Remote Working and Lessons Learned in eDiscovery

May 26, 2021 Salvatore Mancuso

Over the past year, the number of legal services professionals working from home has skyrocketed to as much as 75% by some estimates. During the onset of the pandemic, organizations had to quickly pivot on several fronts to ensure secure, uninterrupted services for their clients and find new ways of working to sustain productivity.

The massive shift to remote working has prompted rethinking and rewriting of the best-practice playbook in eDiscovery. Now, more than a year in, the changes initially implemented out of necessity have turned into paradigm shifts with staying power.

“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”
– Albert Einstein

Three unanticipated advancements gained through the shift to remote working:

1) Collaboration is easier. The very recent norm used to be that teams working in disparate locations would rely on email, phone calls or physically traveling to meet with each other as the primary avenues for collaboration. The commonality of video get-togethers during the pandemic has changed all that.

Remote working has made it easier for people to strengthen their sense of connection by meeting and working together via one-on-one or group video conference. It’s also caused many to realize how much they had been working in silos before.

Today, it’s common to hear from eDiscovery team members that the feeling of separateness from their teammates in another state or country has largely been replaced by a sense of familiarity fostered by on-camera meetings and/or the ability to share and view work in real time. This has improved connectedness and collaboration not only among work colleagues, but also with clients.

2) Transparency and trust with clients have grown. In client engagements, information sharing has become easier as teams can demonstrate and share aspects of the eDiscovery process that clients previously would not have been able to view in real time. Combined with simplified pathways to collaboration as described above, and the ability to have more regular online check-ins with clients — trust between clients and their eDiscovery providers has strengthened.

3) Cost efficiency. With a significant portion of their workforce operating remotely, legal services organizations have been able to reduce their reliance on brick-and-mortar office space. This has in turn reduced their exposure to related capital expenses and travel expenses while averting other operational barriers through digital advancements.

Though many unanticipated positives have emerged, there are still new challenges to contend with in this work-from-home environment. Let’s look at some of those…

Four new challenges in the remote-working ecosystem:

1) Immediacy as an expectation. In a digital, remote-work ecosystem, people are getting increasingly used to things happening fast and/or in real time. The centuries-old practice of law is seeing its traditional way of doing things being turned on its head. Major strides have been achieved, but the learning curve will take some time, as moments like this humorously demonstrate.

Massive volumes of electronic information is today’s norm — reflecting multiple communication channels and varying technological devices and systems. Being able to strike a balance in handling this new set of technology-driven demands and the tried-and-true methods that built the foundation of sound eDiscovery — will be a big differentiator for success going forward.

2) New training requirements. Becoming proficient in the technology replacing in-person interaction has meant an added learning curve and training requirement for many legal services organizations. eDiscovery teams have had to implement additional training on several fronts, including soft skills; virtual-meeting technology skills; compliance requirements and data security training to name a few. Especially in the early stages of the shift to remote working, these created additional burdens and stress for organizations and their teams.

3) Security and bandwidth as data touch points and volumes grow. People connecting, communicating and sharing information across a multitude of channels, from numerous remote locations creates more security-vulnerable touch points as well as more security assurance requirements. Upping investments in security may have been a trend pre-pandemic — today, it’s become imperative.

The increase in malware incidents during the pandemic has risen as an urgent issue that companies are having to deal with head on. eDiscovery service providers have had to reinvent the way they handle the security and transfer of client-sensitive critical case media and information. It’s been mission-critical to update best practices with specific protocols on how to securely move to and from work-from-home and all the associated information-handling practices.

  • Larger bandwidths are now required to handle comprehensive eDiscovery searches and data transfers.
  • Secure FTP capacity has also had to increase with secure FTPs growing in use.
  • Deeper, broader disaster preparedness is essential.
  • Expanded use of collaborative platforms has amplified the need to improve discoverability of collaboration data.

4) Disconnecting from work. With always-on connectivity, it’s easier than ever for team members to stay connected and working when they should be disconnecting and not working. The lines between work and personal time have blurred as a result.

Establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries between “work time” and “personal time” is something organizations need to prioritize to support their teams and foster positive morale and smart productivity. This pays off in warding off burn-out, reducing stress, improving day to day mental health and creating happier, more satisfied team members. Work/life balance translates into a more effective workforce.

eDiscovery teams have stepped up to quickly navigate a host of new challenges in 2020/2021. Overcoming technology hurdles and establishing new ways of working are driving operational breakthroughs and elevating eDiscovery capabilities for the future.

About Conduent eDiscovery solutions
Corporations, law firms and legal service providers need to be able to maintain a sharp focus on their unique data universe, requirements and caseload. Conduent’s eDiscovery solutions leverage the power of big data and AI automation to help our clients excel.

About the Author

Salvatore Mancuso

Sal Mancuso is Senior Director of Delivery for Conduent's Legal, Compliance & Analytics Solutions. He has designed and successfully run Litigation Support and eDiscovery departments for over 25 years. Since his start in legal community in 1988, he has worked alongside attorneys at law firms such as Proskauer Rose, Willkie Farr and Greenberg Traurig. Sal has established himself as an expert in the field of eDiscovery, providing law firms and their clients assistance with defensible cost-effective workflows and solutions, development of ESI protocols, design of data preservation orders, handling of IT interviews, data mapping, and data collection.

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