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Why Litigators Should Have a Professional Ringtone

By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

Litigators beware: Do you know what your ringtone sounds like? Are you sure a prankster child, colleague, or office nemesis, hasn't turned your ringtone into a duck, or something more nefarious?

Obviously, you don't want embarrassing sounds coming from your pocket during a meeting, or worse, while you're in court. And while the duck ringtone may not actually be that bad (and could score you points with a duck-hunting judge), a simple, professional ringtone will always be less disruptive than something that's even cautiously humorous, cool, or anything but professional.

What's in a Ringtone?

While the Star Wars Dark Vader theme might be the perfect ringtone for your in-laws, you never know when they'll call looking for your spouse that decided not to answer their call while you're in trial. Basically, Murphy's Law of cell phone ringtones says that if you have a ringtone that could be embarrassing in a particular situation, you will be embarrassed by it in that situation.

A juror or judge is likely to be upset if even your professional-sounding ringtone goes off during trial. Often, it's a violation of a court's rules. Having a silly, musical, or animal noise ringtone could cause them to view you, and your case, as less serious, depending on what they assume about you because of your ringtone. While we lawyers know we're all just human, judges and juries often are looking for reasons not to like us. So don't give them one. If your client's case is more important than dressing comfortably, it's way more important than your individualized expression through ringtones.

Tips for Avoiding an Embarrassing Ringer Moment

If you're wondering what a professional ringtone sounds like, put your phone on the table and turn on vibrate mode. That buzz you hear is a professional ringtone. In a courtroom, when a phone buzzes in a bag, it can be loud and very noticeable. However, nothing's being said, implied, or understood from that noise. That situation on its own is embarrassing enough, but adding music or sound effects takes the embarrassment to the next level.

Check your phone one last time when a bailiff announces the judge's arrival to confirm it's off, silenced, or in whatever mode ensures it won't make a peep, buzz, or quack. Use features like Airplane Mode, Do Not Disturb Mode, or Silent Mode, with caution. Test that a WiFi connection and "WiFi calling" won't get around Airplane Mode. Understand the features of Do Not Disturb, or Silent Mode, and test them by calling yourself from a different phone. And if you feel overwhelmed by it all, luckily, the easiest option is to just turn it off (not asleep: off).

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