Every call to a law firm is critical – it could be your next big client.
Missing even one of these incoming calls is a problem. What if that potential client, frustrated by the delay or missed calls, dials your competitor next?
Call answering services for lawyers can be a game changer for law firms that don’t have the budget for a full-time in-house receptionist but want to increase conversion rates, productivity, and efficiency.
A law firm answering service is your 24/7 receptionist, skilled in your legal niche, lead qualification, appointment juggling, and potentially even fluent in multiple languages.
In this article, we’ll outline what a virtual receptionist service is, what it does, the benefits of using one, and key features to look out for.
We’ll also review 8 of the best tools on the market to help you choose the right option for your firm.
Let’s get started.
What Is a Legal Answering Service?
A law firm answering service is an outsourced customer service option that handles incoming (and sometimes outbound) calls from prospective clients while you’re unavailable to take them. Your prospects speak to a real person, not an AI or pre-recorded message.
Though specialties and capabilities vary, at the most basic level, these services can schedule appointments, qualify leads, and perform client intake-related processes for you.
Call answering services ensure that, even if you’re unavailable, your present and future clients are looked after with a more knowledgeable and hands-on service than a standard after-hours message.
Call services are a crucial part of practice management, helping you improve client conversion, retention, and satisfaction while saving time and money.
The 4 Advantages of Legal Call Answering Services
As an attorney, you’re always looking for ways to optimize your practice and stay ahead of your competition.
Let’s dive into these in more detail:
24/7 availability for client phone calls
You must be available for your clients – especially if it’s a particularly time-sensitive case or a case involving clients in different time zones.
Offering round-the-clock reception support could be your practice’s competitive advantage against others in your area.
When 42% of potential clients choose to hire the first lawyer they speak with, having a real person on the line at all hours of the day maximizes your intake and client retention.
Enhanced client experience
An answering service can help you deliver world-class support to clients where they always receive quality customer service over the phone – and never have to put up with a pre-recorded message or creepy robot.
While AI client service tools are constantly improving, 86% of people still prefer the genuine experience of talking to another human.
However, this doesn’t mean we need to employ an in-house receptionist and invest in training them.
By using customized scripts and intake processes tailored to your brand, practice area, and case types, an attorney answering service ensures callers receive accurate services.
Cost-effective for your firm
A call answering service can save your firm money by eliminating the need for hiring, training, and managing an in-house reception team – while also maximizing the amount of time attorneys spend with clients, improving satisfaction and retention rates.
Most services provide flexible pricing plans catered to various budgets and needs.
Standard payment options include per call, per minute, per month, or project – so you’re only paying for what you use, as opposed to a salary or hourly rate for an employee regardless of how many new clients they get you.
Most importantly, a legal answering service can help your firm generate more revenue.
A study found that 45% of legal firms spend money on remarketing to follow up with leads that didn’t become customers.
By using an answering service, you can save this expense by converting more leads into clients from the initial interaction, helping improve client retention.
Save time and increase productivity and profitability
Time is your most valuable asset.
Using a legal answering service can save you time and boost your productivity by handling essential routine tasks on your behalf.
With professionals handling call answering, message-taking, appointment scheduling, call transferring, and client intake, you can focus on billable work.
Integrating a legal call answering service with your existing software, such as your CRM, calendar, and client portal, for seamless updating of client information and tracking call activity. By streamlining your workflow, your law firm operates more efficiently.
Some legal answering services also help you follow up with online or phone inquiries and reach out to prospective clients.
Services like Smith.ai can effectively increase conversion rates by 53% by automating their customer’s sales outreach and ensuring all inquiries are responded to as quickly as possible.
How to Choose the Right Call Answering Service for Law Firms
Selecting a top-notch attorney answering service demonstrates your commitment to offering excellent client support.
Here are three things you need to do when choosing one:
- Compare pricing and plans
- Read reviews and testimonials
- Assess your needs
Let’s talk about each of these in more detail.
Compare pricing and plans
Keep in mind that the cheapest isn’t always the best because your reputation is at stake.
As mentioned above, consider the ROI of having a high-quality call answering service. The price you pay would be more than justified if it enables you to acquire a consistent number of clients each month.
Here are four factors to consider:
|Type of pricing model
|Per-call pricing offers predictability, charging only for relevant calls.
Per-minute pricing varies based on call length/complexity, offering flexibility and customization.
|Number of minutes or calls included
|Different plans include varying amounts of minutes or calls monthly. Estimate monthly call volume, select a suitable plan, and be aware of overage fees or discounts for unused minutes/calls.
|Features and services offered
|Services can vary, including features like 24/7 availability, bilingual receptionists, appointment scheduling, intake forms, CRM or client portal integration, and call recording.
|Quality and expertise of the receptionists
|Seek reviews, testimonials, and referrals, or personally test the service.
You can expect to pay about $250 monthly on the low end. Around $1,600 is the upper end of the scale.
Read reviews and testimonials
Reading reviews, testimonials, and case studies from other law firms helps you evaluate the performance and reputation of an answering service.
While there are multiple platforms that review call answering services a lot of them are sponsored, so we suggest you focus on customer reviews from Trustpilot, Reddit, and legal-related forums – and then verify your initial judgments with appraisals from credible sources like online platforms, industry publications, or professional associations.
This approach helps you spot sponsored reviews and avoid making decisions based on biased, paid-for opinions.
Remember to look for reviews from lawyers in your niche, i.e., look for personal injury law firm reviews if you’re a personal injury lawyer trying to understand how virtual receptionists handle your type of inquiries.
Assess your needs
Of course, what you need from a virtual receptionist service depends on what’s required to handle incoming phone calls at your practice, the gaps in your current capacity, and what your prospective clients expect.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What are my peak call hours?
- What types of calls do I receive?
- How do I want emergency calls handled?
- Am I looking for basic message-taking or to offload many of my intake processes?
- What security measures are non-negotiable?
- Do I require integration with my calendar or practice management tools?
- What volume of calls do I anticipate?
- What level of customization do I need?
- What legal compliance regulations apply to my practice?
- Do I need help with processing payments?
These questions help you identify your law firm’s specific needs and priorities, allowing you to select an answering service that best serves your practice and your clients.
Expert tips on assessing your needs:
- Remember to log in to your Google Ads account and see a breakdown of your call information. Here, you’ll be able to easily gather data on peak days and hours for customer calls.
- To make a more data-driven decision, install and use call tracking software before deciding on your needs for a law firm answering service.3.. Always request demos or trial months to make sure you’re happy before committing to a long-term contract.
Essential Features to Look for in a Law Firm Answering Service
Finding a solution that meets your specific needs and expectations can be a daunting task.
To help you out, we’ve outlined the features to look out for:
Let’s talk about each of these in more detail.
Customizable call handling
Customizable call handling gives you control over how the service answers calls for your practice based on the specific needs of your clients and the approach your law firm takes to these conversations.
Custom call handling might involve you providing defined processes, such as:
- Custom call scripts ensure that the answering service is consistent with your firm’s brand voice.
- Call screening means your provider can prioritize and screen calls based on their importance or urgency, ensuring critical issues are handled immediately.
- Call routing and call forwarding help in directing incoming calls to the appropriate attorney, especially important if you work in a large law firm handling many different types of cases.
If you’re a smaller firm, you might only need a legal answering service to step in when you’re busy, so control over when and how this happens is also crucial.
One-person legal teams like Tyra Law might want to retain a personal connection with potential clients without sacrificing time spent on existing clients, so services like Ruby enable flexibility when the service steps in to take calls.
Onboarding and integration capabilities
An answering service is only helpful to you if it offers an easy onboarding process and seamless software integrations with your CRM, calendar, billing software, and emails.
Without evaluating the integrations offered, you could end up with a service that creates more work rather than less.
If they don’t integrate with your CRM, you’ll still need to transfer existing client details from the previous month’s calls into your practice management system – a waste of time!
The same goes for ease of onboarding; ideally, you’re not required to take extensive hours away from your caseload to oversee the handover.
Reputable answering services discuss integrations on their website – and in your initial conversations, be sure to ask them how long it takes to onboard and what’s involved.
Bilingual or multilingual support
For law firms serving bilingual or multilingual clients, it makes business sense to ensure that your answering service can cater to all of your prospective clients.
Say, for example, you’re working at Grillo Law and serve clients in two languages, English and Chinese. Potential customers see your dual-language website and immediately expect to be able to speak to your team in both languages. If they pick up the phone and no one can speak Chinese, then they’ll be extremely disappointed and perceive your site as highly misleading.
Requiring multilingual receptionists does reduce your pool of options, but luckily, there are services available that can provide this. The best choices for virtual receptionist services offering bilingual receptionists are:
We’ll review each of these services later in this article.
Effective attorney answering services take care of lead qualification so you’re time is only spent serving valuable clients – not evaluating potential prospects.
By following your script and taking the time to learn about your ‘ideal’ client profile, your service provider can accurately determine which cases are the right fit for your practice – and even assign them to the appropriate attorney on your team.
By specializing in your legal field and understanding legal terminology, your provider can make nuanced decisions and provide exceptional customer service.
For example, legal virtual receptionists have well-trained staff answering complex legal calls, so their clients in complex niches like surrogacy law have peace of mind that client intake is handled tactfully.
Evaluating lead qualification isn’t just about saving you hours on the phone but upholding your firm’s reputation with specialist virtual receptionists.
Confidentiality and data security
Client information must be handled with the utmost care. It’s wise to look at what your law firm answering service says about:
- Encrypted data transmission
- Secure storage of data
- Restricted access protocols
Your firm’s reputation is at stake here, so only outsource to a specialized service that’s well-versed in legal compliance regarding your prospective client’s personal data.
This is especially useful for law firms handling cases in multiple states and time zones – you don’t want to be handling emergency calls outside of regular business hours.
24/7 availability means you can capture every opportunity that comes your way, without sacrificing your work-life balance.
8 Top Law Firm Answering Services
We’ve evaluated the best virtual receptionist providers in the legal industry to help you evaluate a law firm answering service for your practice.
Here are our eight top picks:
Smith.ai is a virtual receptionist that works across many industries.
Its advanced technology offers compatibility with numerous software, technical support services, and extra communication channels like web chat and text messaging. Of all the other services we outline in this post, Smith.ai has the best technology.
Some features you can benefit from include:
- Live answering and web chat by US-based receptionists
- Scheduling appointments and payment processing
- CRM and calendar integration
- Bilingual receptionists and translation services
- Spam blocking and call screening
- Voicemail transcription and call recording
Smith.ai offers flexible pricing plans for its services depending on whether you need basic or more hands-on support. Consider these packages (pricing is valid from October 2023):
- $255 per month for 30 calls: Ideal for solo practitioners and small law firms
- $675 per month for 90 calls: Suitable for growing teams
- $1,170 per month for 180 calls: Perfect for established organizations
For large law firms, you can also ask about custom enterprise pricing to get a tailored solution.
Nexa offers virtual receptionist and call center services tailored to law firms of all sizes. Like Smith.ai, it also caters to other niches.
Some of the most important features include:
- 24/7 live chat answered by professional agents
- Custom call scripting and routing
- Lead qualification and intake
- Appointment scheduling and confirmation
- CRM and software integrations
- Bilingual agents and translation services
- Call reporting and analytics
Here’s something to keep in mind: Unlike Smith.ai, Nexa doesn’t publish its pricing on its website. If transparency is important to you, then you’ll probably consider this a downside.
However, Nexa mentions they have a low-tier plan covering 100 call minutes, making them a great option if you have a relatively low call volume. Just reach out to find out more.
3. Lex Reception
Unlike the previous two providers, Lex Reception caters specifically to lawyers and law firms, which is a particular advantage if you don’t want to have to explain legal terminology.
Lex Reception integrates with many popular law practice management software and CRM platforms like HubSpot. It also has its own video conferencing service that allows lawyers to meet with clients and prospects online.
They offer the following services:
- Virtual receptionist
- Chat support
- Scheduling appointments
- Client intake
- Making outbound calls from your business phone number
Lex Reception’s pricing starts at $325/month for 150 minutes.
Voted as the Best Answering Service for 2023 by Forbes, AnswerConnect provides businesses with a 24/7 live answering service.
AnswerConnect’s service integrates with many popular platforms, such as Google Calendar, Salesforce, Shopify, WordPress, and Zapier. It also offers a mobile app and a web portal for easy access and management of the service.
AnswerConnect specializes in the following services:
- Virtual receptionist
- Chat support
- Lead capture
- Appointment scheduling
- Order taking
In terms of pricing, they start at $325/month for 200 minutes. There’s also a $49.99 set-up fee.
Ruby is rated one of the best virtual receptionist services, providing 24/7 live phone and chat support, lead capture, scheduling appointments, and more.
Ruby works with businesses of all sizes and industries, from legal to healthcare to e-commerce. They’re also among the best virtual receptionist providers if you have the budget (see pricing below).
Agents at Ruby offer the following services:
- Answering phones
- Provide chat support
- Capture leads
- Schedule appointments
- Place outbound calls
Ruby’s excellent reputation is reflected in the pricing, which is higher than most other virtual receptionist services we’ve evaluated.
Pricing is based on the number of minutes used per month. They have four plans to choose from (pricing is valid from October 2023):
- $230 for 50 minutes
- $365 for 100 minutes
- $660 for 200 minutes
- $1,595 for 500 minutes
6. Back Office Betties
Back Office Betties are your best option if you want a more bespoke operation that focuses on getting to know you and your clients personally, providing you with more hands-on services.
They specialize in providing the best virtual receptionists and assistants for law firms. They position themselves as “behind-the-scenes legal superheroes” who handle administrative work, allowing legal professionals like you to focus on practicing law.
They offer the following primary services:
- Virtual receptionist
- Chat support
- Lead capture
- Appointment scheduling
- Outbound calls
- Custom phone numbers
Back Office Betties also offer an attractive “no hold guarantee.” This means they’ll never place your calls on hold to grab another call!
7. Answering Legal
Answering Legal specializes in the legal industry. Catering to law firms of various sizes and practice areas, they offer a 24/7 call answering service.
Their service not only provides live answering but also appointment scheduling, lead capturing, call analytics, message taking, and bilingual support.
Their comprehensive suite of services includes:
- Legal intake
- Overflow call handling
- After-hours answering
- Call forwarding and patching
- Advanced call forwarding logic
- SMS and email notifications
Although their pricing is not available on their website (you have to contact them), AnsweringLegal offers 400 minutes for free via an offer for new clients.
Finally, Answering Legal has an excellent reputation, as evidenced by its impressive 4.8/5 rating on Trustpilot, based on over 70 reviews.
8. Voice Link
With more than 30 years of experience, Voice Link provides professional telecommunication solutions to law firms like yours, offering 24/7 live customer service support.
Their features include:
- 24/7 availability
- Live customer service specialists
- Order entry
- Toll-free access numbers
- Dealer locator & referral
- Secure mobile app
As of October 2023, pricing is unavailable on their website.
An exciting feature of Voice Link’s service is its secure mobile app, which provides an efficient way to manage communications on the go.
A Law Firm Answering Service Can Help You Make a Great First Impression
First impressions last. An attorney answering service can make or break your firm’s image.
You need a call answering service that makes an excellent first impression, understands your legal niche, and follows your client intake process to the letter.
Now that you know what a law firm answering service is, the benefits of using such a service, and the top providers, you can start taking proactive steps to set one up for your firm.
If you need help boosting your digital presence, remember that dNOVO experts are on hand to help you set up and optimize your client intake and marketing efforts.
Legal Virtual Receptionist Service FAQs
Here are five of the most commonly asked questions people have about a lawyer answering service.
How much does a virtual receptionist cost?
The cost of legal virtual receptionists varies
You can find services charging monthly rates or offering pay-per-minute or pay-per-call plans, but you can expect to pay about $250 per month on the low end and around $1,600 at the upper end.
What are three duties a virtual receptionist can perform?
Here are three of their typical duties:
- Call handling: Receptionists can answer phone calls professionally, ensuring your legal clients get the assistance they need.
- Scheduling: These professionals can manage your calendar, schedule appointments, and arrange client consultations.
- Client intake: The best receptionists can conduct initial client interviews, collect necessary information, and qualify potential leads based on your firm’s many intake-related processes.
What are the disadvantages of a virtual receptionist?
Here are their three drawbacks:
- Limited human interaction: Virtual receptionists may lack the personal touch and nuanced decision-making that an in-house staff member can provide.
- Confidentiality concerns: Client information is being handled externally, which increases third-party risks.
- Technical issues: There may be technical problems with the service, impacting communication with clients.
What is the difference between a virtual receptionist and a virtual assistant?
A virtual receptionist specializes in phone communication and tasks like answering calls, scheduling, etc. A virtual assistant offers a broader range of administrative support, including document management, email management, and other tasks.
What is the difference between a call center and an answering service?
A call center is generally used by high-volume law firms to handle their outbound and inbound calls, usually in the context of sales, customer service, or legal support for a particular company.
A call answering service is used by legal firms of all sizes and has a primary focus on tailored services like call handling, scheduling, and lead intake.