The pandemic led to most law firms going remote for at least a while in an effort to combat the spread of COVID-19 across the United States. While some law firms began returning to the office, a recent survey showed that seven out of ten legal professionals preferred to work from home. Many smaller law firms and solo lawyers expressed on Twitter that they either planned to diminish the size of their in-person office space or give up their physical office space entirely and remain a fully virtual practice. Just as the landscape of the practice of law evolves, so might how both prospective and active clients want to contact your practice. So, should you use website chat for law firms, a text answering service, or both?
Website Chat for Law Firms: Benefits and Drawbacks
Website chat for law firms comes in two forms:
- Legal chatbots.
- Live chat for law firms.
Legal chatbots rely on artificial intelligence to engage with the user to provide them with the information they need. It could be used on your home page to interact with website visitors, to help with legal intake, or even to help you or your employees with completing basic legal documents.
The benefits of using legal chatbots. The benefits of using legal chatbots are many. You can have a legal chatbot created to answer specific questions that you believe website visitors would ask. Maybe these questions are based off of your FAQ. Maybe the questions include things people often call and ask about, such as your retainer amount, whether you practice in certain areas of law, and how to contact a human. Chatbots are available 24/7 on your website. Since they are programmed to provide specific responses, there’s never a surprise as to what they may say. Chatbots also help free up time since they can assist in taking information from the user and inputting it into commonly used forms, including intake forms.
The drawbacks of using legal chatbots. You may feel overwhelmed trying to determine what you want the chatbot to do, whether you need more than one, and how you should acquire one. There are a lot of options available for legal chatbots. Some require less coding than others. You may experience some pushback from your employees if they don’t understand how chatbots work or their true purpose: to help improve their experience while they work. A chatbot is meant to help make life in the law firm easier. You may also experience some pushback or complaints from prospective and active clients. If the chatbot wasn’t properly tested and deployed, it may have serious issues. And the bug catchers? The very people that the chatbot may be designed to interact with. Yikes. Remember that the legal chatbot always represents your law firm. While some website visitors may be appreciative of using a chatbot, others may be upset that they aren’t talking with an actual human.
Live chat for law firms is another option for law firm websites. It is exactly what it sounds like: a service where website visitors have the option to talk with a live person. This person may be someone who works for your law firm during your business owners or it may be a live chat answering service outside of your business hours.
The benefits of using live chat for law firms. One of the main benefits of live chat is that it involves human contact for the prospective or active client visiting the site. They can ask a question and get an answer from a human which reduces the likelihood that they are told that they need to call the office for an answer since legal chatbots are programmed only to answer certain questions. The interaction between the visitor and the live chat can help create or support a positive relationship between the parties.
The drawbacks of using live chat for law firms. Live chat for law firms can only be 24/7 if you have the people to keep is running. So, you either need enough employees to work 24/7, a way for visitors to leave a message that you’ll return the next business day, or hire a live chat answering service who will chat with visitors on behalf of your law firm. If the live chat answering service isn’t familiar with your law firm or isn’t familiar with working with law firms in general, the lack of experience may reflect poorly on your law firm. Also, the expense of ensuring that there is 24/7 coverage be expensive if you don’t get a lot of requests for live chat.
Text Answering Service for Law Firms: Benefits and Drawbacks
With SMS for businesses rising in popularity as a convenient way for prospective and active clients to get updates and appointment reminders, maybe you’re considering text answering for law firms. Many VOIP options offer businesses the opportunity to both send and receive SMS text messages which means that you may be able to handle texting on your own, depending on your needs.
The benefits of using a text answering service for law firms. A text answering service can monitor all of the incoming texts on behalf of your law firm. They can review, triage, or respond to the texts that come in. They can determine who should be contacted for case updates or have consultants scheduled. They can also save time for you by sending out regularly scheduled updates about cases. They may also be willing to answer texts outside of your office hours while your law office answers texts during business hours.
The drawbacks of using a text answering service for law firms. One of the main drawbacks to using a text answering service for law firms is the expense. You must determine if it is something you plan to use full time or just outside of business hours. Does the text answering service charge by the hour or by the text received or sent? Also, similar to live chat is determining if the text answering service has experience with or is devoted to the legal industry. Always keep in mind that what is sent via text is a direct reflection of your law firm. The ethics rules in your jurisdiction should also be consulted regarding the use of text messages. What is allowed? What isn’t allowed? Can you send advertisements? Can you send case updates? What about answer basic questions such as you’d have a legal chatbot answer?
What about Using Both as a Means of Potential Communication?
You always have the option to use both website chat and a text answering service for law firms as potential communication platforms for both prospective clients and active clients. Do your research regarding what may or may not be accomplished using text messages to ensure that you are compliant with the ethics rules in your jurisdiction.
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