How to protect the attorney-client privilege in Slack and Microsoft Teams

In modern workspaces, corporate counsel may find themselves communicating with their internal clients across any number of channels: Phone, email, text messaging and increasingly, platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams.

These new workspaces are different from email in ways that affect the protection of attorney-client communications. In an email, you can see from the header who’s in the conversation; in channels, many more people may have access, even if they aren’t directly involved in the thread or the topic. Unlike attorney emails, which usually carry privilege notices, it’s not so easy to mark a particular chat message as privileged.

In light of those challenges, what can you do to solidify the attorney-client privilege for communications in Slack or Teams?

Slide into their DMs. By their nature, most channels and teams are set up to include anyone on the team with some connection to the topic. The problem is that a strong claim of privilege is undermined when a communication is made available beyond those with a practical need to know. For this reason, it’s better to keep privileged communications in direct messaging rather than highly-populated channels.

Segregate the intake. Establish a repeatable process for legal project requests, and make it the go-to workflow when the need for help arises in any channel. That moves the advice to a more narrow audience. Standardizing requests on a form also keeps things organized.

Mark the channel. If you have teams or channels that routinely involve privileged communications, be sure to indicate this in the team or channel description. If you want to make it unambiguous, add it to the title in parentheses.

Train the team. You can’t expect your colleagues in the business to understand the complexities of the attorney-client privilege, but you can train them to avoid unnecessary mistakes. Make sure they follow the process, and make sure they appreciate the need to take care in the further distribution of attorney-client advice.

At Joinder, we believe corporate legal deserves a secure and unambiguously privileged workspace. Joinder works seamlessly with Slack and Teams for project intake, triage and tracking legal requests to completion. The Joinder Intake solution is free, and also comes with a 30-day free trial of everything else Joinder offers. Find out more and try it now.

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