Our Interview With Chris Mullins of Law Firm Conversions
Our Senior Business Manager speaks to Chris Mullins about Legal Call 24 and the services we provide for law firms of all sizes. This interview will be released as a podcast, and appeared in the January issue of Intake Academy.
Mullins: Hello, everybody. It’s Chris Mullins, the phone sales doctor, with www.lawfirmconversions.com in another one of your monthly expert interviews. This month I’m interviewing Linda Murphy of Legal Call 24. Linda, why don’t you just go ahead and introduce yourself to everybody and let everybody know what it is that you do.
Murphy: Hi, Chris. I really appreciate the opportunity, thank you. Legal Call 24 specializes in answering for attorneys and lawyers. We have been an award-winning company for the last 19 consecutive years. We maintain a pretty tight ship and we constantly monitor to ensure we offer a superior level of service. We act like a virtual receptionist for a lot of our attorneys, and after hours we screen calls and dispatch only when necessary. We allow our attorneys and our lawyers, our law firms, to be open 24/7.
Mullins: Linda, is this your company?
Murphy: No, actually, I’m the senior business manager. I do not own the company, but I’ve worked with the company for many years.
Mullins: Okay. The 24, is that because it’s 24/7?
Murphy: Yes, exactly. Our rates are all based on 24/7. Some of our firms simply use us as a virtual receptionists during the day, but you only pay when we’re working on your behalf. So, if you leave the line turned on 24/7, it allows your doors to be open 24/7. A lot of our personal injury, criminal, etc. attorneys receive a lot of calls after hours, which are crucial, so we screen calls. And in the event someone is incarcerated or they’ve just had some kind of an accident, we will make sure we get in touch with the on-call attorney.
Mullins: Okay. You know we work with law firms — 95% of our clients are law firms worldwide. We have all different types of law firms, and it doesn’t really matter what practice area they’re in. Is your focus to replace their intake team or just be there as a backup for after hours and overflow?
Murphy: Not necessarily, Chris. I mean, there are law firms that use us as a virtual receptionist all day long, but some of our firms simply use us for overflow during the day. What they can do is put on a feature called call forward no answer, or call forward busy on their line. Call forward no answer allows their line after a predetermined number of rings if their intake receptionists are busy it will automatically divert to our answering service, allowing us to take overflow calls.
Mullins: Answering services or call centers don’t typically have a very good reputation, right?
Murphy: There are ones that unfortunately don’t, yes, that’s correct.
Mullins: I mean just as a rule, as a whole.
Murphy: Yes. I understand what you’re saying that’s how we differ.
Mullins: You know, I go to a lot of conferences. I mean, it’s a great business and there’s a huge market for it. But there are definitely call centers and/or virtual receptionists or answering services out there that they’re just not able to make themselves be like they are that law firm’s virtual receptionist. They have a hard time really doing it because they have so many different clients. What makes you folks different in order to be able to really seamlessly be that virtual receptionist or that virtual intake specialist?
Murphy: Good question, Chris. We have a lot of experience, obviously, in answering for attorneys, lawyers and law firms. But the key is that the account is set up properly. We totally customize an account. We have a pretty thorough setup form that our firms complete.
Once that’s sent back, our lead programmer works closely with our clients to make sure their account is set to their satisfaction. With technology and our enhanced system, we can be as educated as they want us to be. Everything is available at the agent’s fingertips. They will customize their intake form. We’re only going to secure that information on the intake form that they want us to gather. All the calls are recorded, and if they choose to do so, all our firms have access to every single call recording — they’re there live and they’re there for six months. They can work closely with us at the beginning to make sure that we’re handling their calls in a seamless manner and they can work with us and make changes if necessary.
Mullins: Okay. Are you just taking messages or are you doing a full intake?
Murphy: We can do whatever they ask us to do. We can use a message form and the message form is customized by them. We can screen the caller and determine if the call needs immediate attention, because sometimes people don’t relay a lot of information as it is quite often of a confidential nature.
If it’s after hours for example, we can ask if it needs immediate attention. Chances are if someone is calling after hours their call is urgent and they expect to speak to a lawyer right then and there. If they don’t divulge the reason for the call, we will ask if the call needs immediate attention and tell them that we’ll get in touch with the attorney right away.
At that point in time we can complete the form and tell them that someone will be contacting them right back. Or, if necessary, because they’re somewhere where they can’t get a return call or they’re just a little anxious, we can patch the caller right through to the attorney.
Mullins: Are they able to do the full intake, like the whole process, the screening questions and everything?
Murphy: Totally, because it’s already set on the account. We just click on the intake form and complete the intake form as laid out by the firm. When we complete that form, we can send an immediate email or a text to the appropriate people.
Mullins: Can you go in so far as scheduling the appointment?
Murphy Yes, definitely. Ideally, they give us a separate login to their scheduling system. We will go into their calendar that’s customized by them. They’ve set the parameters of this calendar — time slots, etc. — so we can see what’s already booked and there’s no chance of double booking. So, yes, by all means, if they want us to book a consult, we can do it right then and there.
If it’s a free consultation, whatever they want us to relay, any prices, etc., we will relay that before we book the appointment.
Mullins: Okay. How long has Legal Call 24 been doing this?
Murphy: Alliance is the parent company that’s been in business for 60 years. Legal Call 24 has been our specialized division, and has been in operation for the past 10 years.
Mullins: You said it’s Alliance?
Murphy: Alliance Wireless Communications is the parent company. Legal Call 24 is a division of Alliance Communications.
Mullins: What about outbound phone calls? Can you chase leads for the law firm?
Murphy: We are basically an inbound call center so we don’t do a lot of outbound. But if it’s something like phoning one of their clients to confirm an appointment, we can do minimal outbound. Our specialty is inbound.
Mullins: Okay. 24/7, it’s not an easy business to be in. I mean, there’s a huge market for the kind of business that you’re in, for sure, but to be on 24/7 is not easy. I used to work in call centers and I used to build call centers from scratch and be responsible for all that. Even with Law Firm Conversions, our practice we have now, we work with a lot of call centers to help them perfect their team, how to handle calls, how they sound and how to be in a state of readiness for each call. Let’s face it, 24/7 is extremely difficult. It’s tough to find people and keep people. You know, there are less calls coming in because it’s a strange hour of the night to help that team member or those team members stay ready, up, positive and ready to go for those phone calls. I guess that would be more like quality control. How do you folks handle that sort of thing and keep that going?
Murphy: Everything is done right on premises. As I mentioned, all calls are recorded. So every agent when they’re on a call, knows that the quality control team, the vice president and the operations manager could potentially be listening to their calls. That also keeps them on their toes. We have a very low staff turnover, which we pride ourselves in, which is important. The agents have been here for a long time. They know their job and they’re very good at their job.
We have a very intense training program. When we have a new agent start, they’re under close supervision so they’re prepared when they start answering. And every account is totally customized and reviewed. The agents have to familiarize themselves with every individual account before they start, right down to the pronunciation of the firm’s name. It’s done phonetically and there’s a training video done for each account so they can pronounce the name properly. The worst thing we could do is mispronounce the law firm’s name.
Murphy: We run a very tight ship. And we run stats constantly to make sure we can handle the volume we have and grow so that response time is quick and hold time is minimal. We’re also dealing with different time zones. We have clients on Pacific time, obviously. We have them on central, mountain and eastern, too. We staff accordingly. The majority of our clients seem to be on eastern or central time. They are the peak times and we make sure that we have overlay.
Mullins: What about different practice areas for law firms? Do you tend to attract certain types of practice areas versus others? What would be the practice area that you tend to attract the most?
Murphy: I think the majority of our clients are personal injury and criminal practices. They seem to be the ones because of the after hours, but there are also a lot of smaller law firms where the lawyers work by themselves, the attorneys. When they’re in court or they’re in a meeting or on another line, they need someone there to answer the phone. And as I mentioned before, the beauty of our services is you only pay when we’re working on your behalf. So if the phone doesn’t ring, you’re not employing someone to sit at the office eight hours a day.
Mullins: Right. So you can have everything ready to go after xx amount of rings for example. But if there are no calls coming in and you’re not taking any calls, you’re not paying for that service of being in a state of readiness.
Murphy: Right. And we have multiple agents there to answer calls. So, if they get three calls at the same time, when we give them a toll free number for a call forwarding, their individual number, there are 12 trunk lines that come into that call forwarding number. We can basically take 12 calls at one time for them, too.
Mullins: Maybe we’ve already talked about this, but just in case we missed anything, what would you say… I mean, there’s a lot of competition out there for what you do that specializes in the legal world. So just in case we’ve missed anything, what would you say some of the main benefits of Legal Call 24 would be compared to other competitors?
Murphy: I think the fact that we’re specialized and our award-winning staff. We’ve been award winners with two associations over the past 19 years. One’s Canadian and one’s in the US. They get a client base from us and they conduct mystery calls on these clients’ lines and they test the operators for professionalism, response time, overall knowledge of the account, accuracy.
We’ve been with the American one for 15 consecutive years and the Canadian one for 19 consecutive years. Our agents are scored on professionalism, courtesy, response time, overall knowledge of the account, and that’s how we’ve come out on top. You have to score over 80% overall on the calls. They conduct these mystery calls, and at the end of the call they announce their association. We abolish the time on the line so the lawyers, attorneys are not paying for that.
Mullins: Okay. What are the two associations that are testing you?
Murphy: One’s CAM-X, the Canadian one — the Canadian Association of Message Exchange. And the American one is ATSI — the Association of Teleservices International.
Mullins: And those associations are not specific to law firms.
Mullins: It’s also like call centers.
Murphy: Yes they test call centers only. And we have our own in-house monitoring quality control program in place, too.
Mullins: Okay. Could you give a small example of the kind of training you have? Not so much the initial training for when people come on board when you get new team members, but the ongoing training that you provide your team. Could you give an example of what that looks like?
Murphy: All calls are recorded, so they’re constantly being monitored by our quality control team supervisor, the vice president. Basically, agents potentially know that every call is recorded so that keeps them on their toes, but we also update. Anything new in the profession, we’re aware of. They have the jargon kind of down for the agents for the legal profession. Any work we do with our clients, we make sure that they provide us with any new developments in the profession, the industry.
Mullins: I would imagine one way for you to get educated in the legal world would probably be going to the legal conferences.
Murphy: Yes, that’s something we’re researching out right now. We plan on attending some this year.
Mullins: How did you folks get involved in the legal niche, or do you work with other niches?
Murphy: No. I think it was because we had so many lawyers and attorneys who were very pleased with our service. They started referring us to some of their associates and we just decided that it was a good niche market.
Mullins: Okay. And you probably answered this, but just in case we missed anything. I mean, with all of your clients especially being all over and in all different sizes, I like the idea that you can help the small solo law firm, too, should they need help as they grow and create their own office. But when you’re potentially hundreds or thousands of miles away, how does Legal Call 24 offer transparency to the legal firms?
Murphy: It’s the technology and our system and the customization of the account. It’s crucial that the account is set up properly so that we can be as educated as possible, and our setup form is very, very detailed. We can be as educated as the law firm wants us to be.
Mullins: You’ve said it a few times on this call. It’s the setup, which makes perfect sense to me. It’s key to the setup of the on boarding of the client, the law firm, but I would imagine that that setup process has to be really dialed in. Maybe there’s even times where you’re educating your new client on some things that they might have missed.
Mullins: That they need to have as part of the setup. Is that something that you probably do?
Murphy: Yes. And you hit the nail right on the head with that because a lot of our firms are impressed by the information that we’re asking on this setup, and our lead programmer is very, very thorough.
When she receives this setup back from our clients, she will absorb it. She’ll email any questions, ask for clarification and work closely with the client to make sure it’s set to their satisfaction. They get a copy of their setup to review and sign off on before our operators, our agents, start familiarizing themselves with the account.
Mullins: Okay. You folks are based in Canada. Are there any challenges that you have with clients in America or any at all for any reason — technology or anything?
Murphy: Absolutely not. No. The majority of our clients are in the US because the US is so much bigger than us. We give a toll free number for call forwarding and that’s a North American toll free number. And we bill in US funds. We make it as convenient as possible.
Mullins: Okay. Is your system web-based so that the client can jump on and see the volume of calls that are coming in and click on a recording or things like that?
Murphy: They can go to our website and listen to all their call recordings. But as far as any detailed reporting, that’s something we would manually run and send to them. With new clients, I work very closely with them, Chris. They have a good idea as to volume because they’ve already used an answering service or they can give me a fair idea of how many calls per month they would receive.
We have all kinds of plans, starting from 25 minutes a month to 1,000 minutes a month. If they’re uncertain, I’ll recommend one of the lower plans and I’ll work closely with them and every week send them an email with our calls versus their minutes, because they’re not locked into their rate plan. We can work with them and say, “Okay. You know, it’s been two weeks and you’ve used 50 minutes, so you probably need the 100-minute plan.”
Mullins: So you’re being proactive to try to help them with, “Here’s how you should have everything set up. There are a couple things that you didn’t mention. Here is how the scripting should work. There are a couple of things that we learned over the years that you haven’t mentioned and this may or may not be interesting to you. Here’s what you’re looking at for minutes.” Based on that, you’re being proactive in saying, “Here’s what I recommend you do for minutes based on the baseline that you have with us today.”
Murphy: Definitely. And then with newer firms, after a period of time you see a trend were we’ve earned their trust and they get more comfortable with us and start using our services more. I’ll backdate plans and let them take advantage of the lower per-minute rate because, as you go up in minutes, your per minute rate goes down.
Mullins: Okay. Is there anything you would like to say? Anything that we didn’t ask that you would like to say, you would like to share, that you think folks who listen to or read this interview in our newsletter would be interested in?
Murphy: The feedback that I get from my law firms is that they didn’t realize they missed so many calls. Statistics reveal that 72% of callers hang up on voicemail, particularly in this profession, because their calls are probably of a sensitive nature. We make sure that they don’t miss any of those calls, and we can field all the calls and unnecessary interruptions throughout their day.
Mullins: And you can do warm transfers and everything, right?
Murphy: Yes, we can definitely patch. That’s particularly common for the criminal lawyers, because when someone’s incarcerated, they can’t get a return call. What we will do is ask the caller to please hold. We’ll get in touch with Mr. Smith and we’ll connect you right now.
We place the caller on hold, call out on another line on their account, get in touch with the attorney and say, “We’ve got so-and-so, he’s incarcerated, can you take the call,” and then we’ll patch them through. Being a virtual receptionist, too, for some of our law firms, they can call in daily and say, “Okay. Today, I’m expecting a call from Mr. Brown. So when Mr. Brown calls, I want that call, regardless of where I am, transferred through to me, patched through to me.” So we’ll do that and then they can phone in in the morning and say, “I’m going to be in court all morning. Tell my callers, as opposed to me calling them back right away, it’s going to be this afternoon.” We’re just like someone sitting at their front desk.
Mullins: Right, which is the dream all law firms want, you know, to be able to outsource where they can actually say, “Finally. This call center, this answering service really sounds like… They don’t sound like a call center.” You know how you can call and you can tell that you’re talking to an answering service or call center? Is it like that with you folks? They can hear a beep or you can just tell the quality of the call?
Murphy: No. We get comments all the time where people don’t realize they’ve reached an answering service. We have noise-canceling microphones so you don’t hear the background noise.
Mullins: Okay. Is there anything else you can think of that we didn’t cover and you’d like everybody to know?
Murphy: We give a trial period for any of the law firms because it may be a new venture and they want to make sure that we’re representing them properly. It gives them a chance to confirm the quality in addition to determining on average what they’re going to be spending with us. We understand how vital calls are and as we say; “There’s a lot on the line”!
Mullins: How would folks get in touch with you if they’re interested in asking more questions and learning more?
Murphy: The direct line at my desk is (866) 847-8010 or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our website is www.legalcall24.com.
Mullins: Awesome, this has been terrific. Thank you so much for your time, Linda. I really do appreciate it.
Murphy: Thank you, Chris. I appreciate it as well.
Mullins: Absolutely. All right, everybody, this is Chris Mullins, the phone sales doctor, with www.lawfirmconversions.com. This has been another expert monthly interview that you’ll get to read in the monthly newsletter that comes to you in a bright orange envelope every month. So long, everybody. I recommend that you give Linda a call at Legal Call 24 and at least do a trial period. There’s no risk, right, Linda?
Murphy: That’s right. Absolutely.
Mullins: Alright. So long, everybody. Bye-bye.