Why Should Attorneys Care About Software Usability?
Usability | noun
• the extent to which software can be used to effectively and efficiently achieve users’ objectives
Legal aid and public defense attorneys are overloaded with demand for their services. In 2017, a single public defender in Louisiana was tasked with juggling 194 felony cases - a caseload that would require five full-time lawyers to properly serve.
While that’s an extreme example, it’s illustrative of a universal problem in the indigent legal services world: a lack of time. It’s no wonder that attorneys are constantly searching for ways to improve efficiency.
Case management software is an integral tool to that end. However, if there are usability problems with the platform, the advocate may actually become less efficient. Bad software causes distraction and confusion, which inevitably leads to lost time - and even worse things, it turns out.
Distractions are Deadly
Interruptions in our day can add up and really cost us time.
Gloria Mark, professor of Informatics at UC Irvine and author of “Multi-tasking in the Digital Age,” studies how people interact with information technology and how it affects multitasking, attention, mood, and above all, stress.
Through her studies, Ms. Mark has found it can take up to 23 minutes to get back on task following a single distraction.
Attorneys working in legal aid and public defense cannot afford to waste time getting information into or out of a case management system. That’s why usability is so important, but what makes some systems more usable than others? It boils down to simplicity and personalization.
The Fundamentals of Highly Usable Software
Eliminate everything but the essentials. A simple interface that presents only what’s necessary is ideal. The input fields, menu options, and modules available to each User should vary based on Roles & Permissions. While an Administrator might have access to every single option in the system, an Intern should only see basic functionality.
Adapt to desired or pre-established workflows. Highly usable case management software is malleable. Everything from Dashboards and Intakes to Reports and Document Management should be configured to match the way the organization operates in the real world.
Good data goes in, and good data comes out. Data integrity starts with smart input fields that optimize efficiency and accuracy. Detailed Reports should output everything the organization needs to measure efficacy and satisfy funding requirements.
Maximizing usability in case management software, which we can define as “effectively and efficiently entering, locating, and sharing information,” can add up to significant time savings. LegalServer has found organizations can save over 80 hours per year, per staff employee, by using a system attuned to the precise needs of the organization.