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    Wisconsin Lawyer
    May 01, 2015

    So, You Want To … Project a Professional Image Using a Virtual Receptionist

    Although you may have a lean operation, you still need to cultivate the perception that you have an experienced, professional practice, capable of the level of quality services that larger firms are often associated with. Using a virtual receptionist service can help you project that image, without paying a staff’s salary.

    Tison H. Rhine

    customer service repThanks to modern legal technology, solo and small firm attorneys are, more than ever before, capable of competing with larger firms. This, and the reality that traditional firm jobs are getting harder to find, has enticed (or forced) many lawyers to go it completely alone. For these brave and enterprising attorneys, this means that – in addition to performing the duties of rainmaker, office manager, associate, paralegal, and legal assistant – they must also be their own receptionists.

    Of course, with all their other duties, solo practitioners often are unable to answer the phone when a client calls. This common occurrence is often dismissed as a necessary downside to running a lean practice. But for clients who may be going through some of the most unpleasant times in their lives, the difference between a firm that consistently offers human phone reception during business hours and one where clients constantly encounter voicemail greetings (however professional sounding) can be an important one. And, like wearing improper attire to court or having a poor website, a lack of professional human phone reception is a quick way for a small firm to ruin the perception that it is an experienced, professional practice, capable of the level of quality services that larger firms are (rightly or wrongly) more often associated with.

    That is not to say that cultivating a “large firm feeling” is an appropriate goal for all practices. Some clients, after all, take comfort in a more casual, stripped-down experience – perhaps one where the only person they will ever talk to is the attorney actually handling their case. However, for those attorneys who do wish to project the image of a fully staffed outfit, without having to pay a staff’s salary, there are other options. I’m talking about “virtual receptionists.

    Virtual Receptionist Services

    Contrary to what the name suggests, “virtual” receptionist services are provided by very real people. You give the service your firm’s information and a personalized greeting, and a live person will answer, forward, and place calls, as well as take messages and even schedule appointments. Typically, you can update the service with your location, which number you would like to be reached at (if any), and when you are available.

    Ruby Receptionists (starting at $249 per month for 100 minutes) is probably the most widely known virtual receptionist service in the legal industry. It has a reputation for employing competent and friendly receptionists (all located in Portland, Ore.). If good customer service is important to you, Ruby may be the best.

    Tison RhineTison Rhine is the advisor to the State Bar of Wisconsin Law Office Management Assistance Program (Practice411). Reach him at (800) 444-9404, ext. 6012, or by email.

    Total Attorneys also offers virtual receptionist services (among other services for attorneys), but does so on a price-per-call basis, potentially leading to cost savings for those with low call volumes. In addition, Total Attorneys offers 24/7 answering (Ruby sticks to typical business hours).

    Alert Communications is a good option if you need bilingual services. It offers 24/7 attorney answering services, including client intake, scheduling, and email document delivery, in English and Spanish.

    Whichever you choose, be sure to place some trial calls of your own to ensure your service is projecting an image that befits your particular practice.

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