Most definitely, e-mail is killing the art of the phone call.
But there is a new trend now that simply amuses me – and that is the sending of an e-mail to book an appointment to make a phone call. It used to be that if you needed to call someone, you would simply pick up the phone and call. If Mr. or Ms. SoandSo were in, they took the call (or not). You leave a voicemail and at some point (you didn't know when), they would return the call. But e-mail, working from home, Outlook, emphasis on time management, and certainly text messaging has changed all that.
Nowadays, if you want to talk with someone on the phone, you send an e-mail first. Raging fingers flash as e-mails go back and forth just to set the time:
E-mail #1: "Perhaps we should talk on the phone. When would be good for you?"
E-Mail #2: "I can talk on Wednesday at 3:00 or 4:00 or Friday at 1:00 or 11:00, Pacific Time."
E-Mail #3: "Wednesday at 11:00 is better.
E-Mail #4: 11:00 won't work. How about Thursday at 2:00?"
E-Mail #5: "Thursday at 2:00 is fine. Should I set up the call?"
E-Mail #6: "Yes. Fine."
E-Mail #7: "OK. We're confirmed."
Now, I ask you. Is this because we've all become time management mavens? Or e-mail elitists. Or, is the truth of the matter that we've become so isolated that the thought of having to talk on the phone rather than send an e-mail (that we believe is faster) is so abhorrent that parceling out the time we talk on the phone is less painful than receiving or making unpredicted phone calls? We've become a society of typists. There's no more excitement and mystery to the succession of rapid fire phone calls – you know, when you were power-dialing and following the thread? (That's phone thread, not e-mail.)
First of all, I never believe that someone really has only the appointed times for a 10 minute phone call that they're quoting me. Wednesday at 1:00 or wait another 48 hours and try and catch me on Friday – I'm that booked. I think they just make that up and then plug it into their calendar when the time is agreed upon. No one wants to look like they're not that busy, so no one ever says anymore, "Just give me a ring anytime on Tuesday."
Sometimes I just don't feel like talking and e-mail allows me to remain virtually invisible. Sometimes phone calling can be so much more effective and less time consuming than e-mail. But sometimes I want a paper trail because I have so much going on that I need to categorize or memorialize our conversation and get on to the next project. Whatever the issue, could it more easily be solved by a 5 minute – or a 1 minute phone call?
These days, I'm not sure if by just picking up the phone and calling someone, I'm being rude. OK, I had some issues with our cable company – that doesn't count. But if I were to pick up the phone to ask someone to speak at one of our seminars or write an article, I most certainly would be perceived as out of line or out of touch with today's business manners. It seems like we've become more of an analytical society. You have to think it through first - or consult your calendar and move stuff around.
Is it a generational thing? Do older professionals prefer the phone while younger ones twitter and text? I don't know. But I do know one thing: If you need me, do call. If I'm isolating, I will get back to you as quickly as I can. Just be sure and let me know what's a good time.
PS: I'm not sure all of you know that we are co-sponsoring the Paralegal Trial Technology Institute at LegalTech 2009 in New York and Los Angeles. Don't miss out on this great 2 day event. We're even giving you the first day at LegalTech for free (making it 3 full days). For more info go to: www.almevents.com/paralegal.