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Road Tested: Online Collaboration Tools

Posted by Jennifer Smuts on Jan 24, 2017 2:49:21 PM

Insights to Bolster Communication 


Welcome to Road Tested, the quarterly blog post from your LMA Technology Committee where we look at workplace technology solutions that can benefit LMA members and their firms. Our hope is to provide insight and perspective on, and occasionally warnings about, tools that legal marketers can use to do their jobs better.

In our first installment, we look at three online collaboration tools: Slack, HipChat and Workplace by Facebook.

In an effort to bolster communication in a more efficient way and enable team members to engage in an online conversation, Slack has become a fan favorite. Slack is a free messaging app for teams. “It’s been a great way to connect with the LMA Tech Committee members in between our calls,” said Lindsay Griffiths, director of global relationship management at International Lawyers Network. It’s intuitive and easy to use, and has a number of functional (and fun!) features that encourage communication, like simple direct messaging and the integrated Giphy tool.  

There is also an Atlassian product called HipChat. HipChat's group chat is also free and promises to “bring your team together from anywhere with apps on every device.” One of the benefits of this tool is its ability to integrate with hundreds of other platforms. HipChat also adds a bit of whimsy with its custom emoticons. The Tech Committee members raised a legitimate challenge with this tool as well, saying such programs take up a lot of bandwidth. Needless to say, this will lead to lag issues and/or potential crashing.

The final product we looked at turned out to be our least favorite offering: Workplace by Facebook, formerly known as Facebook at Work. Product review website, Pocket-lint, calls it a Slack competitor that offers part social network, part messenger, and part productivity tool. We believe it is more than the average law firm would ever need (or, frankly, even be able to use). Workplace by Facebook incorporates a news feed, live video, group video, audio calling and automatic translation, all in addition to the standard chat function. Consequently, the hefty, do-it-all platform lacks appeal for the Tech Committee’s discrete purposes. However, very large organizations like Starbucks — which has signed up its 200,000+ employees for the service — may find the service beneficial because of company-wide deployment to communicate with workers around the world via a variety of channels.  

Across the board, one challenge the Tech Committee members raised is that most law firm IT departments are continuously ramping up privacy and security efforts, therefore blocking access to social media outlets. “This is a huge challenge as we don’t get the real-time benefit of these tools,” said Rachel Shield Williams, global business development and marketing manager at Sidley Austin.

Now it’s time to grab a grande vanilla latte and think about our next round of tech items, products and issues. If you have suggestions, you can reach us directly at or by contacting


Jenn Smuts is a senior marketer with broad experience across business-to-business marketing in large- and medium-sized law firms. She currently works as the director of business development & marketing at Morris, Nichols, Arsht & Tunnell LLP, focusing on the implementation of information and process improvement tools. A founding member and past president of the LMA Metro Philadelphia Chapter, Jenn served as co-executive editor of Strategies from 2002–2008. She is actively involved as a Technology Committee member.   

Prior to legal marketing she lived and worked overseas in Melbourne, Australia, and Kwazulu Natal, South Africa.

Topics: Technology Management, Communications

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