Should Lawyers Answer the Phone Themselves?

Alexis just wrote a great post on why lawyers should avoid answering the phone. In the past year, I have gone from always answering the phone, to letting voice mail screen the calls, to having our virtual assistant answer the calls. So what is the best way to go?

Why you should answer your phone

When I first started, I was not only in charge of answering the phone, I thought it was imperative to answer every call for fear that potential clients would go elsewhere. I have absolutely no doubt that people appreciated talking to me right away, and that if they decided to hire someone, they ended up hiring us.

Depending on your client base, they might not be used to actually getting a lawyer on the phone. The fact that they are talking to a lawyer can help you quickly establish a rapport with them.

Why voice mail works better

When I was always answering the phone, I dealt with a lot of frantic individuals who wanted immediate answers to their pressing legal needs. In other words, they wanted a free legal ER. Even if it was a situation we could help with, the majority of these clients did not want to hire an attorney.

For the most part, individuals who left voice mails wanted to hire us because of our expertise in consumer rights. They had either been referred to us, or had done their research and realized we could help them.

Why having someone else answering the phone works best

One, someone is always answering the calls—so any individuals who are put off by having to leave a message should be pleased that they get to talk to a live person. Two, it is helpful to have someone take down the details, and explain to the client that they will pass on the info to an attorney and someone will get back to them.

Three, it saves you time. For every ten-minute phone call that results in an actual client, there are probably ten that result in a non-client. To an extent, that is an unavoidable problem. But if you can afford hiring someone to answer your phone, you can hopefully save yourself time, while still retaining potential clients.


  1. I second virtual assistant. But I recommend that a human answers the phone.

  2. Sam Glover Sam G. says:

    Hiring a VA was the best thing we did. Plus, our VA is seriously awesome (no, I won’t share her; get your own).

    One of the big advantages over an answering service is that Erica manages our intake. She tracks every potential client until they become a client or decline representation, and then delivers the necessary disclaimers. We did our best before, but things would still slip through the cracks. Now, nothing does.

  3. As someone who uses an Office Suite (with receptionist, etc. as part of the rental package) having a human voice seems to help the clients feel comfortable. I have gotten good comments about this from clients and potential clients alike.

  4. Avatar Jan M. McCray Flemmons, Esq. says:


    How did you find your VA? I’ve searched the internet and am having difficulty! I’m in the greater Jacksonville, Florida area.

    Is your VA somewhat local?

    I’m a busy solo attorney with a family law/estate planning practice and I need some help, and think a VA is the way to go for me. My work ebbs and flows. Sometimes I can keep up, other times I’m drowning!

  5. Sam Glover Sam G. says:

    Erica is sort of local. She lives in a suburb about 30 minutes away. She was a personal referral from another attorney I trust who knew her work.

    If you have discrete tasks, try If you want long-term help, definitely ask around. My VA didn’t necessarily think of herself as a VA; I just offered her a job that was perfect for her situation as a stay-at-home parent.

    Stay-at-home parents make perfect VAs. As long as you don’t mind the occasional kid noise in the background, it’s a job that meshes extremely well with working from home with kids around.

  6. Yes, having a real live person answer the phone at your law practice is a great way to make a good first impression. It’s important that he or she is polite, efficient, and prompt and keeps callers updated on the status of their calls. Great post! -ae

  7. Avatar Eric Myers says:

    I think telephone answering services are great for any business but particularly a law office. Having a professional, and most importantly, human representative answering the phone can make all the difference in a customers experience. The ability for machines to understand someones problem and tone and react according is just not something we have grasped yet.

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