Image [cc] wikimedia

On Wednesday I had the pleasure of meeting with Tom Baldwin and Scott Preston to discuss LPM and general law firm challenges. One subject came up that triggered a repressed memory. Tom mentioned the importance of the users’ experience  – UX or UI (user interface) depending on your perspective – when seeking adoption of new technologies. Having a proper UI expert has proven to be so important that he has contracted to have some work not only on upcoming projects, but also review a few of their existing custom developed apps.

This comment triggered the release of a repressed memory from a recent software training I ‘experienced.’ The software in question is actually very functional. It may be the most functional in its class. However, the user interface is from 1990. One might argue that functionality reigns supreme, since that is what users really need form technology. But at a point in the training all of my frustrations came in to focus. For the umpteenth time, I watched the trainer go through the same 10 or so clicks to initiate a ‘new file.’ That task should really be one click. For the first portion of the training I was excusing the UI’s ancient look and feel, but then it occurred to me bad UI is also a significant productivity issue.

Add on top of that Tom’s note that user adoption rates are strongly impacted by UX and you have a compelling reason to employ a UI expert for every software project. I implore IT professionals to always make UI / UX a priority in your development efforts, even if it’s just a SharePoint update.

With that off my chest – I will re-engage my memory suppression efforts.

When I woke up yesterday, my $2.00 alarm clock told me it was February 29, 2012. There were lots of blog posts about Leap Day and how it affected court filings and whatnot, but I really just thought of it as just another day in the law firm biz… However, by the end of the day, I realized that it had one significant impact on my projects, and that one of those would need to be pushed back in March.

While trying to run a Litigant Strategic Profile from LexisNexis’ CourtLink system, we kept noticing that the reports simply wouldn’t run. We contacted Lexis in the morning to see what the issue was and they told us that they would investigate the issue and return our call as soon as they figured out what was causing it, or when they got it corrected. Morning turned to afternoon, and finally we heard back from them with a surprising answer. Turns out that the Litigant Strategic Profiles couldn’t understand February 29th, and therefore the reports simply wouldn’t run. The solution was to not run the reports until March 1st, when the system would be back to normal.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? My two-dollar alarm clock can handle leap day, and Lexis’s system cannot?? I thought the days of Y2K were twelve years in the past. Plus, it isn’t like this day just… pardon the pun… leaped out of no where. We all know that years divisible by four bring us Presidential Elections, the Summer Olympics, and Leap Day!!

We checked this morning and the system is back to normal. I asked around and did find that others had the problem, but where told it was a “systems” issue and not related to Leap Day. So, maybe the tech guy we talked to was wrong (or didn’t get the memo to Ix-nay on the Eapday-lay.) If it was a Leap Day issue, then Lexis has 1459 more days to look into this and make sure that it works in 2016. That will be a Monday, and I will expect everything to work!! If not, let me know the week before and I’ll schedule a three-day weekend.

I’m still amazed at some of the Microsoft products that are common on the desktop in 2012. So, here’s a few I want to see go away by year’s end:

You’re not much better than your cousin IE6
Really?? Everytime I reboot I have to see this??

It’s not that I don’t love you… I’d just rather date your younger sister ’10

See my note to your younger sister, ’03, above

More like “Slow Up The Web” (come on! get with HTML5!)

You’re definitely not my “type” either!

Greg and I decided to try something new. These “new thing” efforts typically occur during a three-beer solution, brainstorming session. This time we may have actually doubled our efforts, since the outcome has been … tragic.
We decided to try an affordable approach to tablets. With all the tablet hype and market growth going on, we wondered how a low-budget solution would fair.
We opted to try two different pads on the android platform. We had basic criteria along the lines of recent OS (Android 2.2 or higher), decent processing speed, good storage, etc. I went with a 7 inch screen; Greg went with a 10 inch screen. We both chose “off brands” in order to keep the cost reasonable.
My 7 inch pad was $150 – delivered. Greg’s 10 inch pad was $190.
Mine totally sucks. I don’t know where to begin in my evaluation since I have yet to find anything I like about it. The biggest problem is likely the touch-screen. Attempts to activate apps, use apps, input info and browse websites result in the highest levels of frustration.
My daughter was all excited when she saw it – calculating this might mean a tablet for her. I promptly handed it to her, with a hearty “good luck.” Five minutes later it was back in my hands.
Bottom-line: price-point tablets are not there yet. Hopefully the new Kindle Fire will bring this dream closer to reality. However, that model seems to be an “up-sell” environment. So up-front, low-cost may be a bit of bait-and-switch.
I suppose the biggest lesson from this experience – is to stop at three beers.

TIP: Whatever You Do, Don’t Offer Online Collaboration

There is a lot of good information out there about using technology to collaborate directly with clients.

The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technology: Smart Ways to Work Together, by Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell Don’t read it. It might give you ideas about offering up to clients the ability to see, review and edit their documents with you online. Since peoples’ expectations are for more real-time services, make sure you use older, slower delivery options. Another dangerous tool to avoid: online surveys like Survey Monkey or Zoomerang. Clients will like these since they give them a convenient opportunity to tell you what they like and don’t like about your services. Talk about NOT annoying. And to top it off, clients may tell you something you don’t want to hear, causing the backfire effect of annoying you.

Conclusions

Using technology can be challenging. Using technology to annoy clients is an art form. Just remember: Whichever technologies you choose, follow our ‘best practices’ and you will be sure to get your clients’ undivided attention.

TIP:  Under No Circumstances Personalize Anything for the Client One of the best ways to annoy your client is to remind them that they are just one of the cogs of your great legal empire.  Taking the time to personalize a communication and making the client feel that they are important to you, is just wasting your time in your efforts to annoy them.  If you see something that one of your colleagues has written to his clients, and it may be relevant to your client, what ever you do, DO NOT FORWARD IT on to your client with a simple note saying that you saw this and thought it was relevant to your client’s business.  Nothing is more annoying than talking with your client weeks later and saying – “Oh, yeah…  We put something about that out a few weeks ago, but I didn’t think to send it to you.” Perhaps you’re tempted to create an Extranet for your clients to make it easier for them to share documents back and forth with you — or, to keep them abreast of the status of a matter without having to call you to ask about it. One of the highest levels of annoyance comes when a client has to call you for an update on an open matter, and then you later bill them for their inconvenience.  Putting together an Extranet would only make the client feel that they were involved in the matter, and that you were taking the time to make sure they had access to relevant information on their case.  What’s so annoying about that? 

TIP: Use Technology to Deliver Boring Stuff

A classic, annoying favorite of ours is building PowerPoint presentations with tons of text in small font on each slide. Don’t bother utilizing graphics, videos and other visually appealing tools. The only thing that makes this approach better is if you read the text to them. An annoying PowerPoint is meant to make the point and not to just emphasize it. So include the whole point, the entire point, word-for-word.

Here’s another tried-and-tested annoyer. When you hold a client teleconference or web-conference, don’t bother with more sophisticated tools like auto-mute for attendees. If an attendee puts the conference on hold and they have ‘hold’ music, everyone will be struggling to hear you above the music. Classic!

A word of warning: When giving online presentations, interactive web tools should be avoided. Do not, we repeat, do NOT give clients an opportunity for real-time participation. If they have a question or comment to share about the presentation, make them put in the extra effort to remember and ask you later.

TIP:  Make It Complicated for the Client (the more difficult, the more satisfying) The more technologically advanced you make your web site, the more your clients will see you for the technology wizard that you are.  One of the best ways to annoy your clients is to assume that they are all using Internet Explorer (IE) version 7, and then use the most advanced plug-ins available.  Since some of your clients are still using an older version of IE, or may even have the audacity of using another web browser like Firefox, Chrome, or Safari, this will give them the extra motivation of taking the time to upgrade to IE 7 just to view your very cool site. Another best practice is to not test your flash or javascript inserts and send out a presentation that is completely unusable.  Your client will benefit by being able to send out the “Friday Funny” to his peers showing just how useless your communication really is.  If it is really good, they’ll send out the “Friday Funny” on a Wednesday. Since all of your recipients are using high-speed Internet services, they want you to test the limits of their e-mail attachment capabilities.   A great way to do this is to print out a high-quality document with lots of colors, and then scan it into a high-resolution PDF document.  Nothing says “I don’t know what I’m doing” better than a 15 Mb PDF document that has only two pages of content.  They would probably send this to their peers as another “Friday Funny,” but their peers’ email boxes would reject it because the attachment is too large. 

TIP: Provide Content Rarely and Irregularly

Blogs are HOT and in demand, so this best practice will take some effort … Not. Since people prefer blogs that are regularly updated with fresh, compelling content, this is another easy best practice: You should only post up information on your legal topic blog when you feel like it. This will likely coincide with when your work slows down, and you have time and really need more clients. This has the added advantage of impacting your writing style, so it comes across as desperate.

Oh – and think about all the Web 2.0 tools you can use, especially those social networking sites like LinkedIn. This social networking, where people participate in online communities, can be powerful. Best Practice: Join, but don’t add anything to the group. Or if you have an urge to contribute, send out connection invitations to people you don’t really know. A potential downside to joining these sites is that you may end up connecting with old contacts who could send you work.

TIP: Send A LOT of Content Daily email newsletters are perhaps the best thing you can do to annoy your clients each every morning. Clients truly desire the minutia of legal issues like “European Practice” or “Corporate Finance” and giving them anything less than a daily newsletter on such generic legal topics would be a serious disappointment.
This works extremely well for those clients that cannot figure out how to create a rule to send these newsletters straight to their trash folders. For those lucky few, they can truly see you are the expert in your field, and that you must be available to work on these issues immediately because you have a lot of time on your hands to write these annoying daily newsletters.
Some firms tailor their newsletters to make sure that the right content is going to the right clients. Taking the time to understand what issues effect your individual clients and then dissemenating targeted information in an as needed manner is breaking every annoyance rule we’re attempting to lay out for you. So, remember, dump as much information as you can, as often as you can, to as many clients as you can! That’s truly annoying.