Over the past several months, we interviewed many legal professionals to understand how they work.
What we found is that when it comes to collaboration with external parties— whether it’s opposing counsel, partners, or clients—email is the default tool, especially when working at arms-length on document reviews, contract negotiations, and legal filings.
What’s surprising is that a growing number of lawyers are actively looking for alternatives to email. Here are the top five reasons why.
1. Security and Privacy Concerns
Hands down, security and privacy were at the top of this list. One lawyer we spoke with pointed out that every time they emailed a new version of a document, it’s duplicated into every recipient’s inbox where it sits, often unencrypted. This “document proliferation problem” can create long-term security risks (i.e., mail server hacks) and regulatory compliance challenges (i.e., violation of data minimization requirements).
2. Risks of inadvertent data disclosures
Nearly every lawyer mentioned a recent instance of receiving misdirected emails or emails with incorrect attachments. In fact one lawyer received one during our interview! “Misdirected email,” or emails sent to the wrong person, and “Incorrect attachment,” or emails with wrong documents or the wrong document version, are examples of inadvertent data disclosures.
These inadvertent and erroneous data disclosures are startlingly common serious issues that can trigger data breach reporting requirements. And given that there’s no way to recall email, it’s a big reason why everyone has confidentiality disclaimers and prewritten “please disregard my previous email” templates at the ready at all times.
3. Negative hit to productivity
We were hard-pressed to find anyone that enjoyed email.
In fact, several legal professionals complained that at least 20% of their day was spent searching for documents and comments across email and every other communication channel (slack, teams, texts, WhatsApp, etc). The volume of emails and their lack of structure made it hard to navigate the hundreds of messages and threads related to the projects they had ongoing. On complex projects, simply keeping all the email and attachments in order feels like a full-time job.
But that’s not all. The messiness of the email threads made transitioning projects to other attorneys (either temporarily or permanently) incredibly challenging.
4. Difficulty creating closing binders
Most legal practitioners have adopted electronic signatures such as DocuSign for close. However, we found that a majority struggle with the “pre-signature” process of approving, preparing, and collating documents, especially when there are several sets of documents that are being worked on.
A common challenge is gathering all the final, approved versions that need to be signed. (And as mentioned above, sometimes the wrong versions are sent). Again, we heard many stories on why email makes it painful: it’s tough to figure out who has the last version or if a particular attachment was approved.
5. A lack of audit trails and document version history
For several attorneys, creating a historical record/audit trail of the entire negotiation and collating documents and their versions is an important post-close record-keeping activity. After all, in litigations, the court can examine the parties’ communications closely to see if an enforceable agreement has been reached.
The challenge is that email makes this exercise almost impossible. As a few lawyers pointed out, building an audit trail from email is a manual process. It requires searching, analyzing, and filing emails, figuring out who did what, what did they write and when, when did certain documents appear, and how did they evolve. Digging through email to build out history can take a few hours to a few days. It’s annoying but necessary work.
What lawyers want
When we asked lawyers about what they’d do to “fix” email, here’s what we heard. Most lawyers want a platform that would be:
- Consistent with the data minimization principles in regulations such as the CCRA and GDPR. Practically this means more control over the proliferation and persistence of documents exchanged in collaborations.
- Have better transparency over who’s participating and what’s being exchanged to avoid inadvertent data disclosures.
- Contain a complete and concise view of all their ongoing projects or collaborations. And for each collaboration, collate all the documents to be archived or signed.
- Finally, most participants would like a way to automatically record history as it happens (as opposed to building it after the fact). Ideally, it would all end up in an archive that contained a history of the entire process, all files (and versions), and messages exchanged.
And, many lawyers were clear about what they don’t want, namely giving up Microsoft Word or being forced to use a different document editing platform.
It’s time to TakeTurns
Everything we learned from legal professionals fed into the design of TakeTurns. It’s a new way to collaborate with external parties on documents and files turn-by-turn. With TakeTurns, lawyers keep using their favorite tools to author, redline, and manage legal documents but collaborate more securely and efficiently with their counterparts.
A growing number of lawyers and legal professionals are quitting email and adopting TakeTurns as their go-to application for collaboration with other parties because TakeTurns brings the structure, security, and transparency to collaborations.
With TakeTurns, you and your parties will know whose turn it is to work, track the full history, and maintain confidentiality. Learn more in our Help Center or follow us on LinkedIn and YouTube. And when you’re ready for chaos-free collaboration: Try TakeTurns for free.