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Remote Document Review Post-Pandemic

December 8, 2023

Legal Talent Outsourcing

Navigating the New Normal: eDiscovery Challenges and Opportunities in Remote Document Review Post-Pandemic

Imagine a world where legal professionals, from lawyers at law firms to those employed by outsourced document review specialist firms, sift through confidential documents, not in high-security offices, but from their kitchen tables or local coffee shops. This scenario, once a far-fetched idea, became a reality during the COVID-19 pandemic. The emergency shift to remote document review transformed a cornerstone of the litigation process, challenging long-standing practices.

This change, initially a quick fix, has now opened a Pandora's box of challenges—in particular, legal professionals tasked with document review juggling multiple cases from home, leading to errors and potential security breaches. These issues highlight a pressing need for a different approach—one that embraces the structured security of traditional document review practices. In this article, we explore this delicate balancing act, seeking solutions that protect both efficiency and confidentiality in the post-pandemic world.
 

Document Review: The Pre-Pandemic Norm

Before the pandemic, document review was a highly regimented process, carried out in secure, controlled environments. Law firms and legal departments, together with their outsourced document review partners, enforced strict protocols to maintain the integrity and confidentiality of sensitive information. These document review projects took place in dedicated spaces, designed specifically to minimize distractions and ensure a high level of focus. Access was regulated, often with prohibitions against use of personal devices, monitored internet usage, and entry and exit controls. This setup was crucial for maintaining robust data security and keeping sensitive, confidential, and/or privilege information within the confines of the review space.

The physical layout of these centers also fostered an atmosphere of concentration and collaboration. Teams worked side by side in these secure locations, allowing for real-time problem solving and immediate quality checks. This separation of work and personal life was key in maintaining a high degree of focus, significantly reducing the risk of errors that could come from distractions, multitasking and maintained security so training materials stayed in a secure setting. Overall, this pre-pandemic approach to document review was highly effective in terms of prioritizing security and efficiency in handling legal documents.
 

The Pandemic Shift

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, it necessitated an abrupt shift in the legal industry's approach to document review. In response to lockdowns and social distancing mandates, law firms, corporate legal departments, and outsourced document review firms quickly adapted by implementing remote document review. This move, driven by emergency measures, marked a significant departure from the traditional, controlled environments. By leveraging digital technologies and cloud-based platforms, legal professionals were able to continue their work from the safety of their homes. 

Initially, this shift to remote document review was met with a positive reception. It offered unprecedented flexibility to legal professionals, allowing them to maintain productivity while balancing personal and health concerns. The ability to work from anywhere broke down geographical barriers, offering firms access to a broader talent pool. Moreover, the reduction in the need for physical office space hinted at potential cost savings. For many, this change seemed like a win-win situation, balancing operational continuity with newfound work-life balance. But challenges have emerged as remote policies have sustained despite the waning of pandemic concerns.
 

Emerging Challenges in Remote Document Review

Approaching the four-year anniversary of the shift to remote document review, certain challenges have become apparent, which temper the initial benefits of this new approach. One of the issues is a potential increase in miscoding of documents and focus-related errors. Because of the abundance of remote document review work, many legal professionals have the opportunity to take on multiple projects from different document review service providers and do the work from home without supervision. Whether working on such projects consecutively during different parts of the day, or, even worse, trying to work on them concurrently, such multitasking may lead to lapses in attention and a decline in the precision of document review. The overlap in working on multiple cases at the same time, in particular, can cause critical details to be overlooked and documents to be mis-coded, thereby exacerbating the risks of costly mistakes and blurring the focus necessary for each distinct case.
 

A Different Approach: Balancing Flexibility with Security

In response to the unique challenges presented by remote document review, Lexitas has adopted a balanced approach to address the challenges raised by remote document review, prioritizing both flexibility and security. Recognizing the drawbacks of a fully remote setup, we chose to double down on our dedicated workspace for document review. While we handle document reviews in accordance with our clients’ preferences, which may include remote review or deploying professionals to our client's preferred locations nationwide, many of our reviews are conducted at our dedicated center in Michigan—a resource many of our competitors now lack. Our review center hosts up to 60 reviewers with the ability to expand up to 200 and features an on-site Legal Recruitment, IT Manager and eDiscovery Project Managers.
 

Conclusion

As we continue to navigate the post-pandemic era in the highly complex and high-stakes legal industry, it's critical to think through the wisdom and efficacy of sustaining measures, such as conducting document review remotely, that were implemented out of necessity during the pandemic. The transition to remote work in document review, while introducing flexibility and breaking down geographical barriers, has also brought to light significant challenges in terms of maintaining focus, accuracy, and data security. At Lexitas, we’ve chosen a path that leverages the structured security of a dedicated workspace, which we believe allows us to provide more certainty and better results for our clients. Learn more about our approach to document review by contacting our team.
 
Author Image

Meron Hewis

President, Legal Talent Division

Meron Hewis is the President of the Legal Talent Outsourcing Division of Lexitas. Ms. Hewis has over 20 years of experience in legal consulting, project management, and alternative legal talent outsourcing solutions. She is a thought leader in the industry, providing unique legal solutions and designing the operations of various legal programs internationally.

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