Today, I chatted with Bhanu Relhan, Managing Director, eDiscovery and Document Review at Elevate. Given Bhanu’s eDiscovery operational and market expertise, it was enlightening to get his point of view on this article, which outlines the challenges of remote document review. Here is the slightly edited transcript.
Prashant: Bhanu, thanks for taking the time to chat. OK, let’s get right to it. Is remote document review going to go by the wayside due to inherent challenges in productivity, as this article implies?
Bhanu: I resonated with the authors on the obstacles listed though I think the industry has come a long way since the pandemic, and I see a changing trend in the market and with our customers. I don’t think our customers care about remote working as long as we deliver on our commitments (speed, accuracy, timely delivery, etc.).
Prashant: Well, the article’s premise is remote review hampers speed, accuracy, and timeliness. Do you agree?
Bhanu: It can, but we have been pretty fortunate (or perhaps we know what we’re doing) not to have any slippage in quality or service levels. Fundamentally, as long as we meet security protocols and continue to showcase the same consistency with our services, I think remote document review is here to stay for a more extended period. Remote working was already a relatively common occurrence in the US compared to India, so the pandemic didn’t interfere. However, it was a completely new concept for almost all of the organizations in India. Because of the pandemic, it has settled well in India, and it will remain for a long time if our customers don’t push us back to an office working environment (I suspect they won’t since they are also mainly staying remote or hybrid).
Prashant: OK, that’s great news. Has the remote document review environment changed the way you manage your teams?
Bhanu: Indeed, it has. If we have a solid plan and governance model for managing our workforce, things can run in the same manner as before. In fact, it has worked in our favour, as people don’t have to spend time commuting. They ultimately save those hours, often working during that time, and have a good work-life balance (sometimes antithetical to document review). I have many team members who spent 3-4 hours commuting and can now use that time to work extra.
Prashant: How did you put a proper governance model in place?
Bhanu: Productivity, instruction, and video conferencing can be managed by having a good governance model. Before the transition to remote operations and while still in the office, I was fortunate enough to prepare the team for remote work and develop a robust schedule and governance model. There was team participation and consensus throughout the exercise. We welcomed and incorporated their input which got us buy-in, and we continue that practice today. We also use Technology Assisted Review (TAR). We break up reviews into different levels of complexity and federate the work accordingly while realistically considering inherent distractions with remote operations. In combination, it works.
Prashant: So, is remote document review headed to its demise?
Bhanu: [Always the diplomat] Obviously, there are pros and cons to every situation. But, overall, I sense a much happier team, much lower turnover, and the same level of consistency without any operational setbacks while working remotely. I would love to keep this going, and my team has the same sentiment. They are happier, which is important to me, and as long as our customers are OK with this, we will continue with remote operations.
For corporate legal departments, remote document review has been an inescapable reality of life under a global pandemic. And thanks to the cost savings and efficiencies gained, remote review appears poised to stick around long after the public health crisis has receded