Evolving the Legal Hotline Model – Successes at the Legal Hotline for Michigan Seniors

By Christopher Jackson, Communications Coordinator, Elder Law of Michigan, and CERA Project Administrator

laptop, business technologyIn October, the Legal Hotline for Michigan Seniors, a project of Elder Law of Michigan, transitioned from an appointment model to a model in which individuals are able to speak with an attorney without requiring an appointment. Under the existing model, an individual seeking assistance would call into the hotline, be connected with intake staff, and would be given the next appointment available during that week. A pitfall of this model meant that a client could call in on a Tuesday and not receive assistance until that Friday. Another issue arose under this model as well, when all appointments for a week were filled, the individual seeking assistance would be asked to call back again at the beginning of the week.

When discussions began regarding a change in the hotline model, many concerns were expressed and needed to be before changes could be implemented:

  1. Would more clients be served (while still maintaining quality of service)?
  2. How long individuals would have to be on hold and would this impact the client’s experience?
  3. Would clients be available when attorneys conducted voicemail callbacks?
  4. What would be done about calls requiring extended service or document review?

After much discussion among hotline supervisors and staff and several weeks of trying a few different versions of the model, it was determined that the best model would be one in which clients call in to the hotline, leave a voicemail with their name, number, and a brief explanation of their issue, and then a hotline advocate returns the call within one business day. The advantages of this model are:

  1. Clients are able to receive assistance much more rapidly,
  2. Clients do not have to wait on hold for an advocate,
  3. The need for dedicated intake staff is removed, allowing for more advocates to be brought onto the hotline,
  4. The lack of an appointment schedule allows advocates to serve more clients when calls take less time than expected.

Since the transition to this new model, the Legal Hotline for Michigan Seniors has substantially increased the amount of clients that it has been able to serve. Between September and October, cases accepted increased from 376 to 517, with a further increase to 565 cases in November. Additionally, year to year, cases accepted in November has increased by 61% percent.

LHMS Logo 2014 - MultiColoredThis increase has occurred while the hotline has reduced the hours during which it is open for clients to call in. Previously, the Legal Hotline for Michigan Seniors was open 5 days a week, Monday through Friday, 9 AM to 5 PM. Under the new hotline model, the hotline is open Monday through Thursday, 9 AM to 3 PM, with advocates working until 5 PM. The goals of reduced hotline hours are to allow advocates to finish calling every client that left a message for the day and to make any follow up calls after 3 PM. Fridays are available for professional development and additional client brief services.

With this model, flexibility for staffing is greatly reduced over the previous appointment model.  Previously, clients were scheduled based on availability of the advocates.  Now, the advocates must be scheduled based on projected call volume for the days.  Fortunately, we have quite a few advocates in our organization that can help out on days when demand far exceeds the staffing levels.

By implementing these changes in the hotline model, the Legal Hotline for Michigan Seniors goal is to serve an average of 700 clients per month. Overall, the supervisors for the Legal Hotline for Michigan Seniors are very happy with the results of the changes. Most importantly, based on client feedback surveys, clients are especially happy with the ability to receive assistance within 24 hours and without having to set up an appointment.

If you would like more information about this change, please contact Jadranko Tomic-Bobas, Hotline Managing Attorney, at jtomic-bobas@elderlawofmi.org or 517-853-2371.

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