Define communication protocols in your agreements

Clients are increasingly using text messages to provide direction and relay important project information. This can be problematic for design firms that want to document such communications in their project files. Firms find that following up via email takes additional time, and the client may not respond to the email, which creates ambiguity. Firms that are concerned about maintaining complete project files can address communication protocols in their professional services agreements.

The EJCDC E-500 agreement requires that project-related communications are completed by “Electronic Means.” Electronic means are defined as follows:

Electronic Means—Electronic mail (email), upload/download from a secure Project website, or other communications methods that allow: (a) the transmission or communication of Electronic Documents; (b) the documentation of transmissions, including sending and receipt; (c) printing of the transmitted Electronic Document by the recipient; (d) the storage and archiving of the Electronic Document by sender and recipient; and (e) the use by recipient of the Electronic Document for purposes permitted by this Agreement. Electronic Means does not include the use of text messaging, or of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or similar social media services for transmission of Electronic Documents.

EJCDC E-500, Standard Form Agreement Between Owner & Engineer for Professional Services

Firms concerned about clients using text messages to communicate should take a similar approach in their agreements. It is a lot easier to insist that the client not use text messages to provide direction and relay important project information if the communication protocol is spelled out in your agreement.

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