Large law firms often have a receptionist — or many — to handle client calls. This is a luxury that some small or solo firms can’t afford, yet they don’t have the time to answer each call personally.
If you’re not answering calls every time the phone rings, that could hurt your firm. Clients assume that you don’t care if you don’t answer the phone, and this may push them toward a competitor’s firm.
Outsourcing your client calls to a legal answering service or virtual receptionist is an ideal solution. Every client call will be answered, but at a lower cost than a full-time, in-house receptionist.
What Is an Answering Service?
When law firms are looking to outsource their calls, answering services are a common solution. The answering service filters calls for law firms and passes the messages along. The client gets to speak to a real person, and the law firm benefits from good customer service and greater lead capture when they’re not in the office.
Modern answering services do more than just take a message and deliver it to a firm. They can deliver messages through email, text, or secure web portals and set appointments for clients.
Why Should Law Firms Use an Answering Service?
With client meetings, time in court, travel, fieldwork, and casework, lawyers don’t often have time to answer each call. While some law firms have a receptionist on staff to handle client calls, it’s not feasible for more lean firms.
An answering service is a common solution to improve client intake, save time and money, boost productivity, and provide 24/7 availability.
Answering Service vs. Virtual Receptionist
An answering service provides vital services when you’re not in the office, but a virtual receptionist takes customer service a step further. Virtual receptionists can do all the tasks that an answering service can do, as well as some essential business operations.
Virtual receptionists portray themselves as in-office staff and create a professional image for the firm. These receptionists can start the intake process by answering basic questions for callers about the firm, taking messages, set appointments, and connecting callers to the proper staff member.
Virtual receptionists undergo thorough training to become a natural extension of the business. Call centers will train several receptionists to seamlessly handle your account, ensuring you have a dedicated receptionist whenever you need it.
Benefits of a Virtual Receptionist for Law Firms
Virtual receptionists ensure seamless communication between a law firm and its clients, building stronger relationships. Here are some benefits of a virtual receptionist:
Support Lead Generation
Proper response times to prospective clients is crucial to supporting lead generation and the overall growth of your business. It takes as little as a few seconds for a prospective client to search and find a competitor if your law firm doesn’t answer or follow up in a timely manner.
Every potential client that calls a law firm offers an opportunity to generate new business. Virtual receptionists can capture new clients, answer questions, and direct them to the right person in your firm to follow up. This not only improves your relationship with the client from the start, but it saves time by filtering less serious callers.
Virtual receptionists should have access to your calendar to schedule appointments according to your availability. This reduces the delays in your schedule and makes clients feel valued. You can also have a virtual receptionist confirm appointments with clients to avoid any wasted time.
Pro Tip: PracticePanther’s legal calendar management is a seamless way to manage remote or hybrid staff, like a virtual receptionist. With a centralized legal calendar, staff can collaborate and stay on the same page.
Hiring a full-time, in-house receptionist involves a costly and time-consuming hiring process, not to mention the cost of paying a full-time salary and benefits. Virtual receptionists save a lot of time and money by providing a much-needed service without the need for a full-time staff member.
Virtual receptionists typically offer different ways to pay for services or packages, giving you the flexibility to determine the best way to offer client service without hiring a full-time employee.
Down to the fonts chosen for legal documents — first impressions are everything. If your firm struggles to respond to clients, you may appear to be unprofessional. Before clients retain legal counsel, they’re vetting every interaction to ensure you’re the right person to handle their case.
A virtual receptionist can easily alleviate this potential risk and make a one-man show look like a well-staffed team.
White Glove Customer Service
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to a virtual receptionist. You can customize your services to address your needs, such as offering a script to help with basic questions or providing a number for forwarding calls.
With PracticePanther’s all-in-one law practice management software, virtual receptionists will have access to client communication resources like 2-way business text messaging and a client portal to respond to emails or send documents in a few clicks. The virtual receptionist can even leave notes in the contact or matter so your firm can review the conversation.
As mentioned before, keeping client communications in a central location for staff to access anywhere will allow your firm to keep a high quality of customer service.
How to Find the Best Virtual Receptionist for Law Firms
The virtual receptionist that’s best for your law firm depends on different factors, including the level of service you want to provide, the price you’re willing to pay, and the types of clients you work with.
The most important consideration is the professionalism of the service, which reflects on your firm. You want a receptionist that can be an extension of your firm and the values and first impression you want to provide to clients.
Some other things to consider are the call volume you anticipate and the services that would be most valuable to you. For example, a mass tort or personal injury firm often receives a lot of client inquiries. Virtual receptionists can screen these calls and handle intake-related processes for you.
Some services can work with your law practice management solution to provide even better services, such as web chat and text messages, and a smooth client intake process. This process should have strategic touchpoints that keep the clients engaged.
The receptionist can gather information like the client’s name, preferred contact method, case details, potential risks that would restrict them from being a client, and how they found the firm. This works with resources like PracticePanther’s automated workflows that trigger tasks or reminders for specific team members.
Make a Great First Impression
Both answering services and virtual receptionists are options for law firms that don’t have the staff or bandwidth for client calls and inquiries. Virtual receptionists have an edge over answering services, acting as an extension of your firm for a smooth, streamlined, and positive client intake process.
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