Behind the Scenes: The Intake Process

People rarely call a law firm because things are going well. Unless you won the lottery, you call a law firm because you have a problem.

That’s the situation with the majority of people who call a Life Care Planning Law Firm. Something just happened. Mom has Alzheimer’s disease and is wandering. Dad had a stroke and can’t communicate. No one knows what to do or where to turn.

When the phone rings at Rothkoff Law Group and Jacinda Graham answers, the person on the other end is usually scared, confused, anxious, and overwhelmed. It’s all in a day’s work for Jacinda, who has spent the last nine years as client services director at Rothkoff Law Group, a Life Care Planning Law Firm in the Philadelphia area. She manages the firm’s intake process, which includes those important conversations when a family first reaches out for help.

For Jacinda, the first order of business after the phone rings is creating space for the caller to explain what’s going on. “I want to hear in their own words why they’re calling and what they believe they need help with,” Jacinda says. I will prompt them to give me background information but try not to interrupt too much.”

Eventually, Jacinda will ask a few questions. “When most people call an elder law attorney for the first time, it’s usually because someone else suggested it,” Jacinda notes. “They may not know why they've been told to call, but they’re always able to explain what they perceive is the problem. What they don’t often realize is that their problem is much bigger than they think it is.”

Next, Jacinda delves deeper, asking questions about the family system that’s supporting the elder. Are there already legal decision-makers in place? Is the person on the phone the appropriate person to be speaking with regarding the situation at hand? Does the case involve a single person or a married couple? Is it a crisis situation where an office visit is needed immediately? “The intake is about getting as much information as possible in a conversational way,” stresses Jacinda. “I need to find out whether they have a problem that a Life Care Plan can help them solve, all while putting the person at ease.”

Once Jacinda has determined that the firm can assist the caller, she outlines the help the firm can provide. “I'm not giving legal advice or care guidance, nor am I telling them what we're going to be doing from a planning standpoint,” explains Jacinda. “Instead, I’m helping them understand what Life Care Planning can do so they understand how beneficial it is before they even set foot in our office. I also want them to see that our firm is a one-stop-shop and that there’s no need to call anyone else.”

That initial contact also marks the beginning of what often becomes a long-term relationship between the family and the firm. “People tell me all the time that they’ve called a half dozen other places before calling us, and when those calls ended, they had no idea whether the firm would be able to help them,” Jacinda adds. “When I get off the phone with people who are the right fit for a Life Care Plan, there’s never any doubt. People tell me that they feel like a huge burden has been lifted. That’s when I know I’ve done my job.”