Experts Weigh In on the ‘New Normal’ of Working During the Pandemic: Part 3

By : | On June 17, 2020 |

As part of our series discussing current challenges posed by the pandemic, we continue to speak with industry experts across a range of specialties related to managing electronic information and gather their insights. In addition, these individuals have also provided some projections regarding their expectations of the “New Normal”, as travel restrictions are eased and office are re-opened across America.

Being a life-long resident of the New York Metro area, having lived only in two States, New Jersey and New York, certainly the pandemic’s impacted my location substantially, and residents here are feeling the immediate effects more than other areas.  Daily news briefings from local area politicians continue to sound dire warnings even as we continue to ease some of the restrictions imposed to help flatten the curve of the spread of the virus.

Throughout the past few months, we have already learned some lessons regarding the use of technology as means of helping limit the spread of Covid 19.  Accommodating employees by enabling them to work from home during the crisis has been vital for businesses. Roles that can be accomplished remotely are allowing companies to function despite the health concerns associated with reporting to an office.

The remarks shared by industry colleagues have pertained to changes brought on by the crisis, some of which might become permanent organizational changes.  Upon the removal of travel constraints certain functions could become permanently remote roles, as organizations find unexpected efficiencies by allowing certain workers to continue to fill their roles remotely.  Many law firms will support and approve the continued use of “work-from-home” technology solutions that were implemented during the crisis, provided those tools have proven to be effective. There are points that favor continued use of remote capabilities such as: reduced costs for physical office space; reduced costs for commuting and travel; and increased productivity through the removal of commuting.

Certain experts were kind enough to share their thoughts with me regarding their expected impact of the crises, along with remarks regarding the creative use of technology as part of an organizational strategy as to how to continue operations during and after the crises.  Hope this information serves as a useful resource for you as you navigate these uncertain times.

 

Doug Austin, Editor – eDiscovery Today (ediscoverytoday.com)

“The pandemic and forced work at home scenario has compelled law firms and other organizations to quickly adjust to a “new normal” way of doing business and I don’t think we will ever fully go back to the way we were before.  Even before the pandemic, remote work scenarios were on the rise and a greater percentage of employees in many organizations were remote workers.  Now, almost all of us are – at least for the time being – in legal and legal technology.

Here are three predictions as to how the “new normal” will affect those in legal technology and eDiscovery:

Companies bidding on work will have to demonstrate a sound business continuity plan and remote work qualifications.  These will be qualifications that clients will insist that their providers can demonstrate to award work to those providers.  Some services, like document review services, may almost be exclusively handled remotely going forward as cloud solutions have become more prominent and reviewers can be equally productive – at much lower overhead – remotely.

Audio and video discovery will become much more important.  When nearly all meetings are being conducted on Zoom, Teams or other web conferencing software, guess what happens?  A lot more of those meetings will be recorded, for record keeping and reference purposes.  And, guess what happens when those companies are sued?  That’s right – all of those web conference recordings could potentially become discoverable.  Expect technology that supports discovery of audio and video files to take a big leap forward to support the exponential increase in demand.

Job postings will no longer be about location, location, location!  Hopefully there will be good news for job seekers in legal and legal technology as greater acceptance of remote work will reduce the importance of being located within a specific city to be considered for a position.  Many more positions will be listed with an ‘any location’ designation and companies will be much more focused on a job applicant’s qualifications than whether they reside in (or are willing to relocate to) a specific city.”

 

Ann Gorr, IGP, Legal Technology Consultant/IG Strategist; Ann Gorr, LLC

The clients who I serve in the Small-to-Mid-size Legal Vertical Market fall into three categories pertaining to technology and the COVID crisis.  There were those who were already successfully accommodating the needs of the mobile workforce.  For those firms, their challenge when the crisis hit was in rapidly expanding that mobile environment to meet the needs of support staff and those professionals who had not yet truly adopted the mobile attorney mindset.  Other firms were in some phase of adopting a comprehensive WFH / Mobile workforce environment when the pandemic interrupted their progress.  Some components of their tech upgrade were fully vetted and implemented while others were still in the pipeline for completion.  The COVID-19 crisis served to highlight the critical need for them to continue the forward momentum in finalizing a comprehensive mobile/WFH environment solution.  And for those firms who were dragging their feet and delaying the inevitable, they are currently in the process of keeping a lot of tech vendors busy while trying to quickly cobble together a solution to address the new WFH requirements.

There are commonalities among all three scenarios – both positive and negative.  From the positive perspective – every firm had to do some resourceful and innovative thinking to accomplish their goals of being able to survive and/or flourish in the WFH environment.   Processes and workflows were adapted to handle actions that had never been performed remotely before.  Every single employee/member of the firm was required to work from home simultaneously – something that none of us would have anticipated at the beginning of 2020.  Yet somehow the world did not come to a total screeching halt despite the various levels of preparedness noted above.

However – from the negative perspective – being in the change management and business requirements realm, it is always concerning to me when processes are pushed through the pipeline in a hurry.  Gaps are left open, balls are dropped, areas of concern are overlooked, and that typically leads to disruption of some sort further down the line for firms.  The biggest areas of concern would be in cybersecurity, privacy, and risk.  There are so many moving parts and it only takes for one to be out of place for havoc to be wreaked upon the firm.  Whether the “out of place” component occurred because of a glitch in the rollout  plan (or lack thereof) or it occurred because of users who can be quite creative when left to their own devices in the problem solving arena – I’m certain that there will be resulting fallout discovered in the days ahead as we prepare return not to the “new normal” but instead to the “new different!”

Learn what other industry experts says about “New Normal” of working;

How can organizations address data challenges during the pandemic? Read the views of experts

Experts’ thoughts on anticipated return to normalcy in the workplace

Joe Bartolo

About Joe Bartolo

As an Information Governance and Risk Solutions subject matter expert, Joe has over 13 years of experience providing consultative litigation support services to AM Law 200 Firms, and Fortune 500 corporations throughout North America and the EU. In addition, He was formerly a litigator, with over 7 years of experience as a practicing attorney in New York State.

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