I’m not trying to undercut myself or the investigations field but it makes sense for our clients (comprised 95% of lawyers) and for us to have accurate backgrounds of their clients, from the outset. Bringing a matter to our attention because the original intake wasn’t thoroughly conducted or, more likely, the information therein was not verified, can result in settlement talk set-backs, client aggravation and in extreme cases, default judgments.
I’ve reviewed client intakes that have ranged from poorly constructed to containing very detailed and comprehensive information. The latter is always preferable. Below we share a few tips on client intakes that we’ve provided for our clients:
Client Name: Obtain all AKAs and other (maiden, name change, Jr./Sr., etc.) name information.
Client DOB: The continued globalization of the client base may result in cultural or usage misunderstandings. E.g. 4/8/1980 may translate to either April 8th, 1980 or August 4th, 1980 as many international communities use the mm/dd/yyyy display. Ensure that your client is very clear on the correct date of birth. Also, probably a one in 100 shot, but given the rise of multiple births now occurring, ask if s/he is part of a twin (or more) set.
Client D/L, I.D. and SSN card: Take a copy of these documents as any one of these uniquely numbered identifiers can easily be misstated or misread. Remove the mysterious elements that can result in unnecessary expenses as the case proceeds.
Client Address: Send a “Keeping In Contact” postcard quarterly. 1, It’ll engender good will with the client. 2. It will remind the client to update you regarding personal contact information changes, if any* and 3. It’s just good policy to ensure that your client is quickly reachable by you so that when it does become necessary, that ease of contact is in place.
Client Phone Numbers: Obtain at least two pone numbers from your client, (home, cell, Skype, work…) and verify these numbers within a week of sign-up.
Client email: Everyone has one today or one can easily be obtained and for free. (E.g., A Gmail address from Google via one’s local library.)
Client emergency contact: Insist on at least two emergency contacts for your client. Advise your client that this information will be verified within ten days of the retainer date. (Use discretion in reaching out to the emergency contacts. The entire neighborhood doesn’t need to know that your client has retained counsel, which obviously translates to potential future monies. You may want to pitch this task to your investigator. We’ve been known to be creative — and, always conducting ourselves within the parameters of the law.)
*Provide your client with several ”Change of Personal Information” letters and pre-addressed and stamped envelopes. Advise them to immediately remit their new information should it change from the initial contact data. Obviously your firm will want to know if your client has moved, changed his/her phone number, gotten married/divorced… Save yourself the hassle of finding out important information until it becomes critical.
Feel welcome to contact our office if you would like us to review your intake forms. I’m not pitching our services, although I guess we all do when we consistently offer information as we do here on a weekly basis, but there is no charge for a quick review. We prefer a law firm be set with the basics before they hire us to work on unforeseen complications or the regular, necessary trial prep and follow-up.
Our Operatives: Street smart; info savvy.
As always, stay safe.