I have several good friends and colleagues who do similar work for other state bars and Canadian law societies. We have some great discussions via e-mail. Recently we had a lengthy discussion about who or what answers your phone. For many law firms, economic reality dictates that the firm should no longer pay a full-time employee just to serve as receptionist with occasional typing duties. But often the alternatives can be unattractive. Outsourcing to a live answering service can be expensive and cause concerns about client confidentiality. In addition the quality of service may be uneven or generally poor. (Of course having a minimum-wage, unmotivated employee in-house may be no better.) On the other hand, having a phone call answered by an automated answering system can seem less than professional. Many clients detest voice mail.

A summary of our discussion was prepared by Ellen Freedman and posted on her blog here. This is a long post, but this is an important and often-overlooked issue. Your receptionist, in person or on the phone, is often the first person that gives an impression of the law firm to a new client.