Like so many technologies, voicemail is both a blessing and a curse. We rely on it, but we’re often frustrated by it. So how can you use it more effectively? How can you minimize the amount of time you spend playing phone tag?

First, become more aware of when you can use voicemail to move a conversation forward. If you’re reaching out to someone new or you’re contacting someone about a new topic, there’s no conversation to sustain, that’s true. But at the very least, you can let the person know when you’d like them to try to get back to you. Or you can, depending on the nature of your call, ask them to get back to your assistant with the answer. Or you can leave your email address and offer that as an option for a return communication.

However, the vast majority of voicemails deal with ongoing situations within existing relationships — and yet too many people simply play phone tag. “Susan, it’s Larry. Give me a call back. I have a question about the latest revision of the buyout clause.” That kind of message is only one step up from “Tag. You’re it.”

Ask yourself, “What can I say in the message I leave that will increase the likelihood of the person getting back to me with the information I’m looking for?”

To answer that question, you have to give some thought to it; you have to plan for the possibility (the likelihood?) that you’ll get your target’s voicemail. Take 60 seconds before you pick up the phone to organize the statement – and the requests – that you’ll leave.

If you’re seeking information, practice being more specific than you’ve been in the past. Be specific, too, about what you’re asking them to do in terms of getting back to you.

For example: “Susan, it’s Larry. I have a question about the latest revision of the buyout clause. Does the Targeted Account List referenced in schedule A include the accounts Alan brought with him when he joined the company in 2007? If so, does it include all of them? If not, which? I should be in the office tomorrow morning until about 11. In case you don’t have my number handy, it’s 555.555.5555. If we don’t connect, please leave a detailed answer on my voicemail. Or my email is Or, feel free to call my assistant, Anne, at 555.555.5555. She’s fully aware of the situation. Thanks.”

Of course, you probably wanted to speak with Susan, which is why you called her, rather than emailed her. But being prepared to leave a specific message is the next best thing in lieu a live conversation.

A message like that moves the conversation forward and increases the chances that you’ll get the info you need without having to play tag. It’s one of the most effective attorney time management techniques available, and it’s easy to learn.

As long-time readers of my weekly tips have heard me say again and again, it all starts with your mindset, with increased awareness of an otherwise simple behavior – in this case, that you can cut down on phone tag by moving the conversation forward through the specificity of the voicemails you leave.

Author's Bio: 

Bill Jawitz is dedicated to helping attorneys become happier, more profitable practitioners. Coaching for Lawyers, Coaching Attorneys, Attorney Marketing, Attorneys Training at Jawitz Legal Consulting.