Vol. 13, No. 4, Pg. 40. Automation is Awlful.

Author:By Carol L. Schlein

South Carolina Lawyer


Vol. 13, No. 4, Pg. 40.

Automation is Awlful

40Automation is AwlfulBy Carol L. SchleinThose who don't learn from their past are destined to buy the wrong systems again

Throughout, 13 years of helping law firms implement and use technology to better serve their clients, I have seen all sorts of silliness.

One of my favorite law firm mistakes occurs when a firm hires a consultant, asks for advice and then doubts it based on comments from a client or a brother-in-law who dabbles in computers, or because the decision-maker in the firm reads technology magazines that may contain good advice.

Attention: some of the advice in InfoWorld may not apply to a law firm. What works for a large corporation or a technology magazine columnist may be totally wrong for a small law firm. Case in point: A law office using an older version of WordPerfect and with a huge investment in forms or macros hears from an IT specialist at a Fortune 500 corporation that the office should switch to Microsoft Word because "that's what everyone uses." Never mind that the firm's office staff will pull out their hair and that documents and forms won't convert properly.

42I, on the other hand, would advise the firm to stick with Corel WordPerfect because of its significant investment in that platform and because, despite a fallen market share in the aggregate, WordPerfect still holds its own in the legal market.

Here's another common mistake. A law firm receives several proposals from systems vendors. Then the firm managers shop primarily on price, rather than focusing on the vendor's reputation, ability to service the firm in a timely fashion and knowledge base. To compound this mistake, firms, when presented with the bottom line, often lose sight of the reasons they're upgrading in the first place and start to eliminate features or options to save a little money.

I have found that it is easier for clients to swallow the bigger bill for hardware up front, and remember that every day, thereafter, the added processor speed or memory will make the staff members' jobs easier. Penny Wise?

I've noticed a pattern recently among several clients - they embark on a cost-saving measure that turns out to be more expensive than the savings they hoped to realize. For example, in networked environments it's tempting to think that individual workstations don't need a CD-ROM drive because, in theory, most software can be installed from the network.

In reality, however, with improved CD-burners (also known as CD-writers), patches and documents are often sent on CDs for loading on a specific workstation. Asking a consultant who is being paid on an hourly basis to set up a workaround or locate a machine with a CD-ROMdrive to install a maintenance release wastes unnecessary dollars.

This situation underscores the importance of keeping up with tech-sector trends. Increasingly, software vendors are including CD-ROM-based tutorials with their products. The lack of foresight in configuring your firm's workstations...

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