What’s the biggest challenge your law firm faces today? More than 25% of law firms recently surveyed by Thomas Reuters Solo and Small Law Firms said its most significant problem is growing their firms. If you manage a law firm, the survey finding probably comes as no surprise.
Growing your firm—no matter what type of law you practice you have—is critical. No doubt about it. It’s key to surviving and thriving in the future. Savvy law firm partners and sole practitioners know this. That’s why they put so much emphasis on adding new clients.
However, adding new clients is no picnic. You face intense competition for clients. Many firms have more marketing firepower than you. They can do things you cant. Plus, adding clients takes time and effort away from pending cases, cutting down on billable hours. What’s their secret to growing your firm under these conditions? Shaunna Bryce, a nationally recognized attorney, and consultant says a firm’s chances of adding potential clients to its roster hinges on how it handles clients and potential clients.
Treat them professionally and your chances of adding them skyrockets. Treat them unprofessionally and your chances of adding them dwindle. Put another way; you need to provide outstanding customer service regardless of the circumstances—whether you’re dealing with a client or a potential client.
Below we look at how hiring a legal office answering service can help you provide outstanding service and grow your law firm dramatically. The article addresses the following topics:
• Critical challenges law firms face today
• What an answering service is
• Benefits of a legal office answering firm
• Steps to using an answering service effectively
• What you can expect to pay for an answering service
When you finished reading the article, you’ll have a clear idea of how a 24-hour a day live answering service can help you grow your practice and survive and thrive in the future.
Law firms face many challenges to growth in the upcoming years. Overall, says a recent Altman Weil Firms in Transition survey, the legal industry will grow modestly, if at all, in 2019 and beyond. Factors driving this slow pace of growth include:
Additional factors impacting growth, the Altman survey says, are an aging workforce, a growing competitive landscape, and a continued increased in operational expenses. These factors have already created a new landscape in the legal industry and will continue to shape its future going forward.
Also, law firms continue to face added competition from alternative legal service providers, like industry consultants, and the growth of in-house legal departments. Both factors will intensify competition among legal firms for new business.
Meanwhile, accelerating technological innovation is putting late adopters in jeopardy while growing concerns for cybersecurity are casting a pall over the industry.
Given this outlook, it’s not surprising that savvy law firms are using any strategy to help them grow. One proven approach is hiring a live 24-hour call answering service.
Today’s answering services aren’t your father’s answering services. Back then, live answering services fielded clients calls and relayed messages only. In other words, they provided call center services. That’s changed.
These days they play a much more critical role in running a business efficiently. Today’s answering services, for example, provide live 24-hour answering capabilities, text messaging, appointment scheduling, bilingual answering, email response, and social media monitoring.
These services free you and your people to handle other critical activities, like working closely with clients, that can help grow firms and generate more business. Here are seven ways answering services help law firms grow:
Put another way, answering services can help your law firm come across to callers in the most professional light possible—especially when your in-house staff can’t get to the phones promptly. Reaching across to clients professionally can help you retain clients and add new ones.
But providing top-flight service to every client or potential client is a challenge. With so much going on at a firm—doing research, attending court, working with clients, and so on, firms sometimes fail to give clients all the attention they deserve.
A legal answering service can, however, can help you boost a caller’s impressions of both your commitment to service and your professionalism. Below are seven ways legal answering services can help you demonstrate professionalism and commitment to service:
• Provides 24-hour availability — Preparing for a case is hard work. It often requires burning the midnight oil. But receptionists and in-house administrators often leave at 5:00 pm. Live 24-hour answering service can relay critical messages to you after hours. That enables you to decide if you want to respond right away or later on.
• Offers a live human to callers — Callers hate automated messaging services. So, the last thing you want clients or prospective clients to do is to hear an automated message. While you or your people may be helping other clients, the caller hears “you’re not important enough for me to talk with about your case. Go somewhere else.”
• Stay connected anywhere — A legal answering service keeps you connected to your office anywhere, anytime. You don’t need to return to your office after court or client meetings to check messages. Callers will have a live agent relay the message to you, so you can stay connected anywhere you are.
• Services on-demand — Answering services are good options when your live receptionist is out, or your staff is too busy to respond to phone calls. A legal answering service can also help when your office experiences spike in calls, freeing your team to work on high priority tasks.
• Answers routine questions — What types of cases you handle, what’s your hourly rate, where are you located, and questions like these, are basic to nearly every law firm. While the information may be on your website, callers might not see it or have the time to consult your site. A legal answering service can answer these questions expeditiously and professionally.
• Preempt the competition — Sometimes, prospective clients are in a hurry to get the ball rolling. They don’t want to leave a phone message or a call back number. You cannot afford to missed calls from potential customers. They want to talk to someone NOW. So, they’ll do business with the first firm that has a live person answering the phone. Respond quickly to these callers and chances are good they’ll choose you instead of the competition.
• Create a reliable partnership — By working closely with an answering service, you’ll create a productive relationship with a knowledgeable partner. This entity knows what types of calls you and your staff like to get immediately, like when opposing counsel on a big case calls or the judge on major case phones. They’ll also know how you want to respond in critical circumstances.
These are just some of the ways an answering service can communicate your commitment to service and your professionalism—two critical factors that can drive new business to your firm and help you add new clients to the fold.
Every law firm is different. Some are extremely busy. Others are not quite so busy. Whatever the case, the cost of hiring a legal answering service is different. The best answering services, however, can help boost customer service and pump up sales, so they provide a high return on investment.
Call volume and service type are significant factors in determining the overall cost of an answering service. The more calls you get, the more it will cost you. That goes without saying. Service is also critical.
For example, if you want a legal answering service that just answers calls, that’s one cost. If you wish to an answering service that provides more than that’s another cost altogether. It’s what you think your firm needs.
The service you select depends on your firm’s internal needs. So before deciding on what a legal firm answering service will cost, you first need to determine your needs. Once you’ve done that, determining answering service costs is much easier.
Other factors impacting answering service costs include:
Another factor to consider is how the answering service will charge you. It can charge you in several ways—pay by the minute, pay by phone, or per message sent to you. Also, find out about additional charges. Don’t be fooled by low-cost per call or cost per minute rate headlines.
Once you’ve determined your costs, compare it to the cost of hiring a full-time receptionist. You might be surprised how cost-effective hiring a legal office answering service is. You might also find that if you’re a small law firm facing the challenge of growing, hiring answering services can help level the playing field dramatically.