We work with many attorneys and law firms, and one complaint we hear often is that it’s difficult to draw the line of what is considered giving legal advice and simply giving legal information over the phone. If at any point during the exchange your client reasonably believes you are offering them legal advice, they may think that a valid lawyer-client relationship has been established, and that can be problematic. This is why lawyers should avoid giving legal advice over the phone.
“When talking informally with an individual who may have a legal problem, a safe course to follow is to talk in general terms about the area of law, without honing in on the specifics of the individual’s problems. If the discussion becomes too focused, the individual may form a reasonable belief that a lawyer client relationship has been established. See, e.g.Attorney Grievance Com’n of Maryland v. Shoup, 979 A.2d 120 Md.,2009; Bangs v. Schroth 201 P.3d 442, 2009 WY 20, Wyo., 2009. (By talking too much about a friend’s legal problems and making specific statements about what should be done, a lawyer can give the impression that he is giving legal advice thereby creating a lawyer-client relationship.)” – ABA for Law Students
We thought we’d share an interesting technique that ensures lawyers can avoid giving legal advice over the phone. If a potential client calls your office and speaks to you in detail about their legal circumstances, you must be very careful to tread the line between legal information and legal advice.
But if you have someone else answer the phone for you, you can bypass that fine line altogether.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll have to dish out $35,000+ per year to hire a full-time receptionist – in fact, we’d recommend against it if you’re a solo or small law firm. Instead, your ideal solution lies in a legal call answering service that connects your callers with a live, professional receptionist who will offer information you customize to your callers.
When a client knows they are speaking with a lawyer, it seems to be “natural” for them to ask for specific, detailed legal advice or offer details that may inadvertently create an attorney-client relationship. Refusing to answer client questions may hurt your chances at getting the case, making some attorneys reluctantly offer information that leans more toward advice.
But when a client speaks to a friendly legal receptionist at the law firm they’re calling, they understand the limitations of what they can and cannot discuss with the receptionist. A legal call answering service can actually help you avoid giving legal advice over the phone and help you sidestep any “surprise” attorney-client relationships created with overzealous callers.
Your remote legal receptionist will be able to screen your calls and qualify your client leads for you without the danger of accidentally offering legal advice. Simply identify the questions you’d like your receptionist to ask potential clients and tell them the information you’d like them to collect. They’ll ensure that they get this information from each caller and avoid giving legal advice over the phone in the process.
Perhaps the best part of a legal call answering service is the price and convenience. Instead of spending upwards of $35,000/year on a full-time, in-house receptionist, you can instead pay a monthly fee of around $120 for a feature-filled call answering service like Conversational.
Features included with every plan:
- Call answering
- Call transfers
- Message taking and delivery
- Free local phone number
- Free voicemail boxes
- Appointment scheduling
- Calendar management
- Basic customer service
- Call screening
- Qualifying leads
As a lawyer, you may be sick of contracts and agreements. Conversational does not require any kind of contract or agreement for our call answering service – it’s on a month-to-month basis. You can turn your service on or off as needed.
Avoid giving legal advice over the phone to clients you haven’t yet taken on. Have your remote legal receptionist handle and screen your calls to qualify leads for you. Click here to try it out free for 30 days, up to 1,000 minutes.