Here are your options for secure real-time chat with your legal team


Now that we are well into the second year of the pandemic, remote working has become the norm. While the impact of the pandemic on law firms has varied, in part depending on the size and location of the firm, the fact remains that for many legal professionals, a permanent full-time return to the workplace. office remains elusive due to continued unpredictability caused by COVID -19 variants and surges.

Due to the lingering uncertainty, many employers allow some or all of their employees to work from home at least part-time. This new reality is forcing law firm managers to invest in permanent remote work tools to ensure long-term sustainability.

One of the main challenges throughout the pandemic has been communication. Due to staff dispersion, law firms have increasingly invested in technologies designed to facilitate real-time communication within law firms.

In fact, according to a legal industry survey conducted by MyCase to be released next month (note that I am affiliated with MyCase), 16% of respondents said their companies had invested in some type of communications software from the start. pandemic, and 57% indicated that their company had an internal discussion tool. Of these firms, 16% used a stand-alone chat tool like Slack, 28% relied on chat tools built into messaging programs, and 44% took advantage of chat tools built into their practice management software. ‘lawyers.

If your law firm doesn’t already have an internal chat tool, there’s no better time to get one than now. Not only will this software ensure that internal communication as well as document and file sharing in your business is instant and transparent, it will also help lay the foundation for a fully-fledged IT stack that will ensure business resiliency. , whatever the future. can bring.

It is important to note that these types of chat tools are usually cloud-based, and anytime you use cloud computing software you are handing over your law firm data to a third party and therefore have the ethical obligation to carefully control the technology provider who will be hosting and storing your data. This includes ensuring that you understand how the data will be handled by that company; where are the servers on which the data will be stored; who will have access to the data; and how and when it will be backed up, among other things.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of your options when it comes to real-time internal chat at the law firm. This list is not exhaustive but gives a good overview of the products currently available. For the purposes of this article, we’ll only focus on real-time chat tools designed for businesses, as opposed to those typically used by consumers in general. And because email chat tools aren’t designed primarily for businesses, those won’t be covered in this article either.

Tools of the trade

First, there are chat tools that are not specific to the law, but they are often used by law firms because of their popularity and familiarity, or because they are built into systems that are already in use. by the cabinet. The best real-time chat tools that fall into this category that your business can consider are Slack and Microsoft Teams.

Slack is arguably the most popular real-time chat tool on the market. Indeed, it was one of the first to be developed specifically for businesses and is therefore well suited to the needs of organizations large and small. With Slack, you can create channels of your choice that are limited to a specific case or topic, to a subgroup of people within a company, such as a particular practice group or project. Mobile, desktop and web versions are available. Although there is a free version, I still recommend lawyers to pay for the technology in order to have access to better customer support and more robust features. Paid plans for Slack start at $ 6.67 / user / month.

Microsoft Teams is another non-legal real-time chat tool that is often used by law firms, in large part because it is included in the Microsoft Office 365 ecosystem. If your business is already using Microsoft Office 365, using Microsoft Teams can make sense for your business. Features are similar to Slack and, when used with other Microsoft tools, provide a seamless experience for businesses already rooted in this ecosystem. For businesses that want to use Teams for real-time stand-alone chat, opening an account doesn’t cost anything. From there, the price drops to $ 5 / user / month as an annual subscription to access Teams, Exchange, OneDrive, and SharePoint; and further increases to $ 12.50 / user / month as an annual subscription to access the entire Microsoft product line.

For a stand-alone real-time chat feature designed specifically for lawyers, there is the exchange of encrypted information. EIA is available as a mobile app for iOS and Android devices. While this tool looks more like a text messaging app, it also offers desktop access, which is why I am including it in this article. It facilitates secure real-time chat with the built-in ability to archive conversations, which may be a desirable feature for lawyers looking to keep recordings of conversations. When you download this app, the first five discussion threads are free. After that the cost is $ 4.99 / month. Law firm clients can contact your firm free of charge after downloading the app.

Finally, some law firm management software platforms offer a built-in real-time chat functionality. Note that most platforms offer secure messaging, but not all of them offer real-time chat features similar to those offered by Slack and Microsoft Teams. That being said, there are at least two platforms that include real-time chat functionality: MyCase and Rocket Matter. Real-time chat features are included with your MyCase subscriptions ($ 49 / user / month if billed annually). In comparison, Rocket Matter offers tiered pricing, and this feature is only included in the first two pricing tiers: the Pro ($ 59 / user / month) and Premier ($ 89 / user / month) plans.

So if your business is among the 43% of businesses that don’t yet use real-time chat tools, it might be worth thinking about. After all, the end of the pandemic is not yet in sight, so there is no better time than now to take action to ensure that your law firm has all the tools to enable it. to be successful in the future, no matter what.

Nicole Black is a lawyer, author, reporter in Rochester, New York, and legal technology evangelist at MyCase, a law firm management software for small businesses. She is the nationally renowned author of Cloud computing for lawyers and is co-author of Social media for lawyers: the next frontier, both published by the American Bar Association. She is also co-author of Criminal law in New York, a Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes regularly for, Above the Law and the Daily Record; wrote hundreds of articles for other publications; and regularly speaks at conferences on the intersection of law and emerging technologies. Follow her on Twitter @nikiblack, or it can be attached to [email protected].

This column reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the ABA Journal or the American Bar Association.

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