By Chris (Tres) Homer
We’ve all seen it. You go out to a nice dinner and glance around the dining room to do some discreet people watching. As you survey the room you notice a young couple, or a group of young friends all out for a nice meal. You can’t help but feel a slight sense of disappointment; they are all glued to their cell phones, thumbs tapping away at a glass screen as the world flies around them.
You wonder where the art of conversation went. Are they sitting there and texting each other? Are they so addicted to social media, funny cat videos, and the latest celebrity tweet that they can’t put their device down for an hour?
And if this is the classic scene in 2016, what will it look like in 10 to 20 years? One thing is for sure: these habits are not going to get any better.
As time steadily passes, technology is flying by at light speed. The days of someone picking up a phone and calling someone as the primary form of contact are rapidly dissolving. While mobile phones, tablets, watches, glasses, and whatever the next revolutionary technology is, become a necessity in an individual’s everyday life, the way he or she communicates and demands information is ever changing.
Are you ready to be a lawyer on demand? If you are, here are some things to think about.
One of the most common ways to be available to help someone in need of legal services at any time of the day is a 24/7 online chat service. There are many different products out there that are legal specific, all with their pros and cons. The benefit to a chat service is that you are able to capture leads at any time without having to actually be the one chatting with the potential client. These services allow someone to provide a brief background of their legal issue and some contact information, which is then sent to your email. You can review the chat and either accept or reject the lead. If you accept the lead, you pay a fee. If you decide to reject the lead for any reason (conflict of interest, irrelevant case, or simply a non-profitable case) you do not pay for the chat.
This is a great way for users to obtain legal help without having to pick up the phone and call. Depending on your practice area, this might actually be a good thing. People might not want to call you about a DUI or divorce if they are at work, but a live chat is a quick, discreet way to receive the information and help they need. This also allows you to capture leads after hours or on the weekends when you are away from the office. With a simple email being sent to the client that you will contact them shortly, they are more willing to wait for your response than to jump to the next attorney below you in Google.
These live chat systems also allow you to brand the pop-ups with your logo, attorney image, and colors. With the ability to properly brand the live chat, users feel more comfortable using the chat if they believe they are actually talking to the attorney in the live chat box.
What has quickly become the number one source of communication between most of the United States, text messaging is a quick way to provide information to someone in need. In most States, a lawyer shall “keep the client informed about the status of the matter” and “promptly comply with reasonable requests for information…”
The primary source of contact between lawyers and clients is email, but what happens when your client does not check email, or even use it? You need a way to quickly update your clients with relevant information about the case at hand, and text messaging is a great way to do just that.
If you are leery about giving your clients unfettered access to you via text messaging, consider purchasing a separate phone that you can use for the sole purpose of client interaction. If need be, you can also set hours that you will be carrying the phone so that your client understands that you are not available at all times.
The biggest pushback to text messaging that I receive from attorneys is that texting could breach confidentiality due to the nature of it. Most modern phones use push notifications to show a text on the home screen of the phone, even when the phone is locked. Some attorneys will argue that this makes it easier for prying eyes to see the text.
This is a valid point, however an attorney should always properly advise clients on what to do and what not to do when it comes to communication. Email communication isn’t secure either. Emails can be spoofed, intercepted, and even viewed if the client is not careful.
Emails also offer another major issue in regards to the BCC, or blind carbon copy. Since, as an attorney, you have to keep your clients informed with what is happening with their case, a common method is to BCC your client on emails as you communicate with opposing counsel. What happens when your client wants to ask you a question, or clarify some information and accidently hits ‘Reply All’ instead of just ‘Reply?’ Now opposing counsel has information that they would not have had an ability to obtain otherwise.
At the end of the day, it is the duty of the attorney to properly advise their client, and to do that you have to be competent with technology. Whether you are advising them on what not to do on email or text messaging, you must be the one to take the proper steps to ensure that they understand all of the possible repercussions for each action.
You should take a look at where your law firm currently stands in regards to the use of new, modern technology. If your firm is still paper focused, you should focus your efforts on becoming paperless before you begin thinking about live chat, text messaging, or other forms of quick communication.
On demand access might not be right for all law firms, but with the major shift in the way users interact with each other on a daily basis, these changes will be almost mandatory in the years to come.
Are you going to be an early adopter or will you be late to the party?