The legal industry, in comparison with virtually every other industry or profession, has been resistant to technological advances. Justice Rosalie Abella of the Supreme Court of Canada noted that “any good litigator from 1906, could, with a few hours of coaching, feel perfectly at home in today’s courtrooms”.
Laws evolve, precedents change, and some technology has managed to make it into the profession. But unlike other industries, the law has been slow to adapt to many of the tools that make things better for everyone. Many firms and legal institutions, including the courts, have continued to do things the way they’ve always been done because there has never really been a driver for change.
However, as the COVID-19 pandemic reshapes the way we work, live, and interact, institutions in all areas of society and across all industries have been forced to innovate. Statistics Canada found that 4.7 million people began working from home due to the pandemic in addition to the 2.1 million who already did. This means that more than 40 percent of Canadian workers are now working from home. Organizations and institutions that used to do everything face-to-face are suddenly realizing that a new approach is needed.
At Kaminker & Associates, we’ve embraced this change and used it as an opportunity to adapt. One of the tools that have had an immediate impact on our practice since the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic is Slack.
From Email to Instant Communication
Slack is a workplace communication platform designed to help companies shift away from email by providing a single place for messaging, files, and tools. Slack simplifies internal communication between colleagues with instant messages, group messages, and file sharing.
Before Slack, most of our communication was done in the office, in person or via email. Occasionally, we may have sent a text message if we needed an urgent response. This worked well enough, but it had some significant limitations which became clear when we started working from home full-time.
You’ve probably experienced this yourself. Inboxes get overwhelmed, making it difficult to prioritize responses. There is always the risk that something could get lost or missed, and quick questions that would normally be answered in person become tedious. Email just does not provide the level of speed that is required.
Similarly, sharing files over email is common, but it is not always ideal. Trying to search through hundreds of messages to find a document isn’t convenient, and anyone who’s used Outlook’s search function knows it doesn’t always return the results you expect.
We first heard about Slack’s capabilities through a colleague who runs an entirely remote practice, and we quickly determined that it was a great fit for our business as well.
The Impact of Slack
We’re a small team, so getting up and running on Slack was simple. After some training sessions and time to get familiar with it, all members of our team are now regularly communicating in Slack. This means that email is more focused on client communication, allowing us to sort our messages and prioritize responses.
We’ve also made great use of channels and group messages. Different channels have been set up for case law, ongoing cases, IT, and marketing. Slack has made it easier to organize our files and ensure that everyone has access to the information they need, while ensuring confidential information is kept between lawyers on the case.
Finally, by setting up the mobile app on our phones, we can now reach colleagues if we’re in court, at a client site, or otherwise out of the office for work. This means no more text messages and faster responses to questions, resulting in better service to our clients.
Modernizing and Adapting to Change
McKinsey suggests that 23 percent of lawyers’ work can be automated. Unfortunately, the industry has been slow to respond.
For us, Slack represents a step toward modernizing our business and finding new ways to serve our clients. It’s a seemingly small change that has had a big impact on how we work, and it’s opened our eyes to the possibilities of technology platforms.
It’s this type of mindset that will help drive us, and the legal industry, forward.