In: Discovery, General

Many fields have been significantly affected by the COVID-19 global pandemic. Fields such as accommodations and restaurants were so profoundly impacted that they have struggled to fully recover. There were very few fields that were truly immune to the impacts of COVID-19. Due to its nature and the type of work we do, the legal services / eDiscovery field has been able to navigate the global pandemic better than many other fields. According to a Statistics Canada report on the fallout from the pandemic, our industry (Data processing, hosting, and related services) saw growth in revenue at a slower rate in 2020 than in 2019. While this is unfortunate, the table below shows that our industry fared better than comparable industries. 

A large part of what we do at NearZero involves legal services and eDiscovery. Like any other company, we were affected by this pandemic and the workplace shifts that came along with it. Although the world has undergone many changes over the past few years, eDiscovery has shown itself to be a great career path and an exceptional field for adjusting to these changes. While the COVID-19 global pandemic significantly changed the modern workplace, this was fortunately not a negative or impractical implications in eDiscovery. Instead, the field underwent several improvements in hopes of overcoming the impacts. Navigating the pandemic exposed us to the benefits of working in eDiscovery, and there were great lessons we learned.

Ability to Work from Home

One of these benefits has been the flexibility eDiscovery has when working outside of the office. Additional security measures must be taken, but much of the work can be done remotely. Working remotely was crucial during the start of the pandemic when there was a need to keep socially distant. Remote work has become a mainstay of the modern workplace. One of the first decisions our health/safety team and CEO made was to switch everyone to working remotely. Working from home was used, especially during the months when the number of new covid-19 cases was high. Switching to remote work was seamless as we could make the switch without too many issues. For us Monitors were essentially all that was needed for team members to be able to switch over completely. All the other significant tools we needed to complete our work were operating via software, the internet, or the cloud. Within eDiscovery, this is often the case. The pandemic had not affected our cloud services (vital for our eDiscovery platform). It also did not affect our ability to connect via telephone, conferencing tools (such as GoToMeeting, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams), chats  and email.

Why There Was a Need to Evolve

During the 2020 – 2021 time, much of the industry also changed. There were very few in-person legal trials, and many eDiscovery vendors switched to virtual document review. More hands-on projects involving hard drives (for instance) were being securely shipped more frequently to locations and dealt with at home or by individuals working alone at the office. The industry was developing novel ways and strategies to collect data. Fortunately for NearZero, these are strategies we had already started before the pandemic. Our primary tool for client’s data collection was using Microsoft365’s Core and Advanced eDiscovery services (recently renamed to Standard and Premium eDiscovery services), which does not require working in the office.

Other eDiscovery Benefits

According to Statistics Canada, one of the main reasons for this industry not being as severely impacted as others is that our sector benefitted from the acceleration of technological changes during the pandemic, including the use of the cloud and artificial intelligence and an increasingly digital business environment. Additionally, much of the hosting, production and related services are in long-term projects. Which often span the length of years. Despite a global pandemic, it would be difficult to stop work on years of evidence and data gathering. These aspects show that eDiscovery was in a unique position to survive the pandemic and help to explain why evolution is so crucial to surviving difficult times. 

Issues We Faced

Despite the ease of transition and eDiscovery’s innovation and versatility to survive a pandemic, we still had issues. Things were not perfect for this industry in the wake of the pandemic. Crucially, other industries being negatively impacted by the pandemic had a ripple effect on eDiscovery. For NearZero specifically, we have clients in different industries that were negatively affected by the global pandemic. As things slowed down in those industries, we saw a slow down in the number of activities and projects that we had to perform. Despite its versatility, eDiscovery is not an industry that can operate in a silo. We are dependent on many other fields and endeavors to give us the work. When issues arise in these fields and eDiscovery is needed, we can then move on to the searching, ingesting, exporting and productions that we excel at within eDiscovery.

Final Thoughts 

The pandemic is still ongoing, so we are not clear on everything, and this only serves as a look back on how NearZero and our industry navigated the first full year of the pandemic. There remain lessons to learn. However, the past two years have shown us we can adapt to changes around us and the world so far. We’ve learned important lessons that we need other industries so that we survive changes and thrive in their aftermath. Ostensibly we realized just how easily things could fall apart. Fortunately, we are in a sector that can evolve rapidly at the forefront of technological change. There is no doubt that the modern workplace is significantly different from previous generations, and eDiscovery is poised to handle the changes.


Fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic: A look back at selected industries in the service sector in 2020