Interesting comment in Legal Blog Watch called “Lawyers Crushed by Information Overload.” Blogger Robert Ambrogi posted our workplace productivity survey and comments about how “Information overload is crushing white-collar professionals of all ilks, but hitting lawyers particularly hard”.
With respect to information overload I remember early in my career being overwhelmed with the amount of information I had to read every day both in my practice and to stay current generally. That didn’t change when I left my law practice to start a software company. And while that certainly continues today, it doesn’t feel quite as daunting. But I don’t think this is so much because of a change in technology, but rather a change in my approach. I’m much more disciplined in determining the relevancy of what I read to the issues I’m facing and decisions I’m making. My guess is that the same people who are overwhelmed with pixels today would have been overwhelmed with ink in the past.
What’s changed is that there are so many more sources so much more easily obtained online, that the filtering process has to be much more thoughtful. I think in the past a lot of filtering was done by default because there was no access to lots of data. Today, there is still the risk of not getting to important information, but the reason has changed. Whereas in the past you might have missed something because you weren’t exposed to it, today the risk is that you miss something that you glance at and too quickly dismiss as not relevant. It is in making that balance that you are either less overwhelmed (but perhaps less informed) or more overwhelmed but more comfortable that you are really up to date. I guess, in this regard, I agree with Robert’s point that lawyers are hit particularly hard since the nature of the practice (and the personality of many lawyers) requires a thoroughness that leans towards the more informed side of that spectrum.
He also asks a good question: “where do blogs fit into this problem of information overload?”
In my view, again, it depends on how you look at blogs. I use some of them as filters. For example, with sports and politics I now look at primary sources mostly through the filter of blogs. This saves me time. In other areas more related to my work, however, blogs don’t reduce my work (since I don’t rely on them to filter what I read) so they are, in fact, additional sources themselves that I have to read to stay informed.
It will be interesting to see where this takes us.
Thanks for your post, Robert.