The popularity of communication collaboration platforms has grown exponentially since the release of the Slack platform in 2013. With a noteworthy $19.5 billion public offering last month, there’s no doubt that the need for such services has been heard loud and clear.
First, let’s take a moment to explore why Slack is not an ideal solution for legal departments and law firms who may be considering adopting a new collaboration platform.
While Slack does offer benefits, such as contextual messaging, there are several drawbacks, such as its cloud-only deployment model, open data rights and lack of ethical walls. Moreover, the power of collaboration platforms lies in the ability to integrate with other productivity solutions that professionals use and Slack’s integrations largely focus on consumer apps like Google Drive or Dropbox, not enterprise legal applications like iManage or NetDocs. And there is the elephant in the room … email. Slack seeks to replace email rather that work with it but collaborating over email is still a vital communication channel for the legal industry.
With an opportunity to more directly serve the legal market, it comes as little surprise that a platform like Workstorm would enter the market to help solve these challenges for law firms and corporate legal departments.
As a securities and trading professional, Workstorm’s Founder and CEO, Raj Fernando, recognized immediately the opportunity for a secure and private collaboration platform in the professional services industry. Understanding Raj’s journey, from his days as a trader to the launch of Workstorm, provides important background on his vision for the platform.
When new financial technologies and high-frequency trading systems began to replace humans in the capital markets, Raj stopped trading and started developing cutting edge software that made his company, Chopper Trading, a leader in electronic trading. He sold his business to a leading Chicago-based trading firm in 2015 and began brainstorming his next venture.
Known for data security, speed of execution, and innovative applications for highly regulated industries, Raj turned his attention to collaboration tools for professionals, including law firms. His goal was to create a secure platform that would be robust enough to enhance productivity, while simple enough to integrate easily with existing behaviors and commonly used tools. Today, Workstorm is helping to transform how professionals collaborate and communicate while also reducing the need to constantly switch between applications to accomplish simple tasks.
Fighting Application Fatigue
Application fatigue, or the constant movement between software systems to accomplish basic tasks, is a growing concern for lawyers and other professionals. Think about the number of tools or accounts you access during a normal business day. For some of us, it’s countless. Personally, I don’t even want to address the amount of software our team employs to get work done internally and to collaborate with our clients.
The beauty of Workstorm lies in the native tools that complement each other. There is core functionality that eliminates the need to hop between systems. With a shortlist of powerful features, the application is uncluttered and easy to navigate. Simply put — Workstorm connects people to people, and people to information through:
- Contextual Messaging
- File Sharing
- Email Integration
- Calendar Integration
- Task Management
- Video Calling and Conferencing
- Screen Sharing
- And more…
The Billion-Dollar Question: How do you get lawyers out of email?
Getting lawyers out of email is an enormous challenge. The answer is to provide easy, firm-wide alternatives that reduce inbox overload without eliminating email altogether.
During the demonstration of Workstorm, I was floored by how easily emails could be sent, received and filed, all within the Workstorm platform. Then, formal communication with internal team members and external contacts, such as clients or opposing counsel, can continue uninterrupted and without having to juggle multiple applications or windows. Next, a calendar appointment can be created with an embedded link for a videoconference and easily shared with attendees.
All without ever leaving the system.
Through this and many other examples, Workstorm actively combats application fatigue. How efficient or productive can teams truly be when so much time is lost on the administrative tasks required to manage countless systems?
Email reduction is real with Workstorm. You can get answers to small questions, coordinate tasks and assign people to projects across your entire organization and client base. You can segment conversations by team, client or project – whichever methods work best for you. New message notifications and @ mentions or alerts help you to quickly and easily identify the topic and origin of incoming messages, making the effort to triage communications far simpler than email alone. Are you accustomed to using your email inbox like a to-do list? No problem. Workstorm has a Recent messages feature which organizes conversations by time of receipt, making checking messages after periods of offline activity easy and familiar to email users.
Finally, you can archive the messaging exchanges when they are no longer needed, while still maintaining a written record.
Seamless Email and Calendar Integration
This billion-dollar question and answer raised earlier is executed flawlessly by Workstorm. Receive, review and send emails within the same platform as your messaging, videoconferencing, task management, file and screen sharing tools.
Advanced File Sharing
Store once, share often. Unlimited file sharing is made easy by storing all documents into your organization’s core document management system and/or Workstorm’s file repository with no limits on file size or type. Documents shared within the platform can be easily retrieved no matter where you are, from your desktop, laptop or mobile device.
With both native file-sharing options and integration with major document management services, such as iManage, file sharing has never been easier. You can share a file with the full client team, tagging team members simultaneously to alert them of the need for review.
The use of video for meeting scheduling and desktop calling is an increasingly popular option for fast and effective communication. However, the traditional task of sharing the link, or inviting a team member, requires multiple steps or systems that Workstorm’s native video calling and conferencing tool eliminate. Now, as you share messages, documents, and work on calls with teammates, you can get things done with lightning speed. With one click, you can execute person to person or multiparty video calling or schedule a videoconference for a future date and time.
Customizable Workspaces and Folders
Once you have accumulated a larger inventory of team and private conversations, Workstorm allows you to organize these conversations into Workspaces, which is a dashboard view of conversation threads related to a topic. And you can folder messages to further help you stay organized across matters, projects, teams or deals. Customizable workspaces and folders enable you to organize your matters and teams in the way that works best for you.
Announcements and Surveys
A major difference between Workstorm and alternatives like Slack is the use of one-way communication vehicles, including Announcements and Surveys,
Company-wide and divisional or functional leaders frequently need to disseminate information and updates to their organization. Workstorm’s Announcement feature makes this easy without needing to clutter email, manage clunky listservs or risk an accidental “reply all”. Examples include HR sharing the new benefits guide, practice area leaders sharing key new business wins, or office leaders discussing important in-office events or trainings. By separating internal communications into their department or management-specific areas, team members can pay closer attention to the notifications affecting them directly and monitor areas of interest company wide.
Surveys, which are another way to engage users and collect information, are useful to issue questions to employees and solicit candid feedback in an organized and aggregated view. Workstorm’s survey feature is easy to use and can be quickly shared to individuals, teams, departments or the company.
This latest feature is now in development, allowing users to manage tasks within Workstorm by tagging responsible parties, attaching documents and setting due dates, with individual and shared team view of responsibilities. You can also assign tasks to external users in shared projects and set clear expectations with clients or partners.
Restricted Access to Create Ethical Walls or Ensure Confidentiality
User-based permissions can be set to provide specific access for team members, practice groups or external parties. Managed by firm administrators, these permissions are easy to set up and adjust as needed. There are defined admins for each “team” in order to prevent accidental access or sharing. External users must be invited to collaborate and can access the platform through the Workstorm website, or by downloading the Workstorm desktop and mobile applications.
The Workstorm Mobile App
A full-featured mobile application will delight users because of the ability to collaborate on the go. With a master inbox across all projects and collaboration threads, messages can be read and exchanged and files can be shared, opened or viewed. The full access to all historical messages and files is also available for the convenience of users.
Premise-Based Installation Options
For law firms that prefer to manage their own data, or when they have unique security requirements, an on-premise version of Workstorm, in addition to the traditional cloud hosting model, is available so that data exchanged within Workstorm can be stored behind the firm’s firewall.
With so much native functionality, not much is needed outside of Workstorm, which is the beauty of the product. However, the team recognizes the need for certain integrations specific to the legal industry. For example, iManage and Microsoft Office 365 integrations are available, with more integrations, including Relativity, HighQ and Intapp, on the near-term horizon.
The effort to create a seamless experience rings true in these use cases, as seen in the image below. When working with a client or team, you can share a master agreement directly from your organization’s document store or iManage.
There has never been a better time for professional services firms to pay attention and plan for the adoption of a platform for the daily activities of running a law firm or legal department. As everyday users of dozens of pieces of technology, it is refreshing to see a platform that aims to eliminate the need for multiple windows, passwords, and subscriptions.
While intriguing, Slack’s tagline, “Email is dead,” paints a utopian and unrealistic picture for law firms and legal professionals. A major concern, also true with other platforms, is that Slack began as a consumer product before moving into the enterprise market. Workstorm’s roots grew from a highly-regulated professional services industry and was led by a team that had both the understanding and the ability to focus on the needs of the legal vertical.
Within the next few years, the use of collaboration platforms will not be a luxury. It will be a standard of doing business. Workstorm is perfectly positioned to be the leader in the space, which has already been seen with a steady rate of adoption since launching at ILTACon in 2018.