Inside Counsel (April 2008) reports on a LexisNexis survey on information overload by professionals: “77% of legal professionals… cite a clack of sufficient information technology tools to cope with the ever-increasing information burden.” 

Law firms and legal market vendors undoubtedly can do better in creating, deploying, and training on tools. But it irks me to see surveys point fingers at IT professionals. I’ve run IT at a law firm and hosted widely publicized internal seminars to create awareness of or training on new tools. Often, literally not a single lawyer shows up. And many lawyers who complain have almost no patience to learn new software or new features. So many lawyers have only themselves to blame.

Let’s say a lawyer spends 1000 hours/year in front of a PC. Wouldn’t it make sense to spend 5 to 10 hours per year to learn how to use that tool more effectively? Don’t we think that would more than payback the time invested? (Of course, the invested time is not billable and therein lies the deeper issue).

And this is not just about learning tools. How about learning simple information management “hygiene?” For example, don’t reply all to an e-mail unless clearly warranted. Or if you use the same e-mail thread and change topics, change the subject line to so indicate. Or when someone sends you a file and you modify it, save it with a new name before you send it back so that both you and the recipient have clearly labeled original and marked up versions. Many simple steps make info management easier all around but few take these steps.

Then years ago, I would have said the onus was on IT professionals to improve. Today, users have the bigger burden. Those too busy to sharpen their ax should not blame the ax-maker for having a bad tool.

[Click here for a summary of the LexisNexis LexisNexis Workplace Productivity Survey, completed in December 2007. (PDF).]