Traditionally, document review has been conducted by team of reviewers working together in the same location. Since the review is done electronically, it opens the possibility for virtual or remote review, with people working in different locations. While there are some benefits to this approach, there are also pitfalls that companies should weigh carefully before deciding which path to take.
Among the advantages of a virtual review is access to a deeper labor pool. This may result in lower cost because eDiscovery service providers can use contract attorneys in less expensive areas who may be willing to work for less money than those in New York City or Washington DC. Theoretically, those savings are passed along to companies/law firms. In addition, since the eDiscovery provider is not limited geographically in looking for contract attorneys to work on a matter, they can hire based on qualifications alone.
Although access to more talent is beneficial, there are other factors which weigh against using virtual review. In terms of the qualifications of reviewers, many litigation-heavy markets have plenty of experienced contract attorneys, so talent is readily available and is often more skilled than those in small markets. Regardless of the size of the market, it is important to evaluate who the provider hires and how carefully it vets and supervises reviewers.
With respect to costs, while some money can be saved with less expensive reviewers, there may be a loss of efficiency and quality of the work with virtual teams. In any setting, it can be difficult to manage a team of 20-30 reviewers, a group size typical of most large cases. A supervisor must provide training and ongoing instructions, monitor progress and conduct quality control. The benefit of having all the reviewers work together onsite is that the manager can supervise the team more closely, be on hand to answer questions and deliver instructions to everyone at once. The team also can talk with and gain case specific insight from one another.
Virtual teams often suffer from communication and work schedule issues. Everyone may not be working at the same time and may miss notifications. Supervisors cannot make observations about whether someone is having difficulty or is unmotivated or unproductive based on their behavior. Technology can mitigate some of these concerns, but they do not fully replace in-person impressions.
In addition, there is also a greater chance of technology-related issues. For example, everyone on virtual teams is using their own technology, which can vary significantly. If someone is having difficulties, there is time needed to troubleshoot that individual’s problem and fix it. When the team works together and uses the same technology, IT issues can be solved promptly, minimizing down time.
Security is also a potential risk with virtual teams. Confidential documents are being sent to multiple people which may pose security concerns. Individuals may be hacked, or they may allow others to access the documents within their home/workplace. In a single onsite environment, there is more control over who sees what and when.
Before you choose onsite or remote review, discuss the above concerns with the eDiscovery service provider. Contact CDS for a consultation.