It has long been well-known that the very nature of being a lawyer forces you to be reactive to changes in the law. After all, it is the very basis on which you give your advice to clients and guide them through their needs. What is just as important, however, is for lawyers to be understanding of the way they go about that process – that is, a knowledge of how legal services are best provided and a self-awareness of their own internal processes for doing so.
For this article, I spoke to Brian Stearns of ‘Workstorm’, a platform designed to streamline such processes and to help make lawyers collaborate as efficiently and confidentially as possible.
So, what is Workstorm all about?
BS: “Workstorm is a workstream collaboration platform in a similar category to other solutions like Slack and MS Teams. We believe that Slack and MS Teams have shown there is a viable market for organized, persistent messaging as a supplement to email, as well as using digital workspaces as a mechanism to connect disparate information systems. In response to those demands, Workstorm has developed a platform that addresses the unique needs of law firms and other professional services firms. In essence, this involves fostering both internal and external client collaboration, supporting the information governance needs necessary for managing confidential client information, and integrating with the key technology tools already in use by firms.”
So what’s wrong with the current traditional approach to or reliance on workstream management, like email?
“It’s clear that law firms have unique data management requirements. Key clients, particularly banks, may require law firms to manage data on-premises behind their firewall. Law firms also have ethical requirements to file and retain information related to client records. On top of all that, they have general housekeeping requirements that may dictate the regular deletion of information.
Firms have spent the past 20 years trying to figure out how to do this with email, but the use of email is changing. For starters, filing with email alone is a huge burden. The email you send and the response you receive are unique, distinct files that must be managed. By contrast, a closed-loop chat group can be treated as a single file for archiving or deletion of any documentation. This offers up tremendous opportunities for law firms to increase the efficiency and productivity of their legal teams. They can dramatically reduce the time spent searching for, sharing and filing email, and better spend that time elsewhere in their business.
Additionally, membership to such chat rooms can be governed so that information isn’t inadvertently shared with the wrong people – a huge security concern of both firms and clients alike. Everyone has experienced hitting “reply all” by mistake or forwarding an email to the wrong person based on email’s auto-populate features. It can be funny in a lot of cases, but it really isn’t funny when those emails contain sensitive information. With chat platforms, conversation channels can be open to everyone for visibility and transparency, or closed off only to those that need to know based on ethical walls. Workstorm is currently the only provider in this collaboration market who is thinking about privacy and confidentiality in the same way firms do. Open and transparent communications don’t work in an environment governed by ethical (and statutory) walls.
Finally, products like Slack and MS Teams have taken the approach of integrating with hundreds or thousands of third-party applications. How are firms thinking about the implications on how data is stored and transferred between these third-party applications? For example, if a lawyer can turn on an integration with a third-party project management solution, then has that tool been properly vetted by IT?
Workstorm has undertaken the strategy of natively building the key communications tools within our platform so that firms can reduce the number of unnecessary vendors and data transfers. For example, we have messaging, task management and video conferencing built directly within our platform, so you don’t need to go elsewhere for it. And beyond our native features, we seek to integrate with the core tools in use by law firms, including their own homegrown solutions. To put simply, no one else in this market is focused on viewing the legal market in this way.”
It’s clear these tools have the potential to solve a lot of firm and client concerns. In short – why Workstorm?
“Our objective is to serve the unique internal and external collaboration needs of professional services firms and their corporate clients. We are looking to work with firms that have an interest in collaboration software, but where adoption is still early and there is no established solution. We believe that we can act as that solution and address the unique security and privacy requirements of law firms.
By serving the professional services market, we also recognize the need to work with the core technology tools that are in place at these firms. For example:
- We developed version 1 of our iManage integration in 2018 and are currently enhancing that integration.
- We have an Outlook integration for email and calendar management.
- We have data exporting and archiving capabilities and are currently developing system admin capabilities to set data deletion and retention policies at the conversation level.
- We have signed on as integration partners with Relativity, Intapp, Kira and HighQ, and have developed prototypes for those integrations, which we will start building this year.
- We will continue to seek out new integration partners that cover key areas of the law firm workflow, such as other document management systems, legal research platforms, time and billing systems, matter management systems and even CRM solutions.
In short, law firms seeking to adopt a workstream collaboration platform should ask and answer three questions:
1) does the software provider think about privacy and confidentiality the same way law firms do?
2) is the tool designed at all levels for both internal firm and external client collaboration, and 3) does the tool integrate with the firm’s core technology stack?
Right now, we believe Workstorm is the only platform on the market that can answer “yes” to all three questions.”
I’d like to thank Brian Stearns for taking the time to speak with me and to discuss how firms internally operate and how Workstorm is looking to change that. I’d also like to thank Workstorm for collaborating with me and sponsoring the production of this article. If you’d like to learn more about Workstorm, or Brian, you can do so at the links below.