The future of legal staffing and document review: Is remote work here to stay?
The legal profession takes a traditional approach to many of its core functions, which shouldn't come as a surprise. In a field with a high degree of regulation and oversight, and one that produces outcomes with the potential to change lives, using a proven model to complete key processes simply makes sense.
The COVID-19 pandemic pushed the entire economy toward remote work, a solution that effectively addressed public health concerns and helped companies maintain productivity. The legal profession in general, and the document review process in particular, will likely look much different going forward. Many law firms and other businesses in this field have recognized the distinct value of their employees working from home.
A forced change with strongly positive outcomes in document review
The shift to nearly all staff working from home in the legal space was a relatively smooth one, despite the general lack of such policies beforehand and the need to quickly make the transition due to serious health concerns. While all industries experienced some form of growing pains due to this change, it appears the legal world in general —and document review in particular —have adapted quite successfully.
Many law firms and legal industry organizations quickly realized that they stood to benefit from this new approach. Advantages of a work-from-home model include:
A larger candidate pool
Hiring for an office-based role requires that all candidates either live close enough to commute or are willing to relocate. While an experienced staffing firm can capably identify the top talent in a given area, that group is still limited by geography or interest in moving for a new position. Recruiting for virtual roles means a nationwide talent search that yields the very best candidates from the largest pool possible, with no restrictions based on location.
In terms of Beacon Hill's own pool of document review candidates, a remote, national strategy means accessing our entire attorney candidate pool. Instead of limiting a search based on geography, a remote hiring strategy means access to all of the more than 30,000 document review attorney candidates in our database.
Quickly adjusting to changing staffing needs
Law firms often don't retain permanent employees for document review, although some maintain a small group of staff attorneys. When a firm takes on a large case, such as one involving a subpoena from a federal or local/state Department of Justice, it must quickly grow its roster of document review attorneys. With remote work opportunities, it's easier to quickly find qualified candidates from across the country instead of only near an individual or limited number of physical office locations.
More effective management of remote staff
Many of our clients found that the amount of time dedicated to managing document review attorneys decreased in a virtual working environment. Without everyone in a single space, efficient new methods of interaction, collaboration and managerial review emerged. Team communication has grown easier through systems like digital reporting and teleconferencing tools for one-on-one and group meetings. Managerial staff have more time available to address a variety of priorities, while the output and quality of work of document review attorneys remains at the same generally high level or even improves.
Although not unique to the legal profession, lower costs are a major reason why many businesses have embraced remote work. When all document review staff work in a physical office location, a business has to address many financial responsibilities. The office space by itself often represents a significant expense. Equipment and supplies is another substantial need — every employee needs to have the right tools for the job provided to them in an office setting. And the price of in-person management for document reviewers adds another layer, with managers also needing space, equipment and supplies.
The variable cost of living for candidates across the country also comes into play. A competitive salary for a document review attorney living in a rural area or small city can be far less than that of a candidate living in a major metropolis like New York or Los Angeles. Law firms can more carefully manage pay rates when drawing from a national pool of candidates, while still providing attractive compensation to the attorneys hired.
Lowered operating costs, a larger pool of candidates and increased agility in addressing large or especially complex cases can all benefit clients, along with the firm providing the document review services. Offering reduced prices or avoiding the need to increase them, while maintaining or improving overall quality of work, can help to keep clients loyal and satisfied. And with so many clients facing their own financial limitations due to the pandemic and related economic uncertainty, lowered costs are especially attractive.
What's next for document review?
The many benefits of working from home in the context of document review positions are too powerful to ignore. While some companies may take a traditional or hybrid approach with document review attorneys going forward, a large majority of firms will continue to focus on remote work.
About 95% of Beacon Hill's own clients have said they won't return to an in-office strategy for document review once that option again becomes feasible.
Law firms will need to keep assessing the effectiveness of remote work strategies and providing the right kinds of support for remote staff for the best possible outcomes. Engagement, motivation and a sense of belonging with the document review team, and organization as a whole, are vital. Health, wellness, team building and communication all play important roles as well. Investing in the tools that connect remote workers and adapting long-standing practices are high-priority action items.
Securing top candidates for your document review needs
Remote work means more access to all available candidates, but a broad increase in law firm activity in 2020 and into 2021 means more competition as well. The candidate pool is finite, but demand is increasing. Beacon Hill's expert team of document review recruiters can help your business ramp up efforts to secure the best possible talent. To learn more, get in touch with us today.
This content is brought to you by the Marketing Team at Beacon Hill Staffing Group.