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Instant Messaging in the Law Office

Got IM? Do you use an instant messaging program without your employer’s knowledge? Is IM crucial to your daily productivity? Could you survive a single day without your favorite IM program?

I ran across two articles today that intersect on this controversial subject. Thus, I wanted to highlight them and try to link them together. But first, let me be fair and mention that I have not used IM for about 4-5 years now. I am definitely not an IM proponent.

What do you do with it?

First, Web Worker Daily has an open thread, trying to ascertain what IM is good for. I think the best comment from this thread is:

I figure everyone should just learn to ask “do you have a moment?� before interrupting people.

This nails the primary reason why I do not use any form of IM any longer. I got tired of people assuming I had time to talk any time. Everyone is busy at least sometimes, so the above suggestion should always be used. Maybe you could even shorten it to “Are you free?” or “Can you talk?”

A trap for the unwary?

The second article I wanted to point out comes from Law.com’s Legal Technology news: Keeping a Lid on Chat. The thrust behind this article is that companies must implement and vigorously adhere to an IM policy for their employees and workstations. If you allow IM, the article suggests, adopt a single IM program and be sure to log messages (for compliance with business regulations).

Why care?

What should a lawyer (especially a solo) do if a client insists on using IM for communication? What about colleagues who want to use it? Would it be terribly rude to ask that they simply use email or phone instead?

This is obviously a subject where people are going to have varying models of etiquette. We should strive to find a good balance to make sure that people can work in the best manner for them. Maybe instead of IM’ing several times a day, your client can make a running list of questions and send them in one email. This maximizes your time as a lawyer and keeps that annoying beep from interrupting you every few minutes.

What are your thoughts on IM? Please post a comment or drop me a line.

[tags]legal andrew, instant messenger, instant messaging, IM[/tags]

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