For a more comprehensive overview of Slack's legal holds, check out Logikcull’s recent whitepaper, “How to Manage Legal Holds in Slack: A Complete Guide to Ensuring Effective Slack Data Preservation.”
The whitepaper explains:
• How Slack’s retention rules work
• How to create a legal hold in Slack and key challenges it presents
• Alternatives to using Slack to preserve chat data
• A checklist to choose the right Slack data preservation software
And much more!
In 2019, Slack reported 10+ million daily active users, 85,000+ paying customers, and 1,500+ apps in its directory. By March 2020, it had 12.5 million simultaneous users and, as of March 2021, 156,000 paying customers—an 83 percent increase in only two years.
Nothing indicates Slack’s growth will slow down any time soon. At this point, it feels like every business uses Slack for internal communications. And that has ramifications, especially in the context of discovery.
Slack data presents important challenges to discovery. The data itself is incredibly complex. When you export data in JSON format, it’s unreadable. Yet, during discovery or other investigations, your organization is responsible for pulling entire conversations together, including edits and deletions.
But before you get to the point of analyzing Slack data, you have to make sure you’re preserving it appropriately.
Let’s take a look at how to create legal holds in Slack and, if that’s not the right choice for your team, how available eDiscovery technology can help.
What Do You Need to Know About Slack Legal Holds?
There are a few important things to keep in mind about legal holds in Slack.
First, your organization must be an Enterprise Grid customer to benefit from this capability. The other Slack plans don’t include this feature, which means you’ll need another way to preserve Slack data for internal investigations, audits, and eDiscovery.
Second, you must have a Compliance Administrator role to place a legal hold on specific members, messages, and files. You’ll have to determine who should have access as the Compliance Admin. This role can see all the current Slack holds and the custodians for those holds on their dashboard.
Third, Slack’s legal holds are user-based, not channel-based. You’ll focus on designating specific custodians.
Fourth, a Slack legal hold overrides your other retention policies in the platform. Any data subject to hold won’t be subject to your normal deletion timeline. Once you release the hold, the retention policy applies again.
How Do I Create a Legal Hold on Slack?
Here are step-by-step instructions on how to create a legal hold in Slack:
- Click workspace name in the top left
- Select “Settings & administration” from the menu
- Click “Organization settings”
- Click “Security” in the left sidebar
- Select “Legal Holds”
- Click “Create Legal Hold”
- Name the hold
- Add a description, if desired
- Select conversations to include
- Add a date range, if desired
- Click “Add Custodians”
- Select members to include in the hold
- Click “Add”
- Click “Save”
How Can I Change or Release a Slack Legal Hold?
In Slack, you’ll follow a similar process to edit, release, or reactivate a legal hold. After selecting “Legal Holds,” you can click on the three dots icon. You should see options to “Edit details” or “Release.”
With editing a Slack hold, you can change the name, description, and members. However, you can’t change the date range or which conversations to include. For those issues, you’d need to create a new legal hold.
Four Challenges of Preserving Slack Data in Slack
1. Legal Holds Are a Limited Feature
As of January 2022, the Slack legal hold feature is only available for the Enterprise Grid product. As a result, if your organization purchases any other plan, you must have a different way to preserve Slack data.
2. Gaps and Spoliation Risks
There are some concerns with data preservation in Slack. Legal holds won’t include messages and file data from Slack Connect channels or DMs. They also won’t control data in shared channels.
Spoliation is also entirely possible. A Slack hold can’t stop a member from deleting an entire channel. In that situation, Slack doesn’t save the messages or file data. It’s all gone.
3. No Early Case Assessment
Another issue is the inability to search or analyze the data in Slack. You’ll still have to export the data to conduct early case assessment, which can be invaluable when you’re facing litigation.
4. A Partial Legal Hold Process
Slack’s legal hold feature is only one step in your process. You’ll need a separate tool to notify data custodians, oversee and track holds, send reminders, and release holds.
Alternatives to Using Slack to Preserve Chat Data
Even if legal holds in Slack are available for you, your team might decide they aren’t the best choice. There may be too many risks, and you’ll have to export chat data for analysis anyway. Instead, you may prefer a more comprehensive solution -- one that allows you to easily collect all your Slack data, keep it unaltered for as long as you need, and conduct a reliable and seamless document review if the matter moves forward.
Logikcull has released a much-anticipated Slack integration. It makes collecting Slack data simple. With just a few clicks, you can pull data for specific participants and channels in Slack to Logikcull, where you can also leverage chat-specific filters to quickly parse Slack data and surface the most relevant conversations. Most importantly, you can preserve and analyze your Slack data together with any other electronically stored information (ESI).
Logikcull also offers a powerfully simple legal hold product. Instead of manually dealing with spreadsheets and emails, Logikcull Hold provides a smooth workflow and automation for issuing, tracking, and reporting on holds. Additionally, you can manage all your legal holds from one dashboard, where you can see real-time updates.
You don’t have to worry about your data with Logikcull either, because it meets the highest data security standards, such as SOC (Type II). Additionally, with Logikcull’s Slack integration, you reduce the risk of spoliation. Once you’ve pulled data into Logikcull, custodians can’t edit or delete conversations.
Does My Company Need a Slack Policy?
Yes, you should have an organization-wide Slack policy. It doesn’t matter which preservation method or solution you use. A robust policy helps you limit the Slack data you’ll have to pull and recreate in the event of litigation, a regulatory audit, or an internal investigation.
Every member of your business should be on the same page about the appropriate way to use Slack from cultural, business and legal perspectives.
Your policy should address:
- When to use Slack, email, another messaging platform, or a meeting
- When to use private groups or direct messages vs. public channels
- The use of shadow communication tools by team members
- Expectations around response times
- How to structure and format conversations for ease of use
- Who has the authority to create new channels
- How to onboard employees to Slack
- What is and isn’t appropriate work conversation
- Bullying and harassment via Slack
- Organization access to conversations and ongoing monitoring
- Retention and deletion schedules
Ensuring your employees stick to the Slack policy requires mandatory training, ongoing encouragement, and monitoring. It might work best to invest in monitoring technology that notifies leadership of potential issues, yet won’t make employees feel like they're under constant surveillance.
It also helps to create a healthy culture around when and how to use Slack. Not every work-related or personal conversation belongs on the app. That culture, in turn, can impact your future discovery efforts.
By using Slack appropriately and sticking to the deletion schedule, your organization can avoid an unnecessary and excessive data volume. Additionally, by ensuring conversations are well-structured and formatted, it’s easier to recreate them after exporting the data.
If you’re ready to learn more about data preservation in Slack and how to handle Slack data for eDiscovery, check out The Lawyer’s Guide to Discovery and Investigations in Slack.
You’ll find useful tips on how to make sense of Slack data in your next matter and insights into how Slack is impacting discovery as we know it.