When water cooler chatter became less common when the pandemic hit in 2020, chat platforms and text messages (IM) filled the gap.  Collaboration tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Slack, Bloomberg Chat and IM are now ubiquitous, with more than 67% of white-collar employees still “working from home to some degree.”[1] Indeed, a survey of IT managers reported that 91% of all companies now use at least two messaging apps.[2]

As more companies integrate these channels into their typical business practices, more and more legal matters will involve the review of chat message conversations. It is imperative that companies have processes and systems in place to control, retain, monitor, and review such business communications.

There are numerous challenges for business in reviewing chat data, including identifying and accessing chat platforms, handling ephemeral data, identifying participants (with various aliases or usernames), decoding the cryptic nature of some messages, coordinating the attachments and responses to those messages, and making sense of notices when parties enter or leave the conversation.  People also often speak differently in a chat setting (more tersely, and using shorthand, emojis, slang, abbreviations, and images) than in other communication forms. Thus, external context may be even more essential to understand the nuances of the matter being discussed.

Here are a few tips and tricks to efficiently and economically review chat communications.

  • Display chat data in a view similar to what users see in the native applications.
  • Create a workstream to review chat data separately from other types of communication, while coordinating the ability to view these channels in the context of other communications and events.
  • Present communications as best as possible in complete conversation segments. One common option is to review chats in discrete blocks of time reflective of how users conduct business.
  • Before you start, make sure you have a key to understand who are the participants in a conversation, so you can sort relevant communications from those that are less germane.

Chat messaging is here to stay, and corporate managers would be wise to ensure they can effectively manage those communications.  Companies should consult with knowledgeable persons now to ensure that they have the resources, personnel and partnerships in place before for to process, review, and monitor these communications.

[1] Remote Work Persisting and Trending Permanent (gallup.com) [https://news.gallup.com/poll/355907/remote-work-persisting-trending-permanent.aspx]

[2]Workplace Messaging Report – Slack, Microsoft Teams & Webex Teams [https://dispatch.m.io/mio-workplace-messaging-report/]