Home Legal Marketing How A ‘Grandma’ Receptionist Can Help Increase Billings At Smaller Law Firms
How A ‘Grandma’ Receptionist Can Help Increase Billings At Smaller Law Firms

How A ‘Grandma’ Receptionist Can Help Increase Billings At Smaller Law Firms


While doing a recent turnaround at a law firm that does wills and estates, criminal, and family law, The Legal A Team noticed that one thing this firm was doing right was they hired a ‘Grandma’ receptionist.

While many smaller law firms have very junior clerks or temps performing the role of a receptionist, or they have discontinued the position altogether, we believe a ‘Grandma’ receptionist pays huge dividends.

Now, before you get your back up and accuse me of being biased, insensitive, politically incorrect, or all three, hear me out. We’re living in an age of ageism. It’s the proverbial elephant in the room. Older workers are being exited from organizations in favour of younger and frequently cheaper workers. A ‘Grandma’ receptionist stands ageism on its head—and makes it work for law firms to great aplomb.

A ‘Grandma’ receptionist is very profitable at a client of mine and I’m passing it along as something that could work for your smaller law firm, too. It works particularly well at consumer law firms, such as criminal law, wills and estates, estate litigation, family law, and residential real estate.

The reason that a ‘Grandma’ receptionist works is that this is part of neuromarketing and a grandma taps human’s earliest memories about family, security, comfort, and secrets. Clotaire Rapaille, one of the leading thinkers on neuromarketing since 1976, has been a consultant to 50 of the Fortune 100 companies, including TD and RBC in Canada. And his advice applies equally to marketing products and services.

Rapaille’s premise is simple: in a buying decision, the reptilian brain always wins. Rapaille’s advice to clients is always, find the “code” for what it is you are selling and build your brand on that. More often than not, the clients of consumer law firms are upset because their marriage is falling apart, they are worried that they won’t see their children as often, they cannot find the will of a loved one who has died, or they have been charged with a crime and may end up in jail. So, it is reasonable to assume that the “code” for Grandma (what Grandma represents) is: comfort, love, and security.

A ‘Grandma’ receptionist is a mature woman who is professional and friendly to all who call the firm’s intake line.  She is brilliant at putting prospective clients at ease and getting them to part with key sensitive and personal information that they may not want to include on a form downloaded from the company’s website.

Part of the magic of this role is you can tell that this is a woman who has lived and has a family of her own. She can relate. She understands that when it comes to areas of the law like criminal, wills and estates, and family law, personal problems are entangled with legal problems. Her voice is mature and comforting. She exudes empathy.

Prospective clients are often nervous when using downloadable forms on lawyer websites. They don’t know where those forms go, who sees them, and where they end up. Online forms get caught up in general paranoia and Big Brother snooping into your private life.

That’s not to say that there isn’t an intake form—there is. And it is part of the ‘Grandma’ receptionist’s job to fill out the form, and to schedule that person for an in-person consultation as soon as possible.

A ‘Grandma’ receptionist is very chatty by nature, unassuming, and non-threatening. Prospective clients tell her all kinds of things that she carefully notes on the intake form—things that she didn’t ask and that were volunteered.

Having parted with key information about their case, prospective clients feel reassured that they spoke with a live human being. They feel like they were understood because as part of the conversation, ‘Grandma’ receptionist parted with some stories about her own life. Prospects feel that they are not alone, that someone was listening, and are reassured that a lawyer at the firm will make it their top priority to help them.

Once a prospect has called, they are in the mood to buy. They have a legal problem and they are shopping for a lawyer. The sooner you can get that prospect in for an initial consult (IC), the better. It’s ideal if she can schedule the IC within 24 hours. It should not be more than 48 hours because that gives the prospect time to go ‘lawyer-shopping’ and find someone else who can meet with them sooner.

A ‘Grandma’ receptionist has developed a sixth sense over the years to sniff out problem clients: those who are insistent, argumentative, unreasonable, overbearing, and call three times a day about the status of their case — and then dispute the bill. You can’t make money on those clients. A smart managing partner knows this.

These types of clients are ultimately not profitable, as you will probably have to give away a lot of your time and “eat the hours.” A ‘Grandma’ receptionist pulls these nuances out of a conversation, information that would not show up on a form with tick-boxes. She can find a way to discourage these clients from scheduling an IC with the firm.

So, an equally important part of her job is to screen out clients who will be more trouble than they are worth. There has to be a huge level of trust between the managing partner and a ‘Grandma’ receptionist, but it’s well worth cultivating.

A ‘Grandma’ receptionist is very effective at pre-screening the leads that come in, by phone or off the firm’s website, to make sure they will be good clients. And she saves you money by discouraging bad clients from booking an IC.

Jana Schilder on Email
Jana Schilder
Jana Schilder
Jana Schilder is co-founder of The Legal A Team™ a business development, marketing, branding, and public relations agency for lawyers and law firms. She has been working with lawyers since 1993 when she was marketing director at McCarthy Tetrault, then Canada’s largest national law firm. She can be reached at jana@janaschilder.com or 416-831-9154.


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