Smartphones Make Phone Calls Too


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I am definitely a gadget guy and a huge proponent of using smartphones to make your workday more efficient. From accessing files, to creating documents, you can work from almost anywhere with your pocket’s best friend.

At the same time, do not forget that your smartphone can make phone calls too.

Phone calls can save time

I met with a group of other civil litigators this morning and the biggest complaint was that issues that could be easily resolved with a phone call take weeks to resolve through e-mail.

In my practice, I have recently noticed that when I leave opposing counsel a voicemail I get an e-mail response two minutes later. Ninety percent of the time, the e-mail only addresses part of the issue, not all of it. As a result, e-mails fly back and forth for days (or weeks) to resolve the issue.

There are ways to use e-mail to increase efficiency, but e-mail is not always the most efficient way to get things done.

Phone calls help your social skills (or lack thereof)

Maybe some attorneys avoid the phone because they are introverts. But lawyers still have to argue motions in open court and network in person. Talking on the phone with opposing counsel is not the same as arguing in court, but it much better practice than sending an e-mail. Oral arguments require thinking on your feet and adapting on the fly. It can be tough to do that if you only send e-mails.

In addition, your social networking skills will suffer if you refuse to make phone calls. When you go to a networking event, do you send an e-mails to introduce yourself? I doubt it (although, maybe that is the next step). Talking on the phone helps keep you practice your social skills, and in today’s digital world, that is more important than ever.

Every attorney has a lot to do, but picking up the phone will not waste time—it will save it.



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  • Steve Silberman

    True, phone calls have the advantage of noticing nuance and immediate responses to questions, both lacking in email, as noted in the article. However, emails provide a paper trail and proof of who said what to whom when, something you don’t have in a phone call, unless you want to confirm every phone call with an email confirming what you believe was said, which may start a battle of “you said, no I didn’t.”

    In most cases, the phone call can quickly resolve an issue, be it scheduling a deposition or making a counter-offer in response to the opposing party’s offer. On those few occasions when you know you cannot trust opposing counsel, a written document, be it email or snailmail, is the way to go.

    • When I want to memorialize it in writing, I send an immediate follow up e-mail or letter, confirming what we discussed over the phone. It can be duplicative at times, but it is still more efficient than e-mailing back and forth for weeks.

  • That’s a great point, Steve. If something needs to be documented in writing or may be a bone of contention later, then perhaps an email or letter is the best route. However, I agree with Randall in that often a phone call is a time-saver.

    In fact, my coworker (who also writes the phone etiquette training for our virtual receptionists and staff) wrote a blog post about this recently. She recommends calling rather than emailing, as Randall mentioned, to preempt a string of additional questions or if writing gets too complicated. Personally, if I find myself write, delete, and rewrite the same sentence more than once, I know it’s time to pick up the phone.

    • That’s a great point—when an e-mail starts to feel or look convoluted, that is a sign to pick up the phone. In addition, when you are asking more than 1-2 questions, a conversation should resolve things faster.

      • I agree! Same goes for when someone emails a vague question; if you have to ask several clarifying questions just to be able to answer the intial inquery, it’ll likely go more smoothly over the phone.

        Fantastic post, by the way; with all this technology at our fingertips, it’s easy to forget that a personal touch can actually be more effective! Keep up the great work!

  • Jay

    I always communicate by phone. We have a standing rule…no emails except for very very minor communications (confirm meeting dates, etc.). You simply cannot get the nuances in negotiating via email. Also, if you follow-up with an email, its best to request the other side to send a confirmation and agreement to the terms of your email. Otherwise they can deny receiving or reading the email you send (which I’ve seen happen).