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Everything you need to know about VoIP for your law office

One of the leading innovations in telephone technology has been Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). By transmitting phone calls through an internet connection instead of landlines, VoIP facilitates communication from any location.

Especially in this era of increased remote and hybrid work, VoIP is one of the best tech upgrades a law firm can make.

For a virtual law office, VoIP may be even more essential.

This means the virtual practitioner must understand VoIP in considerable depth. What are the advantages and disadvantages of VoIP? How does your firm implement VoIP and get the most out of the system? We explore these and related questions below.

What are the pros and cons of VoIP?

With VoIP, phone calls are routed through an internet connection. This can be accomplished with software alone, or with hardware and software in combination.

Accordingly, your firm’s phone connection will go down if the internet connection goes down. However, this may be the only serious disadvantage of VoIP, which pales in comparison to the many benefits.

The primary benefit of VoIP, especially for virtual firms, is providing a phone system that is not tethered to an office or any physical location. Any device at any location can be used to make or receive calls.

VoIP systems also typically offer features such as conference calls, call forwarding, and unlimited calls without higher charges.

For law firms, VoIP offers the advantage of being able to integrate with legal technology.

If your VoIP integrates with your firm databases or customer relationship management (CRM) tool, for example, data from the call can be automatically logged into your firm’s systems. If you call the client from your phone, laptop, or other device, notes and information can be displayed on your screen during the call for easy reference.

How should you introduce VoIP to your law firm?

When considering all the benefits of a VoIP system, you may be tempted to implement it right away.

Resist that temptation and take advantage of the free trials that most VoIP providers offer.

Ensure that you and your team are comfortable with the system — that it integrates well with your existing software and you are not dropping calls unexpectedly.

Even if you are a solo practitioner with no staff, you will also need to consider the client experience with your VoIP system.

Test inbound calls for sound quality and ease of use. Make sure your clients can navigate the system and have no complaints. The last thing you want is your clients wishing you would return to a landline system because your new phone system is so cumbersome.

Tips to get more out of your VoIP

Beyond making and receiving calls from anywhere, VoIP systems have more advanced features that make them excellent productivity tools for legal practices.

One of these is an auto-attendant feature, which routes incoming calls without a human operator. Auto-attendants generally operate with interactive voice responses or buttons that direct the caller to the correct department.

For small to medium-sized firms, an auto-attendant can establish professionalism and increase efficiency without the need for extra reception staffing.

Other options include logging time on calls — for the purposes of billing — and call recording, so you can maintain an archive of phone calls with clients.

A voicemail-to-email feature sends voicemail notifications to your email account, then also allows you to listen to those voicemail messages from your smartphone or desktop.

Finding a great VoIP provider

Choosing the best VoIP provider for your firm will require some careful consideration.

First, think about your law firm’s needs and why you want to switch from landlines. What are the drawbacks of your current phone system? Do you seek to increase efficiency, allow integration with your existing software, or simply make it easier for clients to reach you?

When looking at providers, consider factors such as their industry experience and customer service. Is their system scalable so that it can handle the growth you anticipate for your practice? Does the system have extremely limited downtime, so you can minimize time stuck without phone contact?

You may also want to consider how customizable the system is to your firm’s needs.

Finally, examine the specific features of any VoIP system you are contemplating. If easy-to-use interfaces or task automation are your top draws, be sure your provider includes those options.

There may be tradeoffs between some features that are ideal and others that are less so — decide what matters to you and your team.

VoIP can be a game changer for virtual firms, allowing remote legal professionals to operate from anywhere with even greater flexibility and efficiency. The trick is in gently tipping your toe in the VoIP waters and remembering what you seek in making the switch. Follow some of the principles and tips laid out here, and your virtual practice could be using VoIP to maximize its long-term success.

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