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You’ve seen them all over the Internet—on shopping websites, medical websites, financial websites and beyond. They’re called chatbots, and they have as much utility on law firm websites as they do for those other industries.
Given their benefits, it’s worth considering whether a chatbot would be effective in your firm. This article will look at the advantages that chatbots offer to law firms and how exactly firms go about creating them.
The typical chatbot often appears in the lower right-hand corner of the screen when you visit a website, usually in the form of a dialogue box. It may have a friendly name and be accompanied by an image. For instance, the Palace Law® “PatBot” is a cartoon lawyer in a suit.
Chatbots usually begin with a conversation prompt; PatBot opens with: “Hi! I’m PatBot. What’s your first name?” Consistent with PatBot’s friendly personality, there’s a waving-hand emoji in there.
Like the Apple® company’s Siri® or Erica® from the Bank of America®, these “robots” are powerful tools.
Chatbots can be distinguished from other types of lawyer bots, which can perform tasks usually specific to lawyers.
As an example, a lawyer bot dubbed DoNotPay helped users overturn more than 160,000 parking tickets and later began helping refugees apply for asylum. LISA helps two parties negotiate non-disclosure agreements without the need for lawyers. Chatbots are also different from live-chat interfaces in which website visitors interact with an actual human on the other end. Providers like Smith.ai offer this service to solo and small law firms.
While chatbots are not as ambitious as full-blown robot lawyers and do not have the human touch of a living receptionist, they can answer basic questions and direct users to helpful information. But . . . are they worth the trouble?
Chatbots come with a number of benefits, and not just to the law firms that use them. Chatbots might not be able to provide any more information than is already on a firm’s website, but they can answer specific questions quickly. Website visitors appreciate the ease and immediacy of simply typing a question into a box, without having to navigate a website or pick up a phone.
According to the 2017 Ubisend Chatbot report, nearly seven out of ten consumers say that getting an instantaneous answer is one reason that they would consider using a chatbot instead of seeking out a human.
Law firms can get even more out of chatbots. Major benefits include:
Creating a chatbot can be just about as technically demanding—or not—as the law firm creating it would like. On one end of the spectrum, firms with programming skills (or the budget to pay for them) can build their own. On the other, several services provide chatbots that, with minimal customization, can be plugged into your firm’s website. Here are some practical considerations in creating one:
For some firms, it may be the case that no chatbot can help them. But for those that do make the plunge, your chatbot character can and should become an important new addition to the firm.