Text Messaging Through Case Management Systems

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Anna Steele

When a client asks – “Can I text it to you?” How do you respond? Does your firm supply cell phones? Are you comfortable giving out your personal cell phone number to your clients? Do you ask IT Support to create a Google Voice number for you? If you use a cell phone or a Google Voice number, are you consolidating the text messages and making them part of the case record?

When the request was coming in occasionally, this was an easier problem to address. Now that you can get reminders about appointments from your hair dresser or your doctor, there is a growing expectation that you should be able to communicate with anyone via text message.

Legal services providers have started integrating text message capabilities into their case management systems to make it easy for advocates to communicate with their clients via text message. There are a number of different approaches providers are taking based on the needs of their advocates and clients.

  • One-Way Appointment Reminders

Appointment reminders allow advocates to send a text message to their clients to remind them of an upcoming court date, meeting, or case related deadline. They are often one-way and the client cannot, or is not, expected to respond.

  • Bulk Surveys/Messages

Bulk messages can be used to get basic information out to a number of clients at once. Have an upcoming consumer rights clinic? Send a text message to all current clients with consumer-related legal issues announcing the clinic. Legal services providers are also using bulk messaging to collect outcome data or follow up with clients after a case is closed.

  • Complete Asynchronous Sending/Receiving Text Messages

Advocates also want to use text messaging as another form of regular communication with their clients. This level of utilization will typically require some policy development and analysis, but allows for advocates and clients to determine what communication style works best for them.

When deciding whether your organization wants to integrate text messaging capabilities directly into the case management system, there are a number of issues to consider, including confidentiality, client consent, and your advocates’ workflows. It is important to work with a group of advocates in your organization to develop the policies and expectations surrounding the implementation. You can also solicit feedback from current clients to determine how the integration could benefit them.

Note that some clients may not have unlimited texting, so it is important to make clear to the client that they may be charged a per-message fee by their cell phone provider. If this is something you are concerned about, consider sending a verification message to your client reminding them of this should they express interest in receiving text messages.

We have received your request to get text message reminders about your case. Please reply Y or YES to confirm. Message & data rates may apply.”

Organizations who use LegalServer as their case management system can easily integrate text messaging capabilities into their LegalServer site. Using an API from Twilio, LegalServer created a module that allows advocates to send and receive text messages from an individual case.  In order to utilize this integration, you need to set up an account on Twilio (non-profit organizations get a $500 credit on Twilio.org) and purchase the module from LegalServer ($600 one-time setup fee and $50 per month for maintenance). In addition to the $50 per month maintenance fee, Twilio charges $1.00 per month per phone number and $0.0075 per text message sent and received.  All in all, this is a fairly inexpensive integration to maintain.

Due to the flexible nature of the Twilio API, other systems may support integration as well. If you do not want to fully integrate text messaging capabilities into your case management system, there are a number of other solutions that are available that can allow advocates to correspond with their clients via text message. While there are many different considerations to take into account when making policy and technology decisions about corresponding with clients via text message, the flexibility found in the available systems allows for the development of a solution that best meets the needs of your organization and clients.

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