Skip to main content


Would you be frustrated if a potential client sought another law firm because your firm didn’t respond quickly enough? If you think this kind of thing doesn’t happen, you might not be completely in tune with the market’s demands for communication. In fact, when someone in your client services department receives a note of interest from a potential client, having that person go through a process where the lead is escalated within five minutes will make a big difference.

The 5-minute follow-up rule is based on the well-grounded, oft-ignored, reality of immediacy. And here’s what I mean by that. What is the state of mind of a potential client who has picked up a phone or filled out a form to answer their legal questions? They’re doing it out of timeliness, but if they don’t get a good, solid response quickly, that sense of timeliness and urgency can turn into frustration. The positive is you’re able to sell, in all cases, by conveying sureness. That’s what a good response helping them achieve that goal can do. It sets the context for your positive relationship. It’s you, on the one hand, helping to reassure them. Making them feel more secure. Much like a young child. They’ll remember that formative part. If timeliness isn’t well provided for; if they don’t feel the return was “worth their time”, what do you think happens? It stands to reason they could go elsewhere. Precisely because of these core realities, referring services know all too well the psychology of loss.

You can also optimize your law firm’s intake process by making it a rule to follow up within 5 minutes. This simple rule compels your staff members to pick up the phone and request more information so you can store it in your practice management software. Having this concrete rule in place will force your staff to immediately follow up with each lead, reducing the chance that they will forget to respond to certain inquiries and increasing the likelihood that they will respond before other attorneys. This five-minute follow-up rule will ultimately enable your firm to respond quickly, tailor its services to each prospective client, and deliver these services efficiently.

One perspective on the “5-minute follow-up” rule is that it is from the standpoint of customer service. This is customer service gold! In business today, customers expect to receive great service from the companies they hire in a timely and efficient manner, and law firms are no different. In fact, from strictly a customer service perspective, following this rule may be the one thing that keeps you hearing, “You had me at hello!” This type of phone technique is brilliant for a company to stand out above and beyond its competitors in the overly crowded business world. In a sector that is so highly driven by word of mouth and referral business, you will need these things to succeed throughout the lifecycle of your business.

The 5-Minute Follow-Up Rule also increases the quality of service your firm provides. It can be viewed as a time management rule as well. If more simple inquiries from clients are addressed in 5 minutes, there will be no backlog of requests to address. Efficiency is increased. Your team is now able to spend more time on tasks that require their full skill set. By directly addressing inquiries, time is opened up to work on more complex, complicated requests. This means your team can serve more people overall.

To sum up, the 5-minute follow-up rule is an important tool for any legal intake team that wants to get better at client communication, customer service, and time/ringer management. This is a way to improve your client onboarding process that will make clients happier with the service they receive, meaning you will be more successful in the client intake arena. The faster you can respond to a potential client, the better because they could be calling any Google search result. Many of those will lead to a voicemail box…or worse. Don’t let that happen to your firm. Be present! Extra time can cause potential clients to disappear.

Section Cover

Understanding the Legal Intake Process

The legal intake process serves as the introduction to the client-law school relationship. This process is where you collect all the good “facts” about your potential new clients and figure out their legal needs with your firm. Ultimately the intake process is a gateway system designed to see if your potential new client’s legal needs fit your law firm’s capabilities and best ways to help and service them. It is a filtration system based on your firm’s capabilities, law firm ethics and compliance, and your potential new clients’ legal needs. This consultation process typically involves a fun fact-finding mission through a standard and set of preliminary intake meetings, Q&As, verbal interviews, and written questionnaires to this potential new client’s for your preliminary case/legal situation.

Simply put, a good intake process can make or break your relationships with clients. Done correctly, it can be many things: an automatable and repeatable means of saving time and energy, a method of avoiding clients who aren’t a good fit, and a manner of developing clear steps to success (and a good attorney-client relationship) with clients who are the right fit. A great process also tells the potential client exactly what’s happening next, creating a client experience that is satisfactory, professional, and clear.

The legal intake team is extremely important in this process. They are responsible for conducting the initial interview, gathering pertinent information, helping organize this information, and offering an initial assessment as to whether or not someone has a case. They are the firm’s first form of contact and the people whom potential clients will base their first impression. The people who are on this team need to be effective communicators; they need to have the ability to ask critical questions and actually listen to the answers that they receive to reciprocate this information to another to explain what is happening. They are people who can feel what you are feeling and then tell others what you are feeling in an accommodating and efficient way.

The job of the intake team also includes the proper collection and management of data. The team will use software to hold the data for all to see, and the client’s confidentiality is the highest order of the day, indefinitely, or as long as privacy law upholds. You will also do a conflict check, at that level, to comply with a particular series of minor rules.

The legal intake process also offers a way for you to educate your potential clients about what to expect moving forward. This includes your fees, how long you expect the process to take, and what is—and isn’t—within your scope of services. By providing this information at the outset, you move toward building a trusting relationship with your client because you are being fully transparent in your practice.

In conclusion, the legal intake process is vital for any functioning law firm to operate at its highest capacity. It sets the tone to help the law firm run like a well-oiled machine by eliminating potential barriers down the pipeline. The stage is set for service throughout the rest of the client’s onboarding and, hopefully, a favorable outcome—a truly win-win situation for all parties involved.

Section Cover

The 5-Minute Follow-Up Rule: What It Is and Why It Matters

The 5-minute follow-up rule is a concept that strongly encourages responding to any client communication within five minutes. As an international business, this rule of thumb came about because more often than not, surprising clients with such quick responses helps to build that life-long relationship. Life nowadays is just moving so fast. So, people appreciate hearing back from you fast. This rule encourages quick sales and not setting “low priority” sales to the side.

Swift action can make a significant difference in a client’s level of satisfaction. When a consumer’s input or question garners a fast response, they are left feeling valued and seen. In the consumer’s eyes, quick action equals good business, because it puts their mind at ease. On the flip side, the longer a business waits to get back to clients, the more irritating the situation becomes for them. If a business takes its time, consumers will write it off as that company not caring for their interests. Hence the need for the 5-minute rule. Alleviate the “pain” before it even happens.

Quick follow-ups also contribute to another crucial factor: trust! Trust is gained over time by proving again and again that you can be relied on for consistency. So with quick and memorable follow-ups, clients are more likely to trust it’s going to be the way you do business—building the type of trust that improves client relationships, makes clients more loyal, and opens up the potential for lots of repeat business. The 5-minute follow-up rule sets the overall tone to the client experience.

Furthermore, fast follow-up means more effective operations. The faster issues are addressed, the less likely they are to turn into undesired outcomes (which take away valuable time to fix). It’s more efficient over the long term to tackle something, if not everything, right away, thus saving us the energy later. It also means being quicker to get the data to feed back into the process to make the product (or whatever) even better. The goal is to refine the product/service quality ever more quickly with this feedback loop. Your customers and your business will thank you.

Putting the 5-minute follow-up rule into practice is a team sport. It could mean creating new systems that allow this fast turnaround, such as automated notifications and certain paths of communication that are known to be quick. Teams can train customer service and customer-facing teams to do follow-ups first and fast. Often, it’s the systems that are the hardest to put in place, so making this single, solitary change may represent a big change—and a big potential win. Your teams will need to be trained on the why and how, which is not free, either. So there is required effort upfront, but the potential long-term benefits are many.

In summation, the five-minute follow-up rule can best be described as a tactic that creates more satisfied and trusting clients. Having a happy client not only makes day-to-day business more enjoyable for both parties, but the trust clients have in a business is the primary driver for long-term success. Efficiency and effectiveness in communication become the only obstacle to solving the long list of client tasks that fill your inbox each day.

Section Cover

Implementing the 5-Minute Follow-Up Rule in Your Legal Intake Process

The 5-Minute Follow-Up Rule provides a great approach to stay productive and reactive, but requires an efficient system to back you up on every task that can be done in less than five minutes. One of the most effective tips is to put upfront all the 5-minute tasks by looking through your task planner, CRM app, or project management apps every morning. As these tasks are usually easier to handle, you can cross all of them out shortly after you start your day. The sense of accomplishment will keep your day rolling.

Task management tools such as Trello or Asana make the process simpler. Like with the boards/lists approach, you can organize tasks based on how urgent or complex they are. Also, you could set up a list just for 5-minute tasks that you can knock out when you need to. Many task management tools also offer due dates and reminders, so as your business grow, you can look for a platform that gives you all these features in one place.

Automation can significantly help with keeping your follow-ups to five minutes. There are many tools, such as Zapier or IFTTT (If This Then That) you can use to automate repetitive tasks—including sending automatic follow-up emails or updating other documents. In other words, you could create a Zapier integration (a “Zap”) that automatically sends a follow-up email to the appropriate newsletter five minutes after a meeting ends. In this way, you’re not only saving yourself some time but also making sure your leads receive consistent, quick follow-ups.

Email management software such as Boomerang for Gmail and FollowUpThen can be priceless for follow-up management. Both applications provide a mechanism that enables you to have the application bring an email back into your inbox if you don’t receive a response within a defined period of time. With these tools, you never again need to ask yourself whether you remembered to follow up on important communication. These tools can enable you to increase the priority of your most important work and reduce the amount of time it takes you to complete that work. Finally, such solutions should come with a variety of features such as the ability to track email opens, clicks, and more.

Another tip—integrate your calendar with your task management system (a lot of tools, like Google Calendar or Microsoft Outlook, can do this). This allows for a side-by-side, simultaneous view of your schedule and tasks. Again, optimally, blocking out specific times for your 5-minute follow-ups should not greatly deconfigure your calendar. This allows time for other events or priorities as well. This gives a more in-depth and comprehensive look at your overall time management and long-term timeline. The reason for this is now you can view almost all possible components of time in one place.

In conclusion, you can be so much more productive and effective if you use the five-minute follow-up with intention. Sort out tasks that will only take a moment to do, use technologies like note apps, automate tasks, and schedule things in your calendar. Together, they give you a system that always gives top priority to things that you need to do and respond to. It makes the five-minute follow-up not just possible but totally feasible. It depends on the technologies and techniques you use to enable it.

Section Cover

Case Studies: Success Stories from Law Firms

The 5-minute follow-up rule has helped many law firm clients create success stories. In one instance, a client named Johnson & Associates was able to dramatically increase client retention. They did this by making sure they returned a call to their clients within five minutes. Some clients could not believe the client happened to be available to talk that quickly. Other clients constantly praised Johnson & Associates for their quick responses! In the end, this increased communications and built trust with clients. In the first 6 months of trying this method, Johnson & Associates increased client retention by 20 percent.

The law firm of Smith & Partners was struggling to keep clients happy. They frequently had complaints of not responding fast enough or of concluding matters too slowly. But with the implementation of the 5-minute follow-up rule, the complaints quickly turned into compliments. Most of these compliments had something in them like: “Wow, I can’t believe you got right back to me!” They projected the image of an attentive, fast-moving group of workers to their potential client base. It was the compliments like these that made them look good. From those impressions alone, they got even more referrals and positive reviews. As a bonus, the quicker impact allowed all participants to be more proactive in stopping small problems from becoming big ones. This has the nice corollary effect of increasing customer service as a whole, which of course also creates customer satisfaction.

The 5-minute rule hasn’t only helped Greenfield Law better retain and serve clients; it’s also helped increase operational efficiency and productivity. Lawyers spend less time replying to all the follow-up communication that would otherwise have piled up in their inbox, and the firm enjoys quicker preparation times. Lawyers are better able to focus on what they can do for clients, that child’s custody battle, and their own strategic sales process when they aren’t engaged in so much follow-up. This has all contributed to the firm’s 15% trackable increase in positive outcomes for clients.

Also, many law practices have seen the 5-minute follow-up rule work wonders for employee morale and motivation. For a company like Thompson Legal, that rule helped set the expectation for a culture of accountability and responsiveness. The firm’s employees felt more appreciated and more in control because they knew that their efforts were directly and positively contributing, materially, to the volume of the firm’s billable case work. This culture resulted in better job satisfaction and lower turnover rates. A 10% overall decrease in staff attrition helped make the firm a more attractive place to work. Every employee owned a part of the firm’s success.

The 5-Minute Follow-Up Rule has also benefitted law firms by establishing reputation. This rule has enabled firms like Davis & Co. to cultivate a reputation for exceptional client communication that distinguishes them from others that don’t do it as well in the view of potential clients. The result has been the attraction of new business and enhanced reputation with current firm clients and the community at large. The 5-Minute Follow-Up Rule has proven to be a simple and very effective strategy for establishing a positive and important perceptual brand in the minds of the people who work there and people who see them from the outside.

The stories of success from law firms who have implemented the five-minute follow-up rule (including ours) are shocking. They range from doubling the size of a law firm’s client database to boosting close rates to 80% and, at the same time, reducing the amount of work that staff had to perform per personal consultation. So if your firm wants to take on more clients (while improving every aspect of the customer interaction), now is the time to act.

Section Cover

Challenges and Solutions in Quick Follow-Ups

Law firms face the same fundamental problem when trying to implement fast follow-ups: the high volume of cases and clients. Each attorney typically handles a large number of ongoing cases. It can be confusing to remember who everyone is, let alone when you need to follow up with them. This confusion is an easy path to missed opportunities. When a client slips through the cracks, they will feel dissatisfied and might even take their business to another law firm. A successful case management software should have features available with automated reminders and the ability to make follow-up schedules. In this way, clients will always see a smiling face—everybody wins!

The lack of standardized processes for what to do during follow-ups is another huge problem. When there is no regimented flow or structure, follow-ups can be a moving target. Every attorney and their supporting team may be trying to handle follow-ups in their way, making attorney and staff client management a mess. An easy way to push back against this disorganization is to develop a set of firm-wide intake protocols that say, “In X situation, do Y,” and “In A situation, do B.” A law firm should also get organized in terms of scriptwriting. Write out templates for these follow-up emails. Write out templates for what an intake specialist or paralegal might say during callback sessions. This will prevent the possibility of too much burden shifting and burden dumping onto unqualified or unauthorized members of the firm. Doing so will consistently provide the client with the same consistent professional who can treat his problems in the right manner, at just the right time.

Time management can also be an issue, especially for law firms. Attorneys frequently balance court appearances, client meetings, case preparations, and other tasks. It is challenging to rank double optimization in urgency with others in a to-do list. One solution is to delegate follow-ups to a trained individual who is solely handling client communications, such as an associate or a paralegal.

Communication barriers may exist as well. Each client may have a different communication method of choice – some individuals may prefer a phone call, others may want an email or even a text message. It’s important to determine this communication preference on a per-client basis. And, with that knowledge in hand, you can then create (or, modify an existing client follow-up system) to accommodate this set of client facts. The approach allows the firm to maintain better, more effective relationships with clients, enhancing the overall client experience.

Last but not least, how do you maintain a personal touch? It’s easy to appreciate that at scale, this could be quite challenging. Yet on the flip side, as with any service-based business, customers (or in this case, clients) want to feel appreciated. Following up with a generic message can be spotted from a mile away and can completely discredit the act. To combat this, many law firms are now using systems that help keep track of customer data. In the business realm, they are called CRMs (customer relationship management systems). With them, users can jot down notes about prior conversations or important points of emphasis about each client, making follow-ups a little more meaningful.

You can address these challenges with a carefully planned and executed approach that includes the strategic use of technology and standardized processes, delegating effectively, communicating personally (where appropriate), and using a customer relationship management (CRM) system correctly. The right next steps and follow-up exposure for your law firm can make the difference for your clients by transforming great lawyering into a great law firm experience. As a result, you will be able to use this enhanced satisfaction to make your client relationships stickier and to generate more business and referrals from these happier clients.

For any law firm, the key to success lies in the prowess of its legal intake team. Potential clients most often encounter their first touchpoint with a law firm through the intake team. As such, it sets the tone for the entire customer journey. A reliable, well-trained, and productive team creates an effect that saturates a firm’s reputation, client experience, and basic functionality in all its positive aspects. To get off on the right foot at the client intake phase, potential clients must, from the very beginning, believe that your team sees them as professionals and people; that they don’t seem invisible; that someone truly hears, understands, and deeply sympathizes with them and the dilemmas they face.

The 5-minute follow-up rule is one of the most effective things you can implement to improve your law firm’s legal intake process. This rule means that your intake team should follow-up with potential new clients within five minutes of their first contacting your law office.

This rule is effective for a few reasons:

Swift follow-up makes everyone who contacts your law firm feel important. It signals that your law firm values their case and their business (their potential to become paying clients). It’s great customer service. Excellent customer service increases your conversion rate.

Most potential new clients shop around.

The PNCC calls the first one or two law firms at the top of the SERPs or listed on the first page of results (online or hard copy) she gets for her search terms or in response to her inquiry of her A.W.E.-Some network or in the relevant ads and GMB listings on Google, etc.

If they (your intake people) pass on leaving this PNC a voicemail, this rule is also your best chance to increase your conversion rate. Many law firms that pass on leaving a voicemail when they can’t speak with a PNCC directly immediately move this lead to an inactive list of leads (and quite possibly trash it).

As author Dave Aarons points out in his terrific article, 7 Proven Strategies to Convert More Law Firm Leads Into PayingClients, this law firm probably sees little value in “cold-calling” this lead, so it does not use law firm intakepeople resources (such as time) to leave old-fashioned voicemail. It prefers to use these resources to do other more-valued tasks, such as speak to other incoming leads.

Hey, calling back prospective new clients works.

Maybe it is because everyone today is in a hurry.

People feel busy. Google gives many different estimates for how long people are willing to wait “on hold.” I’ve read Google estimates from 11 minutes to longer.

That would suggest that if that person doesn’t become a client, he or she has called a few different places, so your law firm may have only wasted a few minutes to determine it is not getting this job (and to decide a few things about the case and this client). So at the very least, this follow-up rule seems to be less wasteful than other rules on the front end of this process.

Only in these circumstances (on impact, car stopped on some road, waking from surgery in ICU, etc.) does it seem like someone may be self-conscious of the clock ticking. Yes, getting an inquiry and an interview with the lead may be moot. But since you should not assume anything about an inquirer or an interviewee or a hire (and therefore a case) too soon, you should always ask a PNCC if you may phone this person to follow up and request a few different modes (cell phone, protected conferencing, message on some mobile device, E-mail, etc.) to use to reach out to this person.

The 5-minute follow-up rule represents speed and quality. Yes, you need to respond quickly, but your intake team must also have high-quality communication skills. In just a few minutes, they need to understand the law firm’s potential new client’s basic facts, but it’s not just about gathering information. This short phone call or live chat is about building trust through empathy and active listening. In an efficient, yet skillful, manner, our law firms’ client intake team must do quality work and be empathetic listeners (speedy yet effective).

Any law firm seeking to improve client interactions should first evaluate its current intake methods. How quickly does your intake team respond to leads? More importantly, how thorough or helpful are these responses? Figure out where your law firm can make improvements, then implement these to develop a better intake process. Some experts recommend attorneys follow this “5-minute rule” for following up with potential clients, which allows their receptionist to be particularly client-focused.

Adding “immediate” communications to your intake process may require additional training, better scripts, new lead forms, monitoring software, bot integrations, extended call center hours, and more. But the benefits of a more effective intake process include more revenue due to a higher client conversion rate, greater efficiency due to more qualified in-takes, and happier clients due to better communications. Importantly, the 5-minute follow-up rule can be seen as a mindset just as much as a mandate.

To sum this all up, you need a legal intake team on your case, and you need to follow the five-minute rule to enhance your legal intake process. Most law firms out there could benefit from evaluating their practices and making everything better for both themselves and their clients. You only win when you satisfy your clients, satisfy your firm, and make your firm better at what you do. Every law firm should pay attention to these three areas so that you can always make sure to get ahead in a crowded and competitive market.

Leave a Reply