Client intake:

Why top firms are automating legal intake (and why you should, too)


Cut through the information overload

Law firms have long acted for clients involved in controversies from environmental disasters to human rights abuses. However, large firms are increasingly considering the ethical implications of accepting new clients, and sometimes denying counsel, according to a recent Law.com survey.

Spurred on by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the beginning of this year, as well as increasing public scrutiny, a significant number of firms are implementing robust ethical policies for client intake.

However, none of the survey’s respondents said they are ruling out entire sectors or refusing work without learning more about the client and their needs. Instead, they are assessing every potential client on a case-by-case basis.

Firms that said they now have specific committees, boards and teams dedicated to reviewing and accepting responsible business include Clifford Chance, DWF, Osborne Clarke, Pinsent Masons, Simmons & Simmons, Freshfields, Clyde & Co, Herbert Smith Freehills, Ashurst, Eversheds Sutherland and Taylor Wessing.

Taking such an approach will enhance firms’ reputations – a long term gain. However, in the short term, it means partners and client intake teams will need to dedicate more time and resources to legal intake. Not only do legal risks need to be understood, but so do ethical risks. Firms need a clearer picture than ever before on exactly who a client is and what they stand for, before they can agree to represent them.

However, this year, 60% of lawyers told Reuters that their department’s budget had stayed the same or decreased. Automating the legal client intake process is the only way for law firms to keep up with the competing needs of client intake today: conducting deep due diligence, making decisions quickly, and remaining within budget.

How automation supports client intake

The law firms that succeed in this climate will be those that offer a swift, seamless intake process for new clients. Intake is the first impression a client gets of your firm and likely to set the tone for the rest of the working relationship.

When both the vast amounts of information now available online and the high workloads of client intake departments are taken into account, automation offers an impactful, cost-effective solution.

Any process that is highly repeatable, and doesn’t require creativity or complex calculations could be automated. Automated legal intake software streamlines and manages repetitive, and often non-billable, tasks and activities. It frees partners and client intake teams from manual, repetitive and time consuming tasks.

This can lead to anxieties about machines replacing people, but law firms have found automation actually unlocks growth, higher productivity, increased client satisfaction and increased cash flow.

“Historically, the work has been stuck on lawyers’ plates,” Reed Smith’s chief innovation officer David Cunningham told Law.com. “Like, ‘I’m in a big transaction and don’t bother me till I’m done.’ Now we are saying, ‘No, where there are staff involved in the process, we can speed things up.’ We are investing in automation and staff to scale up.”

Which parts of the client intake process can be automated?

Almost all of it.

How automation supports client intake

There are time-saving software solutions for checking the status of client onboarding, designing custom intake forms, capturing client data and key documentation with end-to-end encryption, scheduling appointments, and much more.

Firms that use these solutions have a competitive edge compared to those that don’t.

However, none of these tools are as powerful as Xapien’s automated background research software.

When Xapien is used for client intake, not only does speed increase and manual inaccuracies vanish, but law firms gain a deep understanding of potential clients’ reputations, backgrounds and objectives. Due diligence is no longer a drag on productivity, but an enhancement.

With Xapiens client intake software it takes ten minutes to produce a concise report containing every relevant piece of publicly-available information on any person or business. Clients can be approved or rejected within minutes. Furthermore, law firms have the resources they need to build better relationships with them.

How Xapien works

The vast volumes of information on the internet are simply too much for client intake teams to read and take into account. This year, 53% of lawyers agreed that their onboarding process does not alway provide enough information for them to decide whether to represent a client or not, according to Thomson Reuters.

Law firms can invest hours or days on research before they find something that shows a client is unsuitable. Even worse, this information may come to light after the client has been onboarded, resulting in even more wasted time.

Xapien changes that.

First, it searches PEPs and sanctions databases, news and media articles, corporate records and wider internet data from sites such as LinkedIn, Wikileaks, offshore leaks, and more.

Next, Natural Language Processing identifies key networks and affiliations. This empowers law firms to be aware of current and potential risks. For example, someone might not be directly sanctioned, but could appear in media articles as a ‘close friend’ of a sanctioned figure. Traditional sanctions checks would not highlight these links.

Within ten minutes, Xapien produces an easily shareable and fully sourced report summarising analysis and insights. The reports are easy-to-digest, categorised, and segmented. They are intuitively laid out in a way that client intake teams, lawyers and decision makers will recognise. Features such as PDF downloads guarantee full auditability. Everyone gets the same information, allowing firms to move at speed and avoid delays caused by misunderstandings.

Compliance teams and decision makers can make quick decisions about clients, fully informed of any legal or ethical risks involved – even those they didn’t think to search for.

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Make decisions fast

Other compliance PEPs and sanctions look-up tools can be used to discover whether potential clients might be a potential risk. However, the results still need to be analysed by client intake teams to verify which results are relevant to the person they’re interested in, and not someone else of the same or similar name. This is slow, hard, and painstaking work.

In contrast, Xapien’s system does the verification for you, showing only the information about your person. This equips law firms with all the information they need to take quick, decisive action within minutes. Anyone using Xapien needs only the most basic technical skills to quickly perform advanced investigations.

Respond to clients quickly

The intake process is a client’s first interaction with the law firm and long delays will set a poor tone. When days of due diligence research and analysis can be done in minutes using Xapien, law firms can respond to potential clients far more quickly. The law firms without this powerful tool will be left behind.

Avoid endless questions

Xapien also removes the need to overwhelm potential clients with too many questions, saving both them and the law firm time. Without it, teams of researchers need to trawl through all of the publicly available information on a client, then carry out interviews and face to face meetings, which then need to be verified with another round of research using PEPs and sanctions look-up tools. This is a slow and painful experience for both the client and law firm.

Get the full picture

Xapien extracts key events, sentiments and personas to create a ‘knowledge graph’ connecting individual pieces of information together. This creates a rich view of the subject and their network of connections in the same way a human researcher would.

It can read and analyse sources in 133 languages and counting, including different scripts such as Arabic and Cyrilic. Background checks can be carried out on clients operating in multiple jurisdictions just as easily as those operating locally.

Uncover relationships

Xapien can attach facts to people and companies, identifying how they participated in events, where those events took place and who else was involved. Whether that event was a job, investment, takeover or marriage, it can set everything in context.

Disambiguate between similar names

Names are not unique identifiers. Whether you are reading text or reviewing corporate records, it is hard to identify whether a mention of a person or company is the same as the one you are looking for.

Just as a human would, Xapien looks at many factors surrounding the mention, including other people, sectors, topics or organisations. It models every piece of information as ‘possibly’ true, capturing where it came from and how confident it is in it. Machine learning algorithms, working on top of complex networks of probabilistic modelling, then resolve the most consistent view of the data.

For example, Xapien identifies every face in every image on every page and article it processes. Neural networks extract the key features and match them across every other facial feature we have. Xapien also uses vast geospatial data sets and machine inference to resolve locations, in any script, anywhere in the world.

Be confident about who is being referred to

Websites and news articles often only mention the full name of a person or company once, before using pronouns (he/she/it) or descriptors (the billionaire businesswoman). Xapien can identify and tie together these references, to identify whether risk or facts are actually about your subject, or not.

Word-sense disambiguation

The same word can have many meanings. For example, ‘poaching an egg’ is very different to ‘poaching an elephant’. Xapien’s machine learning technology, trained using millions of documents, understands the semantic meaning of words in context.

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