Methods of communication are constantly changing. It wasn’t long ago when everyone was walking around with a phone stuck to their ears talking about everything from business to the weather. Now the preferred method of communication is text messaging.
According to industry research, a whopping 85 percent of smartphone users prefer communicating via text messages over phone calls or emails. Texting is also more likely to get a response as 90 percent of people who receive a text will read it within three minutes.
Texting is increasingly widespread. In the U.S. each day, adults send more than six billion texts, not including app-to-app services such as WhatsApp or Messenger. Texting is also a proven method of marketing to prospective customers as 68 percent of businesses use it to connect with consumers.
Here are 6 ways lawyers can benefit from texting their clients:
- Faster client responses – Because clients are much more likely to read and respond to a text, there is no playing phone tag or waiting for a client to check their emails and respond.
- Convenience – Clients can receive and respond to a text from virtually everywhere. Whether in meetings, watching a movie or eating lunch, there is no need to leave the room to make a call or open an email program; just read and type a response.
- Saves time and money – Communicating via text messages requires less effort and is faster than engaging in a phone call or drafting a formal email. Attorneys can be more productive and save clients some money.
- Increased client engagement and satisfaction – ABA Rule 1.4 (a) requires lawyers to keep their clients informed about their legal matters and to answer any reasonable requests for information in a timely and thorough fashion. Texting is a quick and easy way to keep them up to date and provide clients with a greater sense of involvement in their case.
- Online reviews and prospective clients – Once your client’s matter is complete, a quick text is a good way to remind them to leave a positive review on your firm’s website. More positive reviews means more potential clients. Remember to include a link to the review form in your text message.
- Marketing efforts – According to ABA Rule 7.3, an advertising text message to the general public is akin to billboard or banner advertisements. Be careful to comply with the ethical requirements of Rules 7.1 and 7.3. Make sure to check your jurisdiction for any additional regulations regarding advertising through texts such as giving recipients the easy ability to opt out of receiving future messages.
Texting Dos and Don’ts
Text selectively A text isn’t going to be appropriate for all communications. The type of things for which an attorney can safely send a text include:
- Scheduling for a meeting
- Notifications of court dates
- Directions to a location
- Case updates
- Online reviews
- Payment reminders
Never send documents, sensitive information or discuss complex legal issues and personal problems in a text. The likelihood for misunderstanding and confusion are too great. These topics are best handled through phone calls or face-to-face meetings.
I’ve seen a few attorneys negotiate the terms of the attorney-client relationship through texts. Never do that. Negotiating in person and in writing will keep the relationship clear and avoid misunderstandings.
You aren’t texting friends or family. Always use professional language, no emojis or abbreviations. Client texts are legal communications and will become part of the file, so keep your texts concise and clear, use correct punctuation, and check your spelling before hitting send.
Consider client comfort
Texting is just one way of communicating with clients and it may not work for every client. Texts are a part of everyday life for younger people, but perhaps not for older clients. Additionally, some clients may have vision problems and be unable to read texts. Before you start firing off brief missives, make sure your client is able and comfortable receiving texts.
The best way to ensure clients know you will text them is to put it in writing. Include texting in your retention agreement, clearly setting forth the terms of texting between you and your client.
Important matters to cover in the agreement include:
- Which texting platform you will use with the client; make certain it is a secure platform
- Subjects that are appropriate for texting and those that are not
- Sharing text messages; inappropriate sharing with others can void client-attorney privilege and lead to all sorts of problems
- Set boundaries on texting; hours and days during which you may send and receive texts
- Verify client phone number to receive texts
- Specify whether you charge for all time spent sending or receiving texts (which could keep clients from bombarding you with unnecessary texts)
Use read receipts
In the rush of daily life, it’s so easy for a text to be over-looked and unread. Make sure your client reads your texts by setting your smartphone or case management platform for a read receipt on every message. If the client hasn’t responded to your text after a reasonable time has passed, send them another text reminding them to read the first text.
Keep texts archived
All text messages are client communication and as such become part of your client’s case file. They must be saved for future reference. Never, ever rely on your cellular carrier to keep copies. Make sure you keep copies of all texts.
Before texting a client, make certain your firm has established text message documentation and archival procedures. The easiest way to do this is with effective Case Management Software that enables client texts to go directly into their case file.
Lawyers are responsible to ensure that client texts remain secure. Always check on any requirements unique to your jurisdiction. Best practices for doing so include:
- Text through a secure case management system, rather than a phone.
- Use a work-only phone to keep your work texts separate from personal texts. This prevents any slip ups of incorrectly sending texts to the wrong people and protects your personal number from being spread around. Android users who don’t want to lug around a second phone can create a ‘work profile’ on their smartphones to enable seamless switching between work and personal items.
- Maintain the confidentiality of your texts by using a business texting service like Signal or Kenect. These services are easy to use and employ military grade encryption for end-to-end communication.
- Lock your phone screen and set your phone controls to prevent “message previews” from showing up for any texts. Doing so will prevent unauthorized reading of your texts. Make certain that your client uses these settings as well.
Texting is increasingly the preferred means of communicating, especially among younger clients. It’s an easy and convenient way to meet client needs and keep them involved with their case. Attorneys should always look for opportunities to utilize texting. Done correctly, texting will save time and increase an attorney’s productivity, aid in retaining clients while attracting new ones and lead to greater client satisfaction.