Website chat is the new wave in efficiency and responsiveness for lawyers. A well-implemented chat widget on your law firm’s website can serve as an extremely effective lead qualification and conversion tool, while reducing interruptions and time-consuming tasks.
By Kelsey Johnson, Smith.ai
Here’s the problem. Small-firm attorneys spend a significant percentage of a workday on admin tasks, jobs that in a large firm are fielded by receptionists, paralegals, accountants, etc. Furthermore, every new call or email is an interruption, whether it be from a client, potential client, or spam/sales pitches. These distractions can add up to a real loss in productivity and time to spend on billable work.
The 2018 Clio Legal Trends Report provides significant evidence for this:
But being responsive is necessary to bring in new clients and satisfy existing clients, right?
The solution: Attorneys are increasingly outsourcing to virtual receptionist services. These professionals not only answer and return calls on your behalf (a widely used practice in service industries), but also respond to website visitors through live website chat. And today we’re going to specifically address how live website chat, combined with service extensions like chatbots, can help lawyers:
That’s right, website chat is a sales tool! Using it, you can boost your business in multiple ways. How? Live chat receptionists work for your firm to:
Alright, we’ve covered theory. Let’s dive in to the process. How exactly does web chat actually turn website visitors into quality leads while reducing interruptions?
Your website visitors come from many places: direct traffic from referrals, organic search, paid ads, social media, listing sites, and more. It’s important to capture the information of anyone looking for services before they “bounce” and you have no way to contact them again.
Web chat can be installed on your site and set to initiate chats proactively (you can also set it to reactively respond). This results in an automatic virtual “hello,” letting your website visitor know your firm is available. A potential client who may be interested in your services, or has questions, provides their name and email to initiate a chat conversation. You will then at least have enough information to follow-up, and they have become a lead.
Now that your firm has a lead, the next step is crucial: lead qualification. Is this potential new client “good”? Do their needs and budget match your services? Many non-referral leads, like those who reached your site from a Google search, may not understand your practice areas, fees, availability, and more. You wouldn’t want your calendar filled with new consults for trademark work if you only work on immigration cases, for example.
Chat agents (and to a more limited extent, chatbots) can ask the potential client whether:
These simple initiation questions can be used by the chat receptionist to qualify leads as “good” (someone you should offer a consultation to) or “bad” (someone to refer out -- I’ll address this further later in the post).
Whether it’s a call-back, a phone consultation, or an in-person meeting, you should immediately schedule a consultation with your qualified “good” lead. Leads are more likely to be lost if they aren’t booked straight away (people want to make an appointment and check it off their list). But having to schedule appointments yourself can cause time-wasting back-and-forth emails and further interruptions.
Instead, you can set up a publicly accessible booking calendar (like Calendly) and connect it to your web chat service. Live chat receptionists can book quality leads on your calendar, saving you unnecessary follow-up time. You can even connect your calendar link to your chatbot (for those midnight lawyer needs) but keep in mind that, as of right now, live agents will always provide better “gatekeeping” than an automated bot.
Charging for consultations not only fairly compensates you for your valuable time, it actually reduces the chance of no-shows and cancellations. When a lead prepays for your time, they are far more likely to use it.
And I bet you guessed it: Live website chat can take these consultation fees for you. Using an online payment solution, like LawPay and Headnote, you can provide an accessible URL to your receptionists that they, in turn, use to collect payment information or have new leads pay consult fees themselves.
Tip: Credit consultation fees to a new client’s account balance if s/he hires you, to incentivize the sale and ease concerns the person may have about prepayment.
After your leads are qualified, the “good” leads need to be logged. If you use a CRM, intake software, or case/practice management system, the process can be even easier. These platforms often offer public intake forms for new clients to fill out.
Chat receptionists can guide potential clients as they complete these forms, instructing them on how to best answer questions and making their issues feel addressed.
Note: You can use a disclaimer in your chat widget to clearly notify the person that the widget is not a place to discuss case details and will not offer legal advice.
Think about it: Without ever being distracted, you could have new potential clients captured on your site, qualified as good leads, booked, charged for a consult, and you have enough intake information to adequately prepare for your first interaction with them. Call that a win!
What about those “bad” leads I mentioned earlier? Website chat can also help with those in a couple of ways.
Unqualified leads are impossible to prevent from reaching your website completely, so it’s best to have a process in place for handling them. Chat receptionists can offer referrals to other firms you recommend who may be better suited to handle the lead’s legal matter. If your state allows it, you could even earn revenue from these referrals, but even if that’s not allowed (or you’re simply not comfortable with it), making referrals builds good will between your firm and the unqualified lead. You never know when they, or someone they know, may need your services in the future.
Although many lawyers may not realize it, addressing unqualified leads can be the biggest waste of their billable time. One of the main benefits of live web chat (and even chatbots) is that it can significantly reduce calls and emails from leads who are not a fit for the firm. While you sit undistracted, doing billable legal work (or eating lunch), leads who may have called with long stories or sent you extensive emails are being addressed immediately. If they need a family law practice and you only work in criminal defense, the live chat agent or chatbot will deliver a consistent, polite response on your behalf, without you having to change tasks!
Convinced yet? Website chat is unquestionably the future of reduced interruptions and converted quality leads, without a loss in customer service. By jumping on board with this process, your firm is likely to improve in both responsiveness and efficiency.
Smith.ai offers web chat services staffed by our live, U.S.-based professionals and backed by our after-hours chatbot for 24/7 responsiveness. To learn more and sign up, visit https://smith.ai/chat, call (650) 727-6484, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Use code ROSS50 to get $50 off your first month. This can be combined with Smith.ai’s 30-day/5-chat free trial for $110 total savings!
Smith.ai also offers virtual receptionist services staffed by our live, U.S.-based professionals. To learn more and sign up, visit https://smith.ai/receptionists. (The $50 discount above can be applied to your first month of live phone calls, if you prefer.)
Questions about live web chat and how it can help your law practice? Smith.ai’s client success team can offer guidance so you implement the most efficient and effective communications processes from the start. Contact Smith.ai Monday through Friday between 5am and 6pm PST at (650) 727-6484 or email@example.com.
Kelsey Johnson is the marketing manager at Smith.ai, which provides virtual receptionist and web chat services for solo and small-firm attorneys. She is a legal tech expert focused on helping solos and small firms with their practices through tech-enabled operations, digital marketing, and communications. Kelsey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at @KelseyColorado. Connect with her on LinkedIn.