The Fog of Information Overload

June 15, 2015

Internet Background“Technology is so much fun, but we can drown in our technology.  The fog of information can drive out knowledge.”  -Daniel Boorstin

A thick carpet of fog rolled toward downtown San Francisco one late afternoon this June, enveloping a networking event of gathered GCs and corporate counsel.  Amidst sparkling glasses of wine and passed hors d’oeuvres, cocktail talk was soon replaced with a discussion of contract and clause playbooks.  Some around the table laughed and admitted that they still leaf through black three-ring binders filled with reams of paper-agreements-of-the-past.  A few talked about hunting through their email folders, conducting searches based on loose terms like “NDA” or “consulting” or by the name of an opposing party or counsel, in search of an agreement or clause.  And another sheepishly admitted to the more-than-occasional Google search, in the hopes that the “right” clause or guidance might be produced in the first few pages of the search results.  All agreed that each of these practices were flawed and left something to be desired.

The law department management challenge described by each of the lawyers had nothing to do with access to information; as the lawyers above described, each had access to multiple portals, each free in nature, and all replete with articles, blog posts, legal documents, clauses, form templates and more.   Rather, the pain experienced by them was information overload, where having too much information is tantamount to not having enough.  In each case, each portal of information (binder, electronic folders, search engine) delivered copious iterations of templates, clauses and multiple forms of guidance, yet each still demanded an even greater investment of time.  For instance, the mere seconds it takes to gather results returned from a search engine must be married with precious minutes and hours to evaluate and focus on the most essential and useful information presented. For instance, a recent search of a standard non-disclosure agreement returned more than 6,000,000 results. And from those results, questions still remain.  Would this form apply to my industry or my business’s particular situation? Is it the “latest and greatest” of all similar forms of this agreement, namely does it still have currency?  Does the agreement contain provisions that are considered “market”?  Has new caselaw or regulation affected the viability or applicability of this agreement and its provisions? Is there more and have I missed something?

It’s these types of questions that leave corporate counsel paralyzed and in a quandary.  The abundance of information doesn’t build confidence; rather, it instills fear that something has been missed or something better lies beyond.  And for a legal department, pressed for time and charged with demonstrating value to the business, no one has time to be trapped in this fog.

Sounds like one of your department’s issues? This infographic discusses this and other law department challenges that slow law department output, and what your peers are doing to handle this information overload.