The construction industry—like many other industries—have been faced with significant challenges surrounding how to safely operate and meet project deadlines amidst daily uncertainties and strict government regulations imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Adjusting to the “new normal” has forced many design and construction firms to leave behind legacy project management systems and processes and leap into virtual cloud-based management and communication platforms. While historical distrust of technological innovation previously impeded change, COVID-19 has forced this necessary adaptation to improve efficiency, communication, and profitability. For example, new communication and collaboration platforms have reduced, or fully replaced, the need for in person project meetings. Similarly, innovative project management software and video capture tools such as wearable cameras and drones have reduced the need for in-person site visits, accelerated document reviews and approvals, and improved the process of completing punchlists and finalizing construction documents. These technologies have allowed design professionals and contractors to attend virtual meetings concerning project sites across the country, while simultaneously having ready access to up-to-date project documents and drawings all from socially-distanced remote locations.
The impacts of these emerging technologies have also been felt by construction lawyers, who have been able to employ new communication and collaboration technologies to keep cases moving forward during the pandemic. The use of video-conferencing to attend court hearings, conduct mediations, take depositions, and collaborate with clients as been instrumental to our practice. While the use of these technologies creates a vastly different experience for attorneys and clients, it poses a unique sets of challenges. However, the benefits to clients and their counsel in terms of increased efficiency, improved scheduling and availability, and reduced costs and expenses are substantial and will last well beyond the pandemic. While it is obvious that not all routine tasks and operations can be converted to a remote format, the ability to participate in CLE programs, manage cases, and participate in projects across the country from the comfort and safety of your office has the potential to permanently change the practice of construction law and project dispute resolution.
When looking to the future of this industry, we all look forward to the day this pandemic will be over. However, the benefits of adopting innovative project management, communication, and collaboration tools will be certain to live on and provide new opportunities to succeed in a post-COVID-19 world.