The danger of email and text, especially to a reporter

It is now big news that Johnny Manziel’s attorney, Bob Hinton, accidentally sent a lengthy text message to an Associated Press reporter about his client’s case.  The text was meant for Hinton’s co-counsel, certainly not the media.

When Hinton was asked about the text by the AP, he was unaware he had mistakenly sent it to one of the biggest media outlets.  Further, it contained legal strategy and facts about the case — information no lawyer wants to reveal publicly.

Hinton tried in vein to claim the text was privileged and threatened to sue the AP if they released details of what he wrote.  The AP wasn’t scared off, printed the contents, and it spread throughout the internet within seconds.  A day later Hinton was off the case.

This inadvertent mishap underscores what I have said many times.  In our digital age where information is sent, received and spread immediately via email, social media and texting, everyone must use extra caution when communicating.  We do it so often, and so rapidly, that sending a confidential message to the wrong person is an often and easily made mistake.  Just hitting “reply” in an email and you could be sending a private message to someone unintended.

That’s why we advocate the “three second rule.”  Our “three second rule” is before any email, text or social media post is triggered, we take three long seconds to look at who it is being sent to, whether there are any attachments that shouldn’t be there and the content.  The worst thing someone can do is respond immediately either in haste, anger or because there is a deadline involved.  The odds of making an honest error is just too great — as Mr. Hinton realized.

If you want to be really paranoid, as we sometimes are, when we send an email we do not insert any recipient in the address bar.  This will avoid sending an email accidentally before we finished it or have a chance to think about it.  The worst that can happen is the email system will tell you it can’t send the email because there is nobody listed to send it to.  So we write our emails first, think and examine them, then manually insert the recipient(s).  We don’t forward or reply too often, and when we do, we remove the recipient name then re-insert them manually to avoid what happened to Mr. Hinton, and I am sure countless others.

Give the “three second rule a try.”  You’ll be glad you did.