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I’m often training intake professionals to focus their calls on the 4S Framework:





This simple framework recognizes that in addition to screening for criteria, the intake professional must sell the firm, get the retainer signed and schedule the all-important first meeting.

Super Screening, Shodding Selling

When it comes to screening, intake professionals are typically quite effective. They know what they are looking for and the questions to ask that get to the crux of the matter. On well-trained teams (and those staffed by the “right-fit” employee), these answers are met with empathetic and authentic responses, all to the benefit of the client and the conversion.

But transitioning from screening a prospect to selling your services to one you are well-equipped to help is often where the intake professional struggles.

This happens for several reasons.

Why Intake Professionals Struggle to Sell

First, you’ve likely underestimated the value of sales capability in hiring your intake professionals. While I often advise that attorneys look for “helper types” to join their team (former servers, nurses, teachers, firefighters), the reality is that the goal of the call is conversion.

As you hire, look for those who are motivated by targets, driven to hit their numbers, and comfortable with selling while still maintaining the empathetic helper spirit.

Secondly, your team (especially if you are utilizing outsourced teams) doesn’t have the talking points to sell your firm. They don’t know your outcomes, experience, accolades, or inspiration.

And finally, you haven’t effectively trained them to provide this information in a way that is natural (not forced), meaningful to the client, and helpful to their decision-making.

Let’s change that with one simple question.

The 8 Words that Will Transform Intake

The first interaction between a potential client and a law firm can be a pivotal moment. It’s the moment when a prospective client decides whether they will entrust their legal matters to your firm or continue their search elsewhere. To make this interaction truly impactful, intake professionals should embrace a powerful question that has the potential to transform the entire intake process from simply screening the prospect and hoping they move forward, to effectively selling your firm and signing the client.

Those eight words are: “What are you looking for in an attorney?

This simple question can effectively shift the call from screening to selling while simultaneously focusing on the individual’s unique desires – a win for the client-centered approach.

The Power of “What Are You Looking for in an Attorney?”

When an intake professional asks “What are you looking for in an attorney?” it immediately shifts the focus to the client and his or her unique needs. This open-ended question encourages the client to express their thoughts, concerns, and priorities, and is a gateway to tapping into the emotional motivators that compel action. It promotes active listening, which is crucial for building trust and rapport.

Clients – in fact, humans generally –  want to feel heard and understood. By actively listening to their response, intake professionals can gather valuable insights into the client’s legal needs, expectations, and emotional state. This information can be instrumental in tailoring the consultation to meet the client’s specific requirements and pave the road to conversion.

This client-centered approach is the hallmark of exceptional legal intake. It shows that your firm is genuinely interested in addressing the client’s unique needs and concerns and how we go about meeting them.

By focusing on the client’s priorities, you can align the firm with his or her goals. This client-centric approach not only enhances the client’s experience (thus leading to more reviews and referrals!) but also increases the likelihood of getting this client over the line.

Anticipating Responses

Every client is different, and their legal needs vary. Some may be seeking an attorney with extensive trial experience, while others may prioritize communication or a reputation for winning cases. Some want a hand-held solution that may be best provided by a smaller practice while others don’t want to hear about the case till it’s over.

By asking, “What are you looking for in an attorney?” you can identify these specific needs, provide responses that point to your firm as the solution to their problem, and ultimately sign the client.

Now, let’s explore some of the responses you might expect to hear when you ask, “What are you looking for in an attorney?” These responses can serve as a guide for intake professionals in planning their responses to adequately present their firm’s strengths.


Clients often value attorneys with experience in handling cases similar to their own. When a client expresses a desire for an experienced attorney, it’s an opportunity to highlight your firm’s track record and expertise. You can mention the number of years your attorneys have been practicing, the types of cases you’ve successfully handled, and any specialized knowledge relevant to the client’s case.

Equip your team with this information. Provide every intake professional with a brag sheet that highlights the cumulative experience of your attorneys. Specific stories related to common case types your firm handles should be at the ready for someone who wants an attorney experienced in a circumstance that, while very unique to your prospect, is likely fairly routine in your practice.


Clients want to achieve favorable outcomes, and they expect their attorney to deliver results. If a client emphasizes the importance of results, plan share specific case successes and statistics that demonstrate your firm’s ability to win cases and secure favorable outcomes. Again, stories sell. Plan to update the brag sheet quarterly with the firm’s success stories. The team should build a library of anecdotes to draw from based on scenarios they hear all too often.


A lawyer’s reputation in the legal industry can greatly influence a client’s decision. If a client mentions the importance of a lawyer’s reputation, highlight your firm’s standing in the legal community. How many of your attorneys are recognized by SuperLawyers? Legal Elite? Martindale-Hubbell and countless others?

This is a great time to slip in that while your reputation among clients is well documented in your countless five-star reviews, peer rankings often speak to the attorney’s legal acumen and standing in the bar. Educate the client that state bars maintain the highest of standards and that you can proudly note a pristine standing therein. Mention any awards, recognitions, or testimonials from satisfied clients, but also consider humanizing the attorneys with some “personal” recognitions such as “His favorite award was “#1 Grandad,” or “she proudly claimed ‘Mother of the Year’ from five year old!”

Share the link to a special webpage that highlights client reviews, awards, endorsements, speaking engagements, board positions, professional posts served, and community involvement. This speaks to the character and success of the attorneys and can instill confidence in the client’s choice.


Effective communication is key to a successful attorney-client relationship and the standard of communication care often falls below expectations. Manage these by letting the client know from the outset what they can expect from your firm. Explain your communication protocols, such as regular updates, availability for questions, and prompt responses to emails and calls. If your clients have access to a portal, this is a great time to mention it.


Transparency goes hand in hand with effective communication. Clients appreciate attorneys who are transparent about legal fees, potential outcomes, and the progress of their case. If a client values transparency, share your firm’s policies regarding fee structures, billing practices, and the provision of clear and honest information.

Personalized Attention & Accessibility

Some clients seek attorneys who provide personalized attention and treat them as individuals, not just cases. If this is the ideal client for your firm, great. But it may also help identify those clients that may not be the right fit for your firm, and better to identify those individuals up front. If personalized attention is a strength, emphasize your firm’s commitment to understanding each client’s unique circumstances and tailoring legal strategies to their specific needs.

Accessibility is another crucial factor for many clients. Clients want to know they can reach their attorney when needed. Explain your firm’s policies regarding attorney availability and responsiveness to urgent matters as well as benefits such as evening appointments and 24/7 call handling.

Empathy and Compassion

Legal issues can be emotionally challenging for clients. If a client values empathy and compassion, highlight your firm’s approach to supporting clients through difficult times. Mention any support services or resources your firm offers to address emotional and psychological needs from introductions to trusted providers or trauma-informed staff.

Put Power Words into Practice

The eight words, “What are you looking for in an attorney?” have the power to transform the intake process by shifting the focus to the client’s needs and priorities while perfectly positioning the intake professional to sell your firm. By actively listening to the client’s needs and tailoring your responses accordingly, you can create a positive and client-centered experience from the very beginning, showcasing how perfectly your firm can solve this problem.

The next time a potential client walks through your door or calls your office, don’t forget to ask, “What are you looking for in an attorney?” It might just be the start of a fruitful partnership.


Kerri Coby White 1Kerri Coby White has been serving the legal industry in growth and business development for more than a  decade, merging her consulting firm with that of James Brooks and forming KerriJames, LLC in 2019. As CEO of KerriJames and author of The Law Firm Growth Machine, Kerri speaks on the value of data and technology in achieving next level growth. It is her personal belief that strategy-driven systems can provide firms with the intelligence that enables them to compete amidst a host of challenges and do the important work of seeking justice, supporting clients, and growing organizations that serve their communities. 


*Thank you, Kerri, for your Intake Insight in today’s blog – and for leading our monthly Intake Training for all PILMMA members and staff. If you’re a member, make sure your intake staff is tuning in each month to Kerri’s sessions! If you’re not a PILMMA Gold member yet, what are you waiting for? Visit to join today.