Few things are as emblematic of the shift to work-from-home as Zoom video conferencing technology. In many ways, this technology has been a godsend for remaining connected in an era of social distancing and collaborating despite working from our home offices, kitchens, and living rooms. Students from kindergarten to grad school, employers across the globe, and people craving social interaction despite the constraints of social distancing have all turned to Zoom and other similar video conferencing technologies to bridge the gap at breakneck pace.
This meteoric social and professional shift to tools like Zoom has not come without some headaches. This blog looks at the challenges and opportunities to uncover relevant information that the “Zoom Boom” poses.
The Zoom Boom
Technophiles and Luddites alike rapidly have adopted virtual work-enabling technology at a previously unfathomable rate. Zoom, for instance, went from 10 million daily active meeting attendees in Q4 2019 to over 300 million at the beginning of Q2 2020, and the number of active minutes leapt from 100 billion to 2 trillion in the first quarter of 2020 alone. Zoom was not alone in this surge either — similar platforms like Microsoft Teams, Skype, GoToMeeting, and Webex all saw massive increases in usage and adoption.
There is little indication that employers or employees will rush back en masse to on-site working anytime soon, or, in some cases, at all. What does this mean for legal practitioners? More potentially relevant ESI sources that show no signs of disappearing. The Zoom platform contains video, audio, and real-time chat functionality between participants. When you consider that some professionals are now spending 6-8 hours a work day in some form of video conferencing meeting, the potential scope of the ESI generated is potentially daunting.
Zoom fatigue and other novel headaches
As platforms like Zoom and Teams have become more ubiquitous and the external stresses of quarantine have worn on, a new phenomena known as “Zoom fatigue” was coined. A combination of the number of hours now dedicated to video meetings, complexity of multitasking between the online meeting and managing chats that pop up, and the stress of staring at your own face for hours on end (or is that just me?) all contribute to the exhaustion many feel at the end of a Zoom-filled workday.
Another headache many face is Zoom overload: when your day is booked to the 15-minute increment on Zoom calls without time to grab a sandwich or take a biobreak. Experts recommend carving out time to avoid the all-too-common 2020 affliction of back-to-back Zoom meetings from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. as well as budgeting for the time necessary to prepare for the subject matter of each meeting. Other suggestions include turning off self view as a default and picking up the phone from time to time instead of always opting for video.
The work-from-home revolution has created a seismic shift in communication tools and patterns, and as a result shifted how and where legal practitioners need to look for potentially relevant ESI. Ensure that your preliminary scoping includes considerations for new data types, and that your custodial questionnaire touches on if and how the way the subject communicates has changed since the shift to virtual offices.
New electronically stored information sources include:
- Collaboration tools
- Video conferencing and corresponding chat logs
- Instant messaging apps
- File sharing tools
- Personal and business devices
- Social media and messaging platforms within each app
Video conferencing tools add the complexity of audio and video as well as real-time chat functionality to the mix. Teams, Slack, and Zoom chats do not have the same boundaries as a traditional document. Parties can jump in or out of a conversation at any time, topics may extend across multiple channels and varied time periods and attachments, emojis, videos, or GIFs may all be relevant.
Additionally, a conversation may spread across multiple communication platforms, involve attachments or emojis, and defy current date parameters. It is important to adjust scope and scale accordingly. To find key evidence, use all the tools at your disposal to triangulate and connect the dots across multiple platforms to paint a complete picture. Advanced AI-powered tech is especially important to make these connections which are beyond the capability of human cognition when dealing with so much data across so many sources.
Ensure that whatever technology you use has the ability to effectively parse the chat portions of Zoom or Skype as well as the video and audio portions. To surface evidence effectively, practitioners need to refine the scope of their discovery to include these increasingly dominant data sources and to adopt methods to quickly identify key information and reduce the dataverse to a manageable size. The right tools and expertise is critical as corporations learn to navigate this evolving landscape.
Boom or bust?
The pandemic and subsequent shift to remote workforce has dramatically accelerated the adoption of new and atypical data sources across a wide spectrum of corporations. Ensure that your policies, approach to scoping ediscovery, and technology to manage the influx of atypical data are up to the challenge when it comes to the new kids on the ESI block today — before these new data types begin to dominate the courts.
Check out the rest of our blog series on emerging data types