Maggie Burtoft, ProSearch: Chat Is Not Email: A Guide to Modern Communication and E-Discovery

Extract from Maggie Burtoft’s article “Chat Is Not Email: A Guide to Modern Communication and E-Discovery”

Corporate communications are evolving at record speed. Just as email replaced typewritten memos decades ago, collaborative chat platforms such as Slack and Teams are rapidly replacing email today. While chat was initially limited to personal and informal communications, a significant amount of corporate communication now occurs outside email and within chat interfaces.

The proliferation of chat as a legitimate business tool has created new realities for e-discovery professionals. The methods they’ve adapted for handling email and other ESI need to evolve yet again to address the unique characteristics of chat data.

What Makes Chat Data Different

Traditional email paradigms cannot be applied to chat data. To start with, people use chat to communicate entirely differently than they use email. Email has maintained a sense of formality for the most part, while chat messages are typically far more informal, often contain spelling errors due to a lack of a spell check and are rife with abbreviations, emojis and even gifs. For example, a “thumbs up” might be the extent of a response. All of the foregoing are true even for official, discoverable business communications. Among other things, this means that chats aren’t easily searchable, which presents a significant challenge from an e-discovery perspective.

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