How to Screen Clients (and Why We Can’t Do That For You)

For your legal practice to succeed and grow, you need a strong pipeline of good clients. This requires both a steady stream of case leads and a method for identifying and converting the ones you want to become your clients. LegalMatch membership gives you regular case leads plus a system of tools to help you screen those potential clients based on your specialty and what you know is most profitable for you.

This article will show you how to leverage the LegalMatch platform as a core part of your client screening process.

Why You Must Screen Clients

Good client-screening techniques allow you and each potential client to ensure expectations are aligned before either side incurs any sunk costs. You may already be screening for potential conflicts of interest, profitability, or interpersonal “red flags.” You might also have wondered whether LegalMatch could screen clients for you.

The answer is no. For several reasons, client screening is something you must do yourself.

LegalMatch does not have the intimate knowledge required to determine which cases are a good match for the specific business needs of your law firm, whether there is a potential conflict of interest, precisely what type of legal work a case may involve (or whether a claim is even viable), let alone how the required work aligns with your experience and expertise. We simply cannot determine whether any given case lead may be profitable for you or desirable to you for a wide range of reasons including potential referrals.

We specialize in finding clients in your area who are looking to hire a lawyer and delivering those case leads directly to you so that you can handle the deeply personal work of screening those leads and determining which are right for you and your practice.

To help you screen potential clients more effectively, we also provide an online system of tools and guidance.

How LegalMatch Helps You Screen Clients

LegalMatch membership gives you access to a unique system of tools and techniques for screening case leads so you can get the most out of your investment. These include customizable templates, detailed case intake information, dashboard tracking tools, and personalized guidance and support along the way. Let’s take a look at each component and how these fit together for your use in screening potential clients.


Because other LegalMatch attorneys have received the same leads, and clients are more likely to engage attorneys that respond quickly, it’s important for you to not only respond to many cases, but to do so as fast as possible. To help you in this, your LegalMatch membership includes customizable response templates.

The very first thing you should do as a LegalMatch member attorney is set up your templates to focus on the kinds of cases you find most profitable and desirable. Let the client know a little bit about you, your practice, and your specialties with an emphasis on what you do – and what you don’t do.

As more cases start coming in, you can adjust and refine the language in your templates to further clarify the parameters of your legal practice. For example, you can include language on your template specifying the kind of cases you do not accept and directing them instead to a local resource, such as a legal clinic.

Your straightforward, informative response is the first step in screening clients. And when you set up your response templates ahead of time, you can get more responses out the door faster. Which increases your chances of being hired or receiving a word-of-mouth referral.

Case Details

As cases come in, you’ll see in your dashboard a short description, a longer description, and client answers to a detailed set of case intake questions you won’t find anywhere else. This information allows you to determine whether or not to respond and set a preliminary call with any given client.

Be sure to communicate to the client (through your templated response) that this preliminary call will last only a few minutes and that, out of respect for everyone’s time, you would like to ask them a few brief questions to help you get a better sense of their case and see if it makes sense to schedule a consultation. You might decide to conduct that consultation at the same time, but making this verbal distinction can help you end the call with those clients who turn out to be a poor fit for you.

Calling the Lead

Getting each potential client on the phone gives you the opportunity to ask whatever qualifying questions are important for you to determine whether they have a good case for you. These questions should aim at unearthing information such as:

  • Is the case within the statute of limitations?
  • Are any hard deadlines or court dates already set?
  • What is the relevant jurisdiction?
  • Who are the primary players in the case?
  • How involved will the case be, and how does that line up with your current caseload?

If it seems to be a good fit, you can either continue with a full consultation or schedule time a little later when you have more availability to further qualify the client, establish the value you can provide to them, make sure that expectations are aligned, and ask the client to complete whatever steps are required for them to retain your services.

If you determine instead that you will not take on this client, you may wish to provide them with a non-engagement letter specifying that there is a conflict of interest, lack of capacity, inability to pay, or that you’re just not the right fit. This is not required, but it can prevent misunderstandings and you can customize a template to serve this purpose from inside your LegalMatch dashboard.

Case Tracking

Whether you schedule a consultation or not, you can also use your dashboard to:

  • Set an estimated value for each case as a way to track potential profitability.
  • Rate a case from 1-5 based on the quality of lead it appears to be.

These steps can help you easily identify the cases that best fit into your practice so you can focus your efforts on them. This is also a fast way to provide feedback that helps us target our advertising campaigns towards the kind of cases you want, so we can continue to improve the quality of leads we deliver to you. If you want to get the most out of your LegalMatch membership, we strongly encourage you to track cases in this way.


Because the client is deciding whether to work with you at the same time as you are deciding whether to work with them, it may be helpful to think of your initial consultation as something like a first date. You want to make a good impression and establish your value at the same time as you continue to screen the client.

It’s also helpful to think of the initial consultation as a sales call, with a specific structure that can help you make the most of your time together.

Here’s how:

Frame the Conversation

Start by reflecting to the client what you already understand about their case and what they are seeking from an attorney. Tell them that in this call, you will be gathering more detailed information to help you both decide whether it makes sense for them to hire you. Being very clear about the purpose of this call up front can help you avoid giving away too much legal advice for free.

Identify Pain and Potential Gain

To establish value in the mind of your prospective client, you need to get them talking about not just the facts of their legal issue, but also the underlying pain that drove them to reach out to a lawyer and their highest hopes for a successful resolution. For this reason, kindness and empathy are paramount.

Simply running through a long list of “yes” or “no” questions is not sufficient. Instead, use open-ended questions to discover what the client truly cares about and is hoping for.

The following questions can help guide the conversation appropriately:

  • Tell me about the problem you are facing.
  • What other difficulties is this causing for you?
  • How are you hoping I can help?
  • What do you see as the best possible outcome?
  • What are you afraid will happen if this is not adequately addressed?

Practice Active Listening

While the client answers each of the above questions, practice active listening by:

  • Maintaining good eye contact and open body language if you are face-to-face, whether live or on a video call.
  • Waiting until the client has finished speaking before you start talking.
  • Asking clarifying questions to confirm that what you heard is what they meant to communicate.
  • Taking notes on their key points so you can repeat those back to them.
  • Sharing your understanding and allowing the client to confirm that you fully received their message.

Show Empathy

Law schools often do not teach the people skills required for establishing rapport and law offices are often so focused on billable time that you may need to consciously slow down and practice empathy techniques that may be outside your comfort zone.

Don’t get caught up in demonstrating your legal expertise and forget that the client is a real person with a real problem. You may deal with similar issues regularly, but this could be the most stressful and vulnerable moment of your client’s life. Be sure to let them know you are sorry for their difficulties and challenges, as appropriate.’

Also, keep in mind that referrals are very much dependent on kindness and how well you establish rapport. It’s okay to not take every case and to be up-front about why, but you still want to do this in a way that is gracious and can lead to word-of-mouth referrals.

Provide an Answer

Your initial consultation is not the place to provide detailed legal advice or solve all of the client’s problems, but you do need to provide some value. There is no need to give away your services for free, but the client is looking to hire an attorney who can help them and it is your responsibility to demonstrate how you meet that criteria.

The best way to do this is to talk with the client about where their case is headed and how you will help along the way. You can share your best estimates of how long their case might take, what the different steps and phases of their case generally look like, and how strong you believe their case is – as well as how courts in their jurisdiction tend to perceive details like what they have shared with you.

Be Specific

The client cares about their problem; they do not care about the law’s intricacies in general. So be sure to talk about the client’s problem, not abstract legal principles. Some background information may be necessary, but keep it short and explicitly communicate how that information relates to the client’s specific issue and concerns.

Focus on the Process

Most clients have limited knowledge of the judicial process and legal system. Make sure they are aware of what will happen next, whether a trial is likely, and who or what holds the power to actually determine whether their legal issue can be resolved in their favor. In particular, be clear about how long the process could take and what results are possible.

Manage Expectations

Make sure that you and the client are on the same page regarding your working relationship and what each of your responsibilities will be throughout the process. This includes developing and sharing clear policies about how often the client can expect to communicate with you.

Most clients want to have regular updates so they know you are thinking about them and what is next, even if nothing has changed. Confirm that your preferred communication method is available and acceptable to the client. Also be sure to communicate how your fee structure works and when payment is due.

Sign the Client

Many times, potential clients don’t understand that a consultation is not a commitment. They often believe they have hired an attorney simply by speaking with one, and expect you to begin working on their case. If you want the client, be clear about what it takes to begin the working relationship and have the client sign an engagement letter.

As a courtesy, if you are not interested in taking the case, you might help them by letting them know that they need to look for another attorney and providing any referral resources you may have. If you are direct and polite, the client will appreciate your professionalism, which again may lead to future referrals.

To clarify that you will not be taking their case, consider providing them with a non-engagement letter at this time. Doing so can prevent misunderstandings, and you can use your LegalMatch templates for this purpose.

Screening Clients With LegalMatch

We regularly hear from happy member attorneys that success comes to those who understand and work the LegalMatch system, starting with screening the client leads we send your way. So be sure to customize your templates, respond quickly, and schedule consultations with those leads you believe will be most profitable for your practice.

On a weekly basis, I’d say I get a good 25 leads. I wind up having a consultation with at least half of them, if not more depending on how responsive I can be. On average I’d say I can get up to five new clients a week. Real Estate, Housing & Property Law Attorney, Miguel T.

LegalMatch is a worthwhile program. I think like anything else, the fee is not that outrageous provided you’re willing to spend the time in contacting individuals. Criminal Law Attorney, Albert N.

LegalMatch is a great resource for getting clients. It has an interesting process, it’s the matter of screening the people that you can help and those that you can’t. If someone takes the time to utilize their service, they can earn more income. General Law Attorney, Eric G.

I have seen a return on investment in excess of 500%. LegalMatch is a solid investment. It’s like fishing with a net. Family Law Attorney, Ryan G.

To anybody who called me and asked me about LegalMatch, I would certainly recommend it. I’d tell them, ‘Man, give it a shot because if you do it right, I don’t think you’ll ever look back with regret. Estate Law Attorney, Clarke W.

LegalMatch can help you connect with the kinds of leads your law practice needs to grow and thrive. We provide a steady stream of direct leads for you to review, assess, and further qualify through conversation and consultation so you can determine their viability based on your specialty and what you know is most profitable for you. If you are not yet a LegalMatch member, you can read more success stories or schedule a demo to learn more about putting our system to work for your legal practice.