Ring-ring. Ring-ring. Ring-ring.
Hey asshole, that's your telephone. Why don't you fucking answer it?
Christ, what are you, some sort of Pavlovian slave to your telephone? What an asshole.
Everybody hates being interrupted by unexpected phone calls. Fortuntely for you, Lawyerlite is here to help you avoid all these interruptions from the tens of clients you undoubtedly have calling you all the time, trying to give you business and their money, thanks to the other stellar advice we've given you.
The first thing you want to do is get caller ID so you know which calls to not pick up. Of course, not answering your phone can create some problems, so we suggest creating a great outgoing voice mail message that will keep your clients from seeking counsel elsewhere. Here's a good template to start from:
You have reached the [your firm name here] law firm, and I am sorry that I cannot take your call at this time. Do not take not reaching me as a sign of not caring about my clients, in fact, the opposite is true. The reason I am not answering your call is that earlier this morning I fought so hard for a client that I ended up getting held in contempt. If you leave your name, number, fax number, e-mail address, website URL, and Twitter handle after the beep, I will get back to you as soon as possible. Alternatively, you can talk to me faster by bringing $500 to the county courthouse to post my bond.
This of course only works if your clients have $500 to bail you out, and if you've been billing them properly in the past, they won't. So, it's on to plan B.
Get a virtual office assistant.
For about $1 per call, someone in Bangalore, India, or Morgantown, West Virginia will answer your call, field a couple questions, and even do a bit of appointment scheduling.
Of course, clients may be confused when they come to your office and realize you don't actually have a receptionist, or when they notice that they never get the same person twice when they call. If you're worried about how outsourcing good American jobs will look to your clients, it's time to move on to plan C.
Get a real assistant.
Having a flesh and blood person to answer your calls and greet your clients as they walk in the door adds a lot of class to any law practice. But, odds are answering your calls and addressing your envelopes doesn't fill up a 35 hour work week. The beauty of a full time assistant (other than actual, physical beauty, if you are so lucky) is that they can perform other menial tasks that keep you away from billable work.
Your assistant can make the coffee, get you lunch, proof read briefs, and even fill out some basic legal forms for you.
Well...actually, if you're going to get into doing stuff like proof reading and working on documents, you should probably go ahead and hire a paralegal to sit at your front desk. They'll cost about the same, but your paralegal has training for this type of work, and is still capable of answering the phone and sending out your mail.
What makes your paralegal better than mere assistant is that when they do your menial jobs like filing out standard legal documents, you can bill that time to your client. Work done by an assistant comes out of your pocket, but having the paralegal title on their lets you pass on some of the costs. So, you actually make a buck when you send your paralegal down to the county law library to skim through some treatises and bring back a list of cases you need to look into.
Although... a paralegal might not exactly be the best person to help you breeze through the initial stages of research on a project. For that, what you'll really want is a fresh law school graduate. They might not know much about the law, but they should have a good enough foundation that you can explain a few basic concepts to them and then leave them alone to do a bunch of grunt research, answering discovery requests, document review, and other bullshit work.
What's really great about a newly minted attorney is that you can bill their time out at a higher rate than a paralegal, even if they're doing the exact same work that a paralegal (or even a secretary) would be doing, but they don't really cost you any more. In fact, so many law grads are so desperate for any job where they get to call themselves a lawyer, that you can probably get one cheaper than a career paralegal or administrative assistant.
You can dump all your work on them and bill their time at somewhere about 70% of your own rate. The client feels like you're saving them money, when really they just paid $150 for something a secretary should have done for free. More money in your pocket, less bullshit filling up your day, you just get to focus on the actual legal work that you got into the business to do anyways, and you can even put "and Associate" on your shingle now.
So, long story short, what we're saying is this: Hire a young attorney to answer your phone.