Death to email: How Treatwell's legal team killed the inbox

The Treatwell legal team is made up of Paul Doran, Head of Legal, and Sam Hammond, Legal Counsel. The team spoke to Crafty Counsel about how they transformed the way they work by integrating instant messenger, Slack, and productivity tool, Asana, to streamline requests and prioritise their tasks.

Treatwell is a platform transforming the way the hair and beauty industry and their clients connect.

What was the problem?

Sam says the issues Treatwell faced are likely familiar to other legal teams.

“There's lots of requests that we get from all across the business, and they're fired at us using lots of different tools and different methods” Sam explains. So, that creates a challenge as it is difficult to keep track of all the matters that come in, and then how to work on them, and how to report back on them.

Another issue is the lack of consistency in the details provided when matters are brought to the legal team’s attention. The quality of the requests vary - they don’t always have deadlines attached, they often lack the right level of detail or understanding, and are sometimes instructed simply too late, as will be familiar to all legal teams.

What is the solution?

The solution is a single and more transparent workflow using Slack and Asana.

Paul says the team “created a different kind of inbox”. As the rest of the business were predominantly working in Slack the team concluded that Slack, rather than email, is where all their requests should be sent.

Sam says, “one of the main reasons we use Slack is because it is the primary tool that everyone uses at Treatwell.” Sam says it helps that people are already so familiar with Slack and it means that the legal team works with the rest of the business using a tool they are comfortable with rather than introducing a new one - which would take time to implement and would require training on how to use it.

Sam explains that the new system ensures that the legal team get clear instructions, which always have a deadline. He says this relieves pressure on the legal team, “you feel a little bit less stressed having to work out what the deadline is, and we have something to aim towards.”

How does the system work?

The team follow the Get Things Done (GTD) philosophy of productivity expert, David Allen. So, they capture all requests in Slack and sort through them there as a ‘giant collection bucket’. They perform triage on the incoming requests in Slack and decide to either do it immediately, not to do it, or to do it later. The matters that will be done later are sent over to the productivity tool Asana where the team’s tasks live.

The team chose to integrate Slack with Asana, because like Slack the business was already using Asana. Requests are raised in specific channels on Slack, with each department at Treatwell having their own channel. The team then sort through requests using three emojis, each signifying a status.

  1. The eyes emoji means the team is looking at a request.
  2. The green tick means the request has been dealt with.
  3. The Asana logo means that the task is more involved, and the team need more time to work on it and it will thus be sent over to Asana.

Paul says using channels helps them work more effectively in Slack. “We all love the instant messaging, but it can get out of control. So, we basically don't really allow individual messages. We don't allow group messages either. We only have channels and it transforms the way that the entire business works, and it has many, many benefits. It increases transparency even among the same teams and it just creates a very organised entry point for legal instructions,” Paul explains.

Creating reports with Slack

Slack is also used as a reporting tool. It counts the emojis and creates a report based on how many requests the legal team have received and what they’ve completed. It also helps the team capture where bigger requests are coming from.

Paul says Slack has helped the team accurately “record all the ad hoc requests” they get. Sam says that “there’s innovative ways of reporting you can do off the back of Slack, which people don't realise”. 

Benefits of Asana

Paul explains that “the primary function in the end of what Asana serves is a cleaned list of unassigned tasks. You've got rid of your small tasks. You've got rid of the questions that aren't really questions, and what remains is a clear, qualified and scoped out list of jobs for the legal team to do”..

Integrating Slack with Asana ensures that the delegation of tasks is transparent and that everything the team is working on is organised and visible in one place. This can aid discussion around certain legal issues and forms part of an internal education where more junior members of the legal team can see how more senior members scope out projects and issues.

Paul says, “a more senior lawyer can scope out a task in Slack, but in a way that the other lawyers and the team can see, it's a huge amount of vicarious learning that just goes in via diffusion, that would otherwise be stuck between the General Counsel and the person responding.”

Advice to other legal teams

Sam worked on the system and figured out how to use Slack with Asana to streamline the team’s workflow. He then trained others in the business on how it works. He used the video training tool Loom to do this. His advice to others “knowing early on what you want the outcome to be and how you want to work, has been something that was really crucial to formulate”. Paul’s advice for legal teams is to look at the way others in the business implement a new tool or way of working, like the IT support team, which he says “ are wholly in control of how they get instructed, and everyone accepts that.” He says legal teams need to be more confident and “just ship it”.

What are the benefits of making the change?

Sam lists some of the benefits as allowing the team “to focus better, feel more organised, and prioritise more efficiently Time to resolution for smaller queries has been reduced by up to 100% (also 100% stress reduction for us lawyers!)”. Paul says making the change has been “genuinely transformative”. He says he feels “clearer cognitively because everything is simple, really simple, and much more efficient.”

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Watch the video interview with Paul & Sam.

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