The rise of collaboration tools like Slack and MS Teams has brought about new challenges for legal departments. While these platforms have become the new water cooler in remote workplaces, they pose unique information governance and ediscovery challenges. This is due to the informal and casual nature of chats on these platforms, which includes the use of emojis, memes, and GIFs, making it difficult to preserve, collect, or produce these messages for legal matters and investigations. Additionally, the complexity of collaboration data, which spans across multiple channels, adds to the difficulty. Furthermore, the sheer volume of data generated on these platforms has increased exponentially since the pandemic, making it challenging for legal departments to review the messages effectively.
That's why we've created this four-part blog series to discuss challenges with Slack and MS Teams before and during litigation and how technology can help, as well as best practices.
Collaboration Data Challenges
Collaboration tools like Slack and MS Teams pose distinct challenges for legal departments that are not seen in other forms of communication, particularly from an information governance or ediscovery perspective. One reason is that people tend to be more casual and informal in their chats on these platforms. After all, since the shift to a more remote workplace in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, chat platforms have become the new water cooler around the office.
Most companies train their staff to follow the adage of only writing what one would be comfortable saying in court. But even so, collaboration tools still maintain a relaxed nature, especially with the use of emojis, liking or reacting to messages, and sharing memes and GIFs, which create additional difficulties when it comes to preserving, collecting, or producing these messages for use in legal matters and investigations.
To add to the complexity, users easily switch between different conversations, including one-on-one chats, group chats, and even company-wide communications, so that a single conversation may span multiple channels. Examining these communications retrospectively, sometimes months or years later – to determine relevance, identify what is related and unrelated, and determine where conversations begin and end – can be challenging, to say the least.
Then, in addition to the informality and the complexity of collaboration data, a final challenge is the sheer volume of the data. Some users have reported being a part of hundreds or even thousands of channels in their enterprise’s environment, many of which are a mix of casual and business-related conversations.
This increase in communication volume has been particularly noticeable since the COVID-19 pandemic, with some legal matters involving only a few custodians generating millions of messages that need to be collected and reviewed during discovery. Even after returning to some sense of normalcy after the pandemic, usage numbers continued to rise, with some accounts continuing to double their data on platforms like Teams and Slack, in 2021 and 2022, creating a volume of messages in enterprise environments in the hundreds of millions.
Collaboration tools have revolutionized the way teams work together. However, their adoption has presented new challenges for legal departments, which must ensure that collaboration data is preserved, collected, and produced effectively for legal matters and investigations. Despite the informal nature of these chats, it is crucial that organizations train their staff to adhere to best practices when using these tools. With the volume of data increasing year over year, it is imperative that legal departments implement effective strategies for managing and reviewing this data to minimize risks and reduce costs.
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Ediscovery Best Practices for Slack and MS Teams from Information Governance Through Litigation