Our team of virtual receptionists answer thousands of calls for different law firms every day. In order to prepare our receptionists for their jobs, we designed a months-long training program. Before they ever pick up the phone for a law firm, our virtual receptionists take practice phone calls, participate in roleplays, and learn from tutorials on everything from general phone etiquette to legal intake.
Of course, attorneys don’t usually have months to prepare their receptionists to answer the phone. That’s why below we’ve collected tips to help direct your own training for your law firm’s receptionist. We hope the expertise we’ve gathered over the years we’ve spent training our virtual receptionists will help make your own training that much easier.
Basic Guidelines For Training Your Receptionist
We train our receptionists for months to be able to answer for any of our firms. Luckily for you, you only need to train your receptionist to answer for your firm. Still, our training process is a good starting point for your own. When every caller could have a wildly different reason for calling, your receptionist needs to be ready to deal with a wide range of situations. If you’d like to learn more about our training process, click here for a step-by-step look.
The first thing you need to do is to outline goals for your training process. Clear communication of your objectives will ensure that your receptionist understands where they should improve and how to focus their attention. Beyond those first steps, practicing phone calls is a great way to both have the opportunity to coach your receptionist and to see how their training is going. And, of course, your receptionist should be very familiar with your legal intake process.
You should remember to check in regularly as well, to celebrate big wins, such as when your receptionist plays a key role in securing an important client. But remember that training is a constant process, and you should always be ready to provide additional guidance and training when your receptionist is struggling.
Now that we’ve covered some of the basics, let’s go in-depth on how best to prepare your receptionist for their job.
Your Receptionist Should Strive To Provide A Positive Experience To Every Caller
Every caller could have a different reason for dialing your firm. It could be anything from getting clarity on their situation, understanding your firm better, or, of course, hiring you. Every call, however, is an opportunity to provide a positive experience to the caller, which is both a goal in its own right and will result in better reviews for your firm.
One of the most common things callers want is to speak to you, the attorney, right away. Obviously, that’s not always possible. That’s why you need to prepare your receptionist to establish expectations and explain protocols, in order to alleviate your new leads’ impatience.
Your new clients should never be left in the dark as to next steps and how your new relationship will work overall.
Clio’s research in their 2019 Legal Trends Report found that 70 percent of legal consumers want a clear understanding of the legal process and what to expect before deciding whether or not to hire a firm.
Other, less straightforward calls can still result in positive experiences. If you have a specific specialization in your practice area, your receptionist might be able to steer callers in the right direction without giving legal advice.
For example, if you’re a family lawyer who specializes in custody cases, your receptionist might be able to let a caller whose case doesn’t involve custody that your firm isn’t the right fit. While you may not end up with that client, you would save your firm time and effort. And, if you have a referral network, you might be able to pass that client on to someone who can return the favor later.
Your Receptionist Should Have Your Intake Process Down
Legal intake will be a big part of your receptionist’s responsibilities. After all, your legal intake process is your first impression, your primary lead capturing tool, and the way you gather information about new clients. Your receptionist will be responsible for all that and more, and their performance will be your firm’s first impression.
That means your receptionist should be an expert on your legal intake process. The end goal of legal intake training is to make sure your receptionist is able to include the questions and information you need to know conversationally, as the prospective client details their legal issues.
Understanding The End Goal Of Legal Intake Training
Expertise is a key part of your legal intake. You need to come across as professional, well-informed, and friendly, which means your receptionist needs to as well. When a prospective client feels like they’re talking to a receptionist who knows their stuff, they’re much more likely to hire you.
In their 2019 Legal Trends Report, Clio’s analytics found that 45 percent of legal consumers found that their biggest issue was finding a firm they were confident was right for them, and that the most important criteria in that search was a lawyer’s expertise.
That means you should go over your legal intake process in detail with your receptionist. Practice it until they have it down, and are able to work questions into the conversation to obtain the information you need, all while making the caller feel heard.
All that practice will pay off. If your new leads feel like even your receptionist is an expert, they’ll be much more likely to hire you rather than finding another firm. As your receptionist becomes more familiar with your legal discipline, they’ll be able to provide new leads with guidance, and reach more mutually desired outcomes with all callers.
While your receptionist won’t need to have nearly the same level of expertise you do, there’s still plenty they’ll need to know to do their job well. A lot of this will come with time, but there are some steps to jumpstart the process.
Since your receptionist didn’t go to law school, they’re going to have questions about your practice area. You can create cheat sheets with brief explanations of terms specific to your practice area for them to reference while they’re learning. You should also make sure you’re ready to answer any questions they might have, and always be ready to continue training and reworking your legal intake if need be.
Your Receptionist Should Be Key To Your Firm’s Workflow
Finally, perhaps the most important key to successfully integrating your receptionist into your firm is developing an efficient, effective workflow that will save you time and capture clients. Your receptionist will be key to this workflow, so it’s important that they know it well. When everything is functioning at its best, your firm should perform like a well-oiled machine.
While each call is different, they can pretty easily be broken down into a handful of categories, with protocols and workflows established for each. There will, of course, be calls that aren’t easily categorized, and preparing your receptionist to improvise and handle calls they may not be specifically prepared for is important.
New Client Calls
New leads need a lot of attention, and you need to find a way to get back to them as soon as possible. Narrowing the gap between first contact and follow-up as much as possible will both make it more likely that you capture new clients and make it easier for your receptionist to be specific when addressing their concerns.
For example, if you make sure to get back to new leads within 24 hours, your receptionist can let them know when to expect a call back. It might be even better if your receptionist can schedule a follow-up call or consultation using your calendaring software.
The ever-changing world of legal tech has actually helped here.
Clio’s 2021 Legal Trends Report showed that while in-person meetings are still the most preferred method for first meetings, 70 percent of clients prefer to conduct that first meeting over the phone, and 58 percent would use a video conference.
A new client workflow might look like this:
- Collect information during legal intake and send via email, text, or other method
- Schedule a follow-up call as soon as possible, given your schedule
- Email educational materials as well as next steps to the new lead
- All the while, compiling all the information into a CRM
When every new lead gets this treatment, you’ll consistently secure new business. Your firm will operate more efficiently too, and you’ll find you have more time to devote to your actual legal work, rather than administrative or organizational tasks.
Existing Client Calls
Existing client concerns, on the other hand, are not nearly as urgent. Obviously, your clients’ experience after they hire you is still very important, and a key part of your receptionist’s role. Still, existing clients are often more patient, especially if you’ve done your due diligence and educated them on the process. If so, they’re much more likely to understand that you’re hard at work on their case, and can’t always get to the phone.
Therefore, it should be your receptionist’s goal to address existing clients’ concerns themselves if possible. If a client calls asking about a form they might need to fill out, or is following up with some requested information, your receptionist can very easily handle that themselves.
Here’s an example of what your existing client workflow can look like.
- Address the existing client’s concerns as much as possible themselves
- If not, give them a time frame during which they can expect a response from you, the attorney
- Either way, make a note in the client’s file and send a message describing the call to you
When you implement a workflow, you’ll save yourself time and attention while maintaining a focus on your client experience. Your existing clients know your time is valuable, but they’re the main focus of their own legal journey.
A survey of consumers conducted in 2019 found that the number one determining factor of consumer experience is effort.
The less effort a client has to put into their part of the attorney-client relationship, the better they’ll feel about your performance. Focusing on their experience and making it hassle-free will ensure their satisfaction, and, of course, their recommendations, reviews, and future business.
Eventually, your receptionist should be able to tell with reasonable certainty the callers who are probably not interested in hiring your firm anyway. Whether they’re tire-kickers, legal hypochondriacs, or price-checkers, there are plenty of situations where someone might not be calling to hire you.
That’s not to say that your receptionist shouldn’t try. Try to take down the call information of everyone who calls you so that even if they aren’t immediately interested in hiring you, you can reach out to them with marketing of some kind and try to convert them down the line.
Still, there are going to be calls that won’t ever end in hiring your firm, no matter what your receptionist does. Recognizing these calls is a skill in itself, and it’s not one that comes quickly.
Still, here are a few tips for sorting calls into these buckets, to save your firm time and effort:
- A great way to start a call is this simple but effective greeting: “Good morning/afternoon, you’ve reached the Law Office of Tom Lawyer. How can I help you today?” Some variation on this greeting will establish a friendly tone while still immediately determining the caller’s objective.
- The more vague a caller is, the more likely it is that they aren’t in urgent need of your legal help. Legal consumers are often anxious, in a hurry, and grateful to receive some help.
- No matter what, your receptionist should always keep a respectful and patient tone. You never know when the caller might need legal help, and even treating everyone who calls well is a sure-fire way to avoid negative reviews.
Putting It All Together
The first and most obvious step to perfecting your firm’s workflow is training your receptionist to implement it with every call. Developing it alongside your receptionist would make sure they get in on the ground floor and could provide a perspective that might lead to a more efficient firm. After all, they’ll be using that workflow all day every day; if they’re able to iterate upon it to provide the same results with less work or time, that will make things even easier as time goes on.
In the vein of making things easier, you should make sure your receptionist is always setting expectations for your callers. They should explain the process step-by-step to every caller. The easiest way to avoid negative experiences is to make sure your callers, whether they’re new leads or existing clients, understand what’s going on and know what to expect.
Finally, your workflow should be comprehensive but not all-encompassing. Your receptionist needs room to improvise and let their personality shine through. At the end of the day, your new leads are looking to feel better about their legal situation. A person going through the motions, or even someone who seems to be going through the motions, is the last thing they need.
In their 2021 Understanding the Legal Consumer report, legal software company Martindale-Avvo found that 30 percent of legal consumers listed a lawyer’s personality as one of the top three factors in their decision to hire an attorney.
That means your clients are looking for empathy, both from you, the attorney, and from your receptionist. When you focus on training your receptionist to provide that empathy, both new and existing client experience will improve. By leaving space to let your receptionist’s individuality shine, you’ll not only secure more business; you’ll become a better law firm to work with for all your clients.
Experience Answering Legal’s Expertise First-Hand
If you’d like some experts to supplement your receptionist while you’re training, need some virtual receptionists to answer on nights and weekends when your firm is closed, or else would like to skip the training process all together, we here at Answering Legal can help.
Our receptionists only answer for lawyers. That means they have the expertise to answer for your firm, and the know-how to do it exactly the way you want. After all, that’s why we have such a rigorous training process: to prepare them for anything answering for a law firm might entail.
Want to experience the product of our training process? Click here or call 631-686-9700 to sign up for our free trial. For a limited time, we’re offering firms that sign up with our service their first 400 minutes free.