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Dennis Kennedy

Technology Law and Legal Technology. Dennis Kennedy is one of the few technology lawyers who is also an expert on the underlying technologies. Dennis an award-winning leader in the application of technology and the Internet to the practice of law. DennisKennedy.com gives you access to a wide variety of Dennis Kennedy's resources on legal technology, his writings, his well-known blog, DennisKennedy.Blog, and information about how you can have Dennis speak to your organization or group.

Dennis Kennedy is one of the most knowledgeable legal technologists you will find. - Michael Arkfeld.

Dennis Kennedy, a lawyer and legal technology expert in St. Louis, Mo., has been a significant influence in the ever-evolving relationship between lawyers and the Web. - Robert Ambrogi

Archive for April, 2004

Will Coming “Super Exploits” Cause Users to Update Windows?

Tuesday, April 20th, 2004

I doubt it. Why take precautions when you can learn the hard way, right?
Mary Jo Foley’s must-read Microsoft Watch posted an alert called “Will Forthcoming Exploits Target New Windows Holes?
The alert points to a warning from the Internet Storm Center at The SANS Institute suggesting that combination attacks on the critical Windows vulnerabilities announced last week may already be starting to occur.
If so, the lag time between availability of security patches and first exploits has dropped to less than seven days. This is scary business.
As I’ve pointed out before, law firms have been ravaged by well-known exploits of known Windows vulnerabilities for which patches were available. Warnings about “super exploits” suggest that a high degree of concern is justified. Failing to install updates puts both yourself and the entire Internet community at unnecessary risk.
Hey, let’s be careful out there, for once.

Matt Homan Walks the Walk

Monday, April 19th, 2004

What will the 21st century legal practice look like? Consider this example.
Matt Homan is a bright young lawyer with many cool ideas. Even better, he doesn’t just talk a good game – he puts himself out on the line and follows his own advice. That’s something that I really admire. I like people who make you challenge your own assumptions and force you to get off your ass.
Matt just announced the opening of his new era of law practice – The Silver Lake Group, complete with a Citizen Kane-esque statement of principles. That’s cool and something you don’t see very often.
I had the idea a while back to start a newsletter called “Practice Transformation.” I might still do that, but Matt makes me think that it’s better to try to transform your practice than to write about how it might be done.
Keep rocking, Matt. No more excuses, though – we’ve got to get together next week for lunch, breakfast, whatever.

Ernie Explains RSS

Friday, April 16th, 2004

I finally got to meet Ernie the Attorney in person at TECHSHOW. He’s as cool and smart as he seems from his blog and our conversation lasted into the wee hours of the morning.
Ernie has written the definitive how-to primer for anyone who wants to experiment with newsreaders to subscribe to RSS feeds for lawyer blogs. I enthusiastically second his approach. I also use FeedDemon as my newsreader (get well soon, Nick Bradbury!). If you are new to the idea of RSS feeds, follow Ernie’s steps. Take a week to see how it works for you, but be attentive and use the newsreader on a daily basis.
When you “get” newsreaders and RSS feeds, you’ll be blown away, trust me. If it doesn’t do anything for you, it probably means that there are better ways for you to get your information – but you’ll need to work on finding them, because the newsreader people have a real advantage these days, an advantage that will continue to grow.

New Patti Smith CD and Website: We Hold These Truths . . . .

Friday, April 16th, 2004

“This is gonna be our century and it’ll be whatever we make it.”
It was great news for me to learn that Patti Smith has a new album coming out this month and a brand new website. She has described her music as “Three chord rock merged with the power of the word.”
The new album is callled “Trampin’:
“It is march, a good word, and a good time
to share the making of trampin’.
our terrain stretches from the american
heartland to the streets of baghdad.
our boots are well worn and the sack we toss over
our shoulder is filled with tears and grain.
we unbutton our coats, for spring
is upon us and the air is thick with promise.
let us shake the gold upon the fields
for it is march, a good time for trampin’”
I’m reminded that so much of my rock ‘n’ roll esthetic, and even my overall artisitic esthetic, grows out of Patti Smith’s first three albums – Horses, Radio Ethiopia, Easter – and early live bootlegs (if you’ve ever heard her live version of Lou Reed’s “Pale Blue Eyes” or “My Generation” (now a bonus track on Horses) from the mid-70s, you’ll know what I mean) – and, to a surprising extent, her continuing works over the years.
In 1979, I had one of my ultimate musical evenings when we saw Patti Smith live in Indianapolis doing one of her shows touring after the Easter album (I still get chills thinking about that one) and then driving across town to see the Ramones live in a bar. Patti Smith also showed up at the Ramones concert. It was one of the high points of the 70s punk rock scene in Indiana (other than when my friend Emmett and I broadcast the first punk rock radio show in Indiana – a classic tale that included us almost getting kicked off the air).
The new website reminded me of that influence. The opening splash page has a William Blake etching. The site appears to change regularly, but on my first visit there was an image of a great Jackson Pollock painting, giving me a sense of familiarity and recognition.
Some of the artists I like best, Blake, Brancusi, Pollock, grew out of those early albums, as did my movement to U2 and John Coltrane in music.
On my first visit to the site, and unfortunately I couldn’t find the same page today (I believe it was replaced by a great meditation on Lincoln and Easter called the empty chair, was an image of the Declaration of Independence and a short excerpt from the beginning of the D of I. In the context, the words of the declaration are electrifying. Reading it with new eyes is something I definitely recommend.
From a 1998 concert review:
“Left knee twitching out the beat, cheeks flushed, voice agrowl, Patti Smith put on her glasses and put the juice back into words most of us take for granted–“We hold these truths to be self-evident. . .”
It was, quite possibly, the first time the Declaration of Independence had been recited accompanied by guitar feedback.
By the end of it, the audience sounded ready to follow Smith into the streets and straight to Capitol Hill. “This is gonna be our century and it’ll be whatever we make it,” Smith declared, her arms raised, and she had the music, the charisma and the rock ‘n’ roll attitude to back it up.”
I think that one of the more interesting things I’ve ever written was a college paper on William Blake’s poem “America.” It can be found as part of the longer work here. As with all of these things, the paper is probably more about Dennis in 1980 than about the text of the poem, but it always struck me that I touched on something important in that essay.
In introducing the essay, I said, “Blake sees historical events as mythological events that are accompanied by a progressive transformation of imagination and human society.” Blake said, “”I must Create a System or be enslaved by another Man’s.”
Doesn’t it come down to this:
“This is gonna be our century and it’ll be whatever we make it.”

Lawyer’s Role on Information Design Teams

Friday, April 16th, 2004

Tom Collins’ blog Knowledge Aforethought consistently has great content on knowledge management, especially on personal KM, one of my favorite topics. His post today, Lawyer’s Role on Information Design Teams is a good example of the insights I’ve found on his blog.
Tom points out the growing use of digital presentation tools by lawyers and the very common “hands-off” approach of turning the creation of visuals and contents to the “experts.”
In some firms, the “experts” may well be IT staff, marketing people or paralegals, many of whom are quite talented.
HOWEVER, as Tom points out, there are problems with this approach, both conceptual and practical. The classic approach to content design and presentation uses a four-person team: a multimedia person, a designer, a content subject expert, and producer.
When, for example, I prepare a PowerPoint presentation myself, I take on all four roles, even though I’m strongest as a content subject expert and anywhere from “pretty good” to “probably adequate” on the other three roles (ahem, depending on whom you ask). My results usually work out OK because of my involvement in the content subject expert role.
When a lawyer turfs the presentation over to the graphics experts, there is no content subject expert. The odds of having an effective presentation drop dramatically, even if the presentation looks great.
Tom has several points. First, that it is essential for lawyers to participate as part of the team. Second, given that many lawyers cannot afford a four member team, lawyers must get, maintain and improve the other technical skills and expertise other members of such a team would have provided. Third, modern presentation skills have become as important a requirement for lawyers as writing and speaking skills.
Tom’s post is short, but very important. I highly recommend it.
There’s an article to be written, perhaps by me, about the flip side of this article that can be written with the same title. That is, there are roles that lawyers can play as part of creative teams with respect to intellectual property and licensing issues, privacy, confidentiality and other legal issues, and exercise of the professional judgment that all good lawyers have.

Panera: New Home of the Technorati

Wednesday, April 14th, 2004

The Gearbits blog has a post covering the WiFi in restaurants trend called Panera: New Home of the Technorati. For this technoratus, Panera is the old comfy WiFi hangout.
Panera’s restaurants are still called St. Louis Bread Company in Panera’s hometown of St. Louis. My restaurant is about a mile from my house and usually have lunch (1/2 Sierra Turkey sandwich and cream of chicken and wild rice soup (although the new Vegetarian Parisian Mushroom Bisque is pretty darn good)), download and install Windows security updates, and work on Internet tasks.
The Gearbits Panera seems a little more upscale than mine, but mine has a great neighborhood feel and I usually run into someone I know on about every visit. It’s funny how even when I go just to work on the Internet, it seems like I end up talking with someone.
What I’ve noticed over time is that I consistently see a few businesspeople taking advantage of the WiFi on every visit, but there are always some kids (whose school schedule defies my logic, but I sure wish I could have spent that much time off-site while I was in high school) using those cool little cheap iBook Mac laptops.
There’s a book called The Great Good Place that attempts to describe the phenomenon of social gathering places. Keep on eye how WiFi, of all things, might help create those kinds of places. A lot of companies are experiment with WiFi, but Panera, especially because free WiFi caters to their customer profile so well (its customer spend a lot of time per visit and many visit multiple times during the day), has gotten it right.
Will WiFi work at McDonald’s? If they target and cater to the seniors who hang out and drink coffee all morning, it will. If they think it will pull us out of the drive-through line getting Happy Meals for our kids on the way home from school, they’ll be quite disappointed.

The IRS in 2004

Wednesday, April 14th, 2004

As a former tax lawyer, it’s been difficult for me to give up the experience of preparing my own tax returns, even though it generally leaves me in a bad mood. It takes so darn long and, by the end of the process, I end up thinking that the old Simplified Tax Return gag makes more and more sense.
This year, however, after hearing the author on a few radio shows, I read Rick Yancey’s wonderful book, Confessions of a Tax Collector, which turns the day-to-day work of an IRS tax collector into a fascinating, funny and insightful series of character studies. The fact that Yancey makes you feel sympathetic to the plight of tax collectors shows his great skill. And, for anyone who has ever spent some time working for the government, there are some details that are so dead-on for certain character types that you’ll think Yancey might have spent a few days at your office. You start to really pull for this wacky group of existential cowboys who serve as the last line, determined to make sure that the beast gets fed.
There’s a great four step mantra that Yancey keeps referring to: “We know where they are. We know what they do. We know what they have. We will execute what they fear.” It’s a lonely life, but Yancey catches you off-guard and succeeds in writing the ulitmate revenue agent fairy tale: the revenooer gets the girl.
So, I finished the book with my own wacky desire to “pay my fair share,” an effect that the hundreds of pages of 1040 instructions has never accomplished so effectively.
However, I have to admit that a few recent items have conspired to try to diminish the warm fuzzy feelings about paying taxes I have this year.
1. David Callhan’s The Cheating Culture , which uses today’s large law firm billable hour culture as a major example of his thesis, notes that at least $250 BILLION of taxes are simply not paid each year.
2. The story of the current state and possible fate of the IRS Master File and the continuing saga of the never-finished IT upgrade at the IRS almost defies description.
3. If you might be wondering why you need to use a private vendor to e-file, the stats in this chart might give you an idea why.
Ironically, IT may lead to a simplication of our tax system, but not in the way anyone envisioned – if the current situation takes the nose dive some fear, the national sales tax approach might be the only workable option to fund the government.

PDF for Lawyers: OCR Tutorial for Acrobat 6

Wednesday, April 14th, 2004

Forget Barry Bonds. PDF for Lawyers returns to action with a towering home run: OCR Tutorial for Acrobat 6. Great practical article that opens up the possibilities for effective use of Acrobat 6. I’ll go so far as to say that this article makes the case for fence-sitters to move to Acrobat 6.

The Top 20 Web Mistakes Small Businesses Make

Wednesday, April 14th, 2004

Karl Groves has written an excellent article called “The Top 20 Web Mistakes Small Businesses Make” that sets out some excellent tips for evaluating your website.
I always emphasize avoiding his problem #6 “Not making it easy for people to contact you from your site (and not following up when they do).” In fact, one of my favorite of The Internet Roundtable columns on law firm web pages (see archive on LLRX.com) is the one called “How Do I Make Sure That Visitors Who Come to My Site Can Contact Me?”
There are many ways to create great websites, but one of the easiest ways is to avoid the problems on Karl’s list.

I Hear That Train A-Comin’

Thursday, April 8th, 2004

One of my new buddies from TechShow is Matt Homan of the [non]billable hour. We’re on the same wavelength on a good number of things. He’s “across the river” in Illinois, as we like to say in St. Louis and we were planning to have lunch today until a client crisis postponed our plans.
One of Matt’s friends, I learned, is Evan Schaeffer, who maintains several excellent blogs, including The Illinois Trial Practice Blog and Notes from the (Legal) Underground. Notes from the (Legal) Underground has the kind of inspired wackiness and irony that you don’t often see in lawyer blogs. Since, by definition, lawyer bloggers have more of a sense of humor than other lawyers, I leave you to draw your own conclusions about why there are so few standup comics who were once lawyers.
Anyway, Evan has a great post today about his experience waiting for a long train and how it made him think about what other lawyer bloggers would do in that situation. It’s inside humor, but it’s also a handy list of many of the well-known bloggers.
About me, he says, “Does Dennis Kennedy calculate the rate of passing cars so he can figure out their speed?” Ouch, that hits a little close to home, but it was some of my buddies in high school who did things like that with their Texas Instruments calculators. Howard, Eric, Mike, am I right? These days, I mainly admire the spray paint art as the cars roll by and try to figure out what “no humping” means when painted on a box car.
I grew up in town originally founded by the B & O railroad. The school teams had the nickname of Garrett Railroaders. The train tracks were about 3 blocks from our house and waiting for trains was a regular occurrence for all of us. In fact, blaming a train would almost work as an excuse for getting home too late. Twenty-five years later, they finally put in an underpass that makes a world of difference.
Incredibly, when I went to college, I ended up living in a frat house that was roughly 30 feet away from a set of railroad tracks that we had to cross to get to classes. Some who lacked experience living around trains cracked under the pressure – you’d occasionally see dinner plates sailing out of windows at trains. Or, so I heard.
What I notice now is that far too many drivers have little understanding or respect for trains and, to my horror, will “cheat” across the tracks after the warning gates are down. A classmate of mine who works as a train engineer has told me how long it takes to stop a train and how an engineer is powerless at a certain point to do anything to avoid hitting a car on the tracks.
I figure that it’s better to relax, enjoy the art work and reminisce about how the trains and logos were a lot cooler in the “old days.” It’s also interesting to think about how my grandfather worked on the railroad for many years and told stories about riding in the caboose. Now trains don’t even have cabooses.