Recently, a friend sent me a link to an answering service which was reasonably priced and would give the illusion that the person answering the phone was an employee of the principal’s organization. I forwarded that information to students who follow me on a Google Group with the following response from on of the members of my group with a cautionary note that there is no substitute for personal contact from the attorney returning the call. One of my former students responded as follows:
Looking at the expense involved, I thought I would weigh in here. I have been told over and over, the key is to return phone calls. I have been told this by many people of many backgrounds. I have clients that are happy with me for returning their call in a timely manner. I have had clients who have changed attorneys for one reason only: I returned their phone call.
I use Ring Central® through ATT®. I have personal ringtones, personal greetings, the ability for call to be routed simultaneously to my cell, etc. My phone system can be managed from anywhere in the world. The idea of having an extra feature of a live person for the added cost does not attract me, and would not impress my clients enough.
My advice would be to know your market and your clientele. Commercial law firms, Patent law firms, and specialty law firms MAY attract clientele that demand that personal service. Mine does not… so long as I return their call.
Know your clientele and do not spend more than you need.
In this day and age, there is no substitute for relationship building. You can be a mediocre attorney and be very successful these days if you simply answer calls yourself. Someone paying $200-300 per hour is often upset to find their calls being answered by a paralegal or no response from anyone for days on end. Check your bags at the door and find another job that doesn’t require contact with human beings; but don’t practice law like that and expect to be very successful. You can manage your calls yourself if you practice good time management techniques. That doesn’t mean you have to answer the phone right away. Set realistic expectations when you engage the client initially and set ground rules. A good one is that you will return their call within 24 hours during the work week, unless an emergency prevents you from doing so. Explain that the good news is that you are busy because you are a good lawyer, but that means you cannot be on call to answer phone calls immediately. If at all possible, under promise and over deliver.