Improving client screening is an important aspect of maintaining an efficient and effective law practice.
Engaging in a representation with the wrong client or on the wrong matter could put your career and practice at risk.
Improving client screening at your firm helps reduce the risk of troubled representations and malpractice claims. It’s wise to ask yourself the right questions as you work to refine your process. Here are 10 frequently asked questions and answers to consider.
1. Does client screening reduce risk?
Client screening practiced consistently can significantly reduce the risk of engaging in an undesirable representation. With better client screening you can avoid potential problems with unpaid bills and high-maintenance clients, as well as lower the risk of a malpractice claim.
2. Is it okay to turn down a client or case?
Remember that as a lawyer, you have the right to decline a client or case. A mismatched or undesirable representation benefits neither you nor the potential client. Case matters that are outside your firm’s area of expertise also present risk.
3. Should I use a client screening form?
A client screening form should be your first step for screening clients and case matters. Not only can you capture vital information about a potential client, you can also begin the process of vetting them before your first meeting.
4. Are there resources for client screening available?
Most state bar associations have form templates for client screening, which can save you from reinventing the wheel. While a template won’t be one size fits all, it’s a good start to creating your practice’s first intake form or refining and bettering your existing form.
5. What are the most important intake form questions to ask?
Along with contact information and a brief description of the legal matter, your client screening form needs to address three key factors that will greatly impact your potential representation:
- Client motivation
- Client expectation
- Prior representation
6. Can the client interview aid in the screening process?
After reviewing an intake form, you can use the interview as an opportunity to understand what the potential client wants to accomplish through the representation. An interview can help you uncover unrealistic expectations and ensure a potential client appears cooperative and truthful.
7. What are the most important interview questions to ask?
An interview offers an opportunity for determining whether the firm wants to take on the matter. Your questions should cover these three areas that assess the fit and risk of the case and client:
- Goals for representation
- Practical expectations
- Ability to pay
8. What is the best way to ask questions in an interview?
Open-ended questions are a valuable tool in your intake process. You can gain insight into potential motivations, expectations and underlying issues with questions such as:
- What factors have led you to pursue this legal matter?
- What outcomes can you accept knowing that there are no guarantees?
- What is the history of this matter or prior representation of your interests?
9. What are the warning signs to look out for?
Whether a client says so explicitly or implicitly, there are certain warning signs that may indicate a troubled representation.
- Motivations of revenge or retribution
- Expectations of an unrealistic outcome
- Prior representations indicating pay avoidance or unrealistic expectations
10. How can I further improve client screening at the firm?
Don’t rush it. A thorough intake procedure benefits your law firm and reduces risk. Establish an intake procedure that is organized and repeatable and learn to trust your “gut feeling” about the clients and cases you should decline.
By improving client screening, you’ll rest easier knowing you’ve given every potential client and matter a fair evaluation, while managing the risk to your career and practice.
To fully protect your firm against the risks of malpractice claims, ensure that you have adequate levels of Professional Liability Insurance coverage. The right insurance can offer protection should client issues turn into claims down the road. Get coverage from Lockton Affinity today.
Information provided by Lockton Affinity is not intended as legal advice.