The vast majority of law firms have similar client-facing hours: Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., give or take 30 to 60 minutes on either end. A handful of law firms (I’m looking at you, criminal defense lawyers) are “open” until 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. However, though the neon open sign may be glowing bright during these later hours, there’s a good chance any phone calls will be forwarded to a cell phone.
We’ve noticed some law firms represent themselves online as being “Open 24 Hours.” And yet, it’s infrequent that law firms have their own graveyard shift call centers and CSRs working 5:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. and 12:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. shifts, though you often see this with some of the largest firms in the country. Instead, what enables most law firms to have this never-closed designation is their partnership with vendors that provides after-hours, overflow, and dedicated intake services. Many vendors provide this service with different arrangements built for different firm sizes and legal services.
What Are the Benefits of Having an After-Hours Vendor for Your Law Firm?
There are two overarching benefits of having after-hours support in place: current client experience and potential client acquisition. Current clients don’t love calling in to get a phone ringing off the hook that eventually goes to voicemail. Voicemail is the same as a form submission on a website as far as I’m concerned – you leave information for both, and it feels like there’s a 50/50 chance they enter a void, never to encounter a human being for the rest of existence.
Though an after-hours representative is no substitute for someone at your firm, being able to speak with a live representative and secure a message with them is substantially better than the aforementioned method.
However, perhaps the true benefit of an after-hours vendor is for your potential new clients.
If you look at the image above, two out of three listings are “Open 24 Hours.” Minick Law has a foreboding, stark red indication of ‘closed,’ which solemnly condemns the listing to nearly immutable inactivity until 9:00 a.m. the following day unless someone is set on holding out for them after browsing their reviews or attaching name recognition.
How Many People Call Law Firms after Hours?
Before we go any further, it’s crucial to establish how many people actually call after-hours and on weekends. After all, there’s not as much urgency if it turns out most consumers are predisposed to the 9-5 window for contacting legal services.
Using CallRail, we analyzed 30,000 calls from our legal clients over the past six months. We segmented the calls by day of the week, time of day, first-time callers vs. previous caller, call duration, and their source (in this case, to get more accurate data on consumer behavior, specifically Google My Business). About 40% of the calls after-hours and on weekends were not first-time calls, meaning they could have been other lawyers, vendors, and current clients. However, that means roughly 60% were first-time callers.
Here are some of the most interesting findings:
- Surprisingly, only 2.57% of the 30,000 calls occurred on the weekends. This struck me as a low percentage for a 48-hour stretch, mainly because the survey includes so many firms in the personal injury and criminal defense space. Either way, it seems most potential clients assume they will not reach anyone on the weekend.
- For those who did get calls over the weekend, the survey split up the duration of these calls as “Over 30 Seconds” and “Below 30 Seconds.'” Of the 193 calls received for the non-after-hours firms, 55.44% of those calls lasted longer than 30 seconds. For the after-hours firms, 75.38% were over 30 seconds.
- 97% of the calls occurred after-hours, meaning outside the 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. range. My reaction to this was on the opposite side of the spectrum from weekend calls (though we’re talking about two-thirds of the day when you think about it.
- Within the 14.97% of the after-hours, weekday calls—which is close to 4,500 calls—34.22% of the calls occurred between 5:00 p.m and 6:00 p.m., and 28.54% occurred between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m., combining for 62.76% of calls only hour before or after standard business hours. The later/earlier it moved from open to close, the fewer calls came in.
It would appear that an option for some firms could be quality availability from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and a dedicated third-party vendor may not be a priority. Yet, there’s still something appealing about having a 24-hour designation via marketing channels for potential lead acquisition either way.
This will also depend on the practice area. Personal injury law firms are generally excited about anything that can give them a leg up on the competition as far as the convenience of client acquisition, along with criminal defense and a few other consumer practice areas, for that matter. I wouldn’t expect to see demand for these types of accommodations for practice areas that have relatively less urgency, such as most B2B, estate planning, wills, trusts, probate, etc.
How Does After-Hours Support Help Your Current Clients?
The matter of presenting your firm beyond 9 to 5 isn’t entirely resolved yet, as after-hours/intake support goes beyond just being prepared for how potential clients may see you now. Some opportunities are created by proactively having the always-open designation, such as:
- Running Google Ads during times of the day when people scale back when they believe they have no call support. I can guarantee that keywords are much cheaper at the wee hours of the night when competition either shuts them down or has already exhausted their daily budget.
- This previous thought also completely applies to everything from late-night discounted TV spots to forms of display marketing.
- With updates to Google My Business and Maps, you’re now able to easily select different criteria directly from search results to modify the listings presented. The two main benchmarks at this time are Rating and Hours. The “Open Now” designation will go a long way in narrowing down results.
Why Your Business Should Never Really Be Closed
So, with so many options on the table, you may be curious which direction to take your law firm. Even if you have standard business hours, we recommend that the phone shouldn’t go unanswered after you close. While there’s nothing wrong with letting calls go to voicemail, the 24/7 solution can be beneficial for many reasons. Potential clients are more likely to choose your business, it saves your team from burnout, and virtual phone answering services can be affordable.
The Legal Mastermind Podcast—a weekly show conducted by Market My Market founders Ryan Klein and Chase Williams that explores optimal growth and management tactics for law firms across the country—has several episodes that discuss after-hours and intake methods. Here are just a few:
Contact the Digital Marketing Specialists at Market My Market
Law firms should seek vendors that can help them take the next step in securing leads. By providing after-hours support, you’ll always be one step ahead of the competition. At Market My Market, our top-of-the-line marketing team can help you find the right partner. Our experts have experience helping clients small and big outperform others in their niche so they can outshine the competition. Schedule a free consultation to learn more about your options by completing our contact form today.