then you don’t have to look at that email again because it’s there.
Zack Glaser (10:21):
I think that’s a really good point you make about the structured data here. And just for people that don’t necessarily know, I mean that that’s not a just random word, what do you mean by structured data?
Wouter IJgosse (10:35):
Yeah, so I think the easiest way to illustrate that is by talking about the asset intake. How do people typically do asset intake? Well fill in boxes or send them, maybe you send them an Excel sheet, but some clients might not be all that used to Excel. So then on a intake form, if you send ’em an intake form from your case management tool, it’s probably free text. But when the client has filled that in, hopefully they put enough info in, can you easily see whether this person has a textable estate problem or not? like, no, because all this stuff is just free text. You have to copy paste that all out to get a sense of how much is there. So with our approach, there is a special section to the questionnaire that’s financial intake. There’s a lot of structure to it. It’s very flexible and customizable, but most of those things just work out in a box.
There’s a real estate category where each entry that gets made has a value for the fair market value of the real estate, the mortgage value of the real estate, the owner of the real estate, where again, because it’s all structured information, we can keep track of, is it like John or Mary, the spouse’s name show up. So all those things get kind of intertwined and we can use that data across to make it seamless for the client so that the client doesn’t feel like, oh, I again have to tell you my name <laugh>. Like that’s not very nice.
Zack Glaser (11:58):
I have to write my name in here once again, or my email once again. Well, I think it’s important to note in there, just in case people couldn’t glean it completely, that even in Excel spreadsheets, when you’re putting numbers into an Excel spreadsheet or a Excel specifically, the number could be text, it could be a character or it could be an actual number or it could be a date. And having these things exist as structured data like that to where when I’m putting in monetary values, the system knows it’s monetary values, well then we can compare monetary values to monetary values. I can’t compare the word 600 to the number 600 necessarily. And so I think that’s important to say there that even if we are as a state planner is getting information in from our client in a seamless way, if we’re not doing it in a structured way, then it’s really not seamless for us on the back end.
Wouter IJgosse (12:58):
And because we have all that data in such a sort of nice, you called it sanitized way, structured way, we have contact records, each contact has a first name, a middle name and last name, et cetera. All those things, the attorney doesn’t need to worry about that. There’s no custom field set up, et cetera. No, you can just put your questions in and then we’ve taken care of that. You can, when it comes time to sync it over into your case management tool or into a document automation tool, there is some mapping that needs to get set up there, or it just works as part of the sync flow. But in general, we have all these data points. And now one of the more interesting things that we’ve started working on recently with attorneys, it’s now in public be is our design sheet capability, and this is getting a little specific to estate planning, but for the ones outside estate planning, think about a meeting template.
So your client will fill in your questionnaire but then to follow, how easy for you is it to take that info and run a meeting with that client? So the estate planners, they typically call this a design sheet. They have pages upon pages of choices they need to make for how this person’s plan is going to get drafted. So you could build up this checklist where it says if it show, you can put in the clients, it shows the clients in that box, it shows a list of the children, it shows a summary of their assets. And now I can make checkpoints of which documents are we gonna draft, which clauses are we going to included? And that’s gets a little bit, we’re currently learning how to best help people set this up. And it’s not yet to the point where you can just take it and run with it.
But what it has been enabling for folks is like they can build up this template checklist, they can open it up and it has everything filled in. They can dive into the meeting with the client and at the end of that, they already have their instructions that they can just hand off to their drafting person. So you can embed questions and answers that have been answered from your questionnaire onto this thing. And then either run it on the screen or push a button and you get it as a Word document. So you could print it out or you can put it on your iPad and it has a client names folded in. And that’s a whole other level that just gets enabled because we’ve captured the data in such a nice and structured way, we can layer things on top those roles, a design sheet that has all the names automatically filled in. And then on the far end, once you’ve got all that done, you can take those points and sync them over into your other tools.
Zack Glaser (15:24):
Okay. Well, so speaking of the other tools, where does this process, the DecisionVault deals with? Where does that sit in relationship to our CRM and our law practice management software? And I guess specifically for estate planning, they have drafting software that is separate from their law practice management software, separate from their their crm. A lot of times where does the DecisionVault info sit in that stack?
Wouter IJgosse (15:52):
So it kind of sits in the middle between those two tools. Typically the CRM, our case management tool comes first in terms of we capture a client and we send them a link to register for DecisionVault, and then they fill that in. And then once they’ve got all the data gathering complete, you can link it up to the matter in your case management tool or you can just push it out down further to your draft platform. So it kind of sits in the middle. But because it sits closer to the client, we kinda work from the assumption the data and DecisionVault is sort the most accurate related to this client and this client’s family. So then we can push it out from there back to the CRM or forward towards the draft platform or to document automation tools.
Zack Glaser (16:35):
And so in that scenario, we were talking earlier about having the client fill out all the information. And sometimes people are uncomfortable with that. Sometimes people aren’t savvy enough necessarily. But it sounds like especially with what you had just been talking about with the meeting notes and things like that, but we could really just use this type of thing internally because the sanitization of this data to me, is the most important aspect of this. And so when I as an estate planner have a meeting with a client, they don’t even need to know that I’m filling this out on my end if I’m asking questions cuz these are questions that I’m gonna ask anyway. And so even if it’s not something that you feel like you can use externally, and there’s in my mind definitely portions that you can use externally, but even if it’s not, you can use it internally. And the magic of it of gathering this information, organizing it, and putting it in a way that can be used by other tools, by other software is the important aspect of it.
Wouter IJgosse (17:38):
Zack Glaser (17:39):
So the other side is that when you do sanitize that information, you know were talking about mapping it to a CRM or law practice management or even drafting software that is in a manner that piece of software can then consume for itself as well.
Wouter IJgosse (17:56):
So at this point, most of our integrations push a set of contact details. , we’ve gone slightly beyond that with Lamas and with Locus that we found a way to hook back into their internal automation engine. So when somebody submits the questionnaire, pushes the button, submit in DecisionVault, there’s a way to upfront link it up and on the back end then send the trigger. So basically the client will get this link on a Saturday night, fill some stuff in, and 20 minutes later they submit it. That’s fine, you didn’t need to do anything. It hooks into the automation of the CRM tool and it runs whatever you have there internal to that CRM tool. No Zapier or anything needed.
Zack Glaser (18:37):
Okay. Well I think when we’re talking about estate planning, I think Lamas is one of the ones that many, many people use for their CRMs and whatnot. Well, voucher we talked about this sits in a place to gather information and obviously people are gonna need a little bit different information than each other sometimes. Now if we’re in family law, many people are gonna need a lot of the same information. But if I’m a lawyer and I’m trying to go in and customize this for myself, is it customizable to where I can use it for my specific practice?
Wouter IJgosse (19:09):
Yeah, absolutely. So I would describe it as of an opinionated tool. So okay, what I mentioned before, you register for an account, it gives you a standard outline, and in there because of structured data, there are some pieces that you will not be able to edit yourself. We cannot change how it asks for these contexts. For instance, because we have done that for you, we know this is the first name, middle last name. So for the main client, for their children, for advisors, for all that stuff is already there. But then you can go in and it has this outline of sections. You can add your own questions that you might want to add. Do these people have a prenup? Did they live in a community state? Any of these sort of context questions as well as I want to add a section on whether they have a business yes, no.
And then it can get tied in with an earlier yes no question on do you have a business? And then that will show up. So there’s some of that conditional logic that we have. And yes, you can customize to a large degree what all the questions are and what are the different sections are. And then also the tool allows you to build up multiple questionnaires. So there’s one that kind of comes by default, but we have three kinds of approaches to this. The basic one is filled in by the person themselves for themselves kind of estate planning, business formation, trademark, maybe family law, bankruptcy. We have a representative intake, which are the other two. And those then either are for someone who’s passed away, so administration, probate or for someone who’s still alive. So then the structure of the tool and the approach of the questionnaire changes and that’s just sitting there by default. And you can customize again so that it has first a representative spot where it asks who are you representative person filling this in, and who is the person that this is really about, and then where they married and make it follows all the way from there. Right. Okay. Yes, there’s a lot that can be customized.
Zack Glaser (21:10):
Okay. Well, and you answered my next question right in the middle of that with there is conditional formatting where you can, based on the answer to one question, you can open up a section it sounds like. Is there a business? Yes. Okay, great. Now we’ve opened up the describe this business section.
Wouter IJgosse (21:27):
Yep, that’s correct. Yep.
Zack Glaser (21:28):
Great. Well, voluntary, if people wanted to learn more about DecisionVault, where can they go, what can they do and see?
Wouter IJgosse (21:35):
Yeah, so you can go to DecisionVault.com to learn more. We run weekly webinars that you can attend or we have them available on demand as well. One specific thing, maybe because like we’re here and we’re on this podcast and I know that your audience is definitely wider than just estate planners, so this works really well today for estate planning attorneys gathering lots of contact, lots of financial info, but I know that this will also has some value for bankruptcy, family law, maybe other things that I’m not thinking about. So we’re currently working with some attorneys in those fields. So if you are interested and if you have some of your processes to share and want to work with us on getting this implemented into your practice, please reach out to me, either support DecisionVault.com or you can send us a message through the website.
Zack Glaser (22:22):
Sounds great. Sounds great. All right. Well once again, that’s DecisionVault.com. Wouter, thanks for being with me. I appreciate the insight.
Wouter IJgosse (22:30):
Thank you so much.
The Lawyerist Podcast is edited by Britany Felix. Are you ready to implement the ideas we discuss here into your practice? Wondering what to do next? Here are your first two steps. First, If you haven’t read The Small Firm Roadmap yet, grab the first chapter for free at Lawyerist.com/book. Looking for help beyond the book? Let’s chat about whether our coaching communities are right for you. Head to Lawyerist.com/community/lab to schedule a 10-minute call with our team to learn more. The views expressed by the participants are their own and are not endorsed by Legal Talk Network. Nothing said in this podcast is legal advice for you.
Zack Glaser is the Legal Tech Advisor at Lawyerist, where he assists the Lawyerist community in understanding and selecting appropriate technologies for their practices. He also writes product reviews and develops legal technology content helpful to lawyers and law firms. Zack is focused on helping Modern Lawyers find and create solutions to help assist their clients more effectively.
Wouter IJgosse is the Founder of DecisionVault, the intake portal that makes intake effortless for estate planning attorneys. The idea for DecisionVault came out of trying to help his wife Julia streamline her Estate Planning practice. Prior he worked as an innovation consultant with startups as well as F500 companies on creating new products and services. Originally from the Netherlands, he holds a bachelor’s in industrial engineering & Management and Master of Science in Financial Engineering from the University of Twente. He lives in Denver, Colorado with his wife and two kids.
Last updated December 6th, 2022