As state Bar Associations are increasingly requiring that attorneys be reasonably knowledgeable about computer technology (some 24 to date), one has to wonder why so many attorneys are so inefficient about using their own computer systems.
This is especially true because the paradigm for what constitutes knowledge has largely changed. It used to be that knowledge of a given subject meant that you knew about it and could talk about that knowledge without reference to outside resources. Increasingly, knowledge about a subject means that you know how to find information about it. Knowledge has become internet-based. Of course, this can be problematic since internet sources are notoriously unreliable (many university courses do not allow references to Wikipedia as an adequate source).
So for a law firm with hundreds of thousands if not millions of documents, why do attorneys frequently have such poor search habits, especially when such a high percentage of legal research is done on the Internet?
If you think of a firm’s document store as a giant book, there are basically three ways of finding what you want to know:
• You can read the book. Obviously this is very slow.
• You can scroll through the table of contents. On a computer, this is the directory structure. Many users do this as their preferred method of finding a document. However, this is also very slow and does not take into account documents that may have been saved to the wrong place.
• You can use an index. This is what document management systems offer.
But attorneys frequently only use a “table of contents”, searching for all the files for a given matter. Document Management systems make this easy (Worldox’s “Direct Access” for example). One rationale for this is that “I want to see all the files” for a given matter. This can be counterproductive and a waste of time in cases where there are large numbers of documents in a given matter and most of them are in fact emails (maybe two-thirds or more). So why not look for “all the files for a given matter but NOT emails”?
I suspect that one of the main causes of poor search techniques (aside from pure laziness) is the fear of missing something. I recall a number of years ago I was working in tech support at a large law firm. They got a number of documents in discovery. The attorney wanted them all printed out so he could read them. When I objected that it would be well over 5,000 pages, he insisted that he needed to review everything.
Today, with advanced search engines and Technology Assisted Review, search-o-phobia may no longer be rational (or even feasible given the volume of documents that may come up in discovery), but I suspect it underlies some of the worst search habits. As one of my clients said shortly after implementing Worldox, lawyers have learned to be flexible when it comes to changes in the law: they should learn a similar flexibility with respect to the software tools they use.
In a situation where most document management systems offer sophisticated search options, including full boolean search parameters, it should be possible for an attorney to narrow down what they are searching for very rapidly and in fact more accurately than a visual/manual review. People get tired and miss things: computers don’t.
If your firm uses Worldox, what are some of the “quick tricks” that will offer maximum return for a minimum of effort.
• Bookmarks. Every firm should have a bookmark bar with standard shortcuts. This will save one or more clicks on every search. Specialized bookmarks may include Emails (to search for all emails by sender or recipient) and “My Favs” for marked Favorite Files as well as standard Cabinet-based searches.
• From within Word, the Worldox Ribbon Bar offers “Document Favorites” which is all the Word documents you have worked on in the last 30 days.
• Di rect Access. While this is limited to a Client/Matter search, it can be useful for matters with only a small number of documents.
• The new “search” bar lets you do a combined search for anything in the description OR anything in the text of a document. However, note that if you need to refine this search, this method is less efficient (many more clicks) than well-designed Bookmarks.
• Boolean searches. These are a little more sophisticated, but offer unparalled power. Some examples: all the files for a given matter but NOT emails; all the Pleadings (or any other doc type) for a given matter or across matters; all documents in a given date range; full text and exact text searching: “not jurisdictional” AND “failure to state”