Every law office needs a Carson, the unflappable butler from Downton Abbey. Does yours have one? Required to welcome and calm clients, and at the same time, to protect their attorneys - receptionists truly are modern Carsons. Dedicated to creating peace in their offices, receptionists deal politely with all comers. Dedicated to defending their offices, they use the double edged sword of civility and firm resolve to fend off those who would deal rudely with clients, waste attorneys’ time, or make loud, unseemly noises in their kingdom of calm.
Reception is an integral, often overlooked, part of the representation any firm provides to clients. Before a lawyer even meets a potential client, a relationship is born. The minute a client steps into the office, representation begins.
It is the job of receptionists to calm the souls of those who enter. This is always a delicate endeavor. Customary greetings are often inappropriate. Until they know the client, they dare not ask, “How are you,” because the answer, at best, is complicated. Instead, they read body language, Carson-style. They listen for clues in small silences.
Some clients need an opportunity to talk – to let off steam. Carson is happy to listen. Other clients are concentrating on holding it together until they can talk to an attorney. Carson knows when to offer quiet support.
Clients come bearing burdens. Not one of them really wants to come in. However, life or other circumstances have pushed them to your office. They have come to find someone to push back. Your Carson will set the tone – welcoming clients, offering warmth, understanding, and a cup of coffee or tea. (Carson would definitely offer tea.) Your Carson will say, “It is nice to see you,” and mean it. Your Carson will look your clients in the eye and reassure them: the lawyer you are about to meet is good, ethical and caring, and will fight for you.
When you, the attorney, come to the meeting, your clients, beverage in hand, are in a better state of mind, secure in the knowledge that they are at the right firm – a firm where people are kind.
However, nice as they are, Carson-receptionists are also fierce guardians – for clients and for attorneys. Zealously, they watch over all proceedings in the front office. Everyone who comes in must pass by them first; all telephone calls are routed through them; conference room schedules are theirs to arrange.
Receptionists’ powers are small but not insignificant. Anxious, hungry clients waiting for court decisions are soothed, are fed. Cold-calling solicitors rarely get past the screening to waste the precious time of hard-working attorneys. Process servers rush in, get their documents, and rush out again seamlessly.
Be advised, every law office needs a Carson. It may be that you already have one. Bear in mind that Administrative Professionals’ day is next Wednesday, April 24. If you recognize the Carson in your office, take a moment to appreciate the dedicated services he or she provides. Downton Abbey’s Carson would approve.
Barbara Reedy is part of the front office team at McManis Faulkner. She is the first point of contact for clients, vendors, and attorneys who have business with the firm. For more information, please visit mcmanislaw.com.