This summer, I’ll be posting Q&As from summer associates and summer interns. Have a question? Email me at email@example.com.
Question: Should I Text My Boss?
Today’s question is from a legal intern who is wondering, “If a supervisor gives you their cell phone number, is it okay to communicate with them about an assignment over text? Or should we stick to email?”
If you too are wondering, “should i text my boss?” here are a few things to consider:
Context is really important here. Was the cell number given to you as the best way to reach your supervisor? Or for emergency-use only?
If you’re not sure, I would err on the side of using email or video/voice calls, not text for substantive questions, at least until you have had a chance to figure out the norms in your office. I suggest this for a couple of reasons.
First, text tends to be more casual, and especially as you’re building a relationship with your supervisor, you don’t want any nuances to get lost while texting.
Second, email tends to be more permanent. If you’re exchanging key information about a case or assignment over email, you’ve got room to expand your thoughts and keep the chain going in your inboxes. Texts tend to get deleted more frequently.
Third, confidentiality is usually stronger over email (I’m assuming here that you’re using a firm/company email account vs a personal cell phone). For that reason alone, I think it is best to communicate on your work-issued computer and through work-controlled channels like company email. The flipside of this is that you really shouldn’t have an expectation of privacy using those official channels.
But your personal phone is different. While it is unlikely that your phone will be requested in a discovery matter, it may be discoverable. If you are working at a firm, this concern may not even be on your radar, and with pretty good reason – unless your firm has some sort of client fee dispute or similar, discovery is of your client’s files, not yours. But if you are working in-house at a company rather than a law firm, you should definitely think about your method of communication and do your best to keep your work-related communications to any work-issued computers and work-issued apps on your phone. Company lawyers are not immune to discovery. My philosophy is better safe than sorry here.
All that being said, if you find that your supervisor is texting you substantive information regularly, it’s generally OK to follow suit. Otherwise, I would save texting for brief, non-substantive matters, like confirming you’re on your way to a meeting or checking in about a good time for a meeting/call.
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