Legal Intake Professionals or Answering Services: Which Is Best?

2023-10-27

Your law office never gets a second chance to make a first impression. That means it’s essential to put your best foot forward with every new client call. Of course, that’s challenging to do when law offices are busier than ever. Outsourcing your needs is a viable solution, but you have a decision to make: should you choose a legal intake professional or hire a legal answering service?

Both legal intake professionals and answering services can handle phone calls and streamline your intake process. Which is the better option, though? We’ll walk you through what you need to know to make an informed decision.

What is a legal intake professional?

To start, let’s define what we mean by “legal intake professional” and “legal answering service.” A legal intake professional is an individual with legal experience and expertise (but not necessarily any formal education in the field) who is entrusted with receiving communications from prospective new clients and then qualifying them. 

A legal intake professional is responsible for a few things, all of which can help free attorneys, paralegals, and legal assistants to focus on their cases. These include:

  • Answering new client calls
  • Asking specific questions to assess the client’s needs
  • Determining whether the law firm can represent the client
  • Schedule appointments with new clients
  • Create client records
  • Communicate new client-related information to attorneys, paralegals, and other staff members when necessary.

A legal intake professional can work in the office, or they can be virtual. Their responsibilities are identical in both situations. The primary goal is to streamline the vetting and intake process to free up time for attorneys and others to focus on more critical matters while also ensuring that any new clients the firm takes on are suitable.

What is a legal answering service?

A legal answering service can do all the things a legal intake professional can. However, these services can also offer a broad range of other solutions that can improve not just the intake process but all law office communications and much more. 

Here’s a quick look at what a legal answering service can provide:

  • Call answering: Where legal intake professionals tend to focus on new client calls, a legal answering service can handle all phone calls. That includes potential clients, existing clients, other law firms, investigators, law enforcement agencies, court representatives, and so many others.
  • Capturing and screening callers: A legal answering service that uses live virtual receptionists can do more than simply get a caller’s name and the purpose of the call. They can delve into the context of the call. For law offices, that means having access to pre-qualified leads, less back-and-forth, and less wasted time.
  • Capturing new client information: Legal virtual receptionists can also capture important information about potential new clients and enter that information directly into the firm’s CRM and even attorney calendars. 
  • Call recording and transcriptions: While having access to a potential new client’s name, contact information, and case information is vital, there’s so much more that could be helpful. Answering services can provide call recording and transcription services so that every word of a conversation can be analyzed if necessary. This ensures no detail is overlooked and helps flesh out situations by providing more nuanced information than is possible with basic notes.
  • Improve law firm hire rates: Most clients choose to hire a law firm not because of an attorney’s experience or expertise but because of the firm’s initial responsiveness. If a client calls and has to leave a message, chances are good they’ll call another law firm. 
  • Beyond phone calls: You can’t expect potential clients today to communicate strictly by phone. There are just too many channels. Some clients might prefer to communicate by email, while others prefer texts. Yet others might reach out through your website. A legal answering service can provide communication and intake-related services across all these channels, including replying by text and email.
  • Appointment booking and reminders: While your legal answering service will make a great first impression on new clients, eventually, they’ll need to meet with an attorney. That means setting up appointments, sending reminders, and more. A virtual receptionist can do all that and more, eliminating the time spent trying to schedule appointments and reducing late arrivals and no-shows.
  • Eliminate spam and sales calls: How much time does your team spend fielding sales calls and dealing with spam calls? It’s not just the initial interruption, either. It’s the amount of time it requires to return to what they were doing previously. An answering service can employ advanced AI to automatically block millions of known spammers and robocallers so those calls never even make it through.

Of course, it’s important to choose the right answering service. Some have little to no experience working with law firms. Others might only offer phone answering during business hours or fail to provide call intelligence and metadata for each call answered. 

The right partner will offer affordable, scalable solutions tailored to your practice’s unique needs and growth trajectory. Ideally, you’ll choose an answering service with deep experience partnering with law firms and attorneys to handle lead intake, as well as other solutions to streamline office practices and improve client outcomes.

It's time to grow your practice with the right legal answering service

When it comes to answering services versus legal intake professionals, the choice is clear. Answering services deliver the critical services your practice needs and can help you build a thriving business. 

At Smith.ai, we specialize in helping law firms focus on what they do best – representing their clients and winning cases. We handle all your phone calls 24/7 and provide industry-leading client vetting and intake solutions, too. However, we don’t stop there. We offer services that can fit any need you might have, from appointment booking and reminders to spam prevention, call recording and transcripts, to email and SMS follow-up

To learn more, schedule a consultation or reach out to hello@smith.ai.

Tags:
Business Education
Law Firm
Virtual Receptionists
Written by Samir Sampat
Samir Sampat is a Marketing and Events Associate with Smith.ai. He has experience working with businesses of all sizes focusing on marketing, communications, and business development.

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