Wise Messenger: text message reminders

Send free automated text messages to your clients, litigants, or defendants

Sign up to participate in a Stanford program that helps you send free, automated text messages in exchange for partnership in conducting a study on messages’ effectiveness

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About the Text Messaging Program

Our team at Stanford Law School — the Reg Lab and the Legal Design Lab — is seeking out public interest legal organizations who are interested in sending text message reminders to their clients about upcoming legal appointments. This could be for a hearing, a meeting, or other important event.

Our team is studying whether text-based reminders are effective in improving people’s attendance at legal events. We will provide the technology to send automated text message reminders, and we will cover the costs of our partners’ text messaging. This is part of a randomized control trial, in which our team examines the impact of text reminders on attendance.

Read more about the study’s terms for participants here at our Research Study Information page.

Who can sign up for free text messaging

Currently we are recruiting non-profit legal organizations to partner with us, to receive technical support and free text messages. This includes:

  • State and federal courts
  • Self-Help Centers and Family Law Facilitators in courts
  • Legal aid groups
  • Offices of Public Defenders

We are accepting a large number of partners, so that we can study the effectiveness of text message reminders in several different contexts. 

If you sign up to be a partner, we will help you determine if your technology system is sufficient to integrate with our text message application. If it is, and if you are willing to participate in the randomized control trial, then we will provide the technology and automated setup to begin dispatching text messages. We will also cover the costs of the messages sent by your organization during the trial period.

These partnerships help our team study what impact these messages have on outcomes of people’s legal cases.

Terms of the Partnership

If your legal organization decides to join this study program: there are some key terms that you should be aware of, and ready to follow.

No cost to you for technology or messages: Legal organizations who sign up and comply with the terms will be able to send free automated text message services through an application, Wise Messenger, that our team has developed. Our team will cover the costs of sending the text messages and all of the other technical services in automating the messages, for at least the first 100000 messages.

Eligibility of participating institutions: any non-profit legal organization that has the aim of getting more people to attend legal meetings, whether it be a hearing, a court appointment, a legal services appointment, or otherwise is invited to apply to participate. These include courts, self-help centers, offices of attorney generals or public defenders, or legal services organizations. Only non-profit or public organizations are eligible to participate.

Randomization: The program will be randomized. That means that when your litigants, clients, or defendants consent to receive text messages, only some of them will receive the text messages. There will be a randomized assignment of each person who signs up, to be part of the ‘receiving messages’ or ‘not receiving messages’ groups. This randomized assignment will help us study the outcomes of people who receive messages versus this who do not.

Outcome data: any organization that participates in the program study will share their outcome data about the people’s attendance of hearings, appointments, or the other events that the reminders are being sent about. They will share this outcome data with our team, so that we are able to evaluate whether the text messages have been effective in promoting attendance. The outcome data will be both for those people who have been randomized into the treatment, as well as those who have been randomized out.

Technical preparations: in order to get the text messages set up, the partner organization will have to invest a minimal amount of technical capacity in setting up nightly reports from the Case Management System to be sent to our team, so that the team can automatically customize the text messages to be sent. This will require some staff time, knowledge of Case Management System reports, and the ability to set up server connection between us. Our team can offer limited technical support to assist, but the priority is on the partner organization doing this on their own.

Sign up to be a partner


Details on the Program

This section will help you understand what to expect once your organization signs up to participate in the Text Reminder program. The process of participation will be as follows.

Phase 0: Sign up and approval

  1. Sign Up and Create an Organization Account: Read through the terms and conditions to ensure that your organization qualifies to participate and understands the expectations. If you are interested, Sign Up to participate.
  2. Approved Partner Status: Once your organization is approved by our team, then you will get a notification email that you are an Approved Partner. When you log into your Wise Messenger organization account, you will see detailed instructions on how to continue.

Phase 1: Get Your Plan and Process Set Up

  1. Identify the Event for Reminders: What do you want to send automated text messages about? It could be for a hearing, a case management conference, an appointment, or another event or deadline. This event’s details (time, data, place) should be in your case/client management system, in order to work with our application. Your organization will be sending our team nightly reports of events to send messages for.
  2. Outcome Data: Ensure that your organization is gathering information digitally — like in a database, or case/client management system — about whether people attend the event or not. Your organization will be sending our team nightly reports about whether people have attended the target events or not.
  3. Phone Numbers and Consent Procedure: To send text messages to people, you need to have their consent to send them text messages. If a person has given their cell phone number already to your organization (not to a partner or another agency), then you are able to send them non-commercial messages. If they have not yet given their number to you, you must determine where in the current process you can get their phone number and consent. You might be able to add a cell phone number field into interviews, questionnaires, forms, or other places. You can also add in an explicit question for them to indicate they would like to receive text messages reminders.
  4. Nightly Report: You, and your technical team, will set up an automated nightly report to be sent to our team. This nightly report will have details of which people to send messages to, what event to send them about, and any outcome data about people’s attendance or not.

Phase 2: Connect to Our Server

  1. Server Connection: You and your technical team will establish a connection to our team, by which you will securely send this nightly reports automatically. You can do this by establishing a secure connection to our server, through which the automatic nightly reports will be sent. You will have to get an SSH Key for an SFTP lookup from us. You will give it to your IT member. Once they implement it, you will get access to a Restricted Folder, where you can send your nightly reports.
  2. Backup options. If this doesn’t work — then you will email the nightly report to us.

Phase 3: Test and Launch the Messages

  1. Test Run: Once your team has completed all steps, we will work with you to do a short test run period. During this period, we will send automated text messages to your phones, as if you are clients. This will ensure that the system is working properly, and that your team is satisfied with how the automated text messages will work.
  2. Launch of Text Messages: Once the test run is complete and your team is ready, our team will begin to send automated text messages to your specified users. Your team will get users’ consent, will enter them into the system, and send nightly reports. Our team will send back daily reports with any errors, confirmation of sent messages, and stats about the program.

Phase 4: Continue and Track

  1. Troubleshooting Errors: If errors appear during the text messaging program (for example, if phone numbers are deactivated, messages bounce back, or there are missing fields in the Nightly Report), our team will send Error Reports on a daily basis to your team. Your team can see what is happening, and it can fix missing or inaccurate fields.
  2. Tracking Outcomes: Our team will be tracking the outcome data that your team sends in nightly reports. Your team can also log into the application to track how many messages are sent, how many errors or bouncebacks there are, and other details on the messages. You can download reports for your own use.

Wise Messenger – walkthrough of a text messaging platform from Legal Design Lab from Margaret Hagan on Vimeo.