Solo Pilot: LexHelper
Before I started my firm, the piece of advice I received most from successful solo and small firm attorneys was to keep overhead costs low. That meant keeping the bells and whistles to a minimum while retaining a professional appearance and efficiently managing my limited time and financial resources.
In learning from those mentors, I did not immediately hire a receptionist or assistant. Instead, I tried to either automate items that could be automated, such as installing a calendar system on my website or personally making appointments and follow-up calls. Just as my business began to grow, I started experiencing solo attorney burnout, in part because I was spending too much time and energy doing administrative work and desperately needed help.
I looked into several popular options, including some I had come across at various trade shows. I looked into receptionist services, virtual assistants, and several other services. The ones I liked were priced too high or had contracts similar to a wireless carrier (oh, the nightmares!). Several of the virtual assistant companies were based in other countries, so they were available at a lower price point, but I was not confident in their availability because of time differences or their knowledge of the U.S. legal profession. The latter was also a concern for other nonlawyer receptionist services. Unable to find something tailored to solo/small firm lawyers―both because of price and personnel―I gave up on the idea and moved on with my life.
A few months later, I received a call from someone at LexHelper. While I usually don’t take marketing calls, I quickly googled LexHelper and it looked exactly like what I was looking for, so I signed up for a free trial. After only a few forwarded client calls, I knew I was going to sign up with LexHelper as a paying customer. If I wasn’t already convinced, the tally of how many calls they had answered and how many minutes it took during the free trial would have convinced me. The amount of time they spent on calls with clients surprised me because it made me realize how much time I was wasting on the phone talking―doing intake with potential clients, dodging marketing calls, or even making appointments.
About a month into having LexHelper’s phone answering service, I signed up for the “Add-On” calendaring service so that someone―a human―could call clients to schedule or re-schedule appointments and do phone calls for appointment reminders.
LexHelper offers various “receptionist” type services, and it’s a lawyer-only service, which I really like. You can get your office line forwarded to LexHelper so they are the first line of defense; as an added bonus, the LexHelper assistant always gets contact information from potential clients. They then forward the call to whatever number you give them―in my case, they forward calls to my cell phone because I am often out of the office. In the beginning, I had some trouble forwarding calls and my phone was ringing both at my office and with LexHelper for a while, but as soon as we realized this, the LexHelper team had their tech support contact me and the problem was resolved promptly.
As I mentioned before, LexHelper also can make outgoing calls and make appointments for you. After each interaction―and this is one of my other favorite features―you will get an email notification with the contact information for the caller. So even if they transfer a call to me, they send me an email, which means that I don’t have to rely on my memory in case I am out of the office. Each client call is automatically documented for me, and I can simply look at my LexHelper history to figure out billable time or track previous calls, if needed. A note for outgoing calls, if you send them instructions to place a call, send a time frame as well because they are located on the East Coast so be mindful that they start work a lot earlier than most attorneys on the West Coast.
You can use LexHelper with any carrier or service that allows call-forwarding, such as a regular wireless carrier, Google Voice, or a phone company. If you are planning to go on vacation or will be out of the office, you can simply send them an email and give instructions for calls for that duration. It is truly hassle-free, and you don’t have to log into a complicated system to record an outgoing message or turn the service on or off.
LexHelper is unique in that it is a phone answering service for lawyers only, not for all types of professionals, and it has a low starting price. I didn’t realize before LexHelper how much time I was spending―and could have saved―if I had someone else calendaring, answering the phone, and sending phone reminders for appointments. If you’re on the brink of deciding, I would recommend getting a free trial of LexHelper and compare it with other phone answering services to make your final decision.
Aastha Madaan is a solo practitioner in Long Beach, California, where she practices business law and estate planning. She is a young lawyer leader, a social media disciple, and is on the editorial board for the GPSolo Magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.