Should Lawyers Text?

Recent data released last month by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found that 73 percent of American cell phone owners send and receive text messages, and of that group, nearly one third prefer texts to talking on the phone. Young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 are the most avid texters, exchanging an average of 109.5 messages per day. For adults, use levels taper off with the median user sending or receiving just ten texts per day.

Given that texting is fairly pervasive, should lawyers text — either with each other or their clients? Of course, the answer depends on a given situation, but at a minimum, lawyers should be text-literate so that they can accommodate colleagues and clients with a preference for texting.

Though I generally consider myself somewhat ahead on the technology curve, I’ve only been texting regularly for about three years. But now that I’ve started, I’m often surprised at how many of my colleagues — even those with rudimentary websites or who don’t participate in social media — will send text messages. I’ve been texted by an in-house counsel when trying to locate each other at a meeting location and texted back and forth with a contingent of lawyers to keep in touch as we each visited several different congressional offices. Not surprisingly, I frequently texted with a summer college intern to answer his questions while he ran errands or sat in on committee meetings on the Hill.

I’ve never texted with my clients but I typically make the option available. However, I’m certain that I would probably text more frequently if I were still handling the court appointed criminal matters that I worked on when I started my firm. Back then, many of my clients had pagers and that was how I’d get in touch with them (which was particularly nerve-wracking when they were running late to court). But I’m sure that today, pagers have been replaced with cell phone and text.

A recent Wired Magazine article notes that texting may have reached its pinnacle, in part because habits have become established and in part because of the emergence of so many other platforms like Facebook Messenger and Google Talk. Still, I’m not certain how well these tools would work for lawyer-client communications since many lawyers, myself included, aren’t necessarily connected with clients on social media.

Do you text with your colleagues and clients? How do you use text and what role do you see texting playing in your practice over the next few years?

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