Texting Services for Law Firms

Why text clients? Well, for starters it’s fast and convenient. Clients don’t need WiFi to reply. More importantly texts are read, with an open rate of 98% compared to email, at roughly 20%.

But with pros come cons.

The moment you begin using your personal phone to text clients, you’ve sacrificed your privacy. Reason enough to find an alternative. But the concerns don’t stop there.

Messages will always be held hostage on your device unless special steps are taken to incorporate them as part of the client file, a requirement of OSB Formal Opinion No. 2017-192 Client Property: Duplication Charges for Client Files, Production or Withholding of Client Files.

The solution? A business texting service, like Zipwhip.

If you’ve attended any of my CLEs, odds are you’ve heard me speak about this product. Please allow me the opportunity to refresh your memory with the features and advantages of business texting.

7 reasons to use Zipwhip instead of your phone

  1. Your privacy is protected. Zipwhip sends and receives texts using your existing landline, VoIP, or toll-free number – not your personal cell.
  2. Text conversations in Zipwhip can be easily saved in PDF format and stored in the client file. Using cloud-based practice management software? Automate this step with Zapier.
  3. Any authorized person can login to the Zipwhip desktop app to send or receive messages, allowing improved access to client communications. Out of the office? Use the mobile app.
  4. Appointment reminders or other messages can be scheduled in advance using built-in templates. Auto replies and group texting are also available.
  5. Take advantage of the unlimited contacts feature to easily add important details to contact cards. Search for individuals or groups.
  6. Integrate texting into your firm website by adding a “click to text” button for clients.
  7. Easily receive (and file) photos sent by clients, investigators, or experts.

Security

Security is always a concern with client communication. Zipwhip offers data encryption in transit and at rest. It also conforms with federal opt-out requirements, includes support for eDiscovery, and offers monitoring for spam and phishing messages. Like most services operating in the cloud, there may be occasions when Zipwhip has access to your content or data. Read the terms of service.

Pricing

Zipwhip plans start at $35 per month. Annual plans are also available. Request a free  trial here. All you need is a verifiable (working) phone number. There is no hardware to install and no need to contact your current phone provider.

Alternatives

If you want to compare Zipwhip to other business texting services, check out these resources: TextUs vs. Zipwhip, Zipwhip’s Competitors, Revenue, Number of Employees, Funding, and Acquisitions, and Top 30 Zipwhip Alternatives.

Final Thoughts

Business texting offers a huge advantage over personal texting. Consider implementing a solution like Zipwhip, or one of its competitors, to protect your privacy, improve access to client communication, and ensure preservation of messages.

Rest assured, this is not a paid endorsement of any kind. I’ve been a fan of this product going on three years, ever since I first read Bob Ambrogi’s LawSites blog post.

All Rights Reserved 2019 Beverly Michaelis

 

A Year’s Worth of Advice About YOU

As we wind down the year, it’s time to reflect back on 2018. Whatever your concerns, questions, or issues may have been, the answers could be here – if we’re lucky. Because this is the year of YOU. Your well-being. How you manage stress, respond to rotten clients, or cope with law school debt.

Everyone needs a pressure relief valve. Find yours.

Maybe it lies in learning how to say no, deploying strategies to take back your schedule, or finding time to get away from the office for a while. Each of these play a role in work-life balance and your well-being.

Peruse this list. It only takes 24 seconds – I should know, I timed it. What speaks to you?

Not sure how to start? These folks provide free and confidential help.

 

All Rights Reserved 2018 Beverly Michaelis

Postscript

For those who are looking for an “end of year” review touching on eCourt, eService, finances, technology, and workflow – see my post on December 31.

Tips for Improving Client Relationships

Hot off the presses!  Get your copy of Tips for Improving Client Relationships, a free eBook available to download now.

Topics include:

  • Effective communication techniques
  • How procrastination affects client relationships
  • How to say “no”
  • Integrating client communication into your everyday workflows
  • Thanking clients as part of your
    closing ritual
  • The Art of CYA
  • Why letters may be superior to emails
  • When to call or meet in person vs. texting or emailing

Each section contains straightforward tips designed to help you build and improve upon client relationships quickly and easily.  Download your free copy today.

While visiting the online store, don’t forget to peruse the on demand CLE section with these offerings:

All programs are current and accredited by the Oregon State Bar.  Visit the online store for details.  Every on demand CLE 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
  • MCLE Form 6 for self-reporting of MCLE credits

All Rights Reserved Beverly Michaelis (2018)

Precautions for Paperless Practitioners

Did you happen to notice the new ethics opinion issued in September 2016?  You aren’t alone, but don’t worry.  Let’s get caught up.

ethics-photo

OSB Formal Opinion 2016-191 addresses a lawyer’s ethical responsibilities in keeping paperless client files and disposing of client property.

Everything Old is New Again

Nigh on eight years ago, I gave some advice on this subject:

  • Inform clients of your digital storage practices.  Explain how you will provide documents to current clients in the regular course of business and in the event a former client requests a complete copy of his or her file.
  • Update your fee agreement and engagement letters to reflect your file policies and procedures.
  • Be prepared to provide clients with a copy of their digital file in a format they can access.  [This may mean physically printing the file.]
  • Establish a retention policy for your digital files.
  • Use security measures to protect client records.
  • Take steps to ensure that documents stored electronically cannot be inadvertently modified or destroyed.
  • Backup, backup, backup!
  • Review the Professional Liability Fund (PLF) practice aid, Checklist for Imaging Client Files and Disposing of Original Documents. This checklist has since been renamed Checklist for Scanning Client Files.  It points out that certain papers should not be discarded after scanning. Examples include any document whose authenticity could be disputed, those with particular legal importance, or documents that only have value or enforceability as a piece of paper.  It also admonishes that original client property cannot be destroyed without consent.

See Beverly Michaelis, “Is It Time to Go Paper-Less?” PLF In Brief (February 2009), available on the PLF website.

What Does the Oregon State Bar Say?

OSB Formal Opinion 2016-191 reinforces my earlier advice:

First, there is no ethical prohibition against maintaining the “client file” solely in electronic or paperless form. But this doesn’t mean your ethical duties are thrown out the window.

Lawyers must safeguard client property, maintain confidentiality of information, and ensure availability of electronic file documents. This means:

  • Taking reasonable steps to ensure the security of electronic-only files.
  • Protecting against destruction of original client documents without the client’s express consent.
  • Retaining records for appropriate time periods, including following the completion of the matter or termination of representation.
  • Considering whether an electronic-only file might present a hardship for clients who need to access and work with the documents in paper form.

Lawyers must also communicate with the client regarding the terms of the representation and relevant developments affecting the representation:

  • The opinion suggests entering into reasonable agreements regarding how you will maintain client files during and after the conclusion of a matter. [Yes, please!]
  • You should also confirm that converting your closed paper file to electronic-only documents does not violate the terms of your retention agreement with the client.

If you use cloud-based solutions for storage of electronic-only files, re-read OSB Formal Opinion 2011-188 or see this post.

All Rights Reserved Beverly Michaelis 2017.

It feels good to be right.  Chalk one up for me 🙂