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International Survey of Legal Professionals Reveals Impact of Information Overload on Productivity, Work Quality and Morale

U.S. Legal Professionals, Like Peers Overseas, Struggle to Cope with Increasing Volume of Information, Want to See More Customized Solutions and Training, According to LexisNexis Workplace Productivity Survey

October 20, 2010 — NEW YORK – An international survey of legal professionals reveals that information overload is a remarkably widespread and growing problem in the legal community around the world, and one that is taking a heavy toll on the profession in terms of productivity and morale. On average, more than two in five (44%) legal professionals surveyed say that if the amount of information they receive continues to increase, they will reach a “breaking point” at which they will be unable to handle any more.

The survey of 600 legal professionals in five countries – the United States, China, South Africa, United Kingdom and Australia – found practitioners in every market struggling to cope, and looking to their employers for greater support.

On average, half (50%) of legal professionals across the five markets surveyed say that the amount of information they have to manage in their jobs has significantly increased since the economic downturn. Meanwhile, on average, fifty-eight percent of legal professionals admit that the quality of their work suffers at times because they can’t sort through the information they need fast enough. On average, slightly over half (51%) of all legal professionals surveyed feel that people starting out in the legal industry are not well prepared for the amount of information management and processes they will have to manage in their jobs.

The 2010 International Workplace Productivity Survey, commissioned by LexisNexis – a leading global provider of workflow solutions – builds on a similar survey conducted in 2008. The 2008 study established information overload as a phenomenon driving American legal professionals towards an “information breaking point.” In the two years since the study was fielded in the U.S., the problem among American legal professionals appears to have gone from bad to worse. Legal professionals in the U.S. say they spend half their work day receiving and managing information, an eight percent increase since 2008.

Drag on Productivity, Morale

This year, the survey was expanded to include legal professionals in Europe, Asia Pacific and Africa, to explore how information overload is affecting the industry around the world. The expanded results reveal that information overload is having a real impact on worker morale, and ultimately the legal industry’s bottom line.

On average, almost half (48%) of all legal workers surveyed report feeling demoralized when they can’t manage all of the information that comes their way at work. Moreover, almost half (48%) of all the legal professionals surveyed report having trouble recreating how they spent their time for billing purposes at least once a week. Fifty-seven percent of legal professionals in the U.S. have experienced this problem, compared to sixty-one percent in South Africa, forty-four percent in China, thirty-nine percent in the U.K. and thirty-one percent in Australia.

“This survey reveals not just the extent of the problem in the legal workplace, but also its impact on work quality, morale and productivity,” said Michael Walsh, CEO of U.S. Legal Markets, LexisNexis. “In an environment where law firms and legal professionals everywhere are under pressure to control costs and show the value of every hour they bill, information overload is a problem the industry can’t afford to ignore.”

“The good news is that law firms and other legal employers that really come to grips with this problem could gain a competitive advantage over others in the industry that do not,” Walsh continued. “Businesses that take the initiative and invest in customized technology, tools and training could avoid significant costs in lost productivity, boost employee morale and ultimately improve their client relationships.”

Too Much Information: A Global Challenge

From Boston to Beijing, Sydney to San Francisco, Cape Town to the City of London, legal professionals say they spend as much time wading through information as they do using it in their jobs:

  • A majority of legal professionals in three of the five markets surveyed say that the amount of information they have to manage for their jobs has increased significantly since the economic downturn (South Africa: 68%, China: 52%, U.K.: 52%, U.S.: 48%, Australia: 34%).

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