Capture Text Messages for Use in Court

A reader recently asked for an app to capture text messages – a very understandable request. Here are some DIY options to consider.

Screenshot Method

Most everyone is familiar with this irritating and incomplete approach, which involves taking partial images of texts that end up overlapping. Screenshots are a pain, often lack date and time stamps, don’t capture contact information or other metadata, and must be combined somehow to form a PDF. Not a great way to go. Next, please.

Decipher TextMessage and Tansee for iOS

The Decipher TextMessage app uses five simple steps to capture text messages for export to PDF. Unlike the screenshot method, it automatically grabs date and time stamps, attachments, and accurate contact information for senders and recipients. It can also recover deleted conversations.

Decipher TextMessage is $29.99 and uses the iTunes interface. If you’re dubious about spending thirty bucks sight unseen, take advantage of the free trial, but this app has a lot going for it. Read more about Decipher TextMessage here.

Tansee iPhone Transfer SMS is another great DIY solution at the same price point for a three-year license. It uses its own proprietary software installed on your desktop rather than iTunes.

The clean printout rendered by (Tansee) allows for a seamless production. (Users can) Bates-stamp each PDF page and produce the thread in one comprehensive file, rather than in disjointed screenshot images pieced together in an unorganized manner. Use of this software allows for a more efficient in-house review process, as well as a more transparent production set to opposing counsel.

A disadvantage of this software is that it does not retain the actual native file, merely an organized photocopy with some of the relevant metadata attached to each message.

Cell Phone Extraction for the Small Firm.

SMS Backup+ for Android

SMS Backup+ is a free app in the Google Play Store that allows users to store texts in a gmail account. Conversations can be printed to PDF using a web browser. Sounds simple enough, but since this is a backup program it can only capture what is presently stored on a phone. There is no mechanism to restore deleted conversations. Another downside: reviewers say the app is buggy. However, as one noted: “I tried other SMS Backup apps, but they are not the same or as good! This app is significantly better (in my opinion).”

Other Options

For other print-to-PDF choices consider:

iOS

Print Utility Lite, Xerox Print Portal, To Print, Mobikin or iPhone Backup Extractor.

Android

Mobile PrintShare, Printhand Mobile, or Mobikin.

Evidentiary Concerns

The evidentiary concerns surrounding use of text messages are substantial. As mentioned, accurate date and time stamps and true identities of senders and recipients are critical. Capturing location data, attachments, and special characters can be troublesome. See How to Print Text Messages for Use as Evidence.

As this post points out, before extracting evidence from smart devices consider employing expert forensic help – not just to get it right, but to secure an independent witness if authenticity isn’t stipulated.

All rights reserved 2019 Beverly Michaelis

On Demand CLE – Need Credits?

If you missed the recent live CLEs “Abandoned Funds: Trust Account Dilemmas” or “Getting Paid,” don’t worry! You can order both online.

These offerings, along with other programs, are accredited by the Oregon State Bar and available on demand. Check out the complete list below.

NEW TO ON DEMAND CLE in 2019

CURRENT CLE

Cost

All programs are $25. Every on demand CLE purchase includes: MP4 download (combined audio and video file); M4a download (audio only); written program materials, including presentation slides and resources; answers to polling questions asked during the live CLE; and MCLE Form 6 to track individual screening of programs. To obtain credit, add the screening activity to your OSB MCLE transcript online.

All Rights Reserved 2019 – Beverly Michaelis

Tiplet: Bank Holds on IOLTA Deposits

Most lawyers are aware that funds held in trust cannot be disbursed until they are fully cleared. Deposits submitted electronically or by wire speed up the process, as does cash. Credit card payments are generally settled and in your account within one to three business days. Checks are usually the slowest to process and are not “cleared” until they are collected and paid by the issuing bank, even if the lawyer’s bank has a policy of making funds available in a shorter period of time. See Sylvia Stevens, Waiting for ‘Go’ Dough: A primer on disbursing client funds, OSB Bulletin 21 (June 2006).

The Professional Liability Fund recommends:

For an ordinary transaction with an established client or known third party, wait three banking days for locally written checks, five banking days for checks written within Oregon, but outside your local area, and ten or more banking days for out-of-state checks. Note, that checks for
$5,000 and over may be held by banks for seven banking days, whether drawn on a local, instate, or out-of-state bank, therefore allow sufficient time for these checks.

To avoid the growing problem of check scams, wait at least ten banking days before disbursing funds in the following circumstances: (1) the transaction is with a new client or a client you are unsure about; (2) the check is very large; (especially compared with the extent of legal services
provided, if the check is a retainer); (3) the check is from an unknown third party; or (4) any aspect of the transaction raises (or should raise) your suspicions. Remember that drafts or other instruments may take longer than ten days to process. To verify that funds have been collected, ask your bank to contact the issuing bank.

Source: “Frequently Asked Trust Account Questions.” From the PLF website, select Practice Management > Forms > Trust Accounting.

How to shorten bank holds

When are holds applied?

Holds may be applied by your local branch at the time of deposit or overnight during processing. Since checks over $5,000 are the most likely to present problems, review your accounts carefully. If in doubt, contact your bank.

 

All Rights Reserved 2019 Beverly Michaelis

 

Should MCLE Requirements Follow Emerging Trends?

The Washington Supreme Court Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) Board says yes.

As reported by NW Sidebar, the board voted to send such an amendment to the Washington BOG for its approval. The proposed changes would require one credit hour each of:

  • Equity, inclusion, and anti-bias,
  • Mental health and addiction, and
  • Technology education focusing on digital security

per MCLE reporting period. The three credit hours would be part of WSBA’s ethics requirement (six credits overall).

Where Oregon Stands

Equity, inclusion, and anti-bias

Presently, Oregon requires three introductory Access to Justice (AJ) credits per reporting period. Equity, inclusion, and anti-bias are often folded into Access to Justice programming. For examples of AJ CLEs, visit the PLF Website.

Mental health and addiction

Beginning January 1, 2019, all Oregon State Bar members are required to obtain one credit hour per reporting period on the subject of mental health, substance use and cognitive impairment (MHSU). You can learn more about MHSU credit here.

The Oregon Attorney Assistance Program (OAAP) has a wide variety of past CLE programs that qualify for MHSU credit. To find MHSU programming, visit the PLF website. Under “Credit Type,” choose Mental Health and Substance Use, then click the blue SEARCH button.

On October 17, 2019 in Bend, Oregon the OAAP will present “Supporting Lawyer Well-Being: What is Your Role?” The program includes an optional reception and social with fellow Deschutes County attorneys and the Professional Liability Fund Board of Directors. For more information, or to register, click here. The CLE and social are free.

Technology education – Digital Security

Oregon does not yet require explicit training on issues of digital security, but don’t be surprised if this is added to our curriculum.

Oregon and Washington seem to follow each other in tandem when it comes to policy changes, such as MCLE requirements. Further, the Oregon bar has already made clear that competent representation includes competent use of technology and protection of clients’ digital information. Can a new MCLE credit be far behind?

All Rights Reserved 2019 Beverly Michaelis