The “Quick Question” Trap in a Text
If your clients have your cell phone number, you can rest assured that they will text you questions now and then…or constantly, depending on the client. These days, people are simply accustomed to the speed and convenience of instant communication. It seems so much less formal and, let’s face it, less intimidating than making a phone call. Even from the attorney’s end, if the answer is well within reach, it’s a moment’s work to type back a response and be done with it. The same goes for various other instant messaging platforms, be it Facebook or Microsoft messenger or even Snapchat.
Easy? Yes. Responsible? Hmmm…not so much.
Faster is NOT Better
There are two problems I see right off the bat. The first will be familiar to anyone who has ever looked at a text and wondered, “Well, what is THAT supposed to mean?” Even without the dreaded “autocorrect” function switching out words for us, texts are imprecise. Brevity is well and good but not when it compromises clarity. While it’s tempting to fire off a quick response to a quick question, it’s in your best interest to slow down, and make sure you’re giving a complete answer that your client will understand.
The second problem is one of next-steps. How do you memorialize these casual messaging sessions for your records? It’s obviously in your best interest to maintain a log of your communications with clients, whatever form they take. Compromising that, even for faster service for your clients, could be putting you at risk down the line. Unfortunately, that can be tricky with multiple messaging apps – some of which don’t maintain a history on their own.
In this time of fast-paced communication, you’ll have to balance your clients’ (possibly unrealistic) expectations for quick answers, with your responsibility to maintain professionalism and cover your bases. It could be worth your time to come up with a standard response to texted or i.m.’d questions that lets your clients know you received the message and will get back to them soon, via email or phone, with a thoughtful response.