How Legal Professionals Can Avoid Information Overload


If you don’t know where you want to go, then it doesn’t matter which way you go. The advice of the Cheshire Cat to Alice, in Alice in Wonderland, is also applicable in the context of legal research. But it is hard to stay focused on your research question today when you are awash with information from so many sources.

A large proportion of legal professionals agree that the amount of information required to manage their jobs is on the increase. With so much information available, it can be difficult to know when enough is enough. For many, access to the internet, and all of the information within it, has resulted in the illusion that quality information can be found simply, but this is often not the case. While there is a lot of free data available, it can be difficult to interpret and the abundance of information can often lead to the fear that something has been missed.

Information overload in legal research has become a topic of discussion in knowledge management, and so it is important that some kind of filtering is provided to reduce complexity and provide peace of mind in this field. In short, the growth in technology has led many to expect that information can be found more quickly. It can. But we must bring into question the quality of this information. While there is more information available, it has become increasingly difficult to separate reporting and editorial opinion and it is critical for sectors which rely heavily on thorough decision making, such as the legal industry, that such decisions are supported through a clear separation of fact and opinion. To do this some kind of filtering and professional editorial work is required.

Organisations often place a high value on informed decision making. Investing in excellent information technology will ultimately save time, money and possibly your reputation in today’s knowledge economy. Solicitors can find the sheer volume of information available today daunting in pinpointing the right cases and most up to date commentary. Added to that, solicitors are becoming increasingly time poor. When dealing with a large volume of information available, it is hard to know when enough is enough.

As a recommended process to conducting legal research, it can be useful to first create an outline of the issues you are concerned with before jumping straight in. First make sure you understand the broader subject area before getting into specifics. Not having access to resources that make this process easier can lead to poor productivity and low employee morale.  In today’s environment where employee engagement and staff retention are hot topics, providing the right kind of resources has never been more important. Previous research had identified that almost half of legal workers in the UK felt demoralized when they couldn’t manage all of the information that came their way.

So, it is clear that firms need to invest in more resources to counter this issue, with solutions which aid the flow of information throughout the organisation. A legal database platform, such as Bloomsbury Online, limits the amount of information available and provides only high quality, well edited material that you can trust. Relying on the secondary research of other experts in the field can cut down on the preparation needed by focusing your research and filtering out irrelevant information.

Nathan Zaldes of Intel has estimated that knowledge workers can lose up to eight hours per week due to information overload. The causes of information overload can be:

  • An increase in the rate of new information produced.
  • An increase in the channels of information available.
  • A large amount of historical information to sift through.
  • Contradictions in the information available.

So, while it can help save costs to find something useful in the freely available information, sometimes paid information can provide a competitive edge, giving you access to content that other firms don’t have. With a legal database like Bloomsbury Online, the information quality and authority of the authors has already been determined for you, giving you the peace in mind to believe in information found quickly.

Written by Ellie MacKenzie

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