I recently came across this interesting contribution to the Small Firm Innovation blog by Carolyn Elefant: Should Lawyers Text?
Carolyn and I have been digitally connected for a very long time. I respect Carolyn as she is a successful practicing attorney (regulatory energy), wife, mom, blogger, fellow big dog lover AND she spends a great deal of her “free” time genuinely helping solos navigate the digital world through her site MyShingle, her lectures and books.
That said, what stood out to me in the Small Firm Innovation blog post was Carolyn’s comment:
I’ve never texted with my clients but I typically make the option available.
This popped out at me as texting is a tech that falls under my category of just because you can… doesn’t always mean you should.
Let’s start with the security of the medium for communications. A report recently published on the arstechnica site shows (by carrier) how long user data is kept:
Secret memo reveals which telecoms store your data the longest
Now does that mean the telecoms are indexing every word… I dunno. I would imagine so – it’s all about the mining of data these days and who owns the server that the data is stored on.
My thoughts on this are that even if the server owners only agree to use the data for … say … advertising purposes – once the data is collected, it’s collected. What it may be used for in the future, none of us truly knows.
However, the data issue is really secondary in why I do not recommend attorneys incorporate texting into their practice processes.
My main problem with texting is that one must give out the direct dial number and carrier to their portable mobile device and once a client/adversary/colleague has this information, you can’t take it back.
Most people I know (including lawyers) never put their personal mobile device more than 5 feet away from their bodies 24/7/365. So, if you use texting in your practice and give your direct dial information to what turns out to be a nervous/angry/frustrated/annoyed/needy contact, that contact now KNOWS they have access to you 24/7.
No one should be available to anyone but family and tight friends 24/7.
In business, rarely does one need to be instantly available. Yes, there are some circumstances – criminal defense attorneys or an active trial can require an attorney to be reachable 24/7. Otherwise, being immediately accessible to all and sundry is just one more way to use technology to tip the scales toward overload re: work/life balance.
In the latest BYOB podcast: SYSTEMS New Orleans based attorney and practice management/going paperless expert, Ernie Svenson and I chat about being instantaneously available:
(Go ahead and click on the link – it will open in a new window. FYI, this is Part 1 of 3 and I made each Part only 20 minutes long - I don’t even waste time on intro/exit stuff – just me and Ernie talking. If you don’t already know Ernie, he is a really smart guy who breaks down complex concepts into words the rest of us can understand. Listen to Part 1 now and don’t forget to add your email address to The Legal Connection list so you’ll get access to Parts 2 and 3 before anyone else!)
Back to texting.
My two cents: unless you are in a particular type of law or situation which requires immediate access to your personal mobile device, I recommend you don’t. No texting does not mean that you can’t make yourself immediately accessible – only if/when need be.
I have placed a web based technology known as unified messaging between my personal mobile device and my business. Onebox alleviates the need for me to to provide my direct dial number(s) and I use it to control when and how I am contacted from my own toll free. I paid to have professionals record my greeting. You can always have a listen/test the tech by dialing 1-866-848-2195. I’m extension 101 if you wish to say “Hi” in real time. ;)