We live in an age when a vast number of websites provide innumerable services and access to products, allowing consumers to expect immediate attention. People use smartphones constantly to order products on the go, locate businesses, and download information and services. Some bold lawyers have introduced “live chat” functions on their websites to get leads, but is this a good idea?
What is live chat?
Live chat is an instant messaging service that is embedded into a website that allows consumers to instantaneously chat with a representative of the company. Lawyerist.com provides a good outline of live chat options for attorneys, including the benefits and drawbacks.
Is live chat software easy to install on an attorney’s website?
It can be. There are even free services like Pure Chat and My LiveChat that offer free installation of live chat software to a website. Other services install the software on your site at a cost and also offer to communicate with potential clients on behalf of the firm.
What are the benefits of using live chat for a law firm?
The primary benefit is that consumers are instantly connected to a law firm.
Are there any significant drawbacks to live chat?
Yes. There are three major drawbacks:
- Technology does not exist to perform an instant conflict of interest check automatically before the potential client engages with a member or agent of your firm. The conflict check must be done manually by the representative of your firm during the live chat. The Lawyerist.com article provides an example of an attorney who became disqualified based on a conflict arising from the live chat function on his website.
- Staff members (or independent agents) responding to online chat inquiries on behalf of a firm are the partner’s responsibility. Attorneys familiar with the practice area and who can discuss the qualifications of the attorney who will handle the potential client’s case should be engaging in these live chats — and nobody else. Attorneys should also have a “declination of services” letter that is automatically generated to the potential client if they have not retained the firm within a specific number of days following the chat.
- There is an opportunity cost associated with live chat. Employing an attorney to remain available to engage a potential client is costly and time-consuming.
While our family law firm is able to conduct an instant conflict check during the initial stages of a live chat and we have attorneys familiar with our practice that could respond to live chat inquiries, we are hesitant to use a live chat system simply due to the opportunity cost. If you are able to afford an attorney to monitor the live chat site, and if they are able to conduct an instant conflict check for your firm, then the service may be a viable option for you.
For more information about conflict checking for law firms, visit Client Conflict Check. WSBA members receive a lifetime 15% discount. Use promo code WSBA15P at checkout or when you sign up for a free trial.