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Ethics question: how do I use the telephone ethically?

Answer: I feel like some sort of 1940s columnist on manners: how should one addresses the switch operator? And how does one introduce oneself when put through? But this is on the back of talking to an elderly friend reminiscing about when there were 32 phone lines between here and Melbourne. If you were the 33rd caller, you didn’t get through.

Today, of course, we can almost invariably get through or rather everyone can get through to us wherever and whenever. So today, how do we telephone ethically?

  1. Just because we cover the earpiece with our ear does not make it confidential, particularly when walking down Phillip Street.
  2. It is not right to use a telecommunication service (or indeed any other communication method) to be rude, whether it is to another solicitor or anyone else.
  3. I am not talking here about diction, on which my 1940s columnist probably would have thoughts. What I mean here is identifying who we are and who we act for. We must not mislead anyone.
  4. I would err on the side of formality. We are officers of the court, after all, and a certain formality helps maintain that status.
  5. There are very few times we should ever not respond to a call, and we should be prompt about it.
  6. Talking to a colleague rather than writing to them is a great way to foster those relationships between us as solicitors that are so important. They help our mental health as well as our clients’ matters.

Happy telephoning!