Are Your Paralegals & Office Assistants Losing Clients When They Answer the Phones?

By Lisa


Category: Productivity

How a Phone-Answering Strategy Can Dramatically Boost Your Law Firm’s Profits (Without Investing a Single Penny More in Marketing)


As a digital marketing agency for attorneys, we spend every hour working to get you as many new leads (i.e. prospective clients) as possible, and then pushing them to contact you.

But even if we excel at our job and get you to the top of Google with a gaggle of interested prospects to boot, there’s one thing we cannot do for you — answer your phones.

That’s frustrating because all of our efforts toward landing you a big new client can go down the drain with a single poorly answered ring.

So today, instead of blogging about the things our agency can do for your law firm, we’re going to blog about a service we don’t provide — talking to leads on the telephone.

Picking up your phone and talking to an incoming client may not be part of a digital marketing package, but it is absolutely critical to your growth as a firm.

Here’s what we know:

  • Most prospective clients find a law firm online but then make first contact by phone.
  • Studies have found that nearly 3/4 of prospective clients do not provide — and are not asked for — contact information during their initial call to the firm.
  • Only about half of U.S. law firms manage to follow up on each and every incoming new-client call. Far fewer follow up more than once.
  • The average law firm hold time exceeds two minutes.
  • Prospective clients report that most of the time, people who answer phone calls at law firms know surprisingly little about the firm or its legal services beyond the very basics.

Those are all very alarming facts for anyone who is in the business of making money by providing legal services.

There are clients who want to hire you badly enough that they get on the phone to call you. Why are you letting their dollars pass you by?

Here’s why this matters:

  • Increasing your conversions will cost you zero dollars, but it can improve the return on your digital marketing investment by many dollars.
  • A single lost case can mean more than $10,000. Maybe even more than $1,000,000. Some law firms have quite literally lost millions of dollars in a single poorly answered or unreturned phone call.
  • If a prospect doesn’t have a good telephone experience with your firm, they’ll likely call the next firm on their list, i.e. your top competitor.

So how can you fix your phone problem? (Or figure out whether you have a problem in the first place?) Below, we offer eight tips for improving law firm client conversion by telephone.

1. Train Your Staff on How to Answer Phones (Both for Emergencies & Non-Emergencies)

Your first challenge, in all likelihood, is that no one on your staff is specially trained as a law firm intake specialist.

“Do those people even exist?” you ask.

Yes, but you don’t necessarily need one. You already have a legal support staff.

Trouble is, most legal secretaries aren’t trained in legal marketing. Most paralegals, meanwhile, simply are not passionate about secretarial work (a category that, in their eyes, includes answering the phone). They have bigger fish to fry, and it shows in the way they handle phone calls.

How to solve that? Simply bring them in on the issue. Schedule a meeting. Let them know that answering the phone is one of the most critical firm functions. Make it a key metric of their job performance.

Above all else, train them to become facilitators of conversion. That means:

  • Answering in a friendly and enthusiastic manner.
  • Identifying the law firm by name in the opening salutation.
  • Getting a full name and phone number right away. Explain to the caller that this information is solely to allow for a quick callback if you’re disconnected.
  • Having talking points ready so they can clearly explain what makes your law firm different. (Hint: “we have experience” isn’t a great selling point on its own… clients already expect you to have experience!)
  • Treating an emergency like an actual emergency. If a client is panting or panicking because they’ve just had a car crash or committed a crime, now is not the time to talk about your Twitter feed or your Super Lawyers award.  
  • Creating an emotional connection with the caller. When they hang up, they should feel 100% confident that your firm is the only one they need to call — that you understand their plight and are fully capable of resolving it. (Caveat: avoid making guarantees or committing to representation until an attorney can review the facts.)

2. Document Every Incoming Call & Online Contact

If your phone rings, there ought to be a record of it, complete with contact information and a callback number. Every time.

The same goes for emails and online chats. A contact you can’t follow up on was simply a waste of everyone’s time.

This should all happen like clockwork and as a matter of policy. Ideally, you’ll keep a communication log in your firm’s cloud-based Case Management System (CMS).   

3. Record Every Call

What do your law firm’s existing phone calls sound like? Do you know?

We recommend actually recording calls with prospective clients, especially if you have a separate phone line dedicated to case inquiries. Select them at random and listen critically, looking for ways to improve.  

Let your support staff know that you’re engaged in this recorded review process — not to “catch” anyone in bad behavior but simply to self-assess in a constructive manner.

(Note: it’s also good practice to let the caller know they’re being recorded for quality assurance purposes… and in some jurisdictions, such notice is required. Always check with your state bar’s ethics board before instituting a new recording policy.)

4. Play “Undercover Boss”

Ever since CBS premiered “Undercover Boss” in 2010, employers across the country have fantasized of donning an oversized coat and fake mustache to dupe their employees into revealing their real work routines and unfiltered opinions about the workplace.

Well, here’s your chance to engage in a little undercover work / reality TV playacting in your very own firm.

Call your intake line. Pose as a prospective client. Be a little difficult. See how they handle it.

Worried they’ll recognize your voice? Ask your husband, wife, or a close friend to call in on your behalf. It could prove most illuminating.

5. Have a Follow-Up Strategy & Callback Time Policy

How many times are you willing to call back?

Per the stat we shared earlier, for roughly 50% of law firms, the answer is zero. For most others, it’s just once.

But it’s a general marketing rule that most sales are made after the fifth contact. Some sales take as many as ten to twelve contacts.

It’s also true that there is a correlation between how quickly you follow up and how likely the prospect is to hire you.

It’s time, then, to make a plan. Commit to a minimum number of follow-ups per lead, and devise a different strategy for each successive call in advance.

6. Minimize Hold Time

Two minutes is too long. Your prospects have no shortage of lawyers to choose from. In many cases, they’re calling under urgent circumstances. Don’t make them wait.

It may be that long hold times are happening simply because your support staff doesn’t currently consider a phone call to be a priority. If so, that needs to change.

7. Measure Your Conversion Success

Now that you’re documenting contacts and recording calls, it’s time to do a little investigative journalism.

Identify leads that went cold. Go back and review their call histories. Compare them to leads who became clients. What went wrong?

Track your long-term trends too. Six months after putting these tips into practice, are you converting more clients than you did before? If not, why?

8. Make a Decision About After-Hours Calls

At the outset, we promised you could increase your conversion-by-telephone metrics without an added cent in your marketing budget. That’s true, but for an added boost, you might consider hiring an answering service for after-hours callers (available at relatively affordable rates, though as with anything, you get what you pay for.)

After all, your clients’ legal needs don’t always arise between 9 and 5. Auto accidents, catastrophic injuries, unexpected deaths, and unfair arrests can happen at any time — in fact, many of these things are statistically more likely to happen in the middle of the night.

Your chances of landing a client are much greater if someone can take their call when they make it.

Moreover, being “available 24/7” makes you marketable. It also puts you on the same playing field as the “big boy” law firms, which are staffing in-house answerers around the clock.

Not ready to commit to an after-hours answering service just yet? Try your hand at Tips #1-7 first… they’ll likely land you enough work to justify the added investment in going 24/7.

Invest Your Marketing Money Where It Counts: Digital. Call Black Fin Today.

Of course, to improve your intake process, you’ll first need… intake. That’s where we come in.

Black Fin is an attorney marketing agency that specializes in using the internet to make law firms grow. Through SEO, PPC, content marketing, and more, we focus relentlessly on boosting Google rank, establishing your authority within your local area, and bringing you new cases from better clients all the time.  

Come find out why recently recognized us as one of the fastest-growing, privately owned companies in America. Contact the legal marketing experts at Black Fin right away.

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