Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

Does Your Small or Solo Practice Need a Virtual Receptionist?

Solos and small firms likely can't afford much in the way of overhead, whether it's expansive office space or support staff. Fear not! Technology is here to help.

When someone calls the office, who's going to answer the phone? You? Try again: You're at a court date, a deposition, a settlement conference -- in other words, not in the office. Enter the virtual receptionist, which is like a real receptionist, but more ... virtual?

Why Hire a Virtual Receptionist?

A virtual receptionist is exactly what it sounds like. Sort of. The receptionist isn't "virtual" in the sense that he or she isn't real; in fact, a virtual receptionist is a real person -- just someone physically located somewhere else. They have software that makes it appear as though they're calling from your own phone system. They can deliver messages, answer the phone, and direct calls to other people in the office. (They can even direct calls to your cell phone.)

Is it cheaper than hiring a human receptionist? Seems like it. We did a quick Internet search for virtual receptionists and found three that appear to be typical of virtual receptionist services: Ruby Receptionists, My Receptionist, and GabbyVille. All of them are priced monthly and vary depending on how many monthly "receptionist minutes" you purchase. Two of them offer free trials, as well as additional add-on services like appointment scheduling, something you'd find from "virtual assistants."

The prices for these services range from $99 a month for the low-end plans to $819 a month for the highest-tier plans. Even at the high end, that's $10,000 a year, compared to at least $25,000 for a full-time receptionist. Plus, a virtual receptionist won't call in sick or take a vacation.

Leave a Message at the Beep

At this point, you might be wondering, "Isn't my voice mail good enough?" Probably not. Potential clients don't want to call the office of an allegedly professional attorney and get a cellphone voice mail message. They want someone to answer the phone and answer their questions, and if they get a voice mail message, they'll probably hang up and not call back.

Not every solo or small firm would need a virtual receptionist; it depends on how many calls you get. If your practice focuses a small bunch of clients you already know, then paying someone to wait for calls from strangers that aren't going to come in doesn't make sense. But a plaintiff's personal injury or DUI defense practice? Definitely.

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