Can I Put You On Hold?

We at 350 Orange Street are presently engaged in a debate. Unlike the year-end compensation discussions which can sometimes escalate from pouting to name-calling to arm wrestling, the temperature for this disagreement is quite low. Its resolution, however it comes out, will likely lead to little more than a few slammed doors and, where applicable, some minor connubial grousing at home sufficiently protected by the spousal privilege.

It seems that we have, through necessity, acquired a new telephone system. In addition to requiring training on the intricacies of operating this latest version of Alexander Graham Bell's blessing, this system demands additional behavioral adjustments. It seems that, should you call our office, and if by that time we've learned how to actually answer the phones and to place you on hold, you will be then graced with the musical stylings of whomever or whatever we choose to incorporate. Hence the debate.

At present, we learn, the default "hold music" appears to be taken from one of the vinyl discs recovered from White Sox Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park in 1979, scratches and all. Not, we all agree, the image that a prestigious law firm like Jacobs & Dow, LLC should be projecting.

Ah, but there's the rub. What is the "appropriate" hold music? Some feel classical music is best. Vivaldi's "Four Seasons", Beethoven's "Erotica", Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" or perhaps Rossini's "William Tell Overture" for the more adventurous. Others favor more bombastic pieces-the theme from Star Wars, the 1812 Overture or Ride of the Valkyries. Then there are the laid back effetists-classical guitar, Yo Yo Ma and a string quartet or some other chamber music. Well those are the traditionalists.

Then there are those who think this stuffy music just puts people to sleep. They'd prefer some Willie Nelson, Tim McGraw or even Grateful Dead or Michael Jackson, stuff with more pizzazz. My own tastes run to more to Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis or Brubeck. And so, for the most part, we disagree about music.

But that's not where the debate really lies. Where it is advertising. You see we're told we can personalize our hold "feature". We can, get this, put ads where our hold music should be. Now isn't that just special. You call me wanting to hire a personal injury lawyer and a professional announcer is schmoozing you for malpractice claims arising from your Aunt Betty's iffy liposuction. Better yet, Mr. Big Time Lawyer wanting to hire local counsel on a business case in federal court calls and while waiting on hold for me to finish reading my e-mail's from Nigeria, he learns how to sue Stop and Shop for a falldown due to negligent fruit maintenance. Or a learned jurist calls to get our assistance on a sensitive legal issue and learns that we'll handle his divorce reasonably and well. We're just a phone call away.

The sentiment in favor of the advertising approach, though, is strong. We are in, I'm told, a new era. Law is a business. Part of the business of practicing law is getting new business. Every opportunity must be mined. Even if it's for 20 seconds of audio thumb twiddling. Those of us who cling to the remnants of that tattered tapestry that "a happy client being the best advertisement" are out of touch. The practice of law is passing us by.

Well, if that's so maybe I should adjust. I should get with it, join the 21 st century way of doing things and modify my practice accordingly. But if that's so, I say let's go whole hog. We're good lawyers. Our firm has done well. We have countless satisfied clients. Let's use that and make it work for us.

We don't need to hire an announcer to speak for us. We can do this ourselves. We'll use the classics. We'll have the score of the final scene of Gone With the Wind as a background. Then we'll say the name of the firm slowly and then play the Madelyn Kahn classic from Blazing Saddles:

Is it true what they say about the way you people are... gifted?

And, as the music reaches its crescendo

Oh, it's true. It's true. It's true, it's true!

It's perfect. This way we can do it all: acceptable music, the firm name, and satisfied customers who appreciate our unique abilities.

An ad they'll never forget. I've been converted.