Should lawyers really be texting their clients? Can lawyers afford not to take advantage of new smartphone technology as a better method of communicating with those they serve? Are legal cases simply too complex and important to discuss through text messaging?
The jury is still out on whether or not texting is a smart law practice management tactic. In this piece, we’ll try to bring some clarity to the issue, by laying out five of the biggest advantages and disadvantages to texting clients. At the end, we’ll give you our final verdict.
Advantage #1: You’ll save time
Being polite and engaging can take you a long way in this business, but most busy attorneys don’t have the energy to be social butterflies 24/7. Sometimes you’ll just want to get a quick message across or obtain a simple answer from a client, without getting into a lengthy over the phone or in-person conversation.
“(Texting) is a faster response tool, which is critical when converting prospects and getting back info from existing clients,” says Matt Starosciak of Proven Law Marketing.
According to the site Text Request, communicating through text is 10 times faster than engaging with someone through a phone call. So when lawyers need to tell their client something brief like an appointment time or meeting location, sending a simple text can make life a lot easier. Texting also gives lawyers the ability to keep tabs on all of their clients during busy days at the office or courthouse, when their time for chatting is limited.
Disadvantage #1: Clients can reach you at any time
The convenience that texting provides can be somewhat of a double-edged sword. While texting makes it easier for you to get a message across to a client, it also makes it more possible for clients to reach out to you with any questions or concerns that might pop into their head throughout the day or night. This can be perfectly fine when done in moderation, but dealing with clients who text non-stop or get a little chatty late at night can sometimes be a lot for lawyers to handle (and very annoying).
And while it may seem a bit high schoolish, texting can create some unnecessary drama that lawyers definitely do not need in their already hectic lives. You may find some clients grow upset, if you ignore their texts or fail to respond to them in a timely manner. Yup, this is the age we live in.
Advantage #2: You’ll have all conversations saved on record
A typical day for a lawyer usually involves juggling multiple tasks and working on multiple cases all at once. Having a lot on your plate can make remembering specific details from conversations with clients somewhat difficult. Texting with clients can solve this problem, by creating written logs of your conversations on your phone. This can be a significant time saver. Rather than having to call up a client again to re-ask for something that was discussed earlier, you can just refer to your phone.
Also, while no lawyer wants to have a dispute with a client, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared for them. Having previous conversations in hand to refer may help you reach quicker resolutions with clients who feel they are being deceived or taken advantage of.
Disadvantage #2: You’ll need to be more careful with your phone
If you’re one of those people who always leaves your smartphone lying out in the open on a table, you might want to start being more cautious. Clients expect the conversations they have with you to stay private, and you don’t want a stranger or untrustworthy colleague being able to look through your messages with them. With text notifications now popping up on locked screens of phones, people around you won’t have to try to hard to see a text they weren’t supposed to see.
Oh and if you’re one of those lawyer parents that lets your kids play games on your mobile devices, make sure your child doesn’t go accidentally sending nonsensical or silly messages to your clients. Talk about awkward.
Advantage #3: Communicating with busy or anti-social clients will be easier
There are few things more frustrating than playing phone tag with an occupied client, or struggling to get an introverted client to actually speak with you on the phone. With texting, you won’t have to derail your day to reach your busy and anti-social clients.
Connecticut injury attorney Gavin Robbins says many of his clients have been quite receptive to texting and it’s made his life easier as well. “I have noticed that clients love to text me at all hours of the day,” he said. “I don’t really mind because I can reply whenever. We don’t both have to be available to talk at the same time.”
With texting being a more casual form of communication than speaking over the phone, obtaining simple info from a client should be a much less painful process. There will be less time stressing over when you’ll get a call back, and more time getting billable work done.
Disadvantage #3: Important things can get lost in translation
Legal matters can be hard for the average person to understand. That’s why the average person hires you. So while communicating about simple matters over text is often fine, trying to explain something confusing or complex to a client through messaging can be a dangerous game.
You never want to leave anything of importance to chance when it comes to discussing legal matters. Just one little typo, autocorrected word, or misunderstanding can leave you less than prepared come the day of an important meeting or courthouse appearance.
Advantage #4: You’ll attract younger consumers
Want to impress the next generation of legal consumers? Offering text message as a form of communication can go a long way. A recent legal trends report revealed that 19 percent of millennials indicated they expected their attorney to be able to communicate by text and email.
This is far from surprising, as reports have indicated that consumers aged 50 or younger will almost always opt for messaging over a phone conversation when given the choice. By offering a form of communication that is both familiar and comfortable to the large majority of today’s consumers, you increase your odds of them choosing to do business with you and your ability to provide them with a positive customer experience.
Disadvantage #4: Some consumers may view it as unprofessional
While many legal clients may be excited by the concept of texting their lawyer, some will not be overly impressed by it. In fact, some clients may feel uncomfortable using text to share details regarding their important legal matters. They may view it as their lawyer not caring enough to take the time to actually speak with them, and therefore not taking their case seriously.
Clients may also be worried about their text conversations staying private. Technology being hacked is all too commonly mentioned in the news these days, and it’s hard to blame anyone for being worried about their information being leaked, even if in reality the risk of such a thing happening is quite small.
Advantage #5: Text marketing carries great potential
According to a recent Forbes article, some attorneys have begun using SMS (short message service) as a marketing tool. A 2017 ABA Journal piece says that, “Lawyers may advertise via a text message service that permits the user to initiate live telephone communications, provided they comply with the Rules of Professional Conduct”.
With marketing becoming more and more mobile focused, the idea of sending advertisement messages directly to a potential client’s phone is quite appealing. According to a post from the Content Marketing Institute, 85% of mobile device users prefer a text from businesses over phone calls or email. Also making it appealing for attorneys, is the fact that the text marketing advertising space is largely up for grabs, and that engaging in it could give them a significant edge over less tech savvy competitors.
Disadvantage #5: Some view text marketing as risky and intrusive
In the above mentioned Forbes piece, Kendra Stephen, founder of hireladylawyer.com, provided an important warning for attorneys considering text marketing “Read your state’s bar rules and make sure you have a clear understanding of what you can or cannot do,” she said. “With SMS marketing, you are going to have more than bar rules to consider. Make sure you review the FTC rules regarding text message spamming. Always get permission before you start sending messages out to potential clients.”
So yes, text marketing will likely be somewhat difficult minefield for lawyers to navigate, at least at this point in time. And even if you are engaging in a completely legal form of text marketing, some of the consumers you target may not be thrilled about receiving marketing texts from a company they never contacted. Even if your intentions are good, it can come across as quite spammy.
The Verdict on Texting Clients
Our final take is that lawyers should embrace texting as a form of communication with clients, but make sure they go about it in an intelligent way.
Our five tips for engaging with clients through text:
- Set texting boundaries with new clients from the start of your relationship. For example, tell clients they can feel free to text you during normal office hours, but should only do so in emergency situations during after hours and weekends.
- If you’re texting clients from your phone, make sure your mobile device is secure (preferably password protected) and always on your person.
- Alternatively, don’t even text from your phone. There are several texting softwares available these days, that allow attorneys to message their clients phones from a separate communication platform. Some of the top ranking SMS marketing softwares on the site Capterra include Textedly, Avochato, and TrueDialog.
- Remain sensitive and accommodating to clients who would still prefer to engage in conversation via phone call. And make sure to always deliver news that carries great emotional or financial importance either in-person or verbally over the phone.
- Don’t go into text marketing blindly. Ask other legal marketers and lawyers for advice first, in places like our Facebook legal marketing discussion group.