You only get one chance to make a good first impression, as the old saying goes. For a law firm, that boils down to the initial contact a potential client has with you. How that interaction goes can make all the difference when it comes to whether they hire you or not.

Maddy Martin, head of education and growth at Smith.ai, a Silicon Valley-based reception company, provides a service that can help you capture more potential leads coming, as well as maintain good relationships with current clients, not to mention help with scheduling, basic intake, and more.

Smith.ai offers virtual receptionists for live calls, live chats through your website, and even text messaging…backed up by machine learning and artificial intelligence. 

It may be a good way for your firm to cost-effectively improve productivity and customer service… and increase profitability as a result. 

We chat about the technology behind these services, privacy and security, and more, including…

  • How to cut down on doing work for clients for free
  • Why “live chat” on your website and texting with clients can be so effective
  • How to get paid without having to personally ask clients for money
  • Why your paralegal is probably doing too much right now and what to do about it
  • And more

Listen now…

Mentioned in this episode:

Transcript

Davina Frederick: Hello and welcome to the Wealthy Woman Lawyer podcast. Our mission is to provide thought-provoking powerful and practical information to help you in creating your own sustainable wealth-generating law firm without overwork or overwhelm, so you can live your best life. I’m your host, Davina Frederick, and I’m here today with Maddy Martin, head of growth and education at Smith AI. Smith AI is a leading virtual receptionist and lives chat service for attorneys and other businesses. And today we’re going to be talking with Maddy about how Smith AI may be able to help you increase your productivity and your profitability. Welcome, Maddy. I’m so happy to have you here today on the wealthy woman lawyer podcast.

Maddy Martin: Thank you so much, Davina. It’s a pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me.

Davina: Oh, great. So first of all, I would love it if you could just tell us a little bit about Smith.ai and kind of the history of the concrete company, how long have you guys been around and been working with an attorney and servicing attorney then how big is the company? I mean, were your headquarters? How many people do you have working with you and that kind of thing? So we can have an idea of a better idea of the nature of the company?

Who Is Smith.AI

Maddy: Yeah, absolutely. That’s a really great question. So we are based in Silicon Valley started in 2015, by Aaron Lee and Justin Maxwell, who has had a very long career successfully working for startups and innovative tech companies, including Google Apple, YouTub, Sony into it, you name it, and they have combined really excellent technology with an incredible staff of now about 100 receptionists and live chat agents. It’s growing every day. We just announced 24 seven live staff chat, which adds To our weekday and weekend service for our live Virtual Receptionist. And we have bilingual staff supporting English and Spanish so that we can communicate for the vast majority of law firms in the country and their changing needs. As business and the practice of law grows and changes, not only by the demand for different practice areas we’re seeing a huge increase in immigration, for example, is a demand for those services grows, but also through the different communication channels.

So while Smith AI I started just with phone services, inbound and outbound calls for businesses and about 60% of our client base is law firms by the way. What we’re doing now is omnichannel communication and what I mean by that is being responsive on all the channels are the primary channels where your leads and clients are trying to reach you because that’s how they’re interacting with other businesses and other people in their own lives. So that includes your website via text message. And also very soon other channels like Facebook Messenger and connecting things like your email to our texts answering service so that we can respond with absolute security and a lack of access to those confidential pieces of information. So that we’re just sort of a recipient, rather than logging into your systems which we can talk about more the ethical components of our service, but that’s something that’s very interesting to us how we use technology to protect the confidentiality and privacy required in law firms.

Davina: Right, right. Well, that’s a lot. There’s a lot to unpack there. Then. stemming from that intro that you did. So let’s start with, let’s start by talking about just the basics of the service. And so its reception services, live chat from websites, go into that a little bit deeper and just tell me like what the processes,

Maddy: Absolutely so we can work with almost any phone system, almost any website to sit on top of the existing services that you have. So there should be very little friction and startup time and cost. We will basically do all the heavy lifting for you or will work with your it firm or your website, you know, administrator agency to make sure that we’re plugged into your system. So if you use a cloud phone system like RingCentral, or you know any of those other phones that are available, especially to small law firms, are, you know, just maybe 2030 bucks a month for a small law firm, you can add that instead of having your personal cell phone has your way from responding to leads and clients. Add that and then we are able to answer all calls overflow the only route within a certain directory. So if you want to just pass us new potential clients and have existing clients go somewhere else, we can do that. We also can show your business number on caller ID and make outbound calls for you. So we allow back Yeah, so we can call that your web form leads people who chat in people who need to be called for appointment reminders, or rescheduling. You can imagine, you know, when a client is due at court, you want to make sure that they show off and that’s not a task that needs to consume your time. You know, how do we take these things off your plate that are not loitering work that is just not able. So We do call answering but it’s a lot more than that. So whether it’s online or by phone, whether it’s inbound or outbound, we are able to not only take that call but also to screen and schedule and take payment for consultations, do basic intake, even conflict checks, so that we are getting as much done possible to book the most relevant, qualified consultations for you to again, make sure that you’re getting the most value out of delegating those tasks to us.

Davina: So tell me when it comes to intake for the call, I know you guys also work with clients on their specific intake needs, whatever it is that they the kind of information they want to collect. Is that correct?

Maddy: Yes. So one of the things that I think distinguishes us is the level of customer immunization that is available to you and how deep we go. So you may have a system where you have multiple practice areas, different intake forms for each practice area because the criteria are different or even different Intake Forms based on different attorneys at your firm who may even have different schedules that they’re maintaining. And we can tap into and adjust to each of those different criteria that you’re using and those forms. And the beautiful thing is that we can through tools like Calendly, and acuity and Cleo and Cleo grow law magnetics law pay us your links to your systems like a link to an intake form, your Cleo grow account through integration or your Calendly, public-facing booking calendar so we can fill in this information without logging into your system. And then it’s logged in there automatically without having to provision a new license for us, which incurs a cost or having us login, which incurs a security risk. So that’s automatically done with just a sort of portal into your system where we don’t actually see within the system itself. Does that make sense?

Davina: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And that leads me to the next question, which is about payment because you mentioned that you could even take payment. And I just imagine you all the, all the lawyers, thoughts are popping when they hear that because, yay, on the one hand, but on the other hand, what, you know, what kind of risk is involved in that? Right. So how do you sort of mitigate that with taking payments?

Maddy: Yeah, that’s a really great question. So there are a couple of things to unpack there. The first is that all of our receptionist, we really set the standard here for signing an NDA. Additional confidential financial information, non-disclosure agreements so that they are, they very much understand and are specialized working with law firms and financial advisors, you can imagine there’s a lot of private information, then they do not disclose. But the nice thing is, is that we are plugging that information directly into your system so that that credit card information is not logged in our system, and it goes straight into your latte invoice or headnote or whatever you’re using. And then the great thing is, is we find especially for practice areas that are not contingency-based or you know, personal injury attorneys are not taking consultation fees, right. But what’s nice is for the family law attorneys who are so often banging their heads against the wall because everyone wants for legal advice, and every one’s having a million consults and there can be a lot of time wasted. We know for example, from the Clio legal trends report from last year, that 59% of console don’t result in a retained client. And what we see is that if you charge for consultations, and what you can even do is credit that payment to the first bill.

So it’s actually not a penalty to those best potential clients, then you get the benefit of people who are going to be much more likely to keep their appointment, much more likely to have their little internal gut check that self qualifying of how serious Am I to put my payment down for a consultation? You know, am I ready for an attorney? Am I committed to this? And then having that done, ensures that you get paid at the end of the day and that you’re not chasing payments, which funny enough is something that we do for many clients too, because we’ll call them and our attorney clients will say to us, you know, I have a personal relationship with this client. is actually directly a quote from John Raja who I taught a CLE. With at for law line last name. It was like at least a year ago, he was telling me that one of the things that he’s unlocked within the Smith AI service for him and he’s been working with us for a long time was a two is that he has a close personal relationship with his clients. And what he doesn’t want to do is have a conversation with them about hey, can you pay me for that bill? Because we really have a transactional relationship, not a personal one, like the implication there is that you jeopardize a relationship that you have been working to build by bringing it back to a transactional conversation. So when we have that conversation for you, not only do you get the bills that you haven’t had time to follow up on for late payments, and you’re not paying a collections agency have a way higher fee, but you also proved to deserve that relationship. And frankly, people are much more likely to say, you know, yes, let me go get my credit card, then pull on the heartstrings of the attorney who is more likely to sort of discount their services. We’re not in that position, right? So if your client says, Oh, I really am not able to, you know, pay, could you please You know, we’ve known each other for so long Could you please give me a discount you as the attorney may be authorized or give yourself permission to discount that? We don’t have that sort of discretion. So you will find that you’re realized revenue goes way up. 

Davina: So do you guys offer services where you’re, since I just want to be really clear on this? Do you are you offering services where you return calls and are Yes, you know, okay. And so that might be a conversation that you’ve got an attorney could have Smith.ai handle. Okay, interesting. So not just on the initial booking of the consultation, but then the phone calls to follow up and remind appointments and things like that as well.

Maddy: Yes. And actually one of the things that we are doing is adding a service where we can also sort of provide links to documentation after the console. So if you don’t already have, you know, an intake system, that or, you know, CRM that allows you to after the appointment is booked, send a confirmation with maybe those initial client documents to review, we are sort of trying to help with that communication flow as well. So if that interests you, please do contact us, you know, just Hello. It’s without AI because that’s something that we’re building and we always want to hear what you need. But I will say that from the outbound, you know, call perspective, it is really nice to not have to make these calls for two reasons or to not receive calls for two reasons like one is, you don’t like the work or two, maybe you like it, you just don’t have time for it based on the maturity and the development of your practice. You know, maybe you love talking to clients, but is it at this point in your practice, the best use of your time, you know when it comes to taking payment? That’s just I would say that probably 95% of people don’t enjoy that conversation.

Davina: Right? Yeah, I would agree with you on that. Um, and, you know, when we think in terms of the virtual, there’s so many virtual practices that are springing up now and attorneys who really are looking to work remotely distributed, you know, virtually, and, and so the idea of a traditional reception is sitting, you know, greet people when they come in the door. A lot of times people aren’t meeting their clients in person. So I know this would be a great fit for those types of people. But even for those who have traditional offices, talk about, can you talk a little bit about the advantages of hiring a service like Smith AI for those people with traditional offices? Who might think to themselves, you know, maybe I should just get a receptionist in here, you know, to answer the phones for me rather than hire service?

Virtual vs. In-Person Reception

Maddy: Yes. So, I have a lot of thoughts about this. And I’ll try and I’m sure you do. I wanna I want to emphasize that, you know, I imagine that you have listeners who are maybe sitting there thinking, Oh, you know, is Maddy going to say I should lose my job? And the answer is absolutely not. Right. So what we say is, you know, utilize your in house teams for their highest usage, just as I’m suggesting that you use yourself for your highest You said right so people who are in the house they have oftentimes much more of a research doc clerk, paralegal legal secretary role and there is a lot of work there are a lot of errands involved in that if you’re still maintaining an office, and there’s a lot of support that that person can bring. We are seeing some of those go virtual as well.

But that is totally up to you. What we do is we reduce the noise to the office and also provide overflow if you already have a receptionist to is just someone you’re comfortable with and committed to and is committed to you. You know, we’re not looking to replace people or remove jobs from your practice. What we can do is provide business continuity and extended hours because you have someone who’s working probably nine to five, or even you know, if two people working nine to five, they’re still not working You know, 8 am to midnight, Eastern Time and on the weekends, not to mention that what we see. And I was just reading a testimonial from the Memphis Bar Association the other day, they’re using us as well. They said they’ve seen significant call reduction when they add the website chat. So when you deploy something like even our free AI chatbot, you can get a lot of common questions answered automatically. And then that reduces the amount of noise coming through and the interruptions for your in house teams. And then the overflow and extended hours can be handled by our teams who again if there’s a sick day if there’s a vacation if there’s maternity leave, you know, we are so pro-female. 

So so this is the ideal balance for you to maintain your work-life balance, allow your staff to have work-life balance, because there’s a lot of pressure when calls come in after hours, or when they just come in and you can’t get your other work done that is allowed to perform at the highest level of your law practice or your education or skill. So this takes all that other work and those chores off your plate so that if we do have someone who is on the phone, and they do indicate that they’re a good client based on your criteria, what we can do is we can pass them right through to your intake specialist or to you, we can schedule them for you, you can just get a notification and decide whether or not to call them back. But either way, you’re completely in the loop. But your plate is sort of opened up to the work that you know only you and only your in house staff can do.

Davina: Right Right, right. And, you know, I’m finding that more and more law firms, you know, my clients are women law firm owners, and usually, they’re a fairly small size or, you know, even as they start growing and getting a little bit bigger, couple things happen. One is that the receiver2 position is always a hard one to fill. And two, because you just don’t have as many traditional sorts of the receptionist, you know, you need it, and you need a much higher level of skill in that position. And you think you’re going to me, right, and so you can’t just hire somebody who’s low skill, they have to have an ability to be your customer service rep and your face of your organization. So that’s one thing. And then the other thing is that small firms tend to as you mentioned, get their staff to do double duty. So they’re taking that paralegal away from doing that billable, high billable paralegal work and saying, well, she can answer the phones too because I know we afford to hire, you know, one person right now. If you’re going to answer phones too well imagine trying to get work done when you’re constantly and bill, the hours you need to build when you’re constantly being interrupted by that ringing phone.

Maddy: Well, not only that but frankly, you know, it really results in a cost that is very sneaky and unseen, which is staff turnover. If you have people who are not satisfied or are doing work that they didn’t really agree to when they took the job with you, then you will end up spending a lot more time and money on hiring, and, and dealing with that churn of people who are leaving or maybe just not performing or sort of disgruntled and their productivity is low because they’re doing things that you know, they weren’t really expecting to do, and that are not the most stimulating to them. Not only that, but you know, I’m sure that you have clients who and their listeners here who are possibly in markets that are very competitive, or just short on candidates. So if you have trouble hiring people who are at your standard, you know, not only is it a matter of Can I just find one? And is one enough for me and all the extended our benefits of a receptionist? But is it even possible for you to find that one staff person who is reliable, who doesn’t leave you in the lurch who you can afford in markets where there are a lot of receptionist in the job market, then what do we find the cost goes up, they’re more in control, they have more, you know, the power to choose the jobs that they want, when there are fewer than you risk, you know, sort of compromising on quality if you can hit the cost that you want? So it is a huge constraint to rely on just your local job market these days.

Davina: Uh-huh. So tell us about the receptionist you have your team, whether they’re answering the live chat or they’re answering the phones, whatever, what kinds of vetting and qualifications and things processes Do you guys go through to make sure you’re getting good quality people and not just, you know, what we’re what we might think of a call center type thing. Do you know what I mean?

Ensuring Quality

Maddy: Yes, there’s absolutely a stigma. That’s a really good question. So first of all, it’s not a call center. Are you never going to hear someone speaking to another client in the background and your potential client or your client hearing something that doesn’t sound like a small law firm, right? So it should sound like they are in the house and they do. The way that we hire is we actually have been very, very lucky that many of our hires are referrals from the existing receptionist and that core group, primarily came from actually the sort of military spouse and military network. Because a lot of people have customer service and hospitality careers who have had to move, and by no fault of their own have had career disruptions, just simply because when that started, the workforce wasn’t as flexible and virtual. So we have a lot of receptionists who are career professionals, maybe even in the military themselves, but often military spouses who need to be able to move but have a very strong reliable internet connection, strong communication skills, strong IQ and EQ.

So really that sensitivity that law firms demand of their frontline staff to understand the people who are coming in have, you know, a lot of concerns and issues that require an immediate response that sensitive and thoughtful and not just a Following the right directions, right? So we focus on that. And then we also put them through a series of technical tests. And shadowing, they need to be able to juggle our software which they use from home. And, and also speak well and follow directions that are largely not scripted. So we really just have sort of a number of pieces of information for each client. And then we use that information and draw on it, to have the call be accurate and well handled. And going from there, you know, kind of weaving in the AI component here. We have a number of sort of prompts that give them the directions that they need an automatically screening out, you know, spam and sales call so that they’re not even handling those nuisance calls.

Because as you can imagine, you know, we want a receptionist team that is not sort of disgruntled by having to talk to spammers and sales calls during the day. Now, they go through a rigorous training period and then a monitoring and shadowing period, and then they become receptionists or chat agents. And they will get trained on a lot of AI tools, especially on the chat side programming responses and identifying sort of related keywords that may need the similar response with program Jen on website chat, as well as, you know, being able to advance in our organization as receptionist team leaders as support team members as hiring team members as managers. So we have a lot of opportunities for career growth that really make it a proper job. And not just this sort of flexible sort of lowbrow, you know, a job that I think a lot of people have the impression that a virtual workforce is doing.

Davina: Right, right. I love how you mentioned pulling from the hospitality industry and then about having high EQ as well as IQ. Certainly, you want people who can use the technology and you know, and function well in that world, but then you also really, you know, that’s what I think about when I think about receptions. Now, I come from a marketing background. So I look at everything with, you know, that person is really somebody that represents your firm and maybe the first impression for your firm. And so what you’re talking about is, you know, the amount of training that you guys put in that you’re really cultivating career professionals to do service because, you know, I know I’ve had experiences, we’ve all probably had those experiences where you can tell instantly This is an answering service. Right? You know, I’m just gonna, they’re just gonna let me you know, okay, well, I’m just gonna leave a name and number because if I try to leave a message, you know, there, they will convey that message or whatever, right? And but you guys have a different a really different approach with regard to that.

Maddy: Yeah, we want to approximate the experience of an in house receptionist and get as much done as that person who you’d empower in the house can do virtually, because frankly, through the tech that we have, we can use your forums and calendar and, and send the information to you as a text message or slack or whatever, so that you can accept a phone call by you know, a slack notification. I mean, that is pretty cool that anyone on your team I mean, we work with marketing agencies, and And other bigger firms to imagine if you have sort of a group business chat at your law firm where you and maybe your apparently goal and someone else, your partner are all on a slack together and a new call comes in and you have a policy of we, you know, do accept transfers from new potential clients because we want to speak to them right away, you know, we see that in some firms, we use that friendliness, but also the technology to be able to keep the cost low, and not cut down on the services that we can offer.

Because, you know, we’re hiring US-based receptionist, receptionists for our phone services. And that’s not something that you know, is within the means of five to $7 per call. I mean, the ROI is it is exceptional, partially because we’ve built in this technology to give you efficiency, and speaking about the service-driven hospitality approach. If anyone is interested in sort of that really client-centered law firm, a client experience driven law firm approach. JACK, who’s the founder of Cleo did just come out with a client-centered, firm book. And there’s the clear legal trends report from last year that really speaks to the importance of that, and one of our clients as well just as another resource. And it’s funny because we have a lot of women lawyer clients, but now I’ve mentioned to men so his name is John Strohmeyer. And he used to work as the general manager of Four Seasons. And he does an incredible presentation, as now an attorney on the importance and the lessons that he’s learned from customer service at the highest Echelon right? To deliver that a law firm and to translate that for small firm attorneys. So if that’s an interesting topic for you, I really encourage you to check those resources.

Davina: Yeah, that’s that I love that take on it because I think it’s so often small business owners attorney small law firm owners you know tend to underestimate that, the importance of that position and I liken it a little bit to you. I’m dating myself here we’re talking about Love Boat. And what was it Lauren Tus, who was the, you know, person she was, she was the person who greeted everybody when they came on to the Love Boat and, and told them where all the fun was and directed and, you know, that’s the kind of personality in person you want somebody who, you know, makes people feel welcome and makes people feel like they were they’re going to be taken care of?

Maddy: Right, exactly. Because here’s the thing, like there is a reason why you’re in a small, firm. And often that has to do with wanting more control, whether that’s over your work or life or practice. areas or your practice or, you know, some form of control is often a driver for someone to create a small firm. Now, what happens is there comes a point in growth where you have to delegate in order to maintain your firm because you can’t do everything by yourself. So you have to release it. And I think the hardest thing is to get to a point where you have to say this, these are our brand values. This is what I’ve been doing that I now need to define and document. And I think that that can be one of the reasons that people get tripped up before they use a service like ours because you think you have to have everything figured out and you don’t because you don’t know what you don’t know. So you don’t know how to perfectly do intake and scheduling until you just start doing it and say, oops, I need to update my directions. I didn’t tell you I don’t do that practice area, right or I don’t want to have called all throughout the day.

Give me a lunch break where I don’t have calls blocked and you know, update my calendar So there are a number of things that we learn, but you’ll only learn those, you’ll only learn if people are on your website and are legitimate leads or trolls or, or just looking for free legal advice. If you put webchat on there, otherwise, you’re blind to the opportunities or even, you know, maybe it’s the lack of opportunities, but at least you know, if you don’t sort of try those systems, and if you think everything has to be perfectly set up before you launch them, now, with that said, there are some best practices, right. So if we look specifically at I mean, yes, the NDA is that our reception sign, but also even the website chat disclaimers that we recommend. I’m not just saying Oh, go put website chat up on your site and let someone just answer questions willy nilly like just be as helpful as you possibly can. That’s probably not the best approach, like, a good approach is to put a disclaimer on there because you are practicing law and your businesses more constrained than many others out there. It’s just the nature of it. To say this does not constitute an attorney-client relationship, it doesn’t constitute legal advice. You know, it doesn’t establish starting an attorney-client relationship. And maybe you even go so far as to say this is not staffed by attorneys. It’s staffed by, you know, a receptionist staff or chat agents. Or even if it’s completely a boss, this is a technology that can provide answers to you with limited scope. So people have a clear expectation that if they begin to chat, they’re not going to just get all this free legal advice. And I think that’s something that is an ethical component here.

Davina: Right, right. I and I love that you segued into the live chat because that was gonna be my next question for you just talked about live chat because I’m curious, are you finding? This is something that has just been a question on my mind for the past few years? Because I’ve, my team is designed websites for clients, things like that. And we’ve talked about, you know, the live chat function. And are you finding that more and more people are using services like a live chat? What kind of, you know, what kind of percentages? Are you seeing me? What are you seeing as far as live chat? Are people using it?

Maddy: Yeah, not only are people using it, but they are seeing that. First of all, people visit your website, typically first before they call and they prefer to chat. And this is particularly relevant for a law firm and law firms and their clients because what we find is that especially in areas of Family Law, immigration, personal injury, You’re a criminal defense, right? People are very willing to type things out, there’s a comfort level now more than ever, to use your thumb rather than your tongue to type things out and, and disclose a whole lot more information that will help the law firm screen the potential client than by phone. People are just, they’re also more, it’s more convenient because many people need to reach a lot from during regular business hours. And they’re at work during regular business hours just like you and they don’t necessarily want their co-workers to overhear their conversation about contacting a law firm to initiate a divorce or separation or child custody or DUI or all these other things, you know, that they if you get in your clients mind, don’t want their co-workers and bosses over here. I’m not that anything is their fault. It’s just personal information potentially. So So and it essentially matters. So what is really nice about chat and texting is that you have the ability to offer the level of discretion that is a benefit and service to your clients. And also it is, it is a way to programmatically reduce phone calls as interruptions while at the same time increase by 25%. We’re seeing and we worked with Mark Homer at GNGF to get a little bit of data on live chat results. And, and he is an incredible resource, by the way, he has sort of explained to us through His I think 15,000 data points, that one in attorneys can expect one in four calls. Or one in four contact points is after hours. I think it’s about 27% actually. So after hours through chat is very important because people aren’t even expecting to Call you maybe they call or they go online. And then also 25% more leads, because, for every four calls you get, you can expect one chat. So that’s a net-new lead who would not have called or emailed or completed the form?

Davina: Right, right. And the end the chat agents are trained in how to advance those chat conversations I would imagine.

Maddy: They are and also what is really wicked cool is that there is an AI chatbot that I’ve been talking to a client, showing him about this a lot and some of the other folks who are in the maximum lawyer Facebook group, which is another really great community, and we’re talking about chatbots, and how it can sort of systematically with the Smith AI version, ask the questions in the right sequence to start The potential leads and make sure that they, you know, match your practice area that they if you know, they’re there in the right area or location, that they’re ready to, you know, hire an attorney and then present them with an opportunity to schedule a consultation or request a callback. These things are happening automatically, which can be a standalone solution, or it can be alongside the receptionist. So what the receptionist is doing is handling the conversation but being able to call upon the sort of quick, accurate answers that they know are readily available to them to sort of streamline and keep consistent all of those conversations because what we want to do is make the staff able to honestly performance, their highest level two, and they can be more sensitive and thoughtful and in tune is good listeners, you know, so to speak on chat and then let them sort of programmatic answers be at their fingertips so that they operate at a higher level. Right. And the nice thing is for anyone who is in, you know, an immigration practice or family law or location where your clients speak, you know English and Spanish if there’s a Spanish preference, we can automatically translate chats between English and Spanish. So no matter who you reach, even if they only speak English on our team, they’re able to actually translate that website visitors Spanish chats to English for their own comprehension, and then their English chats into Spanish for that, that website visitors comprehension.

Davina: Oh, that’s wonderful. That’s wonderful. And you know, that’s a real challenge for a lot of attorneys. Unless you’re in a place where you know like South Florida, Miami, something where there’s you know that there’s a very large Hispanic population and so your, your chance of being able to hire reception service, you know, a receptionist for that’s bilingual is much higher in that area. But there’s a lot of areas where that adds that layer of challenge to hiring someone. And then, you know, even if you’re hiring a receptionist, you’re not likely to have the resources to be able to manage your website all day long, all day long with people it gave me and it’s certainly not at night. I mean, one of the challenges that you hear a lot of true solos or, or solos with small teams talk about is you know, all these clients, they’re, they’re emailing me and contact me or these prospective clients or whatever, after hours, and it just ratchets up my stress and my tension and my anxiety to get these emails in my boss. Don’t these people sleep they’re emailing me at 10 o’clock at night? But then like me as a business advisor, I’m telling them, you know, people are working and they need to contact you when they need to contact you. But that doesn’t mean you have to respond, right? But if you have a service who’s helping you feel those calls, then that prospective client is getting what they need to evolve their relationship, right? And make it more likely for the available hire you but you’re not getting your evening with your family interrupted or you’re interrupted because you’re sitting there working on something and, you know, your emails, pinging or whatever.

Maddy: Yeah, I mean, I think that that touches on a really important point, which is I think most consumers would prefer to work with a small business and many her small business owners themselves and want to support others like them, but there is sort of something that is a common compromise or put sort of that business decision in jeopardy when they feel like, you know, I really want this level of service that I experienced when I use the Amazon and Uber and all these apps and 24. Seven on things that a small business doesn’t have, by itself the wherewithal to, to handle and to meet those expectations that are through the roof now with clients, you know, so how do you do that on your own, but also meet the needs of and attract those clients who do value working with a small business or small law firm?

You know the way to do it is to leverage these services. And frankly, if you have growth in mind, and I think the clear reports that 85% of attorneys want to grow their firm in the next three years. So let’s assume that that’s you. Setting up systems is one of the most important things that you can do to prepare yourself for growth and to set up systems that allow you to grow into them. Carol Williams, who is an immigration attorney in Florida, said the arrow. Yeah, so she is brilliant and a wonderful client and a great educator and very open and honest about her firm and, and one of the things that she does is she choose software and services that she can grow into because switching is no fun, and it’s a huge time suck and be she wants to deliver the services and set the expectations for clients that are sustainable to her. So you know, you can imagine that right now you’re just getting started you’re giving yourself you know leniency to pick up your cell phone because you know, it’s okay it’s not, it’s not like overwhelming to you yet in your new firm. Well, that sets a very dangerous expectation that those clients are still going to keep contacting you when you do expand and you will have to adjust your expectations and then be when they refer clients, guess what they’re going to give your cell phone number and it’s just a runaway train. So Right, right, number one tip is make sure that you’re spending, you know, the very small fee of like, you know, 30 bucks a month on a white phone system, not Google Voice, like a proper phone system, and set those expectations at the outset that yes, you have your phone at your fingertips on your cell phone as an app, but it’s not actually your cell phone number you need to know when a business call is coming through.

Davina: Right, right. So let’s, before we wrap up here and run out of time, I do want to talk about some of these services that are coming. And I want to talk about text and how you guys use text and then you mentioned some social media like messenger and I know I heard another interview with you and you were talking and I thought this is really fascinating. You were talking about immigration attorneys and WhatsApp, and how much business kind of coming through WhatsApp. So we don’t think about these, you know, we think as attorneys, we look at messenger, and we look at WhatsApp and all these other sorts of things as social, personal, that kind of thing. But our clients or prospective clients may be looking at those tools and say, I want to be able to communicate with my attorney with my law firm with other business services, through these apps and, and, you know, these messaging services through text, things like that. And of course, you know, you’re a small attorney, you’re like, holding up, you know, the cross and trying to ward them off, because, you know, service can help with that.

Work-Life Balance

Maddy: Yeah, there’s that there’s a bit of conflict internally because you want clients but also You want a life and to not be interrupted or miss things that you don’t even know are happening. Like, I had talked to another client of ours who said, Oh, I didn’t, I didn’t think I was like getting texted by clients. And then I realized it enough texting enabled on my phone number and I switched to a white phone, they gave me calls and texts. And I started getting all these texts and had this aha moment, sort of, sadly, but you know, renewed that I had been missing probably a ton of conversations that I could have one is new clients because I didn’t even have texting enabled. 

So there are tools though, that makes it not a nightmare to handle, like the influx of conversations that come through these. We are already doing text answering and actually if you’re a live chat plant, which you know, the plans start at $100 a month. That includes SMS text answering. So we will, we can respond actually to text messages. And then even we launched and this is on my blog, I’m happy to send you the link to share with the listeners in the show notes. There is an email to the SMS solution that we also have now. So if you are finding that your emails in your nurturing drips are not getting the open rate and the conversion that you’re hoping for from new potential clients, let’s say that you’re sending them a series of emails if they don’t have a console, or don’t convert from a console into a retained client, what we find is that actually, you can text clients and then we will respond to those responses to the text. So you can send out the message and then we will receive them for you, which is sort of similar to the way that we can call with your business ID with your sorry, you can call with your caller ID and show your business number when we call. So it’s sort of like masking that we’re able to do and representing your business that way now with a Facebook Messenger. That is something that gets that just like WhatsApp Gets it the point that a lot of attorneys are getting referrals. A lot of people are asking for referrals and talking about their attorneys or their experiences via not just text, but messenger in groups on Facebook, in WhatsApp with family groups who may be in multiple countries or abroad different time zones, that’s their preferred channel, what ends up happening is they’ll start talking about a certain issue or a lawyer or make a referral. And within that system, that person is often trying to get in contact with you, sort of in tandem with that conversation or referral that’s happening. So that’s why you have to be present on that channel. It’s not always the case that someone’s going to Facebook instead of your website. It’s that the origin of that conversation is on that platform, and they’re not switching platforms to try and contact you.

Davina: Right. They’re saying, you know, I’m talking with my friend Barbara, and she’s recommending her attorney. Then she says, Let me introduce you. And she goes and opens up a messenger window and attacks both of you in it and says here meet this person. Right, right. And you’re mad at Barbara, because you’re like, what are you doing starting this phone having to call my office, right?

Maddy: Yeah. Or like you’re on WhatsApp and you open a new thread and just plug in the phone number and someone says, Hey, can you help me with this immigration issue? I heard your great attorney from my cousin who’s in California. And it’s like, you know, those messages? If you don’t? They can be. They can be a runaway train. If you start responding, and you’re on there, and then you realize, oh, shoot, you know, like, what do we know about texting? It’s really hard to mark something on red. Like that’s a pain point of mine. That’s just a personal gripe, but it’s like if you need that to be a notification and answered by service because imagine you’re in court in the morning. We’re in meetings all day are doing work on case research and sort of deep thinking. You can’t have that phone be buzzing and going off. And that person’s wondering why were you so responsive? And now you know, you’re making you wait. It’s not a true reflection of the level of service that you’ll deliver. So how do you meet expectations and also not go crazy trying to answer all of these channels where people are reaching you?

Davina: And you guys are working on ways to help with that. And I would imagine that also would help with documenting and tracking those conversations because that’s an I know that’s a huge issue for attorneys is, you know, don’t contact me on these types of services because I can’t keep track of all this in. Yeah, one place or another, but they’re losing opportunities because they’re dogmatic about the way that you can’t tell clients the way To reach out to me, you can train them once they become a client, right? their prospects, you know, they’re going to contact you the way they’re going to contact you right and they’re not thinking. anything’s wrong with that.

Maddy: No. I mean, why would they because they order an Uber on an app on their phone and they get grocery delivery, which I’m thinking about sitting here in Buffalo watching it snow a time. Yeah, and I know, the thing is, it’s, um, I work remotely too, as you can imagine our companies in Silicon Valley, but here I am in Buffalo. What what’s interesting is that you can log those conversations, whether it’s a phone call or chat transcript in your CRM directly with Smith AI, so we will log that entire transcript. And you can also use if your clients actually are texting you. Things like time minor and zip whip to Bill even for text messages and time spent with clients. If they have found what they think is a loophole, to get your attention and advice, you know, that is something that if you do offer it you should absolutely be compensated for. So there are jobs that are making that easier for you to the bill.

Davina: Right? We love that we love anything that can be, that can be building money back in our pockets. Right.

Maddy: So your time it all comes down to that.

Davina: Yeah, so let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about because I about money and the cost of things and, and, and how we go through the process of deciding that this is something we can afford to do versus not afford to do and that kind of thing. Because, you know, again, if you’re talking with people who have small firms, they’re always worried about do I use this service to hire somebody? How is it gonna, you know, how am I gonna be able to afford this and You know the answer to that for somebody like me any answer to that is always, well, this is somebody who’s going to make me money, right? It needs to make any money. 

Maddy: Right? So what I paid for it is a fraction of the cost and I’m going to make if I use it, it needs to bring in business and free you up to serve the business that makes you money, right? So it’s both of those things. It’s the opportunity cost of your time and also the revenue growth that comes through these channels by being responsive to clients because if you take nothing else away, the most important thing is responding quickly to that first call or email or chat or text that comes through. That is what two out of every three clients say is their determining factor in hiring a law firm… just that.

Davina: That’s an issue that we talked about in the bar associations. The two things to get clients grieved is messing with your trust account and not communicate timely with clients.

Maddy: Absolutely. So what we do to make it as easy and accessible as possible is we offer the live call service, the answering service, and receptionist and intake service. It’s available for $70 a month as a starting price that includes all protocols. So you’ll get 10 calls included with $70 a month, and then overage is just $7 a call. If you’re at 100 calls or more the cost goes down with volume and you’re paying $5 per call and we block your spam for free so you don’t have to factor that into the cost will also even block salespeople who are nuisances are wrong number calls. And you can even like list phone numbers so that you can have them skip over your receptionist if the cost is a concern to you that way. We also offer an overflow option so we can ring you first and be your backup which further can keep your costs controlled? Now, when we do on the chat side is similar to calls, it’s all month to month and flexible, you’re not signing a contract. There’s no cancellation penalty, you will be able to pay per chat. Right now it’s six to $10 per chat. And the plans start at $100. But actually, what’s really amazing is that if you don’t want to go the paid route, we do have that free AI chatbot. So you can say, Do I want to just test this? Well, you can try the chatbot or with either of our services, we offer a 10 call 10 chat free trial, and that includes full setup of both services integrated with your phone system or your website, and you’ll get the full experience and what that allows us to do is to give you the experience at no cost to you and then To be able to approximate better, what percent of your calls are spam calls that you won’t be charged for? And then, you know, how much volume do we get through in those, you know, 10 calls or chats so that we can best estimate your monthly bill so you know exactly what you’re signing up for.

Davina: Mm-hmm. That’s wonderful. Well, I really appreciate all that you have shared with us today, it’s been so fun to talk with you and learn more about Smith AI and how it may be able to help a lot of women law firm owners out there who are really kind of struggling with this issue of I want clients but at the same time, I don’t want to be, you know, on my I can’t be on my phone all the time, answering calls or checking messages in three or four different places and missing those opportunities. So I really appreciate you coming and sharing your talk. Female that and I’m and I’m sure that you know Smith AI is constantly working on looking at the technology and seeing how can we use technologies as it evolves to provide better service. So I’m excited to see the things that you guys have come down the pipeline.

Maddy: Thank you so much. Yeah, I’m always eager and excited to see them as well. And you know, the team here really keeps me on my toes when I, you know, talk about our services, I’m learning more things every day that they’re building in for our clients. So I, you know, would be happy to introduce the service to anyone who is listening again, we do a trial we also doing an I’ve created a code that is wealthywoman100 that’s 100 wealthywoman100 that gets listeners and you any of your friends and followers $100 off their first month of service. So not only get the trial but also an additional hundred dollars off and you can learn more at smith.ai chat with us live there and you can also send us an email at hello@smith.ai our phone numbers on our website as well so please do get in touch we would love to consult with you and best understand how we can serve you and your needs as you grow your firm.

Davina: Oh, that’s super exciting. I’m really appreciative of the added bonus of the added offer for all the listeners of this podcast. I know that they’re really gonna appreciate that. So thanks so much for being here. Maddy, it was really great talking with you today.

Maddy: Thank you so much for having me to be here.