This is the second of a two-part interview with Kyle Kelly, Senior Technical Program Manager at Coinbase, and Slarskey LLC partners, Renee Bea and David Slarskey.
In the first installment, we went over the best practices to defensibly preserve Slack data to avoid spoliation sanctions, how to narrow down your Slack review set with the right technology, and key considerations regarding the new communications paradigm created by chat and the main challenges it creates for discovery.
Read on for a deep dive into Slarskey’s experience with Slack data in trials, Kelly’s predictions around the future of Slack discovery, and Bea’s number one piece of advice for anyone dealing with Slack data for the first time.
You can also watch the full interview below:
Logikcull: David, you were a bit of a trailblazer when it comes to pursuing Slack data in eDiscovery. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience actually getting Slack into the trial process?
David Slarskey: We had an interesting experience during a document review for a litigation against a new media company. I was generally familiar with Slack but hadn't really used it. We were seeing in the emails certain references to Slack messages because there’s a setting where Slack will actually push out a message to people's inboxes. We then realized that we were missing large chunks of communication.
We started asking some questions about Slack and doing some research about it, and we realized that the conversation had moved off of the email. The main flow of communication was in the Slack space.
Of course, we went back to our opposing counsel. We're in a sophisticated court in the commercial division in New York. We went to opposing counsel and asked for Slack production. They claimed that they had never heard of it, didn't understand what it was, and considered it an undue burden. It didn't really make much sense to me because electronic data is electronic data. If you can collect it, you can produce it.
So, I did what any good lawyer would do. I went on Google and looked for information on how to produce Slack data. And I found Logikcull's guide, "Handling Slack Data and Discovery: A Lawyer's Guide to Slack Productions," and I did some reading. I said, "Oh, this is really easy. It's a push of a button from Slack. You should be able to export your data." And fortunately, we were using the Logikcull platform already, and Logikcull was telling me that, if I could get these JSON files or these Slack files (I'm not super technologically experienced, but I know enough to drag and drop into Logikcull), I would be able to see and read the data.
Well, they balked at that and we ended up with a fight in front of the court. And Logikcull was actually terrific. I don't want to speak this too loudly because you'll get inquiries from all over the place, but we actually got some assistance——this was several years ago—from Logikcull, who was saying, "We really can do this. It'll cost you $40 to export the data."
I think as lawyers, we really have an obligation to educate the court and educate each other about what can be done to gather these communications and produce the evidence.
We ended up having a bit of a sideshow in front of the court with us arguing that this was really push-of-the-button discovery that could be done for $40 a gigabyte. And eventually, the other side just caved in. They didn't have anything to say.
They actually ended up using Logikcull to produce their Slack data, which was terrific and hilarious. And the case settled about two months after they produced the data and, without going too much into the details of it, the data was critical to us in getting that case resolved because it did produce exactly what we expected it to produce, which was the unvarnished, candid communications among the parties about what was going on at the time of the court dispute.
I did what any good lawyer would do. I went on Google and looked for information on how to produce Slack data. And I found Logikcull's guide, "Handling Slack Data and Discovery: A Lawyer's Guide to Slack Productions," and I did some reading. I said, "Oh, this is really easy. It's a push of a button from Slack. You should be able to export your data."
Logikcull: Kyle, we've heard from a few Logikcull customers that there's almost a deterrent factor sometimes with data that might be out of the norm, whether it's Slack or audiovisual records, and parties sometimes agree not to ask for each other’s data in these new formats. Have you experienced that? Has Slack discovery become more normalized than it once was for Coinbase?
Kyle Kelly: I think it has always been normalized. I had the rare opportunity to greenlight eDiscovery here at Coinbase, and my first large regulatory case was asking for Slack data.
Slack is always going to be part of the focal scope. One of the things I'm trying to do is be more surgical about it. So, I've gone to Slack, I know that they're creating their Slack discovery API, a legal hold API and then their legal hold offering, at least for enterprise customers.
Slack is going to have all the connections and all the integrations with all the other important pieces of the business. That avenue is going to bring you into places where you didn't think you had to do discovery before.
One of the things that I think is missing and would be a really good way to conduct ECA is knowing which channels each of your custodians are a part of. I actually made that request ad hoc. Feel free to ask your Slack CSM if they'll do the same for you. I'm hoping they bring that feature into the actual Slack legal product because I think it's going to be really helpful for practitioners and third parties.
You also have tools like Logikcull that can make meaningful sense of what that data looks like. Slack is going to be around, and it may even be more important than email in the future, along with other sorts of messaging platforms.
Slack is going to have all the connections, all the integrations with all the other important pieces of the business. That avenue is going to bring you into places where you didn't think you had to do discovery before.
Logikcull: Renee, what would your number one piece of advice be for anyone handling Slack data for the first time?
Renee Bea: If you're in a position where you need to collect or preserve Slack data, understand it's easily done. You just have to not be afraid of rolling up your sleeves and doing it.
And reach out to Logikcull, because it’s incredible how they process the Slack data and how you empower in-house folks to get their hands on it. Just practice grabbing some data and seeing how it gets processed and presented, because, inevitably, there will be other tools being marketed as Slack continues to grow as an important platform, but they don't all process Slack data the same. Our preference has been Logikcull because of how it's processed, because of how it's presented, and how accessible it is.
Logikcull: Kyle, if someone in your organization says "Hey, someone's asking for eight million Slack files," what would your one piece of advice for them be?
Kyle Kelly: I think I’d take a sample set first because the JSON files will come in chunks that you can test trial. I know that Logikcull makes it really easy for you to test it out and see if it's actually going to be relevant.
But even before you get that eight million Slack file request, really get a good understanding of how Slack is being utilized in your organization. This way, you can start thinking really thoughtfully about your retention policies. So, I’d recommend getting ahead of it as soon as possible. If there was a really well-thought-out retention policy, I wouldn't have eight million files to go collect.
If there was a really well-thought-out retention policy, I wouldn't have eight million files to go collect.
Logikcull: David, do you want to close this out? What would be your key piece of advice?
David Slarskey: From the perspective of trying to prove a claim or a defense, what Slack provides is a community understanding, as opposed to an individual understanding. And that's a powerful concept for organizational litigation or business-to-business litigation.
Instead of looking at what one person had in their emails or in their communications, you're looking at an entire community at once. That enables new arguments that are extremely powerful on an enterprise-wide basis, because now you can take on an entire organization based on their workspace. Or you can defend against the tactics of an opposing party that may have been trying to set you up. It requires a different perspective, and it enables a whole set of new arguments for lawyers about intent, knowledge, understanding, notice, etc. Understanding and thinking through what Slack represents is key to people that are in our position.
What Slack provides is a community understanding, as opposed to an individual understanding. And that's a powerful concept for organizational litigation or business-to-business litigation.
- With the right resources in place, conducting discovery on Slack data isn’t an undue burden. In fact, when you leave Slack data outside of the scope of discovery, you might be missing a significant part of the conversation.
- Slack is here to stay, and it may even be more important than email in the future. You need to equip yourself with tools that help you preserve and make sense of Slack data.
- With the right retention policy in place, you can avoid massive data collections of millions of files.
- Slack provides a community understanding, as opposed to an individual understanding. Therefore, it requires a different approach than other data formats, and it enables new arguments for lawyers about aspects like intent, knowledge, and understanding.
To follow Kelly’s, Bea’s and Slarskey’s advice for navigating Slack discovery in the most efficient way and getting ready for the expansion and consolidation of the tool’s usage, you need to arm yourself with the right technology to collect, review and produce Slack data.
With Logikcull’s Slack integration, ingesting your Slack data takes a click, and once in the platform, your data is safe from further edits and deletions, so you can guarantee a defensible preservation.
From there, chat-specific filters allow you to surface your most relevant conversations in minutes by allowing you to narrow down your review by criteria like “sender,” “channel,” and even reactions.
That’s right, you’ll find the smoking gun even when it hides behind an eye-rolling emoji 🙄.