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Bilingual Legal Intake: What’s the difference?

For many law firms, bilingual and Spanish-speaking clients are a crucial part of their growth strategy. With almost 14% of the US population speaking Spanish jumping to almost 30% in certain states, this represents a significant potential audience for attorneys.


When you are setting up your firm to be mindful of a bilingual audience, you have to look at every touchpoint to make sure you can deliver on your promise of accessibility. If your marketing reaches Spanish-speaking leads, then your call answering and intake process must be bilingual-friendly to meet their expectations.


Maybe you’ve already developed your intake process for English speakers and wondering how much you need to modify it for your new bilingual audience. Maybe you’re creating both intake flows at the same time and want to understand legal intake best practice – no matter the language. At LEX Reception, we are experts in both Spanish and English language intake for law firms. So, how does a great bilingual intake differ from your normal process?


When it differs: Providing options
When you receive a call from a bilingual caller, you might be tempted to immediately re-route them to a bilingual member of your team. However, this is making an assumption about your lead which could cause offense. If you are ever unsure what a lead’s preferred language is, just ask them! Once they know they can request whichever language they are most comfortable with, they are likely to feel more confident in speaking to your firm.


When it stays the same: Remove distractions
Whether you are speaking to English or Spanish-language callers, you should always find a distraction-free environment to listen. If you have the sounds of a busy office around you, your caller may worry that they do not have your full attention. You should always be listening for subtle vocal cues that signal when a lead is particularly stressed or uncomfortable so that you can put them at ease.


When it differs: Formal or informal
There is a reason it is so important to have native speakers performing bilingual intake. While in English, an intake professional may want to use less formal language to make your callers feel comfortable, this can have the opposite effect in Spanish. Bilingual legal receptionists should use polite pronouns to demonstrate their respect for the caller.


When it stays the same: Ask for permission
We know legal intake takes time. If your caller hasn’t dealt with a lawyer before, they might not be aware of this. Whichever language you are speaking in, you should always ask for permission before starting the intake process. Tell your lead how long the process is likely to take, and ensure they are happy to speak. You won’t save any time if they have to hang up halfway through the intake, leaving you with a half-completed form and a follow-up several days ahead.


When it differs: Custom scripts
You’ll likely need slightly different information from bilingual clients, and it helps to have two different intake scripts. Viewing a script in Spanish allows your intake staff to focus on their answers, rather than having to translate live. Even if your intake staff are happy to translate your flow while on call, you may want to ask your Spanish-speaking leads specific questions. This could be a custom question to discover if they would prefer to meet with a Spanish-speaking attorney for a consultation or whether they would like email communication in Spanish or English.


When it stays the same: Active listening
Practicing active listening makes a huge impact with any lead, English- or Spanish-speaking. We’ve all been on a call, and someone has noted down the wrong information because they were not 100% present in the call. Active listening helps you to stay engaged: repeating their information back to them, following up with relevant questions, and mirroring their tone. After all, it shows much more care and professionalism to check how a name is spelled or clarify on their given information than to guess and continue with incorrect information.


When it differs: Noting language preference
Recording language preference in your files and CRM is vital for bilingual clients. If they have spoken to your firm in Spanish on their first call but receive a follow-up call from an English-speaking receptionist, they may feel that you are not paying attention to their needs. At LEX, we make sure to signal Spanish-language preference in our messages, so that you can remain consistently sensitive in all your communications.


Ultimately, a great intake process is similar for English- and Spanish-speaking clients. However, cultural nuances and sensitivities can be hard to address without native speakers on your team. Truly bilingual receptionists and intake staff can help you to stand out for all the right reasons, cementing you as a “go-to” firm for your Spanish-speaking community.


We hope our tips will help you deliver an empathetic and professional intake service.


Manni Sandoval is a Bilingual Account Executive at LEX Reception. LEX Reception’s team of legal receptionists helps attorneys and law firms to deliver stand-out service to their clients in English and Spanish. To find out more about LEX, you can take a look at their website or book a call with Manni for a full introduction.


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