Answering services for lawyers allow attorneys and law firms to focus on what they are good at — representing their clients. Virtual receptionists and answering services can handle the task of answering lawyer phone calls and making sure that your client's calls are answered, and more importantly, that new client calls are answered and handled professionally. In this guide you will learn:
Law firm answering services
Why would a law firm need an answering service? Lots of reasons!
While lawyers are famous for working long hours, they are generally not working 24/7. Many client issues, however, do come up late at night when lawyers and their staff are home with their families or sleeping. Car crashes, lawsuits, arrests, and many other legal issues happen around the clock.
Calls may come from existing clients. Those calls may not need to be answered right away (existing clients can leave a message after hours and usually can wait until normal business hours for a response). But some of those calls may be emergencies and need a response.
Other calls can come from prospective new clients. Those calls can be highly valuable. A new client can be worth thousands of dollars in billings for a law firm, and it is extremely important to give a prospective new client a good first experience. Having to leave a voice mail message does not typically give the best first impression.
It is simply not practical for lawyers to staff their front desk to answer calls at all hours.
It's also not practical to expect that the lawyers themselves will answer the phones. The average hourly billing rate for a lawyer in the United States in 2022 is $300 (but many lawyers bill 2x or 3x that amount!). A lawyer needs to spend her time billing, not answering phones.
For many firms, the answer to this dilemma is to hire a professional answering service. A good legal answering service can provide a great first impression to prospective new clients. It can also triage phone calls from existing clients to determine if a call really is an emergency and, if it is, make sure that the attorney is notified to handle the emergency.
How do attorney answering services work?
Here's how attorney answering services work. Once you have found a good one, you'll be onboarded onto their systems so that your incoming phone calls are routed to their systems. If you want them to answer your calls only after hours, you'll set up your phone to roll over to their phone systems after hours and on weekends. If you want them to answer all of your calls, you may roll all phone calls from your main phone number to their system.
Next, you will need to give them instructions about how to answer and handle your calls. This includes
- How should the virtual legal receptionist answer the calls? (what message should they read?)
- How should the virtual legal receptionist take messages? Voicemail? Enter details into a CRM or other system?
- What legal calls should be considered emergencies?
- If there's a legal emergency, who should the virtual legal receptionist contact?
- How should the virtual legal receptionist make contact? Email? Phone? Text?
- What kind of reports do you want to see? Daily call summaries? Weekly?
Once you've defined the rules for how the lawyer answering service should handle your calls, the virtual legal receptionists can go to work answering them. The process for getting set up can be quite smooth with a good service.
How to choose a lawyer answering service
Once you choose a great answering service for your law firm, chances are, you will stick with them for years. It is very important that you choose a service that is a good fit for your law firm's needs.
Let's put it in legal terms… you need to do your due diligence when picking the right lawyer answering service.
Here are a few of the questions you may want to get answers to:
- Pricing. How much does the answering service cost? How do you bill (by the call? by the minute?) Explain your pricing in detail.
- Experience. This is really important for lawyer answering services. You need to find out how experienced they are at legal call answering. Do they understand your practice area? If they are going to be performing any client intake calls, do they have experience in your area?
- Coverage. Do you answer phones 24/7? What about holiday coverage?
- Language. (if you have bilingual needs) Do you have virtual legal receptionists that speak [language]? Are they available 24/7? Holidays? Is there an extra charge for bilingual virtual legal receptionists?
- Technology. How do you protect the confidentiality of my calls? Do you record calls? What are your data retention policies? What about personally identifiable information (“PII”)? Is it treated properly?
- Service Levels. What are your service level commitments? How can I be comfortable knowing that the answering service is functioning at all hours of the day and that calls are not dropped or ignored?
These are just a few of the questions you will want to ask each answering service before you hire them to answer your law firm calls. If you want a more detailed guide to picking the right law firm answering service, contact us to receive a free copy of the 20 Questions to ask an Answering Service Provider.
How much do attorney answering services cost?
Attorney answering service costs range widely depending on the level of service provided. We surveyed almost 20 different answering service providers to generate a comparison of answering service costs, and found the following answering service cost information:
- The average price for a 500 minute answering service plan was $795.
- The average cost for additional minutes was $1.60.
- Some companies offer free trials of legal answering services
Prices vary widely, and you will need to do your research. If you need assistance in picking the right law firm answering service, contact us.