What They Didn’t Teach You in Law School #1: How to Answer the Phone

Many times, the first person a potential client will speak with in your law firm is the person answering the phone. This could be you, your legal secretary, or an associate attorney. As the old saying goes, you only have one opportunity to make a good first impression, and oftentimes, answering the phone will be your first chance to start building a positive relationship with potential clients. Start making good first impressions now by learning the four Ps. Always be prompt, polite, positive, and private.

Be PROMPT, and pick up the phone within the first three rings. The longer the phone rings, the more impatient callers will get. By answering promptly, you show your potential client that his or her call is important and that you will be a reliable contact in the future. If you find that your phone is consistently ringing three times or more, you need to find a solution to the problem. A live, friendly voice gets the relationship off to a great start.

Answer the phone POLITELY, with a simple greeting, identifying yourself and your firm or office. For example, “Hello. Attorney Jane Smith’s office, this is John. How may I help you?” Politely ask for the caller’s name before transferring the call or taking a message with a simple “May I ask who is calling?” rather than “Who is this?” In addition, remember that phrases like “that is correct” and “thank you” will make a better impression that “uh-huh” or “yeah.”

Answer the phone with a POSITIVE tone and avoid negative responses to questions. Achieve this by smiling before you pick up the phone and replacing the phrase, “I don’t know,” with “Let me find out more about that for you.”

Respect the PRIVACY of both your caller and the attorney being contacted. Does the attorney being called want the client to know he is on the other line talking to his mother about holiday plans? Or if you call back a potential divorce client, would she want you to leave a detailed message on her answering machine? The answer to both questions is probably “no.” So use your discretion when receiving and returning phone calls.

Another way to make sure your callers are met with a friendly and professional voice is by hiring a professional answering service or virtual receptionist. Virtual receptionists can assist you in managing calls both during and after regular business hours; help you work remotely by simultaneously forwarding calls to your cell phone, home, and office; and cut costs by eliminating the need for extra staff and expensive phone systems, all while greeting callers with a friendly and professional voice.