It may be new tech,
Everything I read these days boasts of the new technology paradigms. Manufacturers tell me that while these new paradigms will make me uncomfortable for a short while, once I get used to them, I'm supposed to agree that they are better for me than the old paradigms.
All these folks who want my money promise me that I'll be able to use my time more efficiently with new, "user friendly" (even cat food tins are now "user friendly"), software, hardware, telephones, faxes, copiers, CD-ROMs, scanners and directional range finders.
You can bet that I'm just as ready as the next lawyer to get involved with this wonderful new world of easier to use "made by lawyers for lawyers, productive in five minutes, save hundreds of hours, get more clients, make more money" products and services. But, I've got a condition -- this stuff has got to work!
Let me give you a couple of personal examples.
I love Pacific Bell's voice mail. Our office investment in equipment and maintenance is zero with no manuals to read or training classes to attend. No lost messages, no problems with getting messages out and happy clients.
Until last month.
One day I picked up the phone, dialed voice mail, entered my password and got someone else's messages!
First, I changed my telephone message warning callers not to leave confidential messages. Seconds later I made my first of many calls to PacBell. "What?" they said. "You can't be getting the messages of others; this is a secure system. We've never heard of this problem. Our software is designed so this can't happen." General denial and finger pointing ensued.
It wasn't until I conferenced them with my voice mailbox, so that they could hear the confidential messages of others, that they could no longer fight reality.
Sometime later, when the problem disappeared as fast as it came, I did get a lovely letter from the customer response center saying, "[W]e have found that this problem was caused by a long distance company accidentally snipping some phone lines."
Another example: Windows 95 is a terrific operating system. Easier and more intelligent than any predecessor, this implementation of Windows is worth getting a more powerful computer to run it on.
You've seen me demonstrate how it can recognize a new printer and modem and install it while you just sit there pressing the "enter" key. You've seen how shortcuts are created instantly and how files never get lost and can even be recovered from the super-friendly waste bin.
Then I tried to install a new tape backup system.
First, my modem stopped working, then my sound card gave up the ghost. But the tape worked.
My dealer's technical wizard said I had a problem with the "system registry." So I went to a bookstore and acquired two 800-page Windows 95 books. "Fine," I thought. "I'll just fix that little file and get it back to where it was before I started this mess, won't I?" "No!" said the books. "No ordinary human being should ever get into the system registry! Whole planetary systems wobble if you don't do exactly the right thing, and doing the right thing requires a basic grounding in hexidecimal computer code and a graduate degree in early Greek philosophy."
Solution: Reinstall the operating system, which I've now done. And yes, I still love Windows 95.
These are stories about the big manufacturers with lots of resources and impeccable reputations. But there are many small vendors who haven't a clue about the needed law office paradigm.
So, hardware and software manufacturers, try this one: Give us tested, simple to use, useful and useable law office tools that work the first time and every time -- now that's a revolutionary paradigm!
Martin Dean, president of Essential Publishers, can be reached by e-mail only at email@example.com.