We are ‘knowledge workers’ - so what do we do now?
What it means to be a knowledge worker
Lawyers are the ultimate knowledge workers because laws are nothing more thanrules written down in casebooks and statutes. We spend most of their time reading, writing and analyzing legal information. In short, we are ‘information processors’ and most of what we process is embedded in paper. That’s how it’s been up until recently.But now we--like everyone else--are having to deal with digital information: email (withattachments), spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, and digital audio and video files. So,today we not only have to manage an unprecedented amount of paper, but also an increasing amount of digital information. Fortunately, we know how to handle paper, even if we can’tkeep up with it. We have systems for dealing with paper that have been around for many years, systems that everyone understands.But digital information (in its many forms) is new, and there are no default methods for how to manage it. To compound the problem, there are more options for handling digitalinformation than exist for paper. Figuring out which system is best is a real challenge and,even after determining the best option, you’ll still have to teach your staff how to use thisnew system on a day-to-day basis.Maybe we should just put off developing a news system for managing digital information.Hmmmmmm. An enticing proposition, but not very realistic.
Dealing with ‘digital reality’
The main problem is that too many office workers don’t know how to handle digitalinformation. But digital information is intruding into our lives, and its growth rate isfrighteningly exponential. Sadly, the only realistic option is to increase our skill in handling digital information.People who know how to handle digital information already have a large advantage overthose who do not. Tech-savvy office workers are not commonplace today, but how quickly might that change? Probably happen a lot sooner than we expect. Meanwhile, it seemsprudent to take advantage of your opponent’s weakness.So, how can lawyers take advantage of the efficiency of digital information withoutincreasing their existing burdens? How much should they continue to rely on paper? Whichpapers must be kept, or should be kept? How does one make the transition from a largely paper-based system to one that is mostly digital?
Transition to a paperless practice gracefully, not frenetically
The main rule of transitioning to a digital practice is this: ‘first, do no harm.’ There are someoptions that should be avoided, even if they seem promising and are touted by seemingly tech-savvy consultants. Remember, picking out software is easy; training your office staff toLast updated: 10/16/09