March 13, 2005

A Closer Look: Legal IT Survey on Lawyers' Preferred Communication Tools

Legal IT, a UK publication, offers some insight into lawyers' use and preferences for communication methods. While the article is entitled, "E-mail overtakes phone as lawyers’ favourite communication tool", it requires a bit more careful reading.

For instance, it claims that 24% of lawyers indicated that "e-mail was their most commonly used means of communication, compared to just 10% of accountants". While that's an important comparison to another service field, that also implies to me that 76% of lawyers have a different (non e-mail) method they most commonly use.

I think there's little doubt that lawyers, as a whole, are using and relying upon e-mail more than ever before. However, looking at the other survey percentages stated, it's also clear that their e-mail use preferences are heavily dependent upon the context of the situation and the content to be conveyed.

For instance, take the following items from the same article:

". Sixty-eight percent of lawyers prefer to speak to their boss face-to-face, 16% chose e-mail and just 5% the phone.

. Fifty-six percent prefer to speak to their peers face-to-face, 21% chose e-mail and just 19% the phone.

. Seventy-nine percent prefer to speak to suppliers by phone, 11% use e-mail and just 3% meetings.

. Fifty-three percent prefer to speak to clients by phone, 12% prefer e-mail and just 19% meetings."

According to the above, e-mail is not the preferred medium for a number of daily personal interactions. And that makes sense to me, because e-mail is more impersonal and more easily prone to being misunderstood by the recipient.

Take also cell phone text messaging, or SMS (Short Message Service). Consider it a poor-man's Blackberry or pager equivalent. Legal IT also has an interesting article, "Survey: The Text Big Thing", which discusses whether firms are fully embracing text messaging. The reported UK survey results regarding usage are actually much higher than I would have guessed. However, it seems most of the SMS usage is ad hoc, with very few firms doing anything with it in a focused manner. But for clients without Blackberries, SMS text messages might be welcome as long as they are relevant and useful -- not spam.

Topic(s):   Legal Technology
Posted by Jeff Beard