Appointments with clients, opposing counsel, and colleagues are the lifeblood of your practice. It can also be very tedious.
Many lawyers have a secretary to take care of scheduling, among other things. But you may not need or want to add a secretary’s compensation package to your overhead.
That does not mean you have to resort to a email and phone tag to get things on your calendar. There are a number of scheduling apps that make it easier to book appointments.
Your Client is Not Your Secretary
First, be careful not to send the message that the other person needs to work around your schedule. Your convenience may come across as self-importance. Obviously, this is not the perception you want to cultivate in a potential client or referral source. To avoid this, just be careful how you introduce contacts to your scheduling system.
Andrew Cabasso suggests writing “let me know when works best for you” with a link to your scheduler as a way to soften the request. This is much more welcoming than “here’s my calendar so you can set an appointment,” which feels more like a demand. It’s a small detail, but it can make a big difference.
When setting up your scheduling system, take time to make the experience positive for the people who are scheduling appointments with you, too.
I’ve tested many scheduling apps. The ones I have highlighted in this post offer the most bang for your buck and offer a number of unique features.
TimeBridge’s goal is to become your new default calendar application. TimeBridge will sync your iCal, Google, or Outlook calender events and contacts.
Upon logging into TimeBridge, you will be presented with an underwhelming UI and an overwhelming feature set. Since it appears TimeBridge is geared towards scheduling meetings with large teams, some features such as “Create a Group” are likely unnecessary for your needs. For each meeting you want to schedule, you are allowed to choose up to five available times to send to your attendees. The attendees can then choose what times work best for them, which TimeGather will then aggregate, giving you the optimal meeting time for all attendees.
TimeGather also comes with a number of helpful features such as built-in audio conferencing, appointment reminders (either through SMS or email), directions, and even the weather forecast for the day of your meeting.
Price: TimeBridge gives you all these features (incredibly) for free.
If you are looking for simplicity and no frills, Calendly is the scheduling app for you. Currently, Calendly will only let you sync and sign-in with your Google account — although it is beta testing support for Office 365.
Setting up your schedule revolves around “event types.” Calendly will allow you to use one event type for free (15, 30, or 60-minute meetings). If you want customize your event types or let your clients choose from multiple event types, you will have to pay $10 a month.
By paying for Calendly, you will also get personalized notifications, an option to removing Calendly’s branding, automated reminders, and priority support.
Price: Calendly is free for basic features. It will run you $10 per month for advanced features.
SetMore is a scheduling app that only syncs with Google Calendar. But what it lacks in Outlook and iCal support is more than made up for with its other features.
SetMore allows your clients to set appoints through your site with plugins or an HTML code you can embed on your site. Additionally, SetMore has created a Facebook app that will let your clients choose their appointments from your Facebook Page. For all booked appointments, SetMore will send you and your client an SMS or email reminder.
SetMore also moonlights as a light customer relationship management system. When your client sets up an appointment, it will request your clients contact information — which you can later export to MailChimp — through a branded booking page. SetMore will also let your clients leave you a review if they are so inclined to do so.
Price: All the main features are free. SetMore is $25 per month if you wish to schedule over 20 staff members.
Doodle lets you create a booking page without even creating an account, a welcome feature if you do not wish to sign up for yet another web service.
For more advanced features though, you will have to sign up for a free account. This free account will let you store your “polls” (your scheduling times, essentially) and give you a “MeetMe” page to let clients schedule appointments around your availability.
Doodle also offers a couple of paid tiers for additional functionality. Private users will get automatic reminders, a list of attendees, the ability to request additional information, end-to-end SSL encryption, and an ad-free interface. If you want to further customize your client’s Doodle experience, you will have to pay for a Business account. A business account lets you brand your page, customize your subdomain (which is helpful because “Doodle” doesn’t exactly give a professional vibe), and manage users.
Price: Doodle is $39 per year for a private account or $69 per year for a business account.
Regardless which you choose, a scheduling app may reduce days of email and phone tag to a few clicks.
Featured image: “Businessman checking appointments in the calendar at the office” from Shutterstock.