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March 27, 2024 5 minutes to read ∙ 1200 words

TAPAs: Using Chatbots on Your Law Firm Website: Pros and Cons, Perks and Perils

Jeffrey Allen and Ashley Hallene

You can install a chatbot on almost any law firm website, and while there are many benefits of using one, there are also risks to keep in mind. Modern chatbot platforms support a wide range of technologies, including both popular web-hosting systems such as WordPress and custom-built sites. It is crucial to weigh the pros and cons before selecting a chatbot service that matches your site’s tech needs and goals for client service. Here are some of the pros and cons, perks and perils to consider, followed by advice on how to go about adding a chatbot to your law firm website.

Tip 1. Perk: 24/7 Availability

Chatbots offer round-the-clock support, answering common queries at any time, which enhances client service.

A chatbot on your website can provide immediate responses to basic inquiries, regardless of the hour. For example, a potential client visiting the website at midnight can ask the chatbot about the firm’s expertise in a specific area of law, such as family law or personal injury. The chatbot can instantly provide information about the firm’s services in that area and how to schedule a consultation; it can even answer general questions about the legal process, ensuring the client feels supported and informed at any time. This means you can make a good first impression without having to answer the phone at all hours.

Tip 2. Perk: Speed and Efficiency

Chatbots can quickly direct clients to the information they need, improving efficiency for both the client and the law firm.

A chatbot on a law firm’s website can streamline potential clients’ interactions by intelligently guiding them to the specific information they are seeking. For instance, if a client is asking about filing for divorce, the chatbot can promptly offer a step-by-step guide available on the firm’s website, details on scheduling a consultation with a divorce attorney, and even links to articles or FAQs that address common concerns related to divorce proceedings. This saves the client time searching for information and frees up the firm’s staff to focus on more complex tasks. You also give clients a sense of control at a time when they often feel helpless and frustrated.

Tip 3. Perk: Accelerated Lead Generation

Chatbots can capture potential client information, helping in lead-generation efforts.

A chatbot on a law firm’s website can engage visitors by asking if they need help with a specific legal issue. During the interaction, the chatbot can request the visitor’s contact information for a follow-up, promising more detailed advice from an attorney. This process effectively gathers potential client details, enabling the firm to reach out and convert inquiries into consultations, thus enhancing their lead-generation efforts.

Tip 4. Peril: Inaccurate Legal Information

Chatbots may misinterpret complex legal queries, potentially providing inaccurate information.

If a client asks a chatbot for advice on a complex issue, such as the implications of a new law on the client’s business, the chatbot, limited by its programming, might provide generic information that doesn’t account for the nuances of the situation. This could lead to the client making decisions based on incomplete or inaccurate guidance, potentially harming the client’s case or causing the client to miss out on specific legal strategies better suited to his or her unique circumstances.

To prevent inaccurate guidance from chatbots on complex legal issues, law firms can program chatbots to recognize when a query goes beyond basic information and suggest scheduling a consultation with a lawyer for personalized advice. Implementing a system where the chatbot detects complex questions and directs clients to human interaction can ensure clients receive the accurate and nuanced guidance they need.

Tip 5. Peril: Confusion about Attorney versus Chatbot Interactions

You need to be careful that the chatbot doesn’t confuse users about whether a response comes from a licensed attorney or from the chatbot itself.

A chatbot might confuse users about its identity if it uses language that’s too similar to how a human lawyer might communicate without clearly stating it’s a bot. For instance, if a chatbot responds to a query with detailed legal advice followed by “I recommend . . .” without a clear disclaimer that it’s not human, users might mistakenly believe they’re receiving advice from a licensed attorney, leading to confusion and potential reliance on information that hasn’t been personalized or vetted by a legal professional.

To avoid confusion about a chatbot’s non-human status, law firms should ensure the chatbot introduces itself clearly as an automated assistant at the start of any interaction. Additionally, incorporating language that avoids personal pronouns or phrases typically used by human attorneys and regularly reminding users that they should consult with a licensed attorney for personalized legal advice can help maintain clarity about the chatbot’s role and limitations.

Bonus Tip. Getting Started with Chatbots

One service you can use is ArtiBot.ai. Start by signing up for a free account. Once logged in, select the “Add ArtiBot” option and choose from premade templates or start from scratch. Customize your bot by editing the conversation flow, questions, and appearance. After setting up, publish your bot and integrate it into your site with a simple copy-and-paste of JavaScript code. ArtiBot also offers features such as scheduling, payment collection, and customizable bot pages for enhanced client interaction.

Additional chatbot platforms you can consider include Botsify, SnatchBot, ItsAlive, Olark, and Tidio. These platforms offer features such as natural language understanding, no-code building, integration with messaging platforms, live chat handovers, and multilingual support, catering to various aspects of legal practice, from customer service to lead generation.

When you research a chatbot vendor for your law firm website, consider factors such as the ability to understand legal terminology (natural language processing), its integration capabilities with your current systems, whether customization options are available to match your brand, its compliance with data protection regulations, and the quality of customer support. Being mindful of these factors will ensure that the chatbot effectively meets your firm’s and your clients’ needs while maintaining privacy and security standards.

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Jeffrey Allen

Oakland, CA

Jeffrey Allen is the principal in the Graves & Allen law firm in Oakland, California, where he has practiced since 1973. He is active in the American Bar Association (particularly in the GPSolo and Senior Lawyers Divisions), the California State Bar Association, and the Alameda County Bar Association. He is Editor-in-Chief Emeritus and Senior Technology Editor of GPSolo magazine and the GPSolo eReport and continues to serve as a member of both magazines’ Editorial Boards. He also serves as an editor and the technology columnist for Experience magazine. A frequent speaker on technology topics, he is a former member of the ABA Standing Committee on Information Technology and the Board of Editors of the ABA Journal. He coauthored (with Ashley Hallene) Technology Solutions for Today’s Lawyer (2013) and iPad for Lawyers: The Tools You Need at Your Fingertips (2013). In addition to being licensed as an attorney in California, he has been admitted as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales. He may be reached at [email protected].

Ashley Hallene

Houston, TX

Ashley Hallene ([email protected]) is an attorney and land manager with Demeter Renewable in Houston, Texas, and is Editor-in-Chief of the GPSolo eReport. She frequently speaks in technology CLEs and has published articles on legal technology in GPSolo magazine, the GPSolo eReport, and the TechnoLawyer Newsletter. Ashley is an active member of the ABA Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division, the ABA Young Lawyers Division, and the Senior Lawyers Division.

Published in GPSolo eReport, Volume 13, Number 8, March 2024 . © 2024 by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association. The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the American Bar Association or the Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division.