The initial communication between a prospective client and a law firm is usually over the phone, handled by a receptionist. As a result, it is important that firm's receptionist be professional and courteous at all times. Maintaining professionalism can sometimes be a challenge, however, especially for receptionists who answer a high volume of calls on a daily basis. But there are certain principles that you should always follow when answering calls at a law office.
Initial Call Intake
Take each call by announcing the law firm's name, identifying yourself by name, and inquiring how you can be of assistance to the caller. For example, “Good morning, this is the law firm of X and Y, Jane speaking, who am I speaking with?” Once you have identified the caller by name, ask “How may I help you today Ms. Z,” and refer to the caller by name during the remainder of the conversation. Note-taking during each call can be helpful, especially with respect to names. Maintain a positive tone during the conversation, be patient, and never lose your temper. Avoid the use of jargon, slang or non-words such as “uh huh” and “um.”
Identifying the Caller's Needs
It is very important for you to listen closely to a caller and identify her needs and to provide the requested information to her in a clear and concise way. Each caller is seeking assistance in obtaining needed information or finding the right person with whom to speak.
Route Caller to Appropriate Person in Firm
If the caller is requesting information best provided by an attorney, inform the caller that he needs to speak with someone else and ask him to hold for transfer. Contact the attorney to whom you intend to transfer the call, announce the caller by name, disclose the purpose of the call and transfer the call if the attorney is available. No caller should be left on hold for more than 45 seconds. After 45 seconds, ask the caller if she wants to continue to hold, would like to be called back when an attorney is available or would prefer to call back later.
Prior to ending each call, inquire whether you can be of any further assistance before ending the call. Thank the caller for considering the law firm. It is seldom possible for a legal receptionist to convince a potential client to hire a law firm, but it is very easy for a receptionist to lose a client for a law firm by being unprofessional, rude or discourteous.
Originally from the Caribbean, raised in New York City, and now based in Orlando, Florida, Terry Walcott has spent over 20 years performing analysis and writing on issues relating to antitrust and other complex legal matters. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Columbia University and a Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School.