Capture leads, serve clients, and keep your law firm running smoothly.
Solo and small-firm attorneys attending TECHSHOW have one extra thing to consider while they’re out of the office—something that doesn’t affect those who work for big firms, universities, large associations, and other high-headcount organizations with ample front- and back-office support: When you’re at TECHSHOW, you’ll be in sessions, at parties, in meetings, networking, maybe even catching a few Chicago attractions. Days are densely packed. That means you’re unavailable. And you probably don’t have a backup.
Breaks before, during, and after each day’s activities offer time only for the most urgent work matters. So how do you get your time and money’s worth during TECHSHOW without risking time and money back home? Look to these five simple and surprisingly affordable solutions to stay responsive to new and existing clients.
1. Add texting to your landline office phone number
Lots of lawyers still rely on a landline phone service. If that’s you, it’s common to feel uneasy and out-of-touch when you’re away from the office. Even if you forward calls to your cell phone, you won’t always be able to pick up—if you’re in a session, for example.
Add-on texting services, like ZipWhip, let you send and receive texts with your existing business phone number. The extra-smart feature they offer is automatic responses. Consider ways this can help you respond quickly and accurately:
- A potential client texts to see if you’re taking new clients. You are. You set up an auto-response triggered by certain “new client indicator” keywords that say not only “Yes,” but also confirm they’re looking for an attorney in your practice area. And if so, here’s the link to your online calendar to book a consult.
- An existing client texts to see if they can pay their invoice with a credit card. Yes, they can, because you have online payments through LawPay, Headnote, or another similar program. You send the link to your online payment page and get paid instantly. The client’s thrilled, too: It’s one item crossed off their to-do list.
- An existing client texts you an image of the document you asked them to complete. They’re not computer-savvy and don’t know how to share the file via your secure document-sharing software. No problem, you upload the image to the software from the app on your phone. The case can now stay on track without delay.
ZipWhip offers a 14-day free trial, which gives you ample time to set it up before TECHSHOW and to assess its worth during your travels. After that, plans start at a palatable $35/month.
Bonus points: Ready for something that stacks on top of your new texting strategy? TimeMiner logs your time spent texting clients, so you can bill clients for your time spent communicating with them via SMS and MMS. Get started with a 30-day free trial, and then choose a plan: It’s $9.99/month for Android users and $12.99/month for iOS users. (The $12.99/month plan also gets you Clio integration.)
2. Book consults with new leads using online calendaring software
Fully featured and affordable online scheduling tools abound, and there’s even a free option available through Calendly, an easy online program that plugs into Google Calendar, Office 365, Outlook, or iCloud.
With online scheduling apps, you can make your calendar accessible on your website, in your email signature, and to your in-house or remote staff, so clients and firm staff can book consultations and appointments with you, without your direct involvement.
For example, see the steps that Justie Nicol, owner of Nicol Law Offices in Fort Collins, Colorado, outlines on her website for her solo criminal defense law practice:
Step one is basic intake using an online form (hers is built using Typeform). Step two is a 30-minute free consult using her online calendar, which she runs through Acuity Scheduling. It looks like this:
When help is needed, in-house and remote staff, like virtual receptionists, can use her Acuity links to book new consults like these, as well as other appointment types, like those for existing clients, court staff, or other attorneys.
3. Add FAQ to your website to address routine questions
Your website is the best first line of defense for answering basic questions about your firm for new clients before they interrupt you with a call, text, or email. And you know those questions that are most frequently asked. Add a page dedicated to these FAQ, or just add them as a section on your homepage.
You can even take it a step further with online knowledge-base tools like HelpDocs, which offer a repository for these Q&A, easily plug in to your existing website, and allow visitors to search through topics, like how your fees work, how clients can make payments, details of your policies, what areas you practice in, and more. The result? More clients can “self-service” their needs instead of prompting you for help.
HelpDocs plans start at $39/month and there’s a 14-day trial, which is more than enough time for a TECHSHOW test run.
Bonus points: Put web chat up on your site and further stem calls and emails from folks who still can’t find an answer. Bots can auto-respond with simple answers and links to those FAQ, and live chat agents can provide custom-tailored answers. Chat services that also provide live phone services can even turn a chat into a call, for a very high-end client service experience for web visitors who appear to be very strong leads (or happen to be VIP existing clients).
4. Outsource call answering and web chat to virtual receptionists
When you hand off call answering to remote receptionists, you maintain (and even improve) responsiveness while you’re out of office. Better yet, have them return non-sensitive calls (like calling back web-form leads and clients rescheduling appointments). Even better, have them respond to chats on your website, so they don’t even have to call or email in the first place. Services that offer a free trial can even get you through the half-week while you’re gone, like many of the other services I’ve mentioned here. Now is prime time to get these trials going.
For example, Smith.ai offers a 10-call trial that lasts up to 30 days. Get set up this week and identify exactly what the receptionists are going to do on your behalf, but start forwarding calls only when you take off for TECHSHOW.
You can even set it up so calls ring first to you and then to the receptionists, so they’re backup during times you can’t pick up.
Or, if you have an IVR or phone tree (e.g., “new clients, press 1”) route calls for new-clients only. They can not only answer these calls, but also screen them based on your criteria, schedule a consult on your calendar, take payment if you charge for consults, and capture basic intake information so you’re prepared for your consult when you return to the office.
Bonus: You’re always in the loop thanks to: 1) immediate post-call email and text summaries, and 2) software integrations, which mean callers are added as new contacts in ClioGrow/Lexicata, Lawmatics, HubSpot, Client Sherpa, Lead Docket, or whatever intake software you’re using.
Example: Remember that online scheduling scenario? A phone receptionist or live chat agent can serve as a gatekeeper if you don’t want to post your calendar online. Just provide the link to the receptionist or live chat service, and instruct them when and how to book appointments for you.
It could go something like this when a client reaches your website and indicates they’re a good potential new client (instead of “today” pretend the chat agent is saying “Monday, March 4”!)
Behind the scenes, the chat agent booked the appointment on your calendar and the chat transcript was sent to you via email. Done and done!
Live chat can also be used to help guide new potential clients as they complete the basic intake form and book an appointment on your website. Remember Justie? Chat agents are able to instruct new web leads on how to best answer intake questions to help them have a successful, informed first consultation appointment with her. Chat widgets begin with a disclaimer, and then proceed with helping the new lead:
Not only is Justie not interrupted, but she’s even more likely to have a consultation booked with a new potential client who has properly completed her intake form (which is short but not insubstantial), and has also likely had some routine questions answered. Meaning, the first consult will be more productive—and with a potential client who’s likely very serious about hiring her. Something she’ll be particularly thankful for as she catches up on the backlog of work that’s inevitable to follow after TECHSHOW.
5. Reduce interruptions by filtering out unqualified leads
Sometimes the most frustrating inbound calls, texts, and emails are from people who contact you about a family law matter even though you clearly state on your website and everywhere online and in print that your firm only handles criminal defense cases. Unfortunately, some people don’t read. Don’t let them waste your time. Using some of the services above, like auto-responder texts, web chat, remote receptionists, and online calendaring, you can screen out bad leads before they ever reach you.
For example, in ZipWhip, you can set up an automated response when a potential client texts you about a case outside of your practice area. Let’s say they use a keyword like “divorce,’ you (and I’m calling you Joan here) can respond with a polite, instant text back that says something like, “Hi, thank you for contacting me. I don’t currently handle family law matters like divorce. I focus on personal injury cases. If you ever need help with a personal injury matter, please reach out to me. All my best, Joan.”
Bonus points: It doesn’t have to stop there. In fact, I recommend it doesn’t. Instead, build goodwill (and potentially earn referral fees) by referring unqualified leads to other firms you recommend.
First, inform them briefly about your firm and what types of cases you do handle. You never know if they may be a good potential client for a different legal matter in the future, which your firm does indeed handle. Or, they may encounter someone in the future who they refer to you since they will now better understand what matters your firm does and does not handle.
Then, recommend one or a few firms that are better suited to their needs.
If you have a process for referrals and a list of firms you recommend (identified by criteria, like practice area and cost), you can even hand off referrals to in-house and outsourced staff.
Check that out. Now, you’re not only queuing up new business and serving clients while you’re in Chi-Town—you’re also building positive sentiment for your firm back home, whether that’s down the block or across the country.
Questions? Contact me.
If you have questions about anything I covered above, or simply want to dive deeper into some of these suggestions, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be happy to help you identify the best solutions to suit your firm’s specific needs. Or, come find me at booth #102 in the EXPO Hall and let’s chat in person!
Maddy Martin is the head of growth and education at Smith.ai, which provides superior virtual receptionist services for live calls and web chat, through a combination of U.S.-based professional receptionists and AI technology. She has spent the last decade growing tech startups from New York to California, and has expertise in digital marketing, small business communications, lead conversion, email marketing, SEO, and event marketing. Maddy can be reached at email@example.com, and you can also connect with her on LinkedIn.