There are three traits the best virtual receptionists for law firms have in common, and we’ve listed them below. Before you go skim those bullets, however, let’s explain why your private practice law firm needs a legal receptionist in the first place. It comes down to two words which clients expect: immediacy and professionalism.
Regardless of the type of law that you practice, when a person calls a lawyer, they believe their needs are urgent. Getting a voicemail instead of a person is rarely acceptable. You may think “those are not the clients I want” but even your top-tier prospective client wants to talk to a human on the phone when they call. It’s the high-quality customer service people come to expect from a profession like law. You risk losing great clients by negating this simple request.
Yet for solo law firms and many private law firms, the expense of hiring a secretary or receptionist can be difficult to justify. Then there is the time involved with interviewing, onboarding a new employee, and training them on your firm’s processes and clients. Facing this mound of tasks, and fearing the receptionist will not provide enough value to outweigh the additional overhead costs, many firms choose to opt-out of such a hire.
Live Legal Receptionist Options
Thankfully, another option is available: virtual receptionist services. A virtual receptionist acts as an extension of your law office, without the costs of hiring, training, and retaining an employee.
The downside? With hundreds of virtual receptionist services available on the market, finding the right option for your firm and budget takes some research and they are not ‘one-size-fits-all.’ Below, we consider three traits that the best virtual receptionists for law firms have and what makes them different from other receptionist services.
3 Qualities of the Best Virtual Receptionists for Law Firms
Professionalism (That Matches Your Own)
Yes, we covered this a bit already, but in a day and age where so many services are on offer, we think it’s pertinent to repeat. Receptionists serve as the gateway to attorney-client legal relationships. They are likely to serve as the first impression of your company. When a legal buyer is looking for options, professionalism serves as the number one selling point.
Hold them to the same rigorous standards by which you hold yourself. They must be competent, efficient, and able to get the right answers when onboarding new clients so that your time is not being wasted with bad leads.
Keep in mind live legal receptionists are also an extension of your law firm’s brand. While virtual receptionists may serve a variety of clients throughout the day, their messaging should be personally customized around your firm’s needs and the image you want the firm to convey. This sets the groundwork for what clients can expect moving forward.
Before signing up with a provider:
- Ensure you can customize everything you’d (from hold-music to the greeting to the “they are not available” language) to match your firm’s brand. Also ask for them to handle this set up at your direction, instead of having you do it yourself in the software backend.
- Ask if you can test their services to ensure professionalism. If there is a free trial period, that’s even better! The last thing you want is to commit to a provider who mishandles your calls.
- PRICING TIP: Figure out how they bill for time spent on the phone. Many providers round up to the full minute, instead of charging you only for time used.
Efficiency (That Improves Your Firm)
Taking on more overhead, even if it’s via a cost-effective option, should result in an improvement of your firm. Otherwise, save the money!
The best legal answering services will eliminate bottlenecks in your onboarding pipeline by:
- talking with new and potential clients,
- vetting them based on your firm’s standards, and
- filling out the correct forms (if you like those and/or have a CRM) or
- sending you a streamlined email with complete information
Many people point to the billable hour as reason enough for a receptionist: every minute spent on the phone with a prospective client equates to less billable hours for existing clients.
At Amata, we like to look beyond the billable hour, however: every interruption takes you away from practicing law. No matter how your firm’s fees are structured, you will find legal answering services are vital to assisting you and your firm’s attorneys with managing time. Better managed time leads to less stress.
Before signing up with a provider:
- Verify their systems can handle the exact client intake, call screening, and call-routing procedures your firm needs, no matter how complicated.
- Never worked with a receptionist before? Ask for guidance! A high-quality answering service will be able to assist you and your firm with setting up the right processes even if you’ve never had any in place before.
- PRICING TIP: Ask if they have fillable form options available or if you have to provide your own. If they are available, check if there is a limited amount included in the base-program and get pricing if you need more.
Availability (Without Excessive Fees)
The hours that a legal practice is open don’t always coincide with the hours when clients and potential clients will be contacting your firm. Like you, your clients and potential clients are at work during business hours and they may not be able to call until closer to dinner time. Virtual receptionist services can help resolve this problem.
Unlike employees you hire in-house, the best virtual live legal receptionists operate outside of the normal 9-5 business hours to account for the needs of legal buyers.
Before signing up with a provider:
- Ask who is answering the phone. Many people outsource to other countries after the regular 9-5, but if you have certain language demands you’ll want to make sure someone who can meet them is always available to answer calls. In Chicago for instance, Spanish is very common and may not be known by overseas receptionists.
- PRICING TIP: Go over the billing for extended hours as many answering services consider it a premium service. What’s the additional cost to have extended hours? Is it fixed fee or variable? Additional line items can quickly add up.
By hiring a legal answering service you are giving your clients access to the professionalism they need, at an immediacy they will appreciate (and help your firm stand out among the crowd), without overtaxing your own work day.
The best virtual receptionist for law firms is available when clients need them, and legal practices should only be billed for the time for which calls are taken, as opposed to a full-time receptionist who is either salaried or billed hourly.
What Makes Amata The Best Virtual Receptionist for Law Firms
Amata Law Office Suites is more than just an office space – for over 20 years, we have offered live legal receptionist services to help support and grow solo and private law practices by holding ourselves to the highest standard.
Amata’s Live Legal Receptionists use customized greetings and onboarding messaging to seamlessly fit into your law firm. We bill for the time our services are used and never round up. With extended operating hours from 7AM to 10PM, your law firm can be optimized around billable hours and client needs, at affordable prices.
Contact us today to learn more about our live legal receptionists, on-demand expert legal staff, office space, and more!