Texting is the most widely and frequently used smartphone feature, according to Pew Internet, with 97 percent of smartphone owners using it regularly. But lawyers are often reluctant to advertise or give out their own mobile numbers, limiting their clients’ ability to communicate with them by text.
A company called Zipwhip offers a solution to this dilemma. It enables text messages to be received and sent using your law office’s existing landline or toll-free number.
For lawyers, this opens a number of possibilities for using both inbound and outbound text messages.
On the inbound side, both existing and potential clients can easily contact your firm using text messaging. Zipwhip offers a widget you can add to your firm’s mobile website so that anyone visiting the site can text you, via your landline number, with one click.
Another way clients could use this is to send your firm a photo directly from an accident site.
On the outbound side, many firms are currently using this for appointment scheduling and reminders, the Zipwhip people tell me. Text reminders for appointments, depositions and court dates can be scheduled in advance to go out on a certain date and time.
All of the incoming and outgoing texts are managed through a dashboard. The dashboard can be accessed through a browser, a desktop app or a mobile app. Zipwhip has apps for both iOS and Android.
Notifications can be set up for when you are working in other applications. When a text comes, a popup notifies you. Click on the popup to reply.
Other useful features:
- Save conversations. Text conversations can be saved as a PDF document to file in a client’s folder.
- Create auto replies. You can set up auto replies to respond to texts that come in outside office hours or when no one is available.
- Keyword auto replies. Specific auto reply texts can be sent in response to specific words received. For example, an ad could say say, “Text the word ‘appointment’ for a free consultation.” When someone texts “appointment,” the person receives a text back with further instructions.
- Group texts. You can create groups of up to 50 recipients to receive the same text. Each recipient sees the text as a direct message, not as part of a group.
- Custom signature. You can set a signature to appear at the bottom of all outbound texts, such as your firm’s web address.
Zipwhip can be set up to work with multiple phone numbers. It can also be set up to be used by multiple users within a firm, with different levels of permissions to use or configure various features.
Zipwhip offers two standard monthly pricing plans: $20 economy and $100 business. Custom-priced enterprise plans are also available. The economy plan lacks key features such as auto replies and group texting, so most law firms would want the business plan. The keywords feature is available only with an enterprise plan.
Among the types of law practices where Zipwhip is most popular are personal injury, family law, immigration and disability law, a Zipwhip representative told me.
Last month, Zipwhip announced a $9 million Series B investment led by Voyager Capital, in which Microsoft Ventures also participated. This suggests more good things could be coming out of this Seattle-based company.