The average attorney — even the most introverted — is fundamentally a "people person." You went into the practice of law because you enjoy helping people navigate the legal system. The tendency to want to connect with people directly leads many attorneys to rely on the phone, directing potential clients to "Call now!" and start their legal journey as quickly as possible.
But for most people in need of a lawyer, “Call now!” is less inviting than intimidating. At best, picking up the phone and making the call to an attorney they do not know can be one more chore they need to cram into an already overcrowded workday. But more often, dialing those digits—and having to dive into a detailed, stressful, and often emotional conversation—feels like a yawning chasm they need to steel themselves to leap across.
Having a contact form on your website might feel like the wrong move: an impersonal hassle that adds steps and thus prevents some from making that leap and getting the legal assistance they need. In reality, that contact form is a huge benefit to both you and your client.
The major benefit is that, when you give new clients the option of submitting a form rather than dialing the phone, you practically guarantee that both of you will be better prepared for a more productive initial call. Or, if the situation is one better handled in another way, you'll be able to more quickly connect that client to the right resources, saving everyone time and frustration.
From the client's perspective, a contact form is often the preferred way to make their initial contact with a lawyer. While some old-line businesses are still very phone-centric, that's less likely to be the case in younger industries or with younger business people. And with personal legal matters, the online form is almost always preferred.
There are several reasons for this. First and foremost, that contact form is ready and waiting 24/7/365. This is a huge benefit, because few of us can schedule a legal headache in advance. For someone looking for legal help with a business matter, it's likely the issue was unforeseen and addressing it has to be pushed outside of the normal workday. With personal matters, which are inherently stressful, the idea of having to carve a chunk of time out of the middle of an overpacked day to catch you in your office and have a difficult conversation can easily prove an insurmountable obstacle.
It's easy to see how the online form would be a welcome addition. Tossing and turning worrying about this problem? That form is just as accessible at 3 AM as it is in the middle of the workday. If the only chance a potential client has to gather their thoughts is on Sunday morning before the kids wake up and the house starts bustling, then your contact form is extremely attractive.
Second — but equally important — is that a contact form is significantly less intimidating than a phone call. People often need a lawyer because they are facing challenging times. They simply may not feel up to diving into a deep or difficult conversation, especially when the situation itself is already so emotionally taxing. Having that contact form waiting when they are ready gives them an opportunity to clearly lay out their situation at their own pace. It also offers peace of mind, knowing that when they do talk to you, they won't have to cover this painful ground once more before moving on to the next steps.
One final advantage, from the client's perspective, is that they get a little bit of emotional distance in evaluating the lawyer on their own terms. Potential clients who are seeking legal assistance because they've been undervalued, taken advantage of, or ignored often need reassurance that the lawyer they are considering is going to take them seriously. Making first contact via a website form allows them to keep some distance and take the measure of how quickly and completely that attorney responds to them and their concerns, without feeling exposed to potential ridicule or ill-treatment.
Offering an online contact form isn't just beneficial to potential clients. You and your practice arguably have the most to gain.
The webform is an extremely low-effort way to make yourself available to clients. Just as the client benefits from the convenience of being able to reach out to you via webform at 6am on a Sunday, you likewise benefit from the convenience of being able to receive those messages on your schedule. Want to receive every webform submission as quickly as possible? You can route that contact form to your inbox and get a ding on your phone. If you'd prefer to dedicate a certain number of hours to new client work, or have a paralegal sort and distribute these initial consults throughout your practice, that's just as easy to arrange. You don't have to keep a receptionist or assistant standing by for your potential clients to enjoy responsive assistance.
Likewise, as is the case with the prospective client, having initial contact through your website prior to that first call gives you an opportunity to prepare materials you may need or to be sure you have the right person on hand if the call might require specialized knowledge. At the very least, it starts your conversation in a much more productive place — especially if it looks like the matter would be better handled by another firm and you're going to give a referral rather than take the client.
Using a contact form is also extremely beneficial to your marketing efforts — both digital and traditional. Even a minimal contact form gives you huge insight into the "client journey" that brings someone into contact with your practice. When properly integrated with your website reporting/analytics tools, your online form can tell you how each potential client found you: Did they do a search and click right to you from Google? If so, what terms did they search? Or did they follow a link from another web page? Or from a marketing email you sent? Did they see you on social media? The contact form can also tell you which pages on your site they read (and how long they spent doing so) before contacting you.
(For slightly more sophisticated web-users, this information can easily feed into marketing analytics that let you determine the return on investment of your advertising spends.)
At The Modern Firm, we include online contact forms on law firm websites whenever possible. In addition to gathering data for analytics and tracking, we can build dynamic webforms that streamline your operations, improving the client experience while reducing your workload. Such forms can automatically direct inquiries to the right person in your firm, make sure that the client has provided vital information (like a complete phone number), display different options or an easier-to-use layout to visitors on mobile devices, or make an online scheduling page available (when appropriate) based on the visitors’ responses in the form.