How to navigate eDiscovery for Slack

If you work in the legal tech space, you know how big of an impact emerging applications like Slack are having on the eDiscovery process. Slack has become a sensational communication tool in the modern workplace, racking in tons of employee data every day. From images and video files to threads and channels, the data that Slack holds is dynamic and complex. So when it comes to eDiscovery, having the proper tools in place to process and export this data is crucial. 

To dive deeper into this topic, we had the pleasure of sitting down with TransPerfect’s President of Forensic Technology & Consultation, Joe Pochron, to discuss common challenges in retrieving Slack data and how to overcome them with the right approach and technology. 

Here’s what we learned:

  • Slack’s popularity is revolutionary. We haven’t seen a chat or cloud collaboration platform scale like this ever before.
  • Some companies have moved over to Slack as a primary means of communication. Thus, more business records and critical information are living in Slack as opposed to email.
  • Until they’re faced with litigation, most companies don’t have a plan in place for collecting from Slack. As a result, they’re on the hunt for the most efficient and cost-effective way to do it on short notice.
  • In order to help clients acquire data from Slack, Joe recommends first determining what Slack plan the client is on (Standard vs. Enterprise) to understand the nuances and limitations of each export.
  • When data is retrieved, it’s going to need to be processed to make the information digestible and readable. To do this, Joe recommends leveraging a third party application like Onna! Thanks, Joe!
  • When collecting from Slack Enterprise using the Discovery API, the appearance of edited and deleted messages is a game-changer in most litigations.
  • Platforms like Slack are constantly changing, so it’s good to work with processing and review technologies that are evolving with them.

To watch the full webinar and an additional demo of using Onna for Slack eDiscovery, see the video below. If you’d prefer to read a transcription, keep scrolling!

Allison: Hi Everyone! Thanks so much for joining us today for our Webinar on eDiscovery for Slack. My name is Allison, I’m an Enterprise Success Lead at Onna, and I’m here today with Joe Pochron, President of Forensic Technology & Consulting at TransPerfect. Thanks for joining us, Joe!

Joe: Thanks for having me, Allison.

Allison: Of course. So we’re here today to discuss eDiscovery in the age of emerging applications. As we all know, there’s an ever-increasing amount of productivity tools and workspace applications, which can be difficult for eDiscovery professionals to navigate as there’s constantly new forms of ESI and the process is always changing for collection and review. Joe, you provide services for your clients all over the world, in terms of eDiscovery and Forensics, what is the most common question you get?

Joe: I wouldn’t say it’s one particular question, I’d say it’s a few different questions that come up time and time again. The first is, how do you actually collect [from] Slack? How are we getting that data back? If a client has a Slack platform, but they’ve never had to collect that data for litigation or eDiscovery, they’ve never gone through the process. They need to understand what is the most efficient and effective mechanism for getting that data back. The second is: what is that data going to look like? What is the format? How are we going to place this in a legal review platform and view this data? And third is, if we have custodians that we need to put on hold in legal Slack, how do we do that?

Allison: Speaking of Slack, you just published an article called “Cutting Us Some Slack” which was great, and in this article, you discuss Slack as a revolution. So, what constitutes this revolution and how does it affect eDiscovery?

Joe: Well, I think what I was speaking to in that article is Slack’s popularity. We haven’t seen a chat application or a cloud collaboration platform really scale like this in corporations and businesses alike. You’ve seen articles over the years that Slack would be replacing email — that certainly hasn’t happened, but you are seeing companies move over to Slack as a primary means of communication. So that’s really what I was discussing. Now we have business records in the form of communication that is in Slack and sometimes more so than email.

Allison: What are your options for acquiring data from Slack?

Joe: I think what’s important is understanding what Slack plan the client is on because that’s going to dictate some of your options right out of the gate. But from a high level, you have options from Slack. You have a standard export, you have a corporate export, there are nuances and limitations to each. I’d recommend anybody watching this webinar to understand what those differences are. Probably what’s even more important is to understand that when you get that data back it’s going to need to be processed and made digestible. Another option, which is the route I most commonly go, is to use a third-party application like Onna. Onna is able to connect a client’s Slack platform, we’re able to have options to choose if we’re collecting channels or messages, and it will provide that in a format that is much easier for legal review. Lastly, something a client really needs to have in place is an archiving system that is already synced to the client’s Slack environment, so it’s already syncing all their information. That would really be the repository to go to.

Allison: So it sounds like leveraging the tools that are available is really important to you — which is great. We’re all for using new technology in this space. Now you spoke about the different types of Slack accounts that companies can have. What’re the differences between say, Slack for teams and Slack Enterprise? 

Joe: For us in the discovery space, I think the big difference is understanding the data that’s available to you and also how you’re going to go about collecting that data. I’ll give you two examples of that. In the case of data that’s available to you, if we have a client who’s on Slack Enterprise and we’re discovering that data through the Discovery API, we’re going to have deleted and edited messages. When we have cases that are investigations, if they’re looking at a specific ex-employee or something along those lines, and it’s really crucial to gather their information, that’s a game-changer for us. I think the other [case] is, and it’s probably not discussed that heavily, but when you’re on the standard plan and we need to authenticate through the employee (the custodian), we need their credentials, we need their connection, and that impacts time. When we’re on a Slack Enterprise plan and the interface is with Onna, the speed and efficiency to collect are quite different. That’s the major difference we see.

Allison: Finally, what advice do you have for legal teams and eDiscovery professionals as they go about these new forms of ESI and discovery? Particularly with applications like Slack and new applications like Slack.

Joe: I have a lot of advice, but I’ll keep it short. I think you need to understand the nuances of the Slack plans and understand which your client is on. For example, if they’re on a free plan, and you see discovery coming down the pipeline in the future, know that you’re going to have data that’s ephemeral and is going to dissipate. It’s not going to be there when you need it. Also, understanding what your options are for collection and review. In a corporate export, we need to take JSON data and process it just to get it [the data] into a review platform. It’s a very different process than using a tool like Onna to collect, have all the attachments, and push that directly into a review platform. Lastly, understanding the nuances of legal holds. This is becoming much more of an important issue now that Slack continues to gain popularity. My last point is that these platforms are constantly changing. So, we’re going to be doing a webinar in July 2020, and that [Slack] platform is going to look very different. Understand the tools in the marketplace that are evolving with the platforms.

Allison: Definitely. That’s great advice, thanks so much for joining us, Joe!

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