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Legal professionals tend to use the telephone hundreds of times during a working day. Whether you are talking to clients or counterparts, you will need to develop some level of telephone etiquette in your second language. One of the big problems our students have with the telephone is with listening, as unless you are using Skype you cannot see the person you are talking to. We will deal with listening specifically in a separate article and for in thos post will concentrate on the language that you should be using over the telephone.
Twenty years ago, you would often hear somebody repeat their telephone extension number to you when they answered the telephone. People do not tend to do that anymore, so some will simply say their name or add "speaking" after that.
Asking to speak to somebody
Most native speakers use "Can I speak to John Smith?", but the more grammatically correct sentence would be "May I speak to John Smith?" It is your choice as to whether you go with the majority or the more gramatically aware.
Transferring the call
You might not be able to deal with the call and will have to transfer it. In this case, you can say "Please hold the line. I will have to transfer you." or "Please wait a moment. I will check if she is available."
If the person that the caller wishes to speak to is not at their desk (or does not want to speak the caller), then you are going to have to use diplomatic language in order to placate the caller. Our tutors recommend saying "I am sorry, but John Smith is not here at the moment but I would be happy to take a message for you."
Leaving a Message
Remember to speak slowly and clearly if you are dictating your message to somebody, or you are leaving a message on voicemail. The best way to start a voicemail is to say "I am calling about X and X and I would be grateful if you could call you back as soon as you can." Do not forget to leave your telephone number. Brits tend to say "Oh" for the number 0 rather than zero.
Some British people have heavier accents than others, and even we don't understand fellow native speakers at times! It is not a problem to say that you do not understand, as long as you say it politely. Just ask the person to repeat themselves or simply check that you understood: "So you said 020 3566 0145?"