Manpower is dearly bought these days, so when you hire someone like a legal receptionist, you need to be sure that you’re making the right choice.

Having a new full-time employee at your firm can seem like a step in the right direction, but if the salary is more than your firm’s budget can bear, no matter how badly the need, you may simply not be ready to hire a legal receptionist.

That’s not to say you don’t have options, though. Even a small law firm can afford a virtual legal receptionist if they partner with a legal answering service. Determining which is right for your company is the trick, though.

Be sure to ask yourself these questions to help better determine which option is right for you:

Does my office get walk-in traffic? Legal firms that handle lots of walk-in traffic may need a gatekeeper of sorts to man the door as well as the phone line. In that case, a traditional legal receptionist may be your best bet. Although a legal answering service can do a lot for a law firm, it doesn’t offer a physical presence to greet walk-in traffic.

Do I need help with other office chores? Hiring a full-time legal receptionist means paying someone to be in your office all day long, whether they’re actually working or not.

This commitment can become a huge waste of your budget if you can’t keep them busy doing other things around the office like filing or faxing or even just keeping the place tidy. If you strictly want someone to answer the phones, a legal answering service will only charge you by the call, so you just pay for the time you use—not for busywork or time spent waiting for something productive to happen.

Is the call volume in my office steady all day? When your call volume is variable, it can be difficult to properly distribute manpower around the office. Sometimes, there simply aren’t enough people to catch all the calls that are coming in. A legal answering service takes the guesswork out of irregular call volumes by providing access to a team of well-trained legal telephone operators who can answer all the calls that come through your phone line any time of the day or night, regardless of volume.

Do I need someone who can handle appointments and relay messages? A legal receptionist is fantastic at doing both and you’ll rely heavily on them to do this job as your firm grows. Missing a message from other attorneys or clients can sully your reputation, but your receptionist doesn’t have to be in your office. A legal answering service can provide a virtual receptionist who can juggle appointments and ensure you get all those messages, even if you’re not ready to hire someone full time.

Although it can be nice to have a legal receptionist in your law office, today’s law firms certainly don’t require one. You can do more than ever with a legal answering service and save plenty, too. Both options will ensure that your appointments are set, your calls are answered and your messages forwarded, but only a legal answering service will limit their charges to your firm by the call.