When I first opened my virtual law office almost four years ago, I wanted to handle every aspect of my practice online. With most of my client base, this worked fine and was what they preferred as well. I have an estate planning and small business setup practice and the majority of my clients are in their late twenties through late forties. However, I have a large number of clients over the age of 50, many of whom are retirees or who are interested for a variety of reasons in getting their estate planning in order for an affordable price and in a way that is convenient for them.
I’ve found that with my older clients, they really wanted to talk to me in person before retaining my services. The typical scenario would be that they would find my practice online, register for an account and request legal services. Then they would want to speak with me in person to make sure I was a real human being and after that, they would return to working with me completely online. I was a little baffled by this. But I always gave them my cell phone to contact me after they requested it and sure enough, after a friendly chat, they would go back online to complete the project and most all of them pay for the legal services online as well.
So, do you need a phone number for your virtual law practice?
It seems to depend on your practice area, the type of work you are handling online, the age of your client base, and what you personally want to handle. Certainly, restricting the communications with clients only to the VLO is more convenient and flexible for the attorney. However, as I’ve pointed out in other posts discussing the ethics involved in determining that your client is who they say they are and if you need to reassure yourself of the competence and capabilities of the client, speaking with the client on the phone may amount to a professional responsibility of the attorney. So as in many of these questions, it is a question of law practice management that must be made by the individual practitioner based on their virtual law practice structure.
After about a year of practice, I purchased an inexpensive toll-free number and posted it at the top of my VLO website for prospective clients to call. This past year, I removed it because I found that it was easier to provide clients with that number after registration or wait until or if they requested it.
In the event that you decide you need a phone number for your virtual law practice, I have listed below some resources to check into that have been recommended to me by other attorneys delivering legal services online. I’m sure there are many others. Please suggest other services in the comment section if you know of any to add.
Toll-free, vanity and call-routing
Total Attorneys Virtual Receptionist
Alert Communications Attorney Answer Service
Conference calling/Web conferences
(If you have more sophisticated clients that want to take the call to the next level, these services have the audio conferencing with webcams, desktop sharing, etc.)