Collaboration
slack on slack

How we take some of the work out of legal work

Our legal team shares its favorite tips and tools for automating repetitive tasks, collaborating with outside counsel and much more, all inside Slack

Author: Mark Pike, Director, Legal (Product Counsel)May 22nd, 2020Illustration by Abbey Lossing

Lawyers have a bit of a (unfair!) reputation for being Luddites who carry legal pads and pencils. But Slack’s in-house legal department has embraced our own technology to help make our working lives simpler, more pleasant and more productive. We’ve also seen huge wins when collaborating with law firms in Slack instead of sticking to email and other outdated workstreams.

Check out some of our tips, favorite tools, and recommended best practices so you can level up your legal team’s approach to technology and become a true emoji-at-law. 👩‍⚖️

1. Automate routine reviews with Workflow Builder

Before any of Slack’s marketing materials or communications head out the door, the legal team likes to do a quick checkup. Our goal is to proactively identify potential legal issues: corporate and securities law, intellectual property, privacy, security and anything else that pops up along the way.

In the past, our writers would post links to Google Docs or upload files for review into a channel without much context. When Slack launched Workflow Builder, we knew it would be a great candidate to standardize the input of information. Workflow Builder offers a simple set of tools to automate routine processes in Slack. We rely on it internally to quickly field requests, collect project updates and more.

Legal review form in Workflow Builder

After a requester initiates the workflow and completes the form shown above, Workflow Builder will automatically DM the person a reminder of common issues that get flagged in marketing and communications drafts.

With Workflow Builder, you can also add an avatar for the action. Ours has a Muppet-looking eagle mascot, to show that the legal team has eagle eyes. As a lawyer, it’s great to bring a tiny bit of whimsy and playfulness into what can sometimes be a dull or straightlaced business interaction. Finally, we use emoji reactions to let writers know that their content has been seen (👀) and approved (✅).

2. Collaborate with outside counsel in Slack Connect

Slack is where we’re getting our best work done, and we’ve really found that client relationships thrive when we’re all using Slack together. Slack Connect allows teams at different organizations—like an in-house legal team and outside counsel—to securely collaborate together in Slack as easily and productively as they do internally. They provide a frictionless way to get outside counsel ramped up on issues, triage requests and send them to the right subject matter experts and ensure tight collaboration with clients. You’re able to leave behind the lengthy email chains with confusing subject lines like “FW: FW in re: Client Matter – URGENT.” Instead, all of your files, documents and conversations are neatly organized and searchable for all parties in Slack.

Our recently updated request-for-proposal process for outside counsel reinforces the value this brings. In addition to questions that ensure we avoid blind spots—Outline your team’s diversity and firm’s commitments to fostering diversity in its field—we directly gauge a willingness to work in shared channels: Does the firm have experience using Slack? If retained, would you be willing to use Slack as your primary means of attorney-client communication?

If the law firms we work with are unnecessarily siloing information and failing to keep up with where clients are already collaborating, then maybe they’re not a good fit? We’re more than happy to help legal teams adapt, and we regularly conduct training sessions with law firms and in-house legal teams so they can learn Slack best practices.

3. Check all your eDiscovery boxes

Lit(igation) happens. We’re not immune to that. Thankfully, Slack offers governance and risk-management capabilities that are flexible enough to meet any organization’s needs. For example, Slack’s Discovery API gives you the ability to pull messages and files from Slack and store the information in third-party data warehouses to comply with legal requirements.

Many enterprises want a one-stop shop to house all their cloud solutions. Slack works with a number of third-party eDiscovery and DLP partners, and you can check them out in our Help Center.

We were recently invited by the Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists (ACEDS) to present at a webinar on this very topic. Watch it below to pick up a few more of our eDiscovery best practices.

4. Source patent ideas with a quick emoji

When Slack started investing in an internal patent program, persuading engineers to submit ideas for potential inventions required a lot of busywork. Nobody wanted to accept meeting invites from lawyers to pick their brains, particularly when they were already swamped with the usual work of building and maintaining the Slack service. So we decided to invent a better way.

Today, employees can simply react to a message with a custom light bulb emoji and instantly have the message copied into a shared channel with our outside patent counsel. This Reacji Channeler integration helps us quickly and seamlessly aggregate and nominate innovative ideas for future patents into one channel.

The best part? We bought a Wi-Fi-connected lamp that sits in the middle of the legal department and blinks whenever a new invention is flagged by an employee. We call it the “Pat Signal,” and we can literally see innovation happening when we’re working out of Slack’s office.

This work helped Slack land at the top of the Financial Times’s Innovative Lawyers 2019 Award Winners list in the category of “Innovation in operations: Talent, strategy and changing behaviours.” Here are a few more legal-minded ways your team could leverage a Reacji Channeler:

  • When a sales contract has been negotiated and is ready for an executive’s signature, tee up a DocuSign request and use a custom emoji like :Jill-Hancock-Signature:. This could send the request to a private channel, where the right points of contact can coordinate final approval.
  • If the trust and safety team notices some untoward activity impacting your brand and needs the legal team to drop the hammer with a cease-and-desist letter, use a custom emoji like :hammertime:. Bonus tip: Use the Slack Events API to play MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This” on a Bluetooth speaker whenever it’s :hammertime:, and get pumped up to draft that C&D. Doing the Hammer dance is optional but legally advised.

5. LegalBot: a tool for friendly reminders

Every so often our employees are required to promptly sign policies and other documents. It’s a dull process, and someone from legal usually has to chase down the completed document to make sure it gets to the right place. All of that ties up precious time, and the constant nagging from legal wastes our precious social capital.

Our legal team came up with LegalBot (affectionately referred to as Ruth Bader GinsBot), a Slackbot that follows up with cheeky but good-natured reminders about outstanding legal tasks, freeing up the team to focus its efforts somewhere more productive.

A custom Slackbot that automates signatory compliance forms

We integrated the bot with Workday to ensure that the right departments and employees received the right notices, and then escalated the nags to their managers when not completed on time. Our completion rate sky-rocketed to over 99% within a week of launch.

By leveraging and building on our own platform—using bots, apps and integrations—we’re able to improve the working lives of our employees. And if your company is working in Slack, your IT team can do the same.

6. Streamline commercial legal work with Troops

Slack’s commercial legal team supports a global sales organization. The sales team lives and breathes Salesforce. The legal team, well, not so much. Building a true connective layer between those technologies was crucial in order to meet people where they are and drive cross-functional efficiency. The Troops app for Slack is a lightweight solution that has increased visibility, accountability and speed to close across the organization.

Before implementing Troops, we used a custom app to move deal support requests from Salesforce to Slack. The app was effective in distributing work to our territory-specific channels, but attorneys had to leave Slack in order to assign tasks to themselves. There was no mechanism for marking things as complete or escalating difficult negotiations to department leaders. All changes to the app’s logic had to be made by an engineer.

With Troops, all a salesperson needs to do is click the Legal Request button in Salesforce and answer a couple of basic questions.

From there, everything happens in Slack:

  1. Troops posts a message in the correct territory channel.
  2. Each post has buttons to allow attorneys to assign tasks and update status directly within the channel.
  3. Button clicks in the channel translate to reportable fields on the Salesforce side.
  4. Discussions can take place in a thread associated with the Troops post, or the attorney can create a new channel and invite others to participate in the discussion.

Adam Nace, a Slack legal operations manager and an active member of the Bay Area Legal Operators group, took our Troops integration a step further: He built a workflow that pushes tailored Salesforce reports to each attorney as a weekly direct message in Slack. These reports provide a snapshot of all the deals the attorney is supporting and eliminate the need to constantly scroll through a channel to find relevant messages.

Adjourn your legal team from email and information silos

The average worker spends 51% of each workday on the same time-wasting tasks. For a legal team or law firm, that can mean the difference between doing your best work and just barely meeting expectations.

By largely replacing your email inbox, Slack allows teams to more effectively organize matters by project instead of by the date you received a message. This unlocks a whole new world of productivity and alignment, while still respecting compliance objectives. If you have legal colleagues debating whether to give Slack a shot, send them this blog post and help make it happen. Case closed. *Dun, dun*

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