It’s easy to find someone to answer your phone. What’s less easy is cloning yourself or your most informed, well-trained staff members to keep up with the calls, emails and web forms that need a reply.

That’s where legal answering services come in. Whether you simply need someone to pick up the phone after hours or want help qualifying prospective clients (Does their matter fall into your area of practice? Does their case meet the criteria of your mass tort?), a top-notch, legal-focused service can solve a lot of your intake and follow-up challenges.

answering service provider with headset working at laptop computer

5 Key Questions to Ask Answering Services

Here are the most critical questions you should consider when choosing an answering service:

  1. Are you 24/7, 365? What good is a service if it can’t pick up the phone when you most need it? If your answering service is closed at 5 a.m. when a potential client decides to call, you may well never hear from that person again.
  2. Do you focus on any professions other than legal? A service that also answers calls for doctors and physical therapists is not a legal specialist. Unless you only want, essentially, a human voicemail, a general answering service is not for you. Instead, look for a legal answering service that can answer phones and reply to emails as an extension of your firm. They should be able to answer basic questions about your practice, ask questions about the contact’s needs, qualify the contact as a potential client, and even schedule an appointment.
  3. What is your average time to answer incoming calls? A reputable service should be tracking response times at the call center. If a service can’t answer this question, move on. Ideally, a service will tell you it’s average time to answer is under 20 seconds. Anything greater than 59 seconds is a red flag and another reason to move on to other options.
  4. Are you secure? Do you have redundancies in place in case of disaster?  If a call center has to shutter for a weather or other disaster, will your calls go unanswered? Find out if remote staff or multiple call centers in diverse geographic areas are part of the company’s structure. And while physical protections are important, digital ones are equally, if not more, critical. Any reputable service should have secure and encrypted data protection in place as a bulwark against potential data breaches.
  5. Do you record calls for auditing purposes? From time to time, you may want to review calls to see if your service is handling them to your specifications. A company that is confident in its well-trained team of representatives will happily allow you to review recorded calls to ensure they follow your phone etiquette and ask and answer questions correctly to qualify new clients on your behalf.

With the right questions at your fingertips, you can narrow down your options to one or two services. Most companies you vet will have similar fee structures, but make sure you know what you will need to pay upfront (most will require a nominal set-up fee) and how you will be billed (generally this is by-the-minute call time). Choose a company that is willing to work with you to customize a solution with services that make sense for your practice and will help it grow. Finding a service you can trust will free you to do legal work and help the clients you already have.