Cutting out the clutter
Am I alone in believing that there is simply too much information out there. Apparently not as an international survey of legal professionals undertaken by Lexis Nexis has revealed that information overload is a widespread and growing problem for lawyers everywhere and is lowering productivity and morale. The survey reveals that an average of two out of every five legal professionals surveyed believed that the amount of information received is on the increase and that they will reach a ‘breaking point’ at which they will be unable to handle any more.
I can sympathise. I seem to spend an increasing amount of time trying to ignore that which is not relevant and a decreasing amount of time doing the job I am meant to be doing. The main problem, I find, is that much of the information I receive I don’t want, have not asked for and quite frankly resent receiving.
Take the regular bombardment from those wanting to promote my services. This week sees the launch of yet another web site, Wigster (www.wigster.com/), purporting to provide members of the public with access to comparative information about solicitors. Given the number of such sites who regularly contact me, I have to wonder whether another one is needed or is it just another opportunity to try and extract money from the ever shrinking legal profession purse?
Indeed it seems that hardly a week goes by when I am not sent an offer to boost business by subscribing to yet another legal-service comparing or solicitor-finding web site. Whilst typing this blog item I have received an offer from Accident Lawyers Helpline to increase the number of RTA cases I get (which would cause me a problem as I don’t do that kind of work), whilst earlier today iCompare Solicitors, sent me not one but three separate invitations to join them. Last week it was “Compensation Connect”, the week before that it was “Total Investor” and the week before that it was “Solicitors World”. Presumably the number of contacts will increase. An article on the Legal Futures web site in August entitled “Surge in legal comparison websites” (www.legalfutures.co.uk/latest-news/surge-in-legal-comparison-websites) stated that the Legal Services Consumer Panel had identified 36 legal referral sites – a number which must by now exceed 40 and all of whom seem to want to contact me.
However, it is not only legal comparison web sites that are the problem. It is the almost daily barrage of other information from numerous sources that is a problem. Recruitment companies, training organisations, web developers and hosting companies, SEO consultants, typing agencies, prospective job applicants, expert witnesses, chambers, accountants – the list is endless. And these are just the ones that I didn’t ask for.
Factor in the information that I thought I wanted from the Law Society, the SRA, LinkedIn groups that I have joined, newsletters to which I have subscribed, blogs that I am following, Tweets, Facebook messages, emails from colleagues and it can soon be seen that the sheer volume of information is in danger of becoming overwhelming.
The danger of course is that if you cut yourself off from these sources then you will miss something important – a piece of information that has the potential to change what you are doing or redirect your thoughts into a different path. And that I suppose is the problem from which we all, as lawyers, suffer. The overwhelming belief that we should know about everything that a client could possibly want to know and that the moment we drop our guard that important information nugget will pass us by.
I think that the time has come for us to take a different approach. It was easier when the only sources of information were text books – which could be consulted as and when needed – and journals such as the Law Society’s Gazette, New Law Journal and The Solicitor’s Journal. There was time to flick through all of them, find what was relevant to you and ignore the rest.
As lawyers we have got to find a way of concentrating on only that information which is important to us and discarding the rest. If we don’t we will simply become more confused and more behind with the work that needs to be done.
We have got to be ruthless in marking unwanted information as spam. Unsubscribing from the newsletters and information sources that are not vital to that which we do. Telling colleagues only to copy us in on emails that are relevant AND important to us. Avoiding the “join just in case” approach to LinkedIn groups. Ignoring the blogs that are peripheral to our work. Basically just cutting out the clutter.
If we don’t then. quite frankly we will all drown in a sea of irrelevance.