Swamped with work, many law practices eventually turn to an answering service to help them manage their constant stream of incoming calls from clients and potential clients.
High-quality answering services accept calls, answer questions, take messages, collect client information, and book appointments as if they were an in-office secretary who worked closely with the firm’s attorneys. This is an asset to busy team members who may otherwise struggle to tackle these calls on top of everything else they’re trying to do, especially since the calls come in at all hours of the day.
To receive these benefits, however, you need to find the right answering service. Law firms are typically particularly conscious of this due to the sensitive and confidential nature of many potential calls.
Interested in hiring an answering service to manage your incoming calls? Let’s take a look at how to find the right legal answering service for your practice.
1. Look for a Provider That Offers Specialized Answering Services
One of the first things you should pay attention to when talking to potential answer services is whether or not they offer specialized services.
Legal practices are complicated and nuanced, so you don’t want to hire an answering service that’s only experienced in retail assistance or tech support, for example. You want to find an agency that’s worked with clients exactly like you and has a proven track record.
Here at PATLive, we offer dedicated services for an array of legal specialties, including the following:
- Individual attorneys and lawyers, as well as practices
- Bankruptcy law
- Criminal lawyers
- Business lawyers
- Employment lawyers
- Estate planning
- Immigration law
- Family law
- Legal assistance services
- Personal injury law
- Real estate law
- Tax lawyers
- Traffic lawyers
- Wills and probate services
Those who offer specialized services are more useful to your business and are better able to handle diverse situations with callers.
2. Find a Service That Respects Confidentiality
Before making any decisions, ask your potential answering service provider how they handle confidential, secure information.
At PATLive, for example, we fully respect that many of our legal clients handle sensitive information on a daily basis. You can let us know exactly what you do and don’t want us to discuss with your clients, and how we can help you.
Some of our legal clients prefer that we strictly take messages and handle call routing, while others may ask us to collect more information from the client before booking appointments.
3. Choose an Provider That Offers 24/7/365 Coverage
Many attorneys deal with high-stakes, urgent matters fairly regularly. It’s also common that when potential clients are calling a lawyer’s office that they are looking to hire or speak to someone relatively quickly.
You want an answering service that is ready to help your current and potential clients, no matter what time of day or year they can.
Always look for an answering service that offers 24-hour a day, 7-days a week, 365-days a year coverage. You’ll never worry about missing a potential client, and the answering service will be able to help them until you’re able to do so the next day.
And if it’s ever anything truly urgent that you’ve alerted us to in advance, we’ll make sure we patch the individual through to you straight away.
4. Look for A Service that Does More than Just Call Routing
Some answering services are relatively bare-bones in terms of what they can do for you. They may be able to take messages, answer basic calls about hours of operation, and handle call forwarding.
You really want a service, however, that can be as effective as an in-office secretary would. High-quality answering services are able to book appointments, collect lead information (if you allow us to), process payments, and even integrate with the software you’re already using.
5. Consider Searching for a Bilingual Service
If any of your attorneys speak a second language and offer professional services in Spanish, you’ll want to ensure that the answering service you hire is fully capable of helping Spanish-speaking callers, too. This is almost a necessity in certain areas with high volumes of Spanish speakers, and it’s an enormous asset everywhere else.
If you’re unsure about an answer service’s potential, ask them directly, and clarify to ensure that any specialized legal services are available from Spanish-speaking agents, too.
6. Ensure That the Services Will Scale Well
You never know what the future holds, and plenty of legal practices at least entertain the idea of eventually growing their firm down the road.
If your legal practice grows, you want the answering service you’ve chosen to scale well with you. It’s why it’s essential to choose a scalable service upfront, even if you don’t need their full suite of services just yet.
Look for plans that allow for increased usage, charging you by the volume of talk time instead of simply requiring you to pay expensive retainers that only cover a set number of calls or minutes before they hit you with additional charges or fees.
Consider additional features you may need down the road, too. You may not need order processing from an answering service right now, but as your business grows, it may be more convenient to accept client payments over the phone. Think long-term when choosing a service that will benefit you for a long time to come.
Choosing the right answering service for your legal practice is a big decision, and it’s not one that you should make lightly. Carefully consider your current and future needs, and think about what kind of service could best serve both you and your clients.
As you’re doing research, always make sure to ask if they’ve worked with other law firms before, and ask to see testimonials if possible. And if you’re on the fence, always start with a free trial before jumping in headfirst; this will allow you to see how the agency actually works and ensure that it’s a good fit.