We were taught as children that no two snowflakes are alike. Some of our teachers went so far as to suggest that we were like snowflakes, each possessing unique characteristics, each to be valued in her own right.
Isn’t that lovely.
This kind of affirmation is helpful in the right time and place, but at some point in our education most of us learn that there are a lot of characteristics that humans share. Moving beyond crude stereotypes we discover, for example, a shared fight-or-flight response and nesting impulse. And that’s just the beginning.
There are, however, some people who are rarely pushed to look beyond their particular circumstances to understand how much they share with the rest of humanity. Who am I talking about? Lawyers. Yes, the work they do is different from the run of the mill. Yes, they do need a special education to undertake this work. Yes, their work can have enormous consequences for others. But the same could be said for doctors, engineers, architects, etc. Yet lawyers persist in believing that they are a breed apart, a group of special snowflakes.
Unfortunately, too many technologists enable this point of view by telling lawyers that tools can and should be adapted to accommodate lawyer preferences. Thus you have technologists larding up standard software such as MS Office with customizations and embellishments meant to placate the special snowflakes in our firms. And then we act surprised when we calculate the cost of implementing new technology or upgrading existing technology. At what point do we say that the system performs reasonably for 80% of the work lawyers do and we should think twice (or thrice) about customizing for the remaining 20%?
As you consider the decisions you make about your law firm technology or knowledge management systems, consider the extent to which you are enabling special snowflake syndrome. Codependency is unhealthy for all involved.