Image generated by Dall-E
Remember the tin-can-and-string faux phones that you played with as a kid? Will real phones, or phone service become equally useless?
Recognizing the growing trend away from phone calls, the Washington Post recently reported on The New Phone Call Etiquette. According to the article, callers should never leave a voicemail (since no one will bother to listen and text prior to calling and while recipients of calls should opt not to answer the phone when inconvenient. In addition, callers should choose their weapon: texts work best for communicating facts, while phone calls are appropriate when emotion is involved.
Still, I’m not ready to call time-of-death on phone service for lawyers. Despite a myriad of options for connecting to lawyers through chatbots and intake forms and emails, many prospective clients want immediate contact with a human by phone. Ditching a phone number could lead to a loss of business for many types of practices. Likewise, a client’s problem may be resolved more efficiently through a 60-second call with the attorney or firm staff than endless back and forth on text or email. Also, client calls aren’t the only communications that law firms receive – judges’ chambers and law clerks often make contact by phone as well.
In short, it’s unlikely that law firms will be able to eliminate phone service for many years to come. Which is why a firm communication policy is even more important. Here’s a quick phone policy generated by ChatGPT-4 that you might consider modifying for internal use, along with proposed language on communicating the policy to clients.
SAMPLE PHONE POLICY:
Law Firm Phone Call Management Policy
To ensure effective communication with our clients and stakeholders while minimizing interruptions, maintaining the productivity of our team, and preserving the high standard of our services.
1. Designated Phone Hours:
To concentrate on client work without constant interruption, we will set designated phone hours:
- Morning: 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
- Afternoon: 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM
During these hours, calls will be prioritized, and attorneys and support staff will be more available to answer calls. Clients and stakeholders will be informed about these timings.
2. Voicemail System:
Outside designated phone hours, all incoming calls will be routed to our voicemail system. The voicemail will be set up with a clear message informing the caller about the designated phone hours and encouraging them to leave a message.
3. Call Prioritization: Calls will be categorized and answered in the following order:
- Existing clients with ongoing cases.
- New client inquiries.
- Vendors or third-party services.
- Miscellaneous inquiries.
4. Dedicated Receptionist:
A trained receptionist will be available during designated phone hours to answer calls, categorize them according to the priority list, and route them to the appropriate attorney or staff member.
5. Return Calls:
All voicemails left during non-designated hours will be reviewed at the start of the next designated phone hour. Call backs will be made based on urgency and priority.
6. Email Alternative:
Clients and stakeholders will be encouraged to communicate via email when seeking non-urgent responses. This provides our team with a written record and allows them to respond when they are best able to provide thoughtful and detailed answers.
7. Staff Training:
All staff will undergo training on this policy and the importance of adhering to it to maintain efficient workflows. They will also be trained on proper phone etiquette, ensuring a consistent professional experience for all callers.
8. Review and Feedback:
This policy will be reviewed quarterly. Feedback from staff and clients will be solicited to ensure its effectiveness and make necessary modifications.
In the case of emergencies or extremely urgent matters, clients will be provided with an emergency contact number that bypasses the above system. However, this number should be used judiciously.
10. Policy Communication:
This policy will be communicated:
- On our firm’s website.
- In email footers.
- On the firm’s voicemail system.
- Through direct communication to existing clients.
Our firm values effective communication while preserving the integrity of our work and productivity. By adhering to this policy, we strive to maintain a balance between availability and focus, ensuring we offer the best services to our esteemed clients.
POLICY COMMUNICATION TO CLIENTS