The Productivity Benefits of Remaining ‘In The Zone’

This article is about how ThoughtRiver’s new Microsoft Word Plug-in gives legal professionals access to powerful contract pre-screening technology without leaving Word. 

Ben Stokes went into one when he scored his match-winning 135 not out in this summer’s Headingley Ashes test. Owen Farrell created one every time he stepped up to kick a penalty during the rugby World Cup. And Jessica Ennis-Hill practically lived in one during the London Olympics of 2012.

We are talking about that mythical cocoon of zen-like clarity all elite sportspeople visit during periods of intense competition. That rarified space where all distractions are blocked out by the task at hand. A lot of sports stars talk about ‘The Zone’ without really explaining how or why they got there. But one psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, has spent years researching the phenomenon.

Way back in the ‘70s, Csikszentmihalyi coined the idea of ‘flow’ to describe the mental state that leads to peak performance. In his celebrated 1990 book, simply entitled Flow, he suggests people in this state are so focused on the task at hand that every distraction melts into inconsequence. They are ‘completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought flows inevitably from the previous one’.

It is not just sportspeople who need to find their flow. In the business world, McKinsey says we are 500% more productive when we are fully immersed in the task at hand. For lawyers, this state of immersion is crucial; legal practitioners make their living by bullet-proofing sensitive documents and sending communications with acute attention to detail. 

Yet today’s technologies, despite being designed to deliver efficiencies, sometimes create fresh interference. Lawyers say they are drowning in a sea of digital correspondence, and it is not uncommon to receive 200 emails a day. What is more, the plethora of new office software packages means they are constantly having to flit between screens. The typical lawyer now spends over six hours a week simply managing the torrent of documents they receive.

As each new technology has come on stream, so productivity has dropped. A 2017 study, based on data from over 60,000 lawyers in the US, found that the average legal professional delivers only 1.6 billable hours per day and nearly 50% of their time is devoted to administrative tasks, such as configuring new tech. As one psychologist has famously described it, today’s lawyer operates in a state of ‘continuous partial attention’.

A smarter way of working

This is the reason for ThoughtRiver’s new plug-in, which moves our AI-powered contract pre-screening technology inside Microsoft Word. This means users can now use ThoughtRiver’s technology to review a new document, identify risks and discrepancies, and add remediation without ever having to leave the familiar environment of Word. 

We understand that legal professionals spend their working lives in Microsoft Word and email. It is where they get in ‘the zone’. MS Word, after all, is widely acknowledged as the lawyer’s go-to platform.

But we also recognised that ThoughtRiver was taking lawyers away from the platform that underpins their working day. By forcing them to switch between screens, we were creating a distraction which, minor though it sounds, was preventing users from reaching peak concentration levels. Researchers have found that every time we are distracted, no matter how trivial the disturbance, it takes 25 minutes to resume our optimal state of focus.

Now, with our latest release, lawyers can review their contracts in Word and see any risks on the right hand panel in a matter of seconds, allowing them to focus on the areas that actually need attention. The Word plug-in also offers guided remediation, with pre-approved clause suggestions that are ingested from your templates.

Users can also create and store templated comments which can be dropped into the Word document with a single click. Everything is self-contained within the ThoughtRiver plug-in, so there is no need for users to leave Word in their search for the right terms or wording. We have put the productivity of your own dedicated paralegal right inside Microsoft Word, and we believe that if Microsoft had actually built Word for lawyers, this is what they would have done.

Technology will play a key role in making lawyers’ lives easier. It will add significant value and help legal professionals work faster with greater accuracy. This is the key for all legal technologies: they must help the humans at the heart of the process work more effectively. 

With our new Microsoft Word plug-in, ThoughtRiver is here to help legal professionals stay in the zone.

Speak to us today to book a one-to-one demo and discover how ThoughtRiver can change the way you work.

[ Artificial Lawyer is proud to bring you this sponsored thought leadership article by ThoughtRiver. ]

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