Your headphones are in, your eyes are glued to the computer screen, and you’re frantically typing away, trying to get on top of your inbox. But are the hours you’re spending on your email really paying off?

Many small law firms have found themselves stuck in a bit of an email rabbit hole. Even if your team is able to produce timely responses when swamped with messages, sending your clients emails won’t guarantee that they respond — or even read them. When and if they finally do, it may be at a time that is not ideal for you, and you’ll find yourself right back where you started, with an inbox full of messages jockeying for your attention.

Believe it or not, 55 percent of email users don’t open and read their messages regularly. With this in mind, it may be time to step away from the screen and pick up the phone. Here are a few situations where the phone trumps email.

Subject Line – URGENT

How many times have you found yourself pressing that caps lock key hoping your email recipient will get back to you by the end of the day? Approximately 60% of people wait two full days to reply an email and often, your urgent message simply can’t wait that long.

Urgent information may also need to be handled sensitively. Instead of putting yourself through the email lottery, hoping the recipient won’t make a careless mistake, handle urgent conversations in-person or by phone to get things done quickly and limit inaccuracies.

Numbers and jargon and bears (oh my!)

Interacting with a client over email can quickly turn from pleasantries to complete confusion. Many client management problems are rooted in miscommunication, and legal jargon can make clear communication complicated. After years in the industry, you may not even realize that you are losing your client when you use words that are second nature to you but are unfamiliar to them. Rather than ending your message with “Does that make sense?” and initiating a long string of email replies, make a phone call. Once you have your client’s ear, you can provide as much context, explanation and clarification as they need to feel comfortable.

(Sensitive Information Enclosed)

Chances are, your law degree came with a few lessons in conveying sensitive information. If your email contains information that could evoke an emotional response, it may be best to break it to your client over the phone. It can be difficult to decipher tone and emotion over email, and therefore difficult to provide the proper level of reassurance and support. A phone call shows you care, and a personal conversation affords you the opportunity to pick up on verbal cues about how your client is handling the latest turn in their matter.

While picking up the phone may seem “old school”, we have a feeling you’ll be amazed at how much time and trouble you can save by avoiding email for even just a couple of conversations a week. And for those times when you must email, be sure to use email management software to stay on track.

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