Why You Shouldn’t Text Your Attorney
As time moves more and more into the age of technology, the use of cellphones with the capability of texting is becoming almost as common as the use of what is now termed a “land line”. Particularly with the younger age group, they use cell phones almost exclusively, and studies show that many senior citizens are learning and liking the use and convenience of modern phone technology as well. While this makes for amazing speed of information gathering and communicating with others, there are some definite drawbacks when it comes to communicating with one’s attorney, especially in the area of texting, both from the attorney’s standpoint and from his or her client’s.
Probably the biggest problem of texting is that complex legal questions cannot adequately be dealt with in the space of a few words. While the client may be able to ask the question in a simple text, the attorney needs to be able to answer in detail, not effectively done in a text. If the client wants to be able to have the answer in writing and finds waiting for a written response too lengthy, an email can work. However, emails can be tricky as well as there are so many ways to access someone else’s email account that privacy issues can become a problem.
There are other considerations for a client to consider. Texting can be a very expensive use of an attorney’s time. Most attorneys charge a large fee for their texting time, much more than for an email or letter. This of course depends on a person’s individual attorney, but in today’s legal world the question of an attorney’s cost and use of texting needs to be asked. Make sure to always read the contract signed with an attorney to see exactly what the cost and stipulations regarding texting are. For example, some attorneys will receive a text only at certain times of the day, and will only respond to those texts.
From an attorney’s standpoint, there are also some disadvantages to texting. How is an attorney to know for sure it is his or her client who is doing the actual texting? An angry opposing party could have access to a client’s cell phone and place a hurtful text to their opponent’s attorney who could then act, not knowing, on false information. Additionally client privilege could be broken if an opposing party or someone sympathetic to that party could read texts from an attorney and pass the information along. It could also be harmful to young people in the home, especially teens, who may just “borrow” a parent’s cell phone and then read the text containing upsetting information about a parent’s legal issues. And, unless there are specific contractual specifications as to times texts can be sent and the amount of time an attorney has to answer a text, a client may become frustrated if a text is not returned quickly. This, of course, could not always be prevented as, for example, if an attorney is in court he or she cannot even read the text, let alone respond to it; but the client doesn’t know that.
So before signing a contract with an attorney, be sure to visit the subject of communicating by texting.
And, even if a particular attorney uses texting as a means of keeping in touch, use caution each time you send a text to be sure it makes sense in length, won’t violate client privilege, contain information you don’t want others to read, meets the attorney’s texting stipulation, and figure in the cost.