Should Lawyers Text Clients?

In our tech-driven world, texting is the fastest and easiest way to communicate, but does it put attorney-client confidentiality at risk?

A recent National Law Review article answered this question with a laundry list of pros, cons and dangers associated with lawyers using text messages to keep in touch with clients.

Citing “lack of client contact” as a top Bar grievance, the article suggests that texting can be a useful tool in the quest for better client communication, as long as lawyers follow a few simple rules.

The four questions below will help lawyers better assess the viability of texting as a client communication tool. Each offers links to additional web resources to help secure, track and manage text messages in the legal field.

Four Questions to Ask Before You Hit ‘Send’

  1. Is the message encrypted? The only way to be sure is to use a service that is specifically designed to secure texts. There are a plethora of possible solutions out there. A Google search found these Netsfere, Wickr, ZipWhip, and many more. The Netsfere link offers a short summary on the benefits of using a platform that encrypts text messages.
  2. How will you track the communication? The folks at Decipher spell out easy and immediate steps lawyers can use to turn on the SMS Backup+ feature on Android devices and additional tracking steps for users of iPhones and iPads. These features allow firms to document text messages as they do emails and other forms of communications.
  3. Would the message be better conveyed in a meeting or telephone call? According to a TechShow 2018 presentation by Jim Calloway and Ivan Hemmans, texting is “very limited and is a poor tool for almost every complex legal discussion. So one needs to learn to use the medium’s strengths and avoid its weaknesses.” They offered these examples of answers attorneys might use when texting clients:
    “Let’s not do that! Call me to discuss why.”
    -“That’s too complicated to discuss via text message. Call my office to schedule an appointment.”
    -“That’s an important strategic decision and requires more in-depth discussion.”
  4. How do I avoid getting calls from clients on my personal cell phone? Lawyers are understandably hesitant to give out their personal cell numbers. No one wants clients calling at 3 am. To avoid such sleepless scenarios, lawyers can use an SMS Gateway. Hong Dao writes in a 2017 In Practice article, “There is an easy and free way to do this. It’s called Email-to-SMS Gateway. You just use your email program on your computer to send a short text message to your clients. No need to use a third-party service that you don’t know and trust. No need to install an application.” Dao spells out the specific steps for setting up SMS is her post.

By V.L. Brunskill

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