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.Continue Reading From The Water Cooler to the DMs – Tips and Tricks for Efficiently Reviewing Chat Communications

As employees are increasingly working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, many communications that would typically occur face-to-face are now taking place over chat systems, such as Skype, Bloomberg Messaging, and Slack. Chats are often more informal and unfiltered than other forms of written communication such as email, and often do not provide context for the conversation. And with that comes legal risk.

This is because chats may qualify as business documents subject to discovery in litigation—especially when those chats discuss business topics. See, e.g., LBBW Luxemburg S.A. v. Wells Fargo Sec. LLC, Case No. 12-CV-7311, 2016 WL 1660498, at *8 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 29, 2016) (ordering production of Bloomberg instant messages); JUUL Labs, Inc. v. 4X PODS, Civ. No. 18-15444, 2020 WL 747405, at *14-15 (D.N.J. Feb. 13, 2020) (ordering quarterly reporting during the pendency of a lawsuit based on internal Skype messages indicating defendants would take steps to avoid payment of any judgment that was ultimately entered); West Publ’g Corp. v. LegalEase Solutions, LLC, Case No. 18-cv-1445, 2019 WL 8014512, at *8 (D. Minn. Nov. 22, 2019) (ordering non-party’s production of Slack messages).

Companies are therefore left with the difficult question:  how can you best protect against the risks of online chats, while balancing the business need for them?  The answer may lie in the concept of proportionality.Continue Reading How to Limit Litigation Risk from the Increased Use of Chat Programs During the COVID-19 Pandemic