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.
1. Technology Choices Are
Always More About Culture
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.
Choices about collaboration tools must be made
collaboratively. Compromise often is a necessary
element in the selecting of collaboration tools.
A Journey of a
Thousand Miles Begins with a
Select one tool to start, and
really give it a try.
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.
Do a quick personal collaboration audit.
Audit Your Collaborators.
What are the people with whom you work already
using (or planning to use) to collaborate?
Know Your Firm’s Technology
and Collaboration Culture.
Whether you know it or not, your firm
already has a “collaboration culture.”
There's a Time and a Place . . .
Not all collaboration tools
will work in all instances.
Internal and External
Collaboration Require Different
Tools and Approaches.
When you change the context,
re-evaluate the tools you use.
Align Technology Strategy to
In a time of reduced budgets,
you must be able to show a business
case for your collaboration tools.
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.
Be Guided by the
Look for projects or portions of
projects that bring the biggest
results for the least effort.
If it Ain't Broke . . .
Facilitate, and do not disrupt,
existing patterns and types of
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.
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."
"Fail Fast" Mindset.
If something isn't working,
be willing to move on and
try something else.
Exhibit #1: Your Tweet
(or IM, or email, etc.)
Social networking provides convenient and
informal tools, but they are all
discoverable electronic communications.
Use What You
You may not know it, but the software you already
own probably contains some type of
Develop a Fan Base.
Get your "early adopters" involved from the
beginning, and your pilot projects will have a
better chance of success.
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.
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.
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.
Reduce Travel Costs
Through Online Collaboration.
Just because you can't meet face-to-face doesn't mean
you can't meet.
Don’t Email Large Files.
Email is not an ideal collaboration
tool, and it should definitely
not be used to share large files.
"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.
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.
The more proprietary your collaboration tool,
the more difficult it will be to share data
with people using other tools and formats.
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.
Combine Honey with Vinegar?
Consider using inexpensive incentives or small
penalties to get people to use collaboration tools.
One IM Tool To
Rule Them All.
If you use more than one IM client, consider
standardizing the platform.
Feed Your Collaborators.
Use "alerts" and "feeds" (RSS feeds,
email alerts and the like) to get information
out to your collaborators.
Understand the concept of extranets, and why
extranets are the cornerstones of online
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.
Watch for developments and news about
security threats and other issues involving
online collaboration services.
Know Where Your
People increasingly work in
different places, at different times,
and on different devices, including
smart phones and laptops.
Practice Law Like a
Lawyers and legal professionals
often act as project managers.
Open your eyes to the world of
project management tools,
concepts and approaches.
Rethink Email as a
Email is probably the most common collaboration
tool you use, but it is usually not the best tool,
especially for those with overloaded inboxes
Back Away from
Spreadsheets are good for lists and simple collaboration
tracking efforts, but they become inadequate quickly
when used for project management and other
Know When to
Use Online Tools.
Some online tools are not permanent substitutes, in
terms of functionality or security.
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.
Use Client Surveys.
Don’t assume – ask. Gather information from a
good cross-sampling of your clients.
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.
Use Technology as a Client
Use technology initiatives in a way
to increase the costs for a competitor
to steal your client away.
Develop Some Policies.
If you don't have at least some rudimentary
form of policy, employees will install and
use the tools they want.
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.
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
Get Full Disclosure.
Encourage everyone in your office to fully disclose
all collaboration tools, including online services,
Once or twice a year, pick some
of the tools you have been using
and study how they have actually worked for you.
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.
Learn from the Outside.
Learn from others outside your organization about the
reasons why projects succeed or fail in other places.
Start a Collaboration Lab.
especially with free Internet tools.
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 (