More legal aid and court groups are excited to use text message strategies to reach people facing lawsuits. Texting may help encourage participation, increase uptake of free services, and empower people to avoid defaults & other bad legal outcomes.
But the problem many of them face is how to legally & ethically reach out to members of the public through text. If they don’t already have a relationship with a person, can they initiate a texting relationship with them?
For example, if a legal aid group sees that a person has been sued for eviction in a local county court, can they proactively send them a text message (especially if they have the person’s phone number from the court docket info or from a phone-lookup service)?
The Legal Services Corporation recently published an Advisory Opinion that walks through guidance to this question, to show legal aid groups how they can do this proactive text message outreach on a topic like eviction services — and still be in compliance with the law. They also have a Program Letter that explains how legal aid groups can do proactive texting without violating federal anti-spam laws.
Advisory Opinion on legal aid proactive texting
See this 2020 Advisory opinion on proactive text message outreach from the LSC to legal aid groups.
Program Letter on legal aid proactive texting
Also see this 2022 Program Letter from the LSC that walks through explicitly how proactive text message out reach can be done, in compliance with federal laws. Our Lab had written to the LSC to ask this question, because we had many legal aid colleagues who were thinking about adopting a text message reminder strategy & we wanted to make sure that the community knew how to do this in compliance with laws against spam or other violations.