The topic du jour these days is that solos and small firms rule. Laid-off lawyers go solo. Big firm types go small. Size no longer matters. See The big opportunities in the legal profession are at small firms … and also Small Firm Business – Big–Firm Partners Go Small to Keep and …
But parenthetical to this so-called “hot news” is perish the thought, the related angle that some lawyers are answering their own phones!!! Unbelievable!!! No, not that lawyers are reduced to picking up their ringing phones but that it’s even worthy of discussing, let alone of newsworthiness. See 2 Partners of Well–Known Firm Downsize, Now Answer Own Phones at …
It may be symptomatic of endemic occupational haughtiness, that some lawyers still consider inconceivable that a ringing phone can be answered by moi.
Or it may be a byproduct of bygone corporate life when the higher up the food chain one was, the more secretaries they had who would winnow out the unimportant and the trivial through call-screening.
I once had an employee who complained he always had too many pink telephone messages waiting for him when he returned to the office. I remember telling him it was his job to return those calls and to talk to those callers. Like lawyers annoyed by interrupting client phone calls or department store clerks who’d rather straighten inventory than wait on customers, I’m not sure it had yet dawned on my employee what his job really was. It’s to serve our clients not hide from them.
Who knows? Could this also be the beginning of a trend? Will the next ‘innovation’ be lawyers promptly returning their phone calls? Wow!
More recently, I interviewed a prospective assistant who after many years as a receptionist in the public defender’s office illogically admitted to me her pet peeve, she “hated answering telephones.” Needless to say, she remained unemployed.
Dangerous loss of caste.
Years ago, Sydney Harris wrote in defense of answering one’s own phone. He extolled it as an efficient, expeditious time-saver, also engendering goodwill by eliminating the secretarial barrier. Sydney Harris .Answer Your Own Telephone .
Critical of those who regard it as declasse, he wrote, Yet I have seen men sitting four inches from their telephone permit it to ring a dozen times while their secretaries are obviously busy elsewhere not because the men are engrossed in work, but because it would be a dangerous loss of caste. Callers might get the idea they were secretary-less and possibly on the way down the ladder.
Some 7 years or so ago, well before today’s recession, I remember calling the chairman of a large regional law firm and being pleasantly surprised when he answered his own phone and on the second ring, too. I’d hazard to say his ascension to the top of his firm belied any trepidations that such availability and access had posed him any career liability.
It may be also be a generational thing, the vestigial residue of a passing era. Today’s Twittering class is connected 24/7, thriving on accessible communication.
There’s nothing wrong with answering one’s own phone even conceding any merit to the argument that, at times, it can be an unproductive, undisciplined time waster, outweighing any efficiencies and immediacy. But as Sydney Harris asserted, ample benefits also support the opposing view. Also see How to Fire Your Receptionist and Be Your Own Receptionist | Lawyerist
Finally, with the increasing prevalence of improved communication options and related technologies, it’s almost inexcusable to shy away from a more client-focused, value-added personal touch.