Remote Document Review: Challenge Creates Opportunity
Despite physical offices around the globe closing, important court and client deadlines still loomed. The pandemic forced document review teams to go remote, but teams still needed to complete their reviews on time without disruptions. Initially, many had doubts about how a large review team could work successfully in a virtual environment. However, according to a recent survey of clients and reviewers conducted by Epiq, it turned out to be a highly successful venture.
So, is remote review the future?
Going virtual overnight certainly came with its share of obstacles. The immediate challenge was getting thousands of reviewers running online, while ensuring security of all data in a user-friendly, collaborative environment. While it seems simple enough to hand reviewers laptops, give them an internet connection, and let them go at it, the reality is that creating a secure environment with full compliance of standard review protocols is a complex challenge.
Hurdle #1: Establishing access management.
To enable contract reviewers to work remotely, providers had to put time and money into creating effective security protocols to ensure that a user could not replicate or steal data nor could users experience a breach from a home location. Unsurprisingly, access management controls became extremely important. To create the appropriate levels of control, a multifactor identification process login was essential. The challenge was getting reviewers to understand the security process from their own homes. To overcome this hurdle, teams needed security steps to be clearly documented and many remote screen sharing sessions for more comprehensive training. The Epiq survey showed that after the first few training sessions, reviewers became comfortable with the login process and it soon became second nature.
Hurdle #2: Recreating familiar spaces.
Virtual environments do not truly mimic what a review would look like if hosted in a brick and mortar location. Reviewers are used to working on machines that are user-friendly and intuitive. Considering all the other types of training and onboarding that reviewers need to adjust to a remote review system, any opportunity to keep a part of the review process similar to a traditional review center should be kept. Instead of deploying an entirely new operating system, virtual machines were customized to look and feel like Microsoft 10, but maintained the latest security protocols. By keeping the user interface familiar, reviewers were able to onboard to the remote system faster without sacrificing compliance.
Hurdle #3: Ensuring security.
With the big switch to remote work across all industries, hackers have been upping their game to penetrate data rich environments. It is no longer enough to simply install security patches on computers; education must be a key component of a secure system. For better or worse, employees are the weakest link when it comes to keeping an environment secure. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, phishing schemes are at an all-time high with bad faith actors targeting those hungry for more information. All Epiq reviewers were trained to spot what emails were potential schemes and which should be avoided. As a result, security consciousness became a normal part of the workday. As one reviewer noted in their survey, “I am more mindful to take security seriously because it is not the typical work environment.”
While these trainings can take time away from review, it is necessary to make all reviewers more mindful before clicking links, which means a safer review process.
Hurdle #4: Instill collaboration.
Traditional document reviews are held with all reviewers huddled together in one space, which makes collaboration easy. A major challenge was replicating that collaborative spirit in a remote environment. Choosing Microsoft Teams as a collaborative tool allowed reviewers to stay “huddled” despite being physically apart. Teams allowed for information sharing in real time and for private chats or group chats. There is also a screen-sharing functionality within the team, along with the ability to easily and securely share documents. Reviewers could easily ask coworkers or managers urgent questions and share results with the team in seconds. And for those missing the smiles on their co-reviewers faces, videoconferencing is an option. One survey respondent explained the impact that Teams had on their ability to collaborate by saying, “I like having the Microsoft Teams chat feature because everyone can easily discuss how to interpret protocol in light of different types of documents in real time. All the information on discussions is easily accessible.”
While email and phone calls were always available and used, Teams was a helpful addition to a remote review team.
Hurdle #5: Managing performance.
Managing a review from afar simply cannot be the same as being physically present in a review center. Effective remote management requires leaders to have superior communication skills and the ability to run extensive metrics. As mentioned above, with everyone in remote locations, communication needs to be written, whether in training materials on how to access the virtual desktop, or responses to questions in Teams. Answering questions in a way that the entire team will understand and appreciate certainly makes a review more efficient.
Metrics to ascertain how well reviewers performing has always been important, but became especially vital with the team out of sight. These metrics reveal if a reviewer is less productive than the average, or coding with many mistakes. Knowing these data points allowed the manager to either replace the reviewer or speak to them directly to fix the problem.
Benefit #1: Increased productivity.
After running metrics and speaking to clients and reviewers, it became clear that reviewers working remotely are more productive. What are the possible links between remote review and increased productivity?
One explanation is simple: no more commutes. For many reviewers, taking out the commute has allowed them to put more energy into reviewing documents. Another explanation is comfort. Reviewers have found being in the comfort of their own home, sitting in a comfortable chair or sofa - not to mention the comfort of sweats over professional wear- has led them to be more productive.
Benefit #2: Reviews without limits.
Being remote takes location out of the feasibility equation. Now, a team can be put together from any state or country, making the team more diverse and specifically catered to the review at hand. If there is a foreign language involved, reviewers fluent in that language can be more easily pulled in, and if specific expertise is needed, such as a scientific background, having the flexibility to pull reviewers worldwide makes it easier to get someone on board quickly.
Benefit #3: Cost savings.
As more reviews go remote, providers will be able to shut down their brick and mortar sites. The costs of hosting teams in a physical location will diminish. While there may be other types of cost, like increased hosting spaces or equipment costs, the savings that comes with reducing a real estate footprint will still be present. Consequently, the cost of reviews if done remotely will decrease and can provide more savings to clients.
Epiq Survey Results
In our proprietary survey, Epiq measured both client and reviewer satisfaction with remote document review. 62% of clients who participated in the Epiq survey said that remote document review significantly exceeded or exceeded their expectations, with 33% saying it met expectations, only 5% saying it partially met their expectations, and 0% saying it did not meet expectations. More importantly, 100% of responders said they would be open to using remote document review as a permanent solution, even when businesses can safely reopen.
Of the reviewers asked, 84% of them said remote is their preferred work environment, with 10% saying they had no preference. Only 18% of reviewers felt that the remote environment was less collaborative, but an overwhelming 98% of reviewers felt they are just as productive, if not more so, in a remote environment.
With initial challenges conquered, remote document review is a near match of a traditional document review. Metrics show productivity has remained the same, and clients are appreciating the benefits of going virtual. This solution is sure to remain popular in the short term, and may be the way of the future.
“We focused on developing valuable solutions to help clients better navigate these challenging times,” said Thomas Tromiczak, senior vice president for review services. “Epiq’s secure remote review solution is an important example of how we were able to innovate and evolve with the times to transform the business of law.”
Epiq presented our full survey results in a Webinar on July 8, 2020. If you would like to watch the Webinar recording, complete the request form available here.