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The Lawyer’s Guide to Discovery and Investigations in Slack

Everything you always wanted to know about Slack discovery but were afraid to ask.
Chapter 1

Summary: What is Slack data?

Slack is, in essence, a data repository fused with a high-tech chat room—and it's changing the way we communicate.

  • Slack has over 12 million daily users, users from the smallest organizations to more than 65 percent of Fortune 100 companies.
  • Companies that use Slack have seen a dramatic drop in email usage, by 49% according to one study.
  • Slack can make discovery incredibly difficult if you don't have the policies and tools in place to deal with Slack data.
of the Fortune 100 uses Slack
reduction in email use after Slack
million users

A “team collaboration tool” that allows users to message, share files, search conversations, archive information and more, Slack is, in essence, a data repository fused with a high-tech chat room. Slack allows fast paced communication, all logged in a highly searchable environment called a “workspace.”

Thanks to Slack, more and more business communication is moving from the inbox to the chat room. One of the fastest growing apps ever, Slack is used by everyone from the smallest startups to Fortune 100 companies—more than 65 percent of them. It has more than twelve million of daily users, sending more than 1.5 billion messages per month, across thousands of organizations.

This is Slack: The Face of Communications Today?

A typical Slack workspace, memes included

Slack is Disrupting Discovery and Investigations

Slack represents an incredible challenge for modern legal professionals. In the past, legal teams only had to sift through emails, Office documents, PDFs, and images. When it comes to litigation and investigations, existing systems are designed for these processes, for discrete documents.

Legal teams are used to documents. Not chat rooms.

But chat rooms are taking over. In one survey, nearly 20 percent of companies who adopted Slack saw their email use decline by 40 to 60 percent. Today, if you’re only dealing with emails, you’re missing half the story.

Slack makes discovery for legal teams incredibly painful. With Slack, users can direct message, create chat rooms, share files, edit—or, depending on the context, spoliate—Slack messages from the past, and more. Account managers may not have access to certain Slack communications. Through thousands of integrations, Slack gathers a massive amount of data, all stored in one place. Further, individual users can even set their own retention and deletion policies, greatly complicating attempts at consistent information governance.

But beyond that, how do you even review Slack data when, until recently, virtually no discovery platform was capable of handling it?

A single message, as it appears when exported from Slack.

Difficult Data—and Tons of It

Slack stores an enormous amount of data. By default, Slack preserves all messages forever, creating a mammoth archive of an organization’s communications.

That data is not limited to messages sent between Slack users. Slack amalgamates data from hundreds of sources, all in one place. With more than 1,000 connected apps, Slack has created a centralized hub of information that can pull together a massive universe of information.

Users can delete or edit messages with just a click

Data in Slack is paradoxical: It is both disjointed, highly connected to other data sources, and constantly variable, all at once.

Communication in Slack may take place in public channels, similar to open chat rooms. It may happen in private, where only the participants know what is being communicated. Or it may happen one-to-one, through direct messages.

And those records are editable—all of them. Users can create and delete channels, edit individual messages, add and remove files, create, modify, or remove integrations, and get rid of visible records altogether.

To properly handle Slack data in litigation and investigations, legal teams need to understand Slack itself—and the unique data, preservation, and interpretation challenges Slack presents...
Chapter 2

Slack 101: Understanding Slack for Lawyers and Legal Professionals

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