Slack is a messaging app for teams. It’s kind of like sending messages on Facebook Messenger, Skype, or iMessage or via text message on your phone.
But it’s for business, and it’s feature rich. You can break your group out into public channels and private channels for group discussions. You can also send private messages visible only to the parties involved.
There’s something about Slack that’s magical. Somehow it promotes communication even among the noncommunicative. I wouldn’t have believed it had I not seen it myself.
How We Arrived at Slack
We’ve been using tools for text-based conversations since 2010 when we started with Yammer. Then, about a year later, we moved over to Chatter because it was included with Salesforce.
We supplemented Yammer and Chatter with Skype, which we used for audio/video conferencing but also for some messaging.
Then, about six months ago, we moved to Slack. Why? Because of the incessant drumbeat from the tech world about the product and its awesomeness. We were persuaded to give it a try.
And, wow, it took off in our firm. The usage of Slack immediately exceeded anything we’d experienced with Yammer or Chatter. Our lawyers jumped in with both feet. It immediately got huge engagement, and the engagement continues to this day. Our people love Slack even though the voice calling is pretty awful and the interface requires an adjustment for the non-techie user. It’s working for us.
Normally, when we launch a new application in our firm, we get resistance, especially from the lawyers. They don’t like it. They don’t understand. They want a training session, ask for a tutorial video, or have a hundred questions. That wasn’t the case with Slack. We rolled it out, did nothing to promote it, and it took off.
What a Slack Day Looks Like
Here’s a fairly typical day in the life of Slack in our firm:
3:30 AM – I’m usually chatting with our operations guy as we’re often in time zones way ahead of much of the team. We’re sometimes joined by developers helping us on marketing or technology projects.
4:30 AM – Virtual assistants in the Philippines are updating our document repository, and messages are coming through with records of new documents being indexed.
7:30 AM – The daily blog post from Divorce Discourse arrives in #divorce_discourse.
7:45 AM – Blog posts arrive in #legal_news from some NC-focused legal blogs.
8:30 AM – Lots of “Good morning, I’m working from (fill in the blank)” messages in the #where_am_I channel as people gear up for the day. Lots of emojis and some responses.
8:35 AM – Reminders arrive in the #client-liaisons channel for our intake team to follow up with initial consultations from the previous day.
8:45 AM – The official #announcements channel comes to life with an alert about conference room bookings in each office and the courier schedule for courthouse deliveries.
9:00 AM – Various teams come together for daily meetings in the private channels. That’s typically pretty short and done with audio.
9:30 AM – If it’s a good day, then something happens in #fees, where incoming fees are detailed in real time. This information is automatically fed to Slack from Salesforce, where the payment is recorded.
9:31 AM – If it’s a bad day, then something happens in #refunds, where refund requests are submitted and then approved. All information surrounding the refund gets recorded here as it’s discussed by those involved in making sure it’s paid.
10:00 AM – There’s typically ongoing discussion in #lawyers, which is a private channel involving only the lawyers. They debate legal issues, complain about opposing counsel, and ask for help when needed. It’s a lively discussion involving lots of humor, sarcasm, and emoticons.
10:30 AM – The #marketing_team is endlessly debating issues and updating one another on progress. This channel tends to contain lots of screenshots of ongoing projects.
11:45 AM – The #where_am_i channel gets busy as lunch approaches on the East Coast of the United States. Lunch status and invitations tend to happen here or in #general.
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Noon to 1:30 PM – It tends to get pretty quiet.
2:00 PM – Conversation in #wp-development, our channel for WordPress development projects, slows way down around 2 PM Eastern as the work day ends in Ukraine (a great place to find reasonably priced, English-speaking WordPress developers).
3:00 PM – The #initial_consultations channel has ongoing discussion of schedule changes, updates, and developments. Cancellations are immediately noted here so everyone knows quickly.
3:30 PM – The #experts channel is a place where lawyers seek out advice on lawyer referrals and suggestions for expert witnesses. The channel is searchable, so it sometimes does the job without any actual conversation taking place.
3:45 – 5:30 – More official news comes along in #announcements. Conversation sometimes takes place between the management team and the bookkeeper in #accounting, and it’s pretty normal for the management team to discuss other issues in #management.
7:00 PM – Our daily financial stats arrive in #daily_numbers after being input by the bookkeeper.
Interestingly, just 2% of our discussion takes place in public channels. About 8% takes place in private channels, and 90% is happening via direct messages. Most of our communication is via text, but the voice communication included in Slack gets a fair amount of usage one to one and in daily group meetings.
We try to include everyone on Slack. Of course, all of our employees are on board, but we’ve also included a number of vendors and contractors. It helps us centralize and archive our conversations.
Should You Consider Slack?
Slack has quickly become the center of our business universe.
The timeline gives you a sense of our use of Slack. But our use case is unique to us. Slack gets used very differently in each firm. Many firms create a channel for each client. Some firms bring their clients into Slack as well.
Slack integrates with many products and makes it easy for users to direct information toward Slack instead of e-mail. It’s an incredibly open platform with lots of options for customization. Slack is working for us. We’re sending and receiving thousands of messages per week. The team is keeping in touch, and the conversation is vibrant, informative, and productive. Slack is worth a look if you need better communication in your firm.