Be Your Own Receptionist


Personal Productivity for Lawyers

This quick-start guide to Getting Things Done and Inbox Zero also includes two shortcuts for those who want the benefits of GTD without having to learn the system.

multitaskingReceptionists are invaluable members of the firm, but in this economy you can eliminate the position and still be successful.

  1. Answer your own phone. Yes, it can be time consuming, but it is also cheaper. If you are truly adverse to talking to potential clients all day, consider paying for a voicemail transcription service. The services are much cheaper than a receptionist and it can increase efficiency.
  2. Streamline your mail. Pay your bills online and tell vendors to send you invoices via email. Tell clients to send documents via email and you can also do the same. Scanners are wonderful inventions.
  3. Keep your calendar digitally. Electronic calendars like Google Calendar make scheduling a breeze. It is faster to do it yourself and you can easily setup reminders of appointments.
  4. Get an electronic fax number. No more standing over the machine, changing the toner, and busy signals. Online fax numbers make sending and receiving easy, efficient, and time-saving.

Even if you do not want to eliminate your receptionist, even taking on some of the tasks may allow you to scale back a receptionist’s hours and save you some cash.

How to Fire Your Receptionist | Chuck Newton Rides the Third Wave

(photo: Thomas Hawk)


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  • Are you distinguishing between a receptionist and a legal secretary?

    I am at a large law firm and share a secretary with three other attorneys. She is a wonderful and helpful person, but I rarely rely on her. When I do, it is to answer phones and do light administrative tasks. I do all my own typing, editing, and so forth. It seems to me that this advice could extend to legal secretaries, as well. At least in my practice. Is this true for solos and others? What do you think?

  • I’ve never had an experience in a big firm—I guess I don’t know what the difference between a legal secretary and a receptionist is. If you can afford either one, I have no doubt it would be helpful.

    That said, the post was more aimed at smaller offices, solo-types, who pay for a receptionist, but might not actually need one, or cannot afford one in this economy.

  • Right. My point is that, in my experience, a legal secretary and a receptionist aren’t really that different and that they seem to be less and less necessary these days. So, even if your firm can afford it, I am not convinced that they are worth the expense. But that could just be how I practice. BTW – I think a paralegal or case assistant is totally different and, depending on your practice, essential.

  • Ben

    As someone planning on going solo shortly, I’ve been looking at various ways to keep overhead down while still presenting a professional face to the public. If you have them in your area, executive suite/virtual office centers are an excellent way to start. With the executive suites you get to share a live receptionist to answer your calls as well as a nice office. Typically, these executive suites have an all inclusive rent covering: office, utilities, phone, internet, fax, on-site shredding, photocopier, conference rooms, mail, etc. Paying this lump sum simplifies the bills and reduces start-up costs and overhead.

  • Most people no longer need a secretary or receptionist. Not many of us still use dictation, for example.

    However, depending on your practice, you may find you spend an inordinate amount of time answering phones, fielding potential client calls, and doing basic client intake. And if you litigate, things like re-typing discovery requests take way too much time. At some point, delegating those tasks to an assistant becomes more cost-effective than doing it yourself.

    Until—and even after—that happens, the above tricks can really streamline things. When you are busy enough, look into virtual assistants, secretaries, receptionists, paralegals, or whoever can take over the least-productive tasks and free you up to do the most-productive (and profitable) things.

  • Depending on your receptionist/assistant/paralegal needs, one solution presented by this economy is to offer an unpaid internship at your local college or law school. This can provide practical experience, mentoring, class credit, and a resume-filler to the student, while providing you with free assistance.

    Just make sure you are offering an opportunity that will provide real work and interesting opportunities (at least on occasion) for the student.

  • Another option is to hire a Virtual Receptionist. You can have someone answer your phone and then either take a message, qualify and then transfer the call to you or just go ahead and set an appointment for your office. There are a number of services available in the market including Ruby Receptionist, Call Friday, and, yes, my company offers this service as well. At the end of the day, you can have the best of both worlds. You do not have to bear the cost of training, absenteeism, turnover, benefits, but you can still realize the benefit of having a friendly and live person answer your phone.