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Even in Web 2.0 world, the telephone -- and its constant companion, voice mail -- are still with us. There are actually a lot of people out there who prefer the scintilla of human interaction the phone provides over the cold, lifeless specter of email. (Or the tantalizing fun of Snapchat.)
As with every office practice, voice mail has its own etiquette and best practices guide. Here some of the rules you should keep in mind for professional and efficient voice mail communications:
1. Make Your Outgoing Message Short and Sweet.
Back when I was 22, I thought it was hilarious to have a really long, complicated voice mail greeting. Now that I'm older and (arguably) wiser, I recognize that's really stupid. All your voice mail greeting needs to do is say what your firm name is, and to leave a message. No one wants to sit through two minutes of explanation when they're just waiting for the beep.
2. Use a Transcription Service.
The future is here, today! Automated transcription services will run a voice message through a computer, which will spit out a transcription of the message. This is extremely useful for archiving messages -- when it works, that is. Voice recognition technology is pretty good, but not great. A heavy accent or a bad connection can result in a lot of indecipherable words.
3. Use a Service That Will Email the Voice Mail to You.
And if you have a transcription service, you're also probably getting the transcription emailed to you along with the audio file of the voice mail message. Yes, I'm basically describing Google Voice, which does all of this stuff for free. I use Google Voice, and I file not only the transcripts, but the audio files themselves into client folders on my computer.
4. Get Back to Someone Within 24 Hours.
In the era of instant communication, people get antsy if you don't call back in a few hours. But the rule about phone communication is the same as it ever was: Get back to people within 24 hours on a weekday, or by Monday if the call came in over the weekend. Regular consumer clients are especially prone to getting upset if they're not in constant regular contact with their lawyer.
5. Anything You Say Can and Will Be Used Against You.
Finally, a bit of warning: Voice mails aren't transient. Because they're stored the same way as any bit of data, they'll be with us forever. Case in point: An associate leaves an "expletive-laden voice mail message" for another associate in a different firm. Did he really think this wouldn't get around the Internet?