Ruby customer feature: Rebecca Flanagan, Flanagan Legal Services

Rebecca Flanagan gets a lot of calls. As a sought-after estate administration attorney—someone who helps people manage legal affairs after a loved one’s death—she has to balance multiple (often emotionally intense) conversations at any given time. With Ruby, Rebecca can rest easy knowing the people who contact her law firm, Flanagan Legal Services, are receiving the same kind of responsive, compassionate care she’s built her business delivering.

Learn how Ruby serves as an extension of Rebecca’s firm, letting her focus on her work when she’s on the clock—and enjoy her time with her family when she logs off.

Read the transcript.

My name is Rebecca Flanagan. I am the founder and owner of Flanagan Legal Services. My firm, I’m a solo and I specialize in estate administrations.

So as a solo, being the only lawyer, I have a part-time administrative help but I also found when I started my firm that I was carrying my personal cell phone and my work cell phone everywhere. And I did not like being that person with two phones, but I also didn’t want my personal phone number out there or my personal phone ringing. So I started searching for a solution. I found other virtual assistants and that just didn’t seem to fit the bill. I chose Ruby for a couple of reasons. Some was asking colleagues and trusted peers, what they do in their small firms. Then where the need really came in was the screening that happened.

When I started my practice, I did more than just estate administration, I have a background in tax law, so I did small business tax and estate planning and some business planning tasks as well as the probate and trust administration. And when you say small business lawyers, you get all of the questions from intellectual property to employment to the vendor isn’t giving me my stuff. And I found that Ruby was great at weeding out and filtering those clients that I wasn’t interested in helping, or that could be better served elsewhere and only letting through the people that needed to talk to me. Also screening all of the vendors, the number of people that have called to try to sell me something and just adding distractions because that number you don’t recognize pops up you don’t know if it’s the perfect client, a bad fit but somebody that you can send to a colleague or a referral or somebody that’s just going to waste your time. So Ruby really helped me focus and get big chunks of deep work in knowing that I could reach out to those potential clients or current clients later in the day.

We’ve worked with… I can’t remember the fun names that you have, but the client relations people and set up some screening and just put in a lot of information of what does my firm do, who were the clients we want and where to send messages. And I do hold myself out, if there’s a returning client or a past client I do have in there always take a message, don’t say she doesn’t do that or the law firm can’t help you because I am a resource for my community. I realize I am the only lawyer that many of my clients and even my friend group knows. So if you do need a divorce lawyer or a family lawyer or even an estate planner come to me and I will help you find somebody, but I’m not the one to do it. So the message that you need to take is much different, but I do get those calls through, like prior client has a question on who can do their taxes. You take a message I call them back with some names.

So my work day as a small business owner and a mother of young children includes some very harried mornings as we’re trying to get everybody literally out the door for preschool, but then back in the door to start the work day, both my husband and I work from home now. So Ruby is great that I can be open for business, but not necessarily taking calls before I’m at my desk and ready to focus at about 9:15 or 9:30. And then I have my deep work and Ruby keeps me from getting all the little interruptions and the phone calls that pop up so I can block out time to focus on the one-off answers, but also reserve enough time to get those deep, heavy lifting projects done.

Ruby is fabulous at having scheduled calls. I’m very used to answering the phone. Hi Ruby, this is Rebecca. Do you have Susie on the line? And they’ll say yes. And I said, great, let’s patch her through. It’s very nice to have a pleasant voice to answer my client’s calls when they are scheduled. It’s also nice that I can say, actually, if you can hold on a minute, I need to grab the client’s case file and then I can run and get it while the client has already been answered, they’re not in this awkward limbo of hearing me rustle through files.

And then after hours where I generally am back onto mom duty at about five o’clock at night, Ruby can still answer my phone calls. So if I do have an after hours client call, I’ll answer the phone if I see that it’s Ruby calling, but then I can say, oh, you know that one I can wait until tomorrow or oh, that really is a pressing issue, we’re coming up on a deadline and choose to take the client call after hours. So that screening has really upped my client service on being able to address urgent matters, but not taking away from my family time for those less than urgent matters.

I started with my business line on a separate carry around mobile phone that had its own plan and its own number. And so if we didn’t answer within two or three rings then Ruby would answer and then send it back to my cell phone, my law clerk, to my office, admin’s phone number to speak from our personal cell phones through the Ruby app. I ended up putting the number to Ruby when I realized that the distraction of still checking the phone, ringing for two rings. If we knew the number, say a scheduled client call, then we would answer it and be ready. But so often those numbers aren’t in our phone book. So we don’t know if it’s a client, so it would bring three times to go to Ruby to be transferred back and we found that the benefit of answering the one in four or five clients super promptly was not outweighed by all the little kind of random, slightly awkward times where it took longer to get the client back to us.

After porting the number, my work number to Ruby, so Ruby does host it. I use the mobile app on my personal mobile. My office administrator still has the app on her phone as well. And using the Ruby app I have a few clients that have my personal cell number but I appreciate that I can make those outgoing calls as if they’re coming from my work number. So when I go into the app, when I type in the number and hit send, it says, do you want it to come from? And it gives me my work phone number or my personal cell phone number. Most of the time I’ll choose work, occasionally when I have one of those friend turned client or colleague that has my personal number, I’ll just use my personal so it pops up faster on their phone, but it’s a great option that I can still make outgoing calls from my one, just one mobile phone I carry, that shows as though it’s calling from Flanagan Legal Services.

I appreciate Calendly that I can have a whole swath of different types of meetings and even pre pandemic. I had in-person telephone and video call options for my clients. So when it came to the pandemic hitting and in-person meetings going to the wayside it was a really smooth transition for my firm and with Ruby to say, okay, take these options off the table when scheduling, please have these available. I’ve worked with Ruby’s team and in my call handling instructions we have a specific introductory meeting for new clients that if the caller says, no, I’m not an established client. They just know to schedule that 20 minute block of time on my calendar. For current clients, I have a couple of different options of length and telephone versus video. And then I have also coffee dates for colleagues. So if it’s a phone a friend situation and they call my firm and I’m not available at that time, they can choose to leave a message or schedule 30 minutes for a virtual coffee date to talk through whatever their conundrum is.

Ruby has the option to set what your normal call handling is. Mine is set to patch the phone number through all of the time. And I will generally put it there. I do switch my status if I know that I’m going to be out of town or inaccessible, so they don’t even try to connect a call to me if I’m not going to answer for the next two or three days, I do appreciate the different features, it’s not an all or nothing. So even though I’m set to accept the calls all the time, I will use the Ruby interface online, usually through a computer. It’s also accessible through my phone but I find it on my computer is easier. If I know that I’m ending a date early, I’ll just go in and say, hold my calls for the rest of the day. Or I can say, hold my calls for the rest of the day, except if this person calls. And that’s really important in my line of business, because there are some agencies that can’t leave messages, such as the IRS. So if I’ve been playing phone tag with an auditor or somebody else and they can’t leave a message, they can just leave their name it’s so hard to get back to them. So having that, please put this one person through, otherwise you’re out.

There’s also a place on there that I really like that I can leave messages that Ruby can pass along. Because the work I do is so narrowly tailored in the estate administration, probate, trust administrations my clients really know me more than just a lawyer. Some of them I would consider friends, some of them are just very close acquaintances, but they know that I have young children. They know what’s going on in my life. They know that I have a camping trip or a boating trip coming up. So I’ll put messages down there, like I’m enjoying nature and unplugged with my family for the next three days, please tell my clients that I’ll return calls when I returned on Tuesday. So that there’s more of a personal, instead of, oh Rebecca’s out of the office. They can say, Rebecca is in nature with her kids. She’ll get back to you next week.

So my experience with Ruby is not just my firm, giving Ruby instructions and a script to answer the calls, but it’s also ways that Ruby is recognizing that service to my clients could be better. A great example is I updated the link for my new client intake meeting or kind of a screening phone call that initial consult. I didn’t realize that that messed up Ruby’s side. So when they were trying to schedule these calls, it wasn’t working. So they reached out to me and asked me if I’d made any changes. I said, yes, we worked through the Calendly and we even added a few more options in scheduling so that when they were talking to say a current client that just had a quick question, we could do a 15 minute phone call instead of the hour long phone call. And so it really freed up space on my calendar. So I appreciate that Ruby would come to me with ideas. And when they saw minor hiccups, that could be fixed.

If another company was on the verge of saying, should I get virtual reception? Should we just add that list or have an admin or somebody on our staff do it? I would say take the plunge. It is worth every penny to have the peace of mind that you’re not missing potential or prospective clients, if that’s what you need for answering the phone. Or in my case, you’re not missing the calls from current clients and it allows you to provide that personalized service even when you, the individual doing the work, isn’t available to answer the call and talk to them. It’s so much more personable than a voicemail, especially a teleprompted voicemail.

And then also it’s knowing that somebody is on your side and they’re willing to work and learn and grow with your business. One thing that I appreciate about Ruby is that they realize I’m a person as well. There was a car accident, my office was on a very busy road on Burnside in Portland, on East Burnside. And there had been an accident in front of my office and my desk was at the window. So 12 feet from my desk, a car accident happened. Nobody was injured. But I was truly the first responder. And I had one Ruby called during that time and I asked them to hold my calls, I’m dealing with this non-personal real world thing. And then a week later there was a Wonder Woman mug showed up that said, there’s superheroes among us and not every superhero wears a cape. Sometimes they go out in a pandemic to help people they don’t know. So that is my coffee mug that I’ve used at work to remind me that not all superheroes wear capes and that what I do is important.

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