As competition heats up in the legal market, many changes are taking place. There’s downsizing at big firms, a rapidly expanding group of new solos, and pressure to cut costs across the board. As a result, many firms are outsourcing non-essential functions like IT and other support staff. If you’re considering making the switch to a virtual receptionist service, there are some important considerations to make. This post takes a closer look at the pros and cons of a virtual receptionist service for a law firm.
Whether you’re downsizing and cutting costs, just going solo, or you’re thinking about becoming a fully virtual law firm, there are a number of reasons to consider using a virtual receptionist service. Here are a few of the pros and cons to be aware of before you make the switch:
Pros and Cons of a Virtual Receptionist Service
1. PRO: Fewer distractions
Phone calls always seem to come at the most inopportune times, just as you’re finding your groove and reaching your state of max productivity. It can be really distracting and make it hard to get things done.
When you’re not constantly tied to your phone, you have more time to focus on your work and fewer interruptions throughout the day. This can help give you a much needed productivity boost.
2. PRO: Appearance of professionalism
There’s a certain level of professionalism expected in the legal industry, and especially with client relationships. If you’re answering your own phone calls, it’s pretty clear that your law firm is a one-person operation.
Clearly, being a solo does not equate to being unprofessional. Many clients actually prefer to be able to get in touch with their lawyer directly, but for new potential clients that call the office, it may come off as less professional than being greeted by a friendly receptionist.
3. PRO: Screening out bad clients
Some clients’ legal matters are not a good fit, especially if you focus on a legal niche. Other clients are just downright hard to work with, and you should probably turn them away in the first place.
Having a receptionist answering calls is an excellent way to screen out clients that either don’t fall within your practice area, or just aren’t the type of people you’re interested in working with. This will save you from wasting your precious time consulting with these types of people and also save you from the headache of dealing with the wrong types of clients.
4. PRO: Cost effective
This is the big reason why most law firms make the decision to use a virtual receptionist as opposed to hiring someone in house. The cost savings can be enormous.
The average salary for a full time receptionist is probably at least $35-40K per year on the low end. And you pay that salary regardless of the actual amount of time they spend answering the phones.
When you hire a virtual receptionist, you only pay per minute of actual call time. You can probably imagine how much more affordable this will be, so if budget is a major factor, hiring a virtual receptionist instead of a real one is the way to go.
5. CON: Less personal touch
Having a personal touch with clients is one of the most important aspects of delivering exceptional law firm customer service. It shows clients that you genuinely care about them, which also important for getting more referrals.
If you’re a solo thinking of bringing on a virtual receptionist for the first time, the concern is that you’ll spend less time on the phone with your clients and lose a little bit of that personal touch. Just be sure that the virtual receptionist service is a reputable one and that their staff is friendly and can maintain the type of friendly demeanor and professionalism you would provide yourself.
6. CON: Communication barriers
Anytime you work with remote staff, there are bound to be communication issues that arise. This can be particularly problematic if something slips through the cracks regarding a client matter.
It’s very important that your virtual receptionist is on the same page as everyone else at the firm and has a firm understanding of how processes work. You will need to implement an effective and reliable communication system and make sure that you communicate regularly to avoid a disaster.
7. CON: Management hassles
Much like the potential communication barriers, management hassles can be a consequence of a remote working relationship. It’s difficult to oversee someone else’s work and ensure that they are providing top notch customer service to your clients when they are not physically present in your office.
You should ensure that the receptionist service has good reviews from their existing customers and collect your own feedback from clients as well. Also be sure to clearly set the expectations upfront and do frequent check ups.
8. CON: Potentially not worth the cost
Lastly, you need to decide if the cost is actually worth it. Hiring a virtual receptionist service is significantly less expensive than bringing someone in house, but it’s still not cheap. Maybe you don’t even need a receptionist at all.
If you’re a solo without a substantial volume of new clients, there are some benefits to answering all your own calls, as eluded to above. Your clients will appreciate the fact that you’re easy to get ahold of and you’ll be able to ensure consistency and professionalism in your demeanor and communications.
We hope you found these considerations useful and informative in your decision to make the switch to a virtual receptionist service at your law firm. If you are interested in learning more, we would recommend looking into Ruby Receptionist, which is well known and used by many small law firms. If you have other recommendations, feel free to add them in the comments below!