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Slack, for Simplifying Some Aspects of the Law Office

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. | Last updated on

Since its launch in late 2013, the "email killer" platform Slack has done well for itself. It seems that in the time it takes you to blink, yet another several thousand users have been called over by the social-media/workplace platform's siren call.

But what about lawyers? Should attorneys acquiesce and join the movement? Or do we, as lawyers, have to suspend enthusiasm and consider some of the pros and cons?

Email Killer

Stewart Butterfield (of Flickr) and his team originally conceived of Slack when he and his colleagues were trying to keep track of their progress on Glitch via IRC's text-based communication. Today, it's the backbone of many communication toolsets used throughout offices and workspaces.

Slack's principal goal is to rid the office of maddening email and to replace it with a series of fun -- and emoji filled -- list of communications. No instant alerts -- just clean and fun.

One Platform to Bind Them All?

More radically, Slack is billed also as a platform to replace all office software: Word, Outlook, Jabber, editing programs, compilers ... the works. That's a tall order, if you think about it, and even those who aren't experts in the field find ourselves hanging onto skepticism. But it appears that Slack has performed substantially up to its promises. Development and offices generally believe that productivity has climbed up by at least 40%, mostly due to killing off needless email. Whoa.

Worsening Couch Potato-ism

But there are critics to the model. One of the most obvious are the fears that turning workplace communication into something less like work will make all Slackers (cute, yes) ironically, slack less. With the advent of remote-access, slackers could easily find themselves working at home insidiously without even knowing it because it is so hard to separate work from workplace gossip. And then, what happens to those much ballyhooed productivity figures? And then, without all the meetings, who needs to actually get up and move anymore?

Lawyers and Slack

Few lawyers I know would immediately disapprove of any program that reduces email clutter, but Slack's social-media happy-face style of inter-office communication might not be adopted so readily by attorneys. Lawyers have confidentiality issues to worry about, as well as conflict of interest issues to be concerned with. A program like Slack makes it that much easier to slack-off in tried and true procedures guarding things like client privacy.

Plus, many attorneys, particularly older ones (y'know, partners?) may be less inclined to get in on the whole "let's all chat" model. And for good reason. At larger firms, Slack is directly inimical to notions of screening lawyers away from potential conflicts.

So in the end, it's a little difficult to see Slack making it big at larger firms in the near future, but it does seem appropriate at midsized firms where confidentiality issues can be addressed and managed more reliably.

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