Friday, July 2, 2010

Google Wave Uses for Case Management

I was reading The Complete Guide to Google Wave and was still in the first chapter when I was struck by the fact that Google Wave is suffering from a complete lack of understanding of what Google Wave does. The email and document collaboration analogies are inaccurate. This is information management and in a very important aspect for attorneys -- information control.

The book bemoans the fact that Wave is hard to explain, in part because attempts compare the Wave to email and document collaboration are short sighted and ignore the power of the technology.

Let me address the common complaints about Wave cited by Trapani and Pash and explain why these complaints don't (or shouldn't) apply to non-Luddite lawyers.

1. Conversation-as-document is a whole new paradigm with no existing precedent. Anyone who has spent time with Law Practice Management software (TimeMatters, Abacus, Clio, Rocketmatter, etc.) knows that the entire point of these programs is to turn your conversations into documents (data) that are easily searchable and easily referenced.

2. Conversation trees, or non-linear message threads are chaotic. Almost all legal work and litigation, while having its linear qualities, breaks off into separate issues requiring non-linear actions, all of which must be resolved. For example, in my practice, I can have an objection from a mortgage company, an objection from the IRS, documents I need from my client and an objection from the Chapter 13 Trustee. Each objection or document request requires a non-linear message thread. Yes, it is chaotic and as a lawyer I'm constantly attempting to corral all those threads into some coherency.

3. Document versioning is foreign (to non-programmers). Lawyers are constantly concerned about documenting how things take place. A lot of time is spent so that the information is available to reconstruct the past. Having something like the Wave that does it automatically -- lawyer science fiction.

4. Wave isn't done yet, so it has gaping holes of missing functionality. Anyone who thinks Wave is a "Segway for email" is stuck in technological la-la land and doesn't even understand the real world implications of Wave technology. Wave has nothing to do with email. Don't think of Wave as email or document collaboration --that is like looking closely at the front tires of a dragster and deciding that it looks like a Segway. Properly utilized, a single Wave for an attorney can easily become something every lawyer is familiar with -- a case file, but it is a case file that can contain every document, every conversation, every message, every correspondence -- all in one place.

Sure, Wave has some missing functionality, the biggest one right now is the ability to document without cutting and pasting conversations or phone calls to individuals outside the Wave, but compared to a paper file or the work intensive data entry efforts in legal case management software, using the Wave for case management is lightning quick (and when you charge by the hour and you only have so many hours, faster is better). And what case management software do you have that is Google-word searchable?

This post originated in a public Wave that I intend to use (and hopefully incorporate into this blog) for public comment and input on developing Google Wave for -- to use a lawyer word -- 'utilization' in a legal practice. I look forward to your comments and thoughts. 

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