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Presentation on collaboration tools and tips for lawyers by Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell for ABA TECHSHOW 2009, Based on their book, The Lawyer's Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together.

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  1. 1. Smart Ways to Work Together: Collaboration Tools and Technologies for Lawyers Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell ABA TECHSHOW 2009 April 3, 2009
  2. 2. What We’ll Cover Today 1. Three Key Themes 2. Collaboration Tips and Insights 3. A Few Conclusions
  3. 3. Three Key Themes
  4. 4. 1. Technology Choices Are Always More About Culture Than Technology. Always.
  5. 5. 2. You're Already Collaborating. For better or worse, you already have a system (or systems) for collaboration. The sooner you understand these systems, the more you'll understand how to improve them.
  6. 6. 3. Collaboration Requires Collaboration. Choices about collaboration tools must be made collaboratively. Compromise often is a necessary element in the selecting of collaboration tools.
  7. 7. Tips and Insights
  8. 8. A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step. Select one tool to start, and really give it a try.
  9. 9. Begin with the End in Mind. If you don't know where you are going, there are many ways to get there. Save yourself some time and draw a road map of where you want to end up.
  10. 10. Audit Yourself. Do a quick personal collaboration audit.
  11. 11. Audit Your Collaborators. What are the people with whom you work already using (or planning to use) to collaborate?
  12. 12. Know Your Firm’s Technology and Collaboration Culture. Whether you know it or not, your firm already has a “collaboration culture.”
  13. 13. There's a Time and a Place . . . Not all collaboration tools will work in all instances.
  14. 14. Internal and External Collaboration Require Different Tools and Approaches. When you change the context, re-evaluate the tools you use.
  15. 15. Align Technology Strategy to Business Goals. In a time of reduced budgets, you must be able to show a business case for your collaboration tools.
  16. 16. Backing Up is Easy to Do. Have a procedure for backing up and making copies of your data, especially if you are using online services.
  17. 17. Be Guided by the 80/20 Rule. Look for projects or portions of projects that bring the biggest results for the least effort.
  18. 18. If it Ain't Broke . . . Facilitate, and do not disrupt, existing patterns and types of successful collaboration.
  19. 19. The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good.   "Good enough" projects and plans that result in action and improvement are far preferable to perfect plans that never get off the ground.
  20. 20. Balance Your Collaboration Portfolio.   Rather than focusing on one or two standardized tools, take a diversified approach and look at your collaboration tools as a portfolio that includes conservative and riskier "investments."
  21. 21. Create a "Fail Fast" Mindset. If something isn't working, be willing to move on and try something else.
  22. 22. Exhibit #1: Your Tweet (or IM, or email, etc.) Social networking provides convenient and informal tools, but they are all discoverable electronic communications.
  23. 23. Use What You Already Have. You may not know it, but the software you already own probably contains some type of collaboration component.  
  24. 24. Develop a Fan Base.   Get your "early adopters" involved from the beginning, and your pilot projects will have a better chance of success.
  25. 25. Have a Solid Basis for Choosing Tools.   When you select any collaboration tool, it must either (a) improve an existing system or (b) implement a new system that is measurably better than the system it replaces.
  26. 26. Learn From Your Kids. Watch how younger members of our legal community use technology, and collaboration tools in general; they can probably teach you a lot.
  27. 27. People Will Use the Tool That Actually Gets the Job Done.   Never underestimate the ability of people to create work-arounds or bypass firm policies and procedures if they need to get something done.
  28. 28. Reduce Travel Costs Through Online Collaboration. Just because you can't meet face-to-face doesn't mean you can't meet.
  29. 29. Don’t Email Large Files.   Email is not an ideal collaboration tool, and it should definitely not be used to share large files.
  30. 30. "Controlling the Draft" in the 21st Century. The idea that a lawyer "controls the draft" of any legal document is still important, but collaboration tools have dramatically changed the way lawyers take control of the draft.
  31. 31. Eat Your Own Dog Food.  If you are not using the collaboration tools you expect others to use, we can confidently predict your chances for a successful project will not be good.
  32. 32. Encourage Openness. The more proprietary your collaboration tool, the more difficult it will be to share data with people using other tools and formats.
  33. 33. Silos, Silos Everywhere. When you choose a collaboration tool, be sure it doesn’t create one more silo of information you must visit each day.
  34. 34. Combine Honey with Vinegar?   Consider using inexpensive incentives or small penalties to get people to use collaboration tools.
  35. 35. One IM Tool To Rule Them All. If you use more than one IM client, consider standardizing the platform.
  36. 36. Feed Your Collaborators.   Use "alerts" and "feeds" (RSS feeds, email alerts and the like) to get information out to your collaborators.
  37. 37. Understand Extranets.   Understand the concept of extranets, and why extranets are the cornerstones of online collaboration tools.
  38. 38. Get a Written Plan.   Committing your collaboration plan to writing gives it a much better chance of success. It can be one page of bullet-points or a hundred page report, but having it in writing makes a big difference.
  39. 39. Be Vigilant. Watch for developments and news about security threats and other issues involving online collaboration services.
  40. 40. Know Where Your Collaborators Are.   People increasingly work in different places, at different times, and on different devices, including smart phones and laptops.
  41. 41. Practice Law Like a Project Manager. Lawyers and legal professionals often act as project managers. Open your eyes to the world of project management tools, concepts and approaches.
  42. 42. Rethink Email as a Collaboration Platform. Email is probably the most common collaboration tool you use, but it is usually not the best tool, especially for those with overloaded inboxes
  43. 43. Back Away from That Spreadsheet. Spreadsheets are good for lists and simple collaboration tracking efforts, but they become inadequate quickly when used for project management and other collaborative efforts.
  44. 44. Know When to Use Online Tools. Some online tools are not permanent substitutes, in terms of functionality or security.
  45. 45. e-Discovery and Collaboration Tools.   With the rise in the number of collaboration tools being used, we are creating a whole new set of electronically stored information, which is arguably discoverable in litigation.
  46. 46. Use Client Surveys. Don’t assume – ask. Gather information from a good cross-sampling of your clients.
  47. 47. Let the Client Drive.   If you attempt to use one tool when you’re client uses another, you’ll probably find a lot of resistance.
  48. 48. Use Technology as a Client Retention Tool. Use technology initiatives in a way to increase the costs for a competitor to steal your client away.  
  49. 49. Develop Some Policies.   If you don't have at least some rudimentary form of policy, employees will install and use the tools they want.
  50. 50. Understand the Uniquely Legal Issues. You may want to create a policy or document explaining clients and others about the risks and special concerns in using these tools.
  51. 51. Study Your SLAs.   If you're using an online tool, negotiate a Service Level Agreement (SLA) that covers uptime, response time, support coverage, data return, transition, and escalation.
  52. 52.  Get Full Disclosure. Encourage everyone in your office to fully disclose all collaboration tools, including online services, they use.
  53. 53. Re-Audit Regularly. Once or twice a year, pick some of the tools you have been using and study how they have actually worked for you.
  54. 54. Listen – Really Listen   People tend to give more, and more valuable, feedback when they know that you are listening to them and actually paying attention.
  55. 55. Learn from the Outside.   Learn from others outside your organization about the reasons why projects succeed or fail in other places.
  56. 56. Start a Collaboration Lab.   Experiment constantly, especially with free Internet tools.
  57. 57. Keep Up!   Keep up with the latest in collaboration tools by listening to your clients and colleagues and using resources like The Lawyer's Guide to Collaboration blog ( and the Collaboration Tools Wiki (
  58. 58. A Few Conclusions
  59. 59. This is Important Stuff. Collaboration by technology is at the heart of Web 2.0 and Law 2.0.
  60. 60. Culture is a Moving Target. Continually monitor your culture and adjust your collaboration strategies as your culture changes.
  61. 61. Your Most Important Collaborators Are Your Clients. Repeat to yourself and your colleagues as often as possible.
  62. 62. For More Information  Twitter: @collabtools @denniskennedy @TomMighell Email: