This post was written by Maddy Martin from our partner Smith.ai, who provide a fantastic virtual receptionist solution for law firms.
Running a law firm is not like running just any business.
When you’re operating a dry cleaning business or grocery store, customers have minimal criteria, a low barrier to entry and persistent lifetime value.
Plunk yourself down in a neighborhood, walk or drive a few blocks, and you’ll soon find all the starch you need – for your shirts and your stomach. Barring any major issues, you’ll return for more of the same next week.
But attorneys managing a solo or small practice have unique constraints: clients are (most often) intentionally temporary, hourly rates often exceed the weekly grocery bill for a family of four, and this short-term expense is often a surprise.
It’s no wonder potential clients say they’re more influenced by an attorney’s response time to their first call or email than any other factor in their “decision to hire”: the sooner the job starts, the sooner it’s over, hopefully along with the expense, effort, and disruption.
More than likely you don’t just win clients based on responsiveness alone. You deliver stand-out work.
But don’t think for a second that most clients won’t settle for someone else if you’re slow to respond or drop the ball as you run down the field – especially if they’ve never worked with you and might not know the difference between mediocre, good, and exceptional.
If you’re marketing your business, you’re paying for leads. And leads are a pass. Don’t drop the ball: Quickly capture, qualify, and intake leads with virtual receptionists. Here’s how to do that and a bit more:
1. Quickly capture leads
Whether your leads are from PPC ads, organic search, or boosted Facebook posts, your marketing agency can only deliver them; conversion is on you. Wait to respond, and they’ve already reached another attorney.
The problem is, your day is booked up with meetings, time in court, billing tasks, and admin chores. You’re lawyering and you’re laboring. There’s no time for call-backs or extra interruptions. Most lawyers already only spend 1.9 hours on billable work each day – don’t cut that even shorter.
The way to make time is to get someone to not only answer your phones, but also respond to leads coming through your web form.
A team of virtual receptionists can answer one or multiple incoming calls at once. Auto-forward those web-form lead notification emails to them, and they’ll call the leads, capturing them at the time of intent.
2. Efficiently qualify leads
What do you do once you nab a live one? Empower the receptionists to qualify the lead based on your custom criteria. They can ask things like…
- Are they willing to pay your fees?
- Are they in the right county where you practice?
- Do they need work within your practice area?
These are all questions virtual receptionists are capable of handling. They’ll record the answers and, based on your instructions, either flag them as a good potential client or as a “bad” lead.
3. Intake new clients
The “good” leads then get processed.
That should either happen through an intake form built within your CRM or other case/practice management software, or through your calendaring software. The receptionists complete the fields in the intake form, which gets turned into a new client record.
At any point after a lead is qualified, a live transfer to you (or a partner or associate at your firm) is possible. If an attempt is made and fails, the fallback solution is to let the receptionist continue with intake or schedule a call-back appointment on your (or your colleague’s) calendar.
4. Book appointments (with & without payment)
Whether it’s a call-back or a new client consult, your receptionists can schedule the appointment directly on your calendar, so all your systems are in sync.
Never settle for a post-call summary that needs to be copied and pasted into your calendar from your email or a text message. Automated workflows should be in place so chores like that are minimized.
If you charge for consultations, payment can be accepted over the phone and input securely in your system. LawPay, TrialPay, PayPal, and other solutions offer easily embeddable website scripts, calendar and CRM integrations, and notifications, so revenue is promptly captured and reliably tracked.
5. Monetize your bad leads
What about the leads who aren’t qualified? Refer them and earn a sizeable fee. Based on your directions and custom referral list, virtual receptionists can provide contact information to lawyers you recommend who are better suited to serving that potential client’s needs.
Choosing the right virtual receptionist service
It’s important to note that not every live answering service offers lead qualification, new client intake, and referrals. Make sure you ask about these features when shopping around.
What’s special about Smith.ai?
Smith.ai virtual receptionists offers all of these services. Professional, U.S.-based receptionists answer, transfer, and return calls during business hours, freeing you up to practice law, network, write articles, and do everything else that no one but you can do.
What’s with the “ai” in the name? That stands for “artificial intelligence,” and it powers the following features:
- Automatic spam blocking of 20 million numbers
- Live call transfer requests via SMS and Slack
- Easy status changes via SMS (e.g., text “Do Not Disturb” when you arrive at court)
- Instant call notes via email, SMS, or Slack
Unlike most live answering services, billing is per-call, not per-minute. Leads who need to explain their case in detail? New clients who need to complete an intake form? Clients who need to track down their credit card to book a consult? These calls can take 5 to 10 minutes. You get consistent billing when you’re charged per-call.
- Inbound & outbound calls
- Lead capture & qualification
- Appointment scheduling & reminders
- Customized call handling procedures
- Coverage Monday to Friday, 6AM to 6PM PST / 9AM to 9PM EST
- Call screening, prioritization, and VIP lists
- Instant call summaries and end-of-day reports
- Voicemails transcribed and sent to email or SMS
With plans starting at $60/month, law firms get the experience and quality of an in-house receptionist at a small fraction of the price.
Here’s what one of our long-time clients had to say:
“I am extremely pleased. The ease of use, reasonable cost, and very professional staff have made this one of my best business decisions of the past year.”
– Kevin Levine, immigration attorney
Get started with a free trial and $50 off
Black Fin users get $50 off their first month with code BF50. This code can be used in combination with Smith.ai’s 30-day/10-call free trial.
Questions about virtual receptionists? Looking for more best practices? Smith.ai support can offer guidance so you implement the most efficient and effective workflow from the start. Contact Smith.ai Monday through Friday between 6 AM and 6 PM PST at (650) 727-6484 or [email protected].