Why Do Attorneys Feel Mired in “Low-Value Work?”

In a recent Artificial Lawyer article, they featured a survey which found that 67% of in-house attorneys at fast-growth companies felt buried in low-value work. Meanwhile, in another survey of 1,058 senior legal practitioners worldwide (conducted by EY) a third of firms with more than 1,000 employees spend nearly one out of every three hours on ‘low‑value’ tasks.

So what is at the root of being stuck in low-value work?

The surveys point to the familiar bane of legal departments everywhere: manual processes. One might think in this age of being able to manage most of one’s life from a mobile phone, the legal world would have the same things in place, but this just isn’t the case for many law firms and legal departments. eDiscovery managers might be able to see their Amazon packages arrive on their doorstep and literally say, “Thank you,” via a smart doorbell, but at their jobs still face processes and even technology from the previous decade.

A second cause noted is having to use multiple systems. Many legal teams may feel they have their challenges under control, but it may also involve a cobbled-together Frankenstein’s monster of software, services, and manual processes. This isn’t inherently bad if integrations and communications are functioning at peak efficiency. I remember one veteran eDiscovery practitioner comparing this idea to the way audiophiles might compile a stereo system: you want the best of all the components regardless of brand; all-in-one systems are for people who want convenience over quality.

But this can lead to another dilemma when it comes to “low value tasks,” which we highlighted in this week’s eDiscovery Blues™: technology training. Sure, your system might work, but it requires an expert to make sure everything stays functioning (just hope that person never wants to take a vacation). That’s why ease-of-use continues to rise to the top on attorneys’ lists.

In the same survey, it noted that when it comes to legal tech, here’s what GCs want:

  • Easy adoption – 80%
  • Integrations – 57%
  • Data Insight – 43%

They want to leverage technology in order to help them do their jobs, but they don’t want the bulk of their time spent learning the technology. It’s easy to fall into the trap of spending more time trying to work less. If technology is too much of a hassle, then the tried-and-true manual processes become more attractive.

For insights into how technologists are working to solve some of these problems, I went to Aaron Swenson, Product Director at IPRO. He raised a few things legal teams should consider in order to avoid being mired down by menial tasks.

  • “They should be asking how to supercharge their teams with technology in ways that are integral to the legal process, while moving them away from having to manage operations (i.e. the ROI spent working toward business objectives vs. on business operations).
  • “They’ll also want to look for technology which makes both internal and external stakeholders/customers happier.”
  • “A goal of ours at IPRO is working toward the idea of zero training time (or at least minimal training time). The technology should be intuitive enough that an experienced practitioner can log in and within a few minutes be doing their work instead of spending it learning software.”
  • “Finally, I think it’s important that legal teams consider how data sizes are growing faster than processing technologies, which means your traditional culling workflow will eventually have to change out of necessity.”

To that last point, the need for technology in the legal world is beyond necessary. It’s time to take the next step toward solutions that work as a single source of the truth when it comes to data, connect all stakeholders both inside and outside the organization, while taking the focus off of time spent learning technology.

All of which allows attorneys to get back to the primary objective of their jobs: practicing law.