Communication has been a critical competitive edge for law firms over the last few years. With drastic improvements in technology and AI, chatbots are becoming a standard part of any law firm’s website. Done well, they can be very advantageous.
What is a Chatbot?
A chatbot simulates human interaction on a messaging box. There are non-AI (artificial intelligence) and AI-based chatbots.
Non-AI chatbots use a series of rules to communicate with users. Typically, if-then rules are programmed to allow the chatbot to answer simple questions quickly.
AI technology strives to imitate a conversation with a live person. The software is more complex than the rule-based system and achieves dialogue by using “natural language.”
What is Natural Language?
Natural Language Processing (NLF) is a form of AI that focuses on the subtle nuances of human language. The goal of NLF technology is to interpret human language and interaction.
Natural Language Generation (NLG) is a branch of AI that concentrates on responding to human dialogue. The software creates a logical response for the user. Together, NLF and NLG can create a human-like conversation for visitors to a website.
How Are Chatbots Used on Law Firm Websites?
Typically, when a user visits a website, it will prompt a chat box to pop up. To engage the visitor, messages may range from “Do you have a case you need help with?” to “How can an attorney help you today?”
Other chatbots serve on the contact us page as an additional means of communication. In today’s world, many people prefer to make contact via text messaging. A chatbot is designed to engage a prospective client in a way they may feel more comfortable.
How do Chatbots Work?
Chatbots can process, interpret, and generate conversation and tasks at varying levels. Most chatbots are used for simple tasks. If a task is deemed too complicated for the bot, many systems have a means of contacting a live person.
What is the Difference Between a Stateless and a Stateful Chatbot?
Chatbots can handle a diverse number of tasks depending on if they are stateless or stateful. A stateful chatbot can review past conversations. They can then interpret and generate new responses in context.
Stateful bots can engage more fully in conversation, completing a wide range of complex tasks. In addition, some stateful chatbots are able to remember past conversations. For example, Siri and Alexa operate with advanced stateful software.
A stateless bot, however, cannot respond to past interactions. Instead, they approach each conversation as if the user is new. Stateless bots are used for simpler tasks, usually consisting of one question and one answer.
What Are the Different Types of Chatbots?
Depending on the needs of a law firm’s website, there are different types of chatbots to consider.
- Voice-enabled chatbots: Voice-enabled chatbots are the most advanced. Seen as the future of this type of technology, these chatbots are able to interpret spoken dialogue and perform complex tasks and responses. Consider Amazon’s Alexa. Users can ask Alexa to play a song, search for a recipe, or turn the lights off in a room.
- Hybrid conversational interfaces: Hybrid chatbots utilize keyword recognition software and menu-based programming. In the chat box, a user can have their question answered directly. If the question is too complex, a drop-down menu will appear, prompting the user to make selections. Think Doordash’s customer service options. If a delivery order is wrong, the app prompts the user to choose from varying selections through their customer service chatbot.
- Contextual chatbots: Contextual chatbots use complex AI to recall past conversations with users. As opposed to keyword recognition, these bots will self-improve over time to better answer client questions.
- Reply chatbots: Reply chatbots, also known as scripted chatbots, rely on a rule-based program. If-then statements predicting user needs can be programmed, allowing the conversation to progress until the chatbot answers the user’s questions.
- Keyword recognition: Keyword recognition software allows the chatbot to respond according to specific words or phrases. These bots can interpret data on a more complex basis than rule-based software. While they find repetitive keyword use challenging, keyword recognition chatbots use a more sophisticated AI technology to create a user-friendly conversation.
Chatbots can help law firms become much more efficient and profitable. The varying complexities of chatbots can handle a range of general questions to free up an attorney’s valuable time. In addition, some of the more complex chatbots can even handle client intakes. The benefits of using chatbots are numerous.
Why Should Law Firm Websites Use Chatbots?
Chatbots are changing the way all businesses operate online. Today, users are impatient. Most website visitors are accustomed to 24-hour service, 7 days a week. Failing that, a website can be interpreted as lacking credibility. Instant access to information has prompted service-based organizations to rethink their operations to better suit customer expectations.
- Allow a business to be accessible 24/7
- Reduce customer wait times for simple questions
- Redirect customer questions to the appropriate person or department
- Allow customers to pay their bills
- Book appointments
Specifically, law firm websites can reap many advantages using chatbots.
How Can a Legal Website Benefit from Using Chatbots?
Legal firms have stiff competition. Most prospective clients shop around before booking a consultation. With 52% of prospects expecting a response to an inquiry within one hour, law firm websites need to adapt to new user expectations.
Some of the benefits of chatbots for law firm websites include:
- Holding multiple conversations at once
- Allowing lawyers to focus on billable hours by letting chatbots handle simpler tasks
- Saving time by automating frequently performed tasks
- Monitor and analyze client data
- Improve legal research with keyword recognition
- Generating legal documents from templates
- Improve client engagement with quick, complex responses
- Saves money by eliminating the need to hire more personnel
- Proactively reach out to visitors, increasing visitor-customer conversion
- Tracking billable and non-billable hours
- Improve due diligence by confirming facts and figures
- Qualify leads automatically
Overall, chatbots provide a better and more client-oriented experience. More advanced chatbots can retain information about ongoing matters, responding intelligently when clients inquire about the progress of their cases. New, prospective clients can gain a response in a matter of minutes as opposed to days. To remain competitive in today’s legal industry, law firm websites need to integrate chatbots.