Many law firms hire in-house receptionists to handle incoming calls. While they may do an excellent job answering the phone, they might not have the sufficient experience, bandwidth, time, or resources to arrange a top-notch intake process that captures and converts potential new clients around-the-clock.

The primary alternatives to in-house receptionists are voicemail, virtual assistants, generic answering services, and legal call centers with intake specialists. Each has a unique set of advantages and disadvantages.

1. Voicemail

The key benefit of using voicemail is its availability. Legal clients tend to call around the clock with urgent issues. Even dedicated in-house receptionists can’t be available for intake 24/7/365, unless your firm staffs receptionists for after normal business hours, which can be costly.

Voicemail records messages, so they are available to legal experts upon their return to the office. However, availability aside, voicemail comes with a variety of disadvantages:

  • Lack of urgency — voicemail makes your law firm appear unresponsive. Legal clients usually want an immediate reaction to their urgent issue. When they hear a voicemail message, they are unlikely to try calling again.
  • Shopping around — voicemail can’t stop the client from shopping around. Just the opposite, the absence of a personalized response is likely to frustrate callers and force them to look for other options. The ability to leave a message is much less inspiring than hearing a human voice ready and able to help.
  • Privacy issues — people often don’t trust their personal information to voicemail. In many cases, they are more likely to share something during a private conversation than to leave a message on the machine.

While voicemail is a better solution than leaving clients without a way to contact you during the off-hours, it doesn’t achieve satisfactory client intake results.

2. Virtual Assistant

Due to the pandemic, the number of virtual assistants is growing rapidly. Many companies are hiring these specialists for various assignments, including virtual front desk tasks. The key benefit of working with a virtual receptionist is complying with social distancing regulations and CDC guidelines.

However, hiring such an assistant can be accompanied by several problems:

  • Call overflow — one virtual assistant can’t handle a big influx of calls. As a result, many clients hear a voicemail message or a busy signal. Hiring several virtual receptionists to handle all calls in a timely manner can be costly.
  • Incompetence — since the COVID-19 pandemic landed millions of people at home, many of them are looking for remote work. Without a proper background check and an in-person interview, it can be tough to find qualified assistance. Not to mention, the person handling intake for your firm should be trained and experienced in the legal industry.
  • Security issues — virtual assistants may need to handle sensitive and private information. A lack of properly secured hardware and software could make this data vulnerable to hackers.

A virtual assistant is a better choice than voicemail. However, the quality of such call intake is often less than satisfactory.

3. Generic Answering Service

A generic answering service can handle overflow and after-hours coverage since it gives you access to numerous agents. It’s also less expensive than hiring in-house intake experts.

However, using a non-specialized answering service comes with several disadvantages.

  • Insufficient experience — these agents usually have to answer phones for multiple industries. They tend to have superficial knowledge about all industries, instead of an in-depth understanding of each company’s needs.
  • Lack of special skills — individuals answering calls for law firms require special skills to understand each potential client’s problem and move them down the sales funnel. A generic answering service is unlikely to provide agents with extensive training and experience in legal terminology, empathy and psychology, and call control.

Improperly answered calls can sometimes leave a worse impression than being sent to voicemail. In the legal industry, one lost lead can cost tens of thousands in potential revenue. That’s why leaving your client intake in the hands of agents with little legal knowledge is risky at best.

4. Legal Intake Center

Outsourcing your firm’s intake to a legal intake center solves the social distancing issue while providing a variety of benefits:

  • Expertise — only highly and continuously trained legal intake specialists answer calls and respond to inquiries from your prospects and clients to ensure professional assistance.
  • Flexibility — top-notch legal call centers make sure no prospects fall through the cracks. If a call is abandoned, they use a caller ID to get back to the client. When a lead calls, they answer in under three rings.
  • Efficiency — top-notch intake specialists can take leads from contact to contract, often in a single phone call, with e-sign options. Additionally, legal call centers use CRM/case management systems to track leads and push them down the sales funnel.

Choosing the Right Option for Your Law Firm

Working with a legal answering service isn’t just a cost-efficient way to replace an in-house receptionist; this partnership can greatly increase your firm’s marketing return on investment, improve your conversion rates, and increase customer satisfaction.

Choosing the best legal call center for your law firm’s needs can be tough. Learn what questions to ask when you download our free eBook,  “Top 10 Questions Law Firms Ask When Hiring a Call Center.”