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

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