Should you use Slack with outside law firms?

Consider these five critical questions before you do.

In the new era of remote work, your legal department is probably using tools like Slack more than ever with colleagues in your company.

Should you also use Slack for conversations with your outside law firms? After all, studies show cloud-based collaboration saves time, which saves fees. And Slack is moving aggressively to connect organizations through shared. channels. Maybe it’s worth trying for a matter or two?

Our take: Using Slack with your law firms could be an upgrade over email, but there are some important caveats to consider before you take the plunge.

My Slack or yours?

When you move your law firm communications from email to Slack, you no longer have a history of those communications on your own email server. Instead, those communications will be stored in one of three ways:

- In your law firm's Slack workspace, if you are invited there as a guest;

- In your company's Slack workspace, if you invite your outside counsel as a guest; or

- In shared channels over which you and your outside firm both have an enduring record.

The first option, working as a guest in your law firm's Slack workspace, should be avoided. Your continuing access to the collaboration history will depend on your firm's subscription. Switching back and forth will be a hassle, and messages and documents won't be available for searching and management in your own Slack workspace. In short, don't go there.

When your outside counsel is a guest in your company's workspace, you remain in control, you won't have to switch back and forth and those conversations will be available right beside all of your internal work. But your law firms will face the same challenges as guests; they lose the ability to have guaranteed access to the collaboration history, and their guest activity won't be searchable as easily in their workspace.

The third option -- shared channels -- strikes a good balance between the two, by providing each organization with autonomy over data that they need. When a shared channel is terminated, each party retains a copy of the prior history, and can find things easily through search since the information is mirrored their own Slack workspace.

Create and control channels

When you are collaboration across different matters, set up a shared channel for each different matter or project, which will allow you to define who has access to it, and make the activity easier to track and find. It also helps underscore the privileged nature of the communications.

It's good to set some ground rules with outside firms, perhaps the most important of which is to allow you to set up and manage the structure and membership of shared channels in Slack. Otherwise you may find things to be a bit of a free-for-all.

Mark it as privileged

When attorney-client communications move to a cloud environment like Slack, there’s no email footer that marks the communication as privileged. Instead, you should include a privilege notice in the channel description. You might even include it in the channel name, too, so colleagues in the business are always aware that they are in a privileged space.

Integrate documents and task management

Unfortunately, document management and search are still primitive in Slack, at least when compared to the integrations you might find in Microsoft Teams. Many document and task management tools do offer plug-ins for Slack, but you won't find them as natively powerful and they will take IT time to set up and maintain. Slack has no calendar function built in, so you'll probably be switching contexts more than you like when collaborating with outside firms.

Alternative: A dedicated legal workspace

Despite these caveats, it’s worth considering if Slack shared channels can be an upgrade over email in communicating with your law firms.

That said, a more ideal platform for law firm collaboration integrates tightly with documents and records and puts shared deadlines and tasks at the center in a privileged workspace. If you’re interested in that next level, take a (free) look at Joinder.

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