Since it was founded ten years ago, Slack, the viral communications and collaboration platform, has become one of the fastest-growing workplace apps ever. Over the past decade, Slack has made its way from the office to the board room, centralizing communication and drastically reducing email usage along the way.
For companies that embrace Slack—or whose employees do as part of company “shadow IT”—Slack is an invaluable source of business information: a hub for company data, a virtual water cooler, a place to track how and why decisions were made, all with a level of detail rarely available. It can be, as Slack founders envisioned it, a “searchable log of all conversation and knowledge.”
Why Slack Is Moving into Litigation and Investigations
A searchable log of all conversation and knowledge is just what any legal professional involved in litigation and discovery needs. For requesting parties, Slack discovery provides an invaluable glimpse into the goings-on of an opposing party. For responding parties, reviewing Slack data can be essential to meeting one’s responsibility to conduct a reasonable inquiry.
It is no wonder, then, that Slack data is increasingly making its way into litigation and investigations.
Slack is the place where you can find the off-the-record communications, the informal discussions, and “the jokes that tell the truth,” according to David Slarskey, a New York-based litigator and founder of Slarskey LLC.
In a recent dispute, Slarskey turned to Slack data to find valuable information that was essential to resolving the matter, a case that was featured in a recent webinar and accompanying case study.
“I think you’re really doing a disservice to your clients if you’re limiting yourself to emails,” Slarskey says. “We have an obligation as lawyers to stay abreast and one step ahead, because that’s where claims are won and lost: on the communication record.”
Overcoming Objections to Discovery of Slack Data
Given Slack’s novelty, and some of the difficulties associated with Slack data, it’s not uncommon to encounter objections that the reviewing and producing Slack data is disproportionate and burdensome. And it can be. Without the right tools, Slack data can present significant challenges around review and production. Exported directly from the Slack platform, for example, Slack data appears as virtually unreadable JSON code. But with discovery software that can parse and process that data, those burdens can be significantly reduced.
As detailed in the webinar and case study, David Slarskey was able to overcome objections to Slack discovery by arming himself with data on Slack discovery, data which allowed him to show the court that production of Slack data would not be nearly as difficult as claimed.
He has generously shared his letter brief to the court, which you can read below. And for those looking to learn more about Slack discovery, you can access The Lawyer’s Guide to Discovery and Investigations in Slack right here.
Sample Letter Brief on the Burden of Producing Slack Communications
Re: Delve Media, Inc. (d/b/a Wiser & Co.) v. Digg, Inc. , Index No. 656251/2017
Dear Justice Ostrager,
We represent Delve Media, Inc. (d/b/a Wiser & Co.) (“Wiser”), Plaintiff in the above-referenced action. This letter, and the annexed Affidavit of Christopher Rauen dated June 26, 2018 (Ex. 1), are submitted pursuant to order of the Court, dated June 5, 2018, directing the parties to submit information regarding the burden of producing “Slack” communications. (Doc. No. 14.)
At the June 5, 2018 compliance conference, Plaintiff sought from Defendant production of Slack communications, because it is undisputed that Defendant routinely communicates electronically by Slack within the workplace, and it did so in connection with the transaction underlying this dispute. Defendant objected to producing these communications and contends that it is unduly burdensome to produce Slack communications.
As described on its website, Slack is a software tool used by businesses, which “brings all your communication together,” and provides “a single place for messaging, tools and files.” See https://slack.com/features. With respect to messaging, Slack creates a “channel for every conversation,” which channels “can be divvied up by team, project, client or whatever else is relevant to your organization.” Id. Slack is used as a communications hub by a quickly-growing number of companies, including Airbnb, CapitalOne, Target, the Los Angeles Times, Oracle, and Ticketmaster. See https://slack.com/customer-stories. And it has drawn major media attention as “the de-facto way for employees to communicate with each other,” surpassing 8 million daily active users, 3 million of which are paid. J. Vanian, What Slack is Doing to Connect With More Businesses, Forbes, May 22, 2018 (http://fortune.com/2018/05/22/slack-actions-messaging- chat/); see also R. Winkler, Slack Passes 3 Million Paid Users, WSJ, May 8, 2018 (https://www.wsj.com/articles/slack-passes-3-million-paid-users-1525802400). It is not surprising, given the increasing prevalence of Slack in the workplace, that there is frequently a need to search, review, and produce Slack data. Slack thus has built in functionality to enable client-export of data and communications, expressly so that data and communications may be “disclosed due to a lawsuit or investigation.” (See https://get.slack.help/hc/enus/articles/204897248GuidetoSlackimportandexporttools.)
The steps for exporting Slack data are outlined in the accompanying Rauen Affidavit. (See Ex. 1.) Rauen is the head of Product Training for Logik Systems, which offers an eDiscovery tool named Logikcull that Defendants are using in this action to manage their document productions. (See Ex. 2, June 29, 2018 email from Logikcull re: Defendants’ most recent production.) As outlined by Rauen, Slack communications can be exported from Slack with little more than the click of a button on the Slack interface. (See Ex. 1, Rauen Aff. ¶ 6.) Once the data and communications are exported, they may readily be uploaded and reviewed in Logikcull. (See id. ¶ 3.) According to Rauen, “[s]earch, review, and production of data from Slack on Logikcull is relatively straightforward and not meaningfully, if at all, different than searching, reviewing and producing other forms documents, such as emails or electronic documents.” (Id. ¶ 4.) Notably, insofar as Defendant is already using the Logikcull platform in this litigation, it has, at its disposal, the tools described by Rauen. There is no undue or significant burden associated with requiring Defendants to produce their Slack communications.
Nearly a month before the June 5 conference, in an effort to avoid this dispute, Plaintiff supplied Defendant with the step-by-step guide published by Logikcull, “A Quick Guide to Discovery and Investigations in Slack.” (See Ex. 1 to Ex. 1 (Rauen Aff.), and Ex. 3, May 14, 2018 email from E. Fried) (attaching Ex. 1 to the Rauen Aff).) Notwithstanding Plaintiff’s provision of this guide -- which guide clearly demonstrates the ease with which Slack communications can be exported from Slack, and reviewed and produced using Logikcull -- Defendant took the inconsistent position at the June 5 conference that it was simultaneously unfamiliar with what was required to produce Slack communications, and that the production of Slack communications would impose an undue burden on Defendant. Defendant’s inconsistent position should be recognized as a transparent attempt to avoid discovery obligations, in light of the facts.
In the final analysis, to paraphrase Mr. Goldberg during the June 5 conference, Defendant cannot reasonably move its communications to the Slack platform in the regular course of its business, and then claim that it is immune from disclosing those communications because it is unduly burdensome to produce them. That is particularly so when -- as attested to by Mr. Rauen -- review and production of Slack communications is “relatively straightforward and not meaningfully, if at all, different than searching, reviewing, and producing other forms of documents, such as emails…” (Ex. 1, Rauen Aff. ¶ 4.) Defendant should be directed to review and produce its Slack communications forthwith, and to disclose the criteria by which it is reviewing and producing such data.