Virtual receptionists and chat services are popular with solo and small law firms that want to be responsive but don’t want to hire a full-time employee or intake specialist. They can also be an effective way to handle overflow when nobody at the firm can answer. Cloud-based phone services host your entire phone system to the cloud and include features like advanced call routing, call recording, analytics, and more.
In this portal you can compare features, read community reviews, get additional details, and find the best communication software and services for your law firm. If you see an Affinity Partner badge, it means Lawyerist Insiders are entitled to a discount. (Already a member? Log in here. If not, register here—it’s free!)
Featured Law Firm Virtual Receptionist, Chat & Phone Services
- Smith.ai is a virtual receptionist service for phone calls and web chat, offering client intake and scheduling by professionals backed by powerful artificial intelligence (AI). Learn more about Smith.ai
- LEX Reception is a 24/7/365 virtual receptionist service for solos to large firms and everything in between, with appointment scheduling, CRM integration, and client intake services. Learn more about LEX Reception
- Back Office Betties is a charming boutique virtual receptionist company offering personalized and bilingual services for solo and small firm attorneys. Learn more about Back Office Betties
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How to Choose a Virtual Receptionist
To help you choose the best fit for your firm, here are some key questions to consider:
- Do you need a dedicated team of receptionists? Some companies distribute incoming calls among dozens or hundreds of receptionists. When someone answers, they will get a script with your custom greeting and (probably) a pronunciation guide, but they won’t get to know your firm. Other companies assign your firm a small team and work with you to train them on call handling. Of course, this may also have implications for price and availability.
- What availability do you need? It’s tempting to assume 24/7/365 is better, but there may be tradeoffs. For example, some companies use local receptionists during regular business hours, but remote call centers in other time zones for overnight shifts. If you prefer a small, dedicated team, it may not be possible to get 24/7/365 without increasing the size of the team or using additional receptionists after hours. And 24/7/365 is often (but not always) more expensive, too.
- What do you need besides just reception? You can get a virtual receptionist just for answering the phone, but many offer additional services like appointment scheduling and confirmation, client intake, live chat, or even taking payments and getting retainer agreements signed. Some services may cost you more than just the additional minutes.
- How do you want to pay? Most virtual receptionists charge by the minute, but you can find those that charge by the call or offer unlimited or customized plans. Depending on the kinds of calls your firm tends to get, certain plans might be a better fit for your firm’s needs.
Once you have an idea of your firm’s needs, use the feature filters below to see which companies can meet those needs, and then visit their product pages to learn more about what firms are in their target demographic, pricing, and other things you might want too know. Narrow the options do two or three that you are considering, read the reviews from our community, and pick one to try.
How to Choose a Chat Service
Chat services fall into one of three categories: live chat, chat tools, and chatbots (see the descriptions above). To decide which is the best fit for your firm, the main consideration is who you want to respond to visitors who want to chat:
- With live chat, it’s much like a virtual receptionist, in which case many of the considerations above apply.
- With a chat tool, it’s you or someone from your firm.
- With a chatbot, it’s a decision tree you design, possibly with help from AI.
Once you have narrowed down your chat service options, it should be relatively easy to test them. Reach out to the companies you are considering and ask them for a few websites of their customers that you can visit to see how they work. In the case of chat tools that you will have to use, or a chatbot you will have to help configure, you should also get a demo or trial of the part of the tool you will be using.
Law Firm Virtual Receptionist, Chat & Phone Services (Alphabetical List)
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- Abby Connect virtual receptionist service offers a dedicated team of receptionists and flexible answering hours. Learn more about Abby Connect.
- Back Office Betties is a charming boutique virtual receptionist company offering personalized and bilingual services for solo and small firm attorneys. Learn more about Back Office Betties.
- LawDroid builds and manages custom chatbots for law firms, especially those with high-volume, website-based intake needs. Learn more about LawDroid.
- LEX Reception is a 24/7/365 virtual receptionist service for solos to large firms and everything in between, with appointment scheduling, CRM integration, and client intake services. Learn more about LEX Reception.
- Nexa is virtual receptionists service that works 24/7/365 for small firms, with bilingual receptionists answering phones in English and Spanish. Learn more about Nexa (formerly Answer1).
- Ooma is an easy to implement, cloud-based small law firm phone system. Learn more about Ooma Office.
- PATLive is a 24/7 virtual receptionist service that has offered call-handling to all types of businesses, including law firms, since 1990. Learn more about PATLive.
- Our review of Ruby virtual receptionist finds seasoned around-the-clock live receptionists and live chat for small to medium-sized law firms. Learn more about Ruby.
- Smith.ai is a virtual receptionist service for phone calls and web chat, offering client intake and scheduling by professionals backed by powerful artificial intelligence (AI). Learn more about Smith.ai.
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Law Firm Virtual Receptionist, Chat & Phone Services Feature Descriptions
Virtual Receptionist Features. While all virtual receptionist services include a live receptionist and allow you to use your own phone number, some offer additional features like appointment scheduling or client intake. Availability varies, as well. Some virtual receptionists are available 24/7/365, while others are available during business hours (usually extended to accommodate multiple North American time zones) with voicemail outside of those hours.
Live Receptionist. Although they are called "virtual" receptionists, the person who answers the phone is, in fact, a real person who can use your customized greeting, request information according to your instructions, make warm transfers to you, or take messages.
Appointment Scheduling. You can give your receptionist access to your calendar or scheduler so they can book appointments for you.
Client Intake. A virtual receptionist service can be a partner in your intake process rather than only and ask questions and gather information according to your intake script.
Outbound Calls. Some virtual receptionist services will make calls for you in order to relay basic information such as confirming an appointment, providing directions to your office, or making referrals.
Free Local or Toll-Free Phone Number. You may prefer to use a different phone number to help you track your callers, or a toll-free number to make it easier for some people to contact you.
Chat Features. There are two kinds of chat offerings: live chat and chatbots. Both can be hosted on your website so that visitors can contact your firm by typing rather than calling. Live chat means a real person is available to chat with visitors, like a virtual receptionist for text-based messaging. A chatbot, on the other hand, offers pre-scripted responses to visitors' input, sometimes with the help of AI.
Live Chat. We're using live chat to mean chat plus a team to respond to inquiries, as opposed to a chat tool you can use to respond yourself.
Chat Tool. With a chat tool you can add a chat box to your website so that visitors can chat directly with you or your firm staff when you are available.
Chatbot. A chatbot is an automated messaging tool for automated communication with visitors to your website or within commonly used messaging apps like Facebook Messenger. Some are essentially a guided form, while others might use AI to answer more complex questions.
Phone Features. A hosted phone solution allows you to move your entire phone system to the cloud. It can also come with advanced call routing options, call recording, analytics, and more.
Call Routing. With call routing you can direct incoming calls based on criteria you set. For example, you could send existing clients directly to the lawyer handling their matter. Or distribute potential client calls evenly among intake staff. Or just send calls to your virtual receptionist after hours.
Voicemail Transcription. Your phone service can transcribe your voicemails using text recognition software so you can read your messages instead of listening to them.
Call Recording. "This call may be recorded for quality control purposes." Only if you want to, of course.
Call Analytics. Use information about your calls to identify patterns, calculate the ROI of your marketing efforts, and improve your client service.
Text Messaging. Send and receive text messages using your business phone system.