The life of a legal secretary is a real house of pain. Behind every successful law firm is a legion of secretaries and paralegals that make the entire practice work. When everything goes smoothly, they're practically invisible. When there's a loss of control, they take all the blame.

Tamy was used to it. Working with lawyers, day in and day out, had gotten her used to all sorts of unpleasant things. The lawyers, however, weren't the most unpleasant part of her day. It was a little program called JUMP.

In theory, JUMP could track legal matters, documents and communications. It could handle client details, timesheets, and all of the required billing. This was a lovely theory.

It was a nice theory for a little dreamer, but in reality, the application was buggier than a swamp in Panama. Some data was kept locally, but other files and forms lived on a remote server. The developers had never felt the need to differentiate these two modes nor handle errors. "Primary Key Not Found!" messages could mean that another user had deleted the record you were viewing, or it meant the remote server was taking too long to respond. I'll wait for you to guess which happened more often.

The application hung, crashed and generally failed in so many creative ways that the developers had actually gone so far as to add a "Force Exit" option to the main menu. Unfortunately, when push comes to shove, it didn't actually work unless the "Matters" window was still open. Any attempt to "Force Exit" without that window open caused the application to stop responding.

And when there was a real eruption of failure and the application was on fire, the application would cough up dialog boxes that revealed the real sounce of all the problems. The system had been implemented in Visual FoxPro. In 2008.

One day, Tamy received a phone call that made her ask, "Could this be magic?". A sales rep and project lead from the software vendor wanted to talk to actual users to get a feel for what new features would be valuable in the forthcoming JUMP V10. This lead to a series of meetings with the makers of JUMP.

They told her to be unchained with her feedback. "We want the real use cases so that we can deliver the best product." Tamy had an earful for them. Like a girl gone bad she told them all of her concerns, all of the bugs, all of the problems, and described what she really needed out of the application. Each successive meeting was with a different sales rep or a different project-lead, since the last pair she spoke with were "no longer with the company."

After the final meeting, she had one last question. As the sales-rep had one foot out the door, she asked, "How are you guys going to decide what features to include in the next version?"

"As fairly as possible," the sales rep said with a lawyerly smile- full of teeth and bits of his victims. "We won't let one big customer like yourself drive all of the new features, so we're going to take all the ideas we get from customers, put them on slips of paper, and draw them out of a hat. It's the fairest way to decide."

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