Communications between lawyer and client and lawyer and lawyer are the lifeblood of the practice of law and anything that obstructs timely communications obstructs the practice of law. Case in point: message machines. Empirical surveys show that as soon as a message machine comes on a significant percentage of callers immediately hang up. Why? Because they can’t stand to wait through the inane messages before the beep sounds.

Let us examine more carefully the usual inanities:

1)”I’m not at my desk right now.” In the first place, with caller ID, this may well be a lie. But if the caller assumes it is true, then the message really is: “You may be an idiot and are thinking that I’m not answering the phone because I’m deaf, so I just wanted to assure you that I’m not deaf.”

2)”Your message is really important to me.” That’s reassuring.

3)”So leave a confidential message.” I’m glad you’re not going to tell your neighbor about this message.

4)”And I’ll get back to you as quickly as possible.” I’m glad to hear you’re not going to get back to me slowly.

5)”If this is an emergency, dial zero for the operator.” I didn’t know that. Thanks a lot!

6)”Or call back and ask for X, my personal assistant.” You have a personal assistant? Wow!

7.”For more options, press 1.” That’s what I was hoping for — a second recorded message.

8)”To leave a call back number, press 5.” If I don’t know that already, I probably wouldn’t know what leaving a call back number means.

9)”Have a nice day.” Thank you. You too. And now could I please hear the beep.

Our recommendation: “This is Joe Doe; please leave a message. Beep.” Three seconds flat.•