Creating Great Intake Questions

Have you ever called one of those billboard-ad (800) number lawyers for a traffic ticket? You'll get one of the finest, most controlled intake flows possible. That's because those firms field hundreds of calls per hour, and pay their team by the minute. They know that in most cases people are calling with 1-2 days left before the ticket is overdue, and they need to take action fast. They operate efficiently.

Now, your firm, business, or consultancy might need much more of a personal friendly touch. But we can learn a lot from their intake flows. They're not designed just to save money. They are designed to get information effectively, qualify the customer, and move to action for the client (you) as quickly as possible.

Let's examine a few key traits of effective intake:

Eliminate open-ended questions

If you leave this page with one takeaway, please make it this one. There is no such thing as a "brief summary." While it might seem like a great idea to ask a client to "briefly summarize their situation," ten minutes later your receptionist may still be trying to follow more storylines than a season of Game of Thrones. And even then, they might still not have the necessary information to qualify the client. Here are a few good examples:


  • How can we help you?
  • Please briefly describe your problem
  • What is the nature of your case?


  • So I can get your message to the Attorney quickly, can you tell me in 2-3 sentences the general scope of your case? Please don't go into detail as the attorney would like to hear that themselves.
  • Would you say that your problem is related to A, B, C, or something else?

Qualify through closed-ended questions

Callers find it frustrating when they've told a receptionist their life story, yet have to repeat it for you again. They'll frequently say "as I told your receptionist" or even leave out details, thinking that every word they said has been transcribed. It's not a great experience for them. You should ideally use your service to qualify the customer (via extended intake if necessary), and consider the actual scope of the case and details part of the office work.

Secondly, so much of that 10 minute life story would have actually benefited from your interruption and inquisition. In a live conversation, a caller may say a single detail that changes your interest in the case or ability to represent. Only you (or someone on your team, if you have one) can know that.

Here is what our more efficient clients do:

  • Have qualified clients book a realtime appointment via phone, video, or in-person, to provide more detail
  • Have a paralegal or in-office staff follow up to do a comprehensive interview with the already-qualified client
  • Email the qualified client a longer questionnaire

Keep the "20 questions" part of the call under three minutes

After answering hundreds of thousands of calls, we see the patterns where people drop off. "I'll call back later" can be a permanently lost client. Many potential clients are calling during their commute, work breaks, and so on. They have time for a call, but often not time for a very involved call. They are looking to lock down a professional relationship with you, often getting on your calendar or getting representation. We've come to see that the best balance between "getting all the necessary information," "hearing a life story," and "getting you a summary in a timely manner" is about three minutes, maximum, of qualification-related questions. (For more information on Simple vs. Extended Intake, please see the Reasonable Use Policy.)

How did we do?