In today’s tech driven world, there is significant comfort and convenience using instant messaging. Since legal advice is not likely to be delivered in this way, what’s better, in-person or phone consultations?
There’s no denying that in-person consultations lead to stronger rapport, deeper connections, and easier conflict resolution. However, some people are just too busy to put aside a few hours to receive a consultation on the far end of town.
Which method will you use?
Ease of hiring an attorney
Almost everyone is looking for the quickest and safest route that answers their problems. Having access to your services can likely be best achieved by providing a place to find you online.
Your website may be the key place where you find new clients. Knowing precisely what you can offer (in-person or phone consultations) will make the ease of hiring an attorney that much simpler.
Also, if you have started a blog, you have likely already built a relationship with your prospective client and their phone call or message to schedule a consultation is the next step forward.
Overview Of Phone Consultations
There is a clear convenience for both you and your client when it comes to phone consultations. Whether you have a website scheduling appointments or a staff member taking your calls, providing this style of consultation may free up more of your time which you can devote to more prospective clients.
Consider the following:
- Will providing phone consultations affect the number of clients you receive compared to meeting in-person?
- Will providing phone consultations allow you to help more people?
- Will providing phone consultations led to more successful outcomes?
Phone consultations have the ability to start a relationship. There is some commitment to both your service and their legal needs that will be discussed over the phone.
Whether in-person consultations build stronger rapport or not, people seeking a phone consultations are looking for a solution to their problems and are likely unwilling to wait any longer to get that.
Features & Benefits:
- Flexibility in scheduling for both you and your client
- Provide urgent solutions for some clients
- Attract more clients who don’t want to/can’t meet in-person
- Convenient for clients with busy schedules
- Expand your reach for legal services
Overview Of In-Person Consultations
There are somethings that can never be replaced by technology and that’s the level of intimacy that comes from face-to-face human connections.
Regardless of whether you decide to offer phone consultations or not, there will always be some people seeking to speak with you in person.
Perhaps this is your selling feature. You have established yourself as a respectable and impressive performing firm and clients are eager to walk in to sit in your offices to get your advice.
It could be the handshake, the assurance of your character, or simply the process of entering into your office that makes things “feel official.”
In-person consultations are irreplaceable.
In person consultations can give your clients the opportunity to engage in high stakes conversations. If you are addressing sensitive topics, providing this style of consultation is advised.
In general, there are simply some topics that should not be addressed over the phone. Any cases involved emotional situations like divorces, children, and death requires that human element to be handled well.
Features & Benefits:
- Comfort in disclosing sensitive information (i.e. emotional cases involving children)
- Access to traditional styles of consultations
- Generally, more practical for elders (may have problems hearing over the phone)
- More security and privacy for corporate clients
Consider Whether An In-Person Or Phone Consultation Is Right For You
If you are marketing your legal services well, you may be getting 20 to 50 requests for consultations per month. Perhaps you’re getting more and screening hundreds of calls and concerns.
Depending on the size of your law firm (i.e. individual practice vs. group of associates) you may or may not be able to handle the amount of consultations requests.
If you’re a small law firm, here are a few things to consider:
- Do you have the extra hours (100+) to provide all these consultations this month?
- Does your staff have the additional hours to handle the logistics (i.e. scheduling consultations, following up with those who don’t show up, etc.)?
- If needed, are you willing to put in the extra hours — working into the evening and weekends?
- How successful are you in these consultations? How often do they lead to your legal support?
If you have a high number of requests for in-person consultation, this can take up a significant amount of your time. If you have a website set up and it is capable of making bookings, you can save yourself a lot of personal struggles.
Investing in a lawyer website may be an ideal choice as it can alleviate the weight of calls coming in to request in-person consultations and direct prospective clients to book a phone consultation at their convenience.
Contrasting Consultation Styles
What if phone consultations led to a lower no-show rate? Convenience is key when people are seeking answers to their problems. Being able to get an answer over the phone rather than wait for an uncertain amount of time is what many people are looking for. People don’t want to wait.
This demand for immediacy can eliminate the need to “build rapport” for a relationship to build between client and attorney. The urgency some people are facing leads to people making faster decisions based on other sources (i.e. your website, reviews, etc.).
Imagine this, your legal office is empty. Can you be trusted to take on their case if you don’t have any clients that keep you busy? Your perspectives may not commit to you because you don’t appear to be very busy. And, if you aren’t busy, perhaps they may think that you are not very good.
However, if you are offering more phone consultations than in-person, it would be easy to believe that previous presumption.
So how should you value your time?
Phone consultations should be limited to lower-stake cases. These are great for clients who don’t want or need an in person conversation and they are much more flexible with their time.
What Does Research Say About Using In-Person Or Phone Consultations
Research by Heather Hewitt, Joseph Gafaranga, and Brian McKinstry examined the differences in consulting methods used by doctors: in-person or phone consultations.
They interviewed 18 professional medical practitioners and 65 of their patients.
Their results showed that phone consultations are capable of dealing with smaller, single issues and concerns. Whereas in-person consultations led to many more problems to deal with and discuss.
The phone consultations tended to be shorter while in-person consultations led to periods of silence. This research article suggests that it is during those moments of silence that new topics and problems are introduced.
One final point that was discovered, in-person consultations tend to elicit more concerns and questions from the doctor and phone consultations were more direct and focused at solving the problem at hand.
Their conclusion: Phone consultations take less time and focus on a single problem. In-person consultations involved more problem disclosure.
Knowing Your Consultation Style
So what’s going to be your style: in-person or phone consultations? There’s no right answer to this question and your decision should be based on the kinds of legal services you provide.
There are certainly some situations, such as bankruptcy and criminal defense, where providing phone consultations is the quick and easy solution for your clients.
Providing phone consultation can even give you the freedom and flexibility to work remotely.
However, the traditional in-person style is a standard in the legal world, especially for emotionally charged situations.
Whatever you decide, defining your consultation style allows you to provide legal services in a way that suits your client’s need, scheduling, and personal preference.