Cloud Phone Provider Considerations


Introduction

Legal firms today are turning to cloud phone systems more than ever, to take advantage of the benefits they offer – reduced spending on equipment and telephone calls, integration with other applications, improved productivity and better interaction with clients - but how do you decide what is the right system for your firm?

Firstly, there are two types of cloud phone systems (commonly known as VoIP – Voice over Internet Protocol) to consider: the basic hosted variety and the premium managed service.

To choose the one that suits your law firm you should consider the following:

  •  Is the firm growing or scaling back?
  •  Is the firm phone dependent? (The answer to this will be yes for 99% of law firms)
  •  Does the firm have multiple offices?
  •  Do you need advanced features?
  •  Do you have the time and resources to manage a phone system?
  •  Do you need your phone system to generate revenue?
  •  Are your lawyers out of the office a lot?
  •  Does your firm thrive on the latest technology?
  •  How do you know you have chosen the right VoIP provider?

Is the firm growing or scaling back?

If your firm is growing you are better off choosing a managed VoIP service provider that can keep pace with the ongoing changes in technology without interrupting your service or requiring you to constantly download software and updates. If you are scaling back or planning to exit the profession in the next year or two then you can cut costs by using a basic VoIP provider.

Is the firm scaling back 

For industry in general the biggest consideration when selecting a new phone system is the cost, followed by the reputation of the service provider and the reliability of the phone system. For legal firms there is a skew towards reliability as much of a firms business relies on the telephone.


Is your firm phone-dependent?

The short answer to this is yes, unless your firm is heavily involved in providing written advices. If your firm requires your solicitors and associates to be in constant communication with clients and other interested parties a managed cloud phone service is the wiser choice.


Does your firm have multiple locations?

If you have several offices throughout the city, state or country, multi-site management, scalability, and mobility support for staff at court or visiting client sites are a few of the features found in the managed cloud phone offerings.

The premium managed phone systems allow your staff to work from home or another location and still have access to the phone system like they were sitting in the office. For example, incoming calls will route to wherever they are located automatically.


Do you need advanced features?

All VoIP phone providers offer basic call management features, such as CallerID, voicemail and conferencing, but only managed VoIP providers deliver advanced features, interactive voice response, computer technology integration, fax services, multiple recording methods, and mobile phone management – to name a few.

For the sole practitioner with a receptionist or part time secretary the basic VoIP system will be enough. However, even a solo operator can make use of the advanced features to make their practice more efficient and either save time or generate more revenue.

The following features are of the most use to law firms:

  •  PBX system – allows multiple inbound and outbound calls – for offices with more than one person
  •  Auto attendant or digital receptionist – routes calls without going through an operator or staff member
  •  Conference calling – have multiple parties (clients and other solicitors) on the one call
  •  Internet fax – allows send and receiving of faxes straight from and to a computer
  •  ACD – very useful for firms processing high volume transactional work that involves a lot of inbound calls
  •  Call recording – all communications between clients and the firm can be recorded and transcribed
  •  CTI – integration with your computer systems – Outlook, customer databases, practice management software
  •  Softphone – your mobile phone can act as a desktop phone

Do you have the time and resources to manage a phone system?

A basic VoIP provider requires you or your employees to set up the phones, update the software and troubleshoot any issues, so if you are considering a basic VoIP system, make sure you have the time and IT staff to dedicate to it. Managed VoIP providers deliver expert installation, ongoing support and automatic software upgrades. Plus, you can add new staff members and services without limits.

Do you need your phone system to generate revenue?

If it’s important that your phone system pull its weight, managed VoIP services are equipped to give you a few strategic advantages that a basic system can’t. For example, a managed VoIP can be configured to integrate with your important applications, think email and practice management software to start with. It can also cull information that will help you optimize staff levels, evaluate employee performance, analyse your marketing spend and better understand customer behaviour.

A recent survey asked “What issues do legal firms need to resolve to fully embrace the cloud?”

survey regarding legal firm embracing the cloud 


Do you or your staff spend time at client sites or at court

Basic VoIP is great for static offices, but if your people are on the go, mobility features are important from a managed VoIP service provider. The recent State of the Profession report from the Law Society highlighted several trends that will result in the increase of mobile / work from home lawyers. Managed VoIP systems enable you to transfer a call from wherever you are (home, court, client site, airport, coffee shop) using whatever phone you choose, be it a desk phone, computer, or mobile.


Does your firm thrive on the latest technology?

The wonderful thing about cloud based technology is that you have access to the latest solutions. How quickly you are able to access the latest and greatest depends on whether you choose basic or managed VoIP. As stated before, basic VoIP requires a do-it-yourself approach to hardware and software upgrades. Managed VoIP automatically takes care of the hardware and software upgrades for you.

As a rule of thumb most businesses replace their phone system every seven years.


How will you know if you’ve chosen the right VoIP provider?

Firms searching for a VoIP phone provider that supports the way they work should use technology, service and vision to benchmark potential providers. Be sure to ask each VoIP vendor you consider - what kind of technology they use, and how they intend to service your system when issues arise or upgrades are needed. Lastly, consider the reputation of the VoIP provider; do they stay current or have they fallen behind? Are they visionary or reactionary?