NJSBA PracticeHQ: The dos and don’ts of texting clients

By NJSBA Staff posted 01-11-2021 14:34

  

Editor’s note: This article is adapted from the NJSBA’s PracticeHQ archives. PracticeHQ is a free benefit available to all NJSBA members, and provides articles, comparison charts, videos and more with the sole purpose of helping members manage their law practice more efficiently and effectively. Find out more about PracticeHQ resources by selecting the members tab at njsba.com.

 

More attorneys than ever are using texting as a primary method of client contact. Although there can be advantages to texting a client, many lawyers don’t fully consider the potential pitfalls.

The following are some of the pros and cons of texting.

Pros

  1. It’s a fast, easy way to communicate.
  2. It provides a record.
  3. It can save time with automated messages.

Cons

  1. It could require constant availability.
  2. There are security pitfalls.
  3. Texts can be misunderstood.

 

Attorneys are often divided into two camps when it comes to texting, with some rejecting its use under any circumstances and others engaging in it with little thought.

The following practices should be considered before texting a client:

 

  • Consider finding a middle ground on texting. Make the decision whether to text on a case-by-case basis, even if your general policy leans one way or the other. Each case comes with a unique set of circumstances that should be factored into the equation. For example, perhaps a client works constantly and can only be reached via text during the day.
  • Secure your mobile device. Lock your phone with your fingerprint or a password. Consider encrypting your data. Set up a remote wipe (a way to erase stored data). Do as much as possible to ensure the safety of both your client’s information and your own.
  • Keep a record in the client file. Treat texting just like any other form of client communication. Back up your texts with clients and store copies in your client’s file. You never know when you may need them.
  • Don’t engage in complex legal discussion via text. Think of texting in terms of Twitter’s old 160-character limit. That is, if you can’t say it briefly, consider a phone call instead.
  • Don’t give out your personal cellphone number. Assuming you want the option to break contact should you move firms, or even quit ­practicing, there are numerous options available to avoid giving out your personal cellphone number. Apps like SendHub and ZipWhip provide solutions to texting clients, plus ZipWhip allows you to text from your existing business phone number.
  • Don’t text without discussing it first with your client. Review methods of communication as part of your standard intake procedure. Make sure your client understands that you will not text the details of the case or any other boundaries you choose to implement.

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