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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 July, 2004

News Story Disproves Claim that Big Law Firms Have No Identities

Friday, July 9th, 2004

Big law firms have it tough these days. Many critics claim that they have no identities, no personalities, no souls, no individuality.
The good news is that the article “Impersonating a Law Firm” in today’s ABA Journal eReport tells a story that utterly refutes the claims that at least one big law firm has no identity.
The article’s subtitle says it all: “Fish & Neave Identity Stolen by Paralegal, Prosecutors Charge.” Now I don’t pretend to have a black belt in logic, but I did have a minor in philosophy in college and it seems pretty clear to me that Fish & Neave’s identity could not have been stolen unless, in fact, it had one. Q.E.D.
I eagerly await the “critic’s” attempts to refute this argument.
I recommend the article for the story it tells, the questions it raises (how do you spend $500,000 on psychics?), and the highly-nuanced arguments of lawyers (you’ll catch a version of “it depends on what the definition of identity theft is” argument in there).
In the Sarbanes Oxley world, these kinds of occurrences are going to draw attention to the security and other IT practices of law firms, and, frankly, I’m not sure that some companies are going to like what they find.
Here’s a great item to find on your “to do” list if you are a partner at Fish & Neave: “Explain to clients how they really can be sure that we can keep their important documents and records secure, safe and confidential.”
On the other hand, maybe it is better to be considered to have no identity than to be referred to as “you mean the firm where the paralegal (allegedly) stole the firm’s identity.”
For those who enjoy irony, you might take a look at Fish & Neave’s discussion of its technology capabilities. For those at big firms enjoying a laugh at Fish & Neave’s expense, contemplate for a minute that, as one of the premier patent firms in the U.S., Fish & Neave is likely to be doing a better job on technology than firm’s that do not have such a strong technology focus.

Kill Your Idols

Thursday, July 8th, 2004

My longtime friend and personal music attorney, Emmett McAuliffe, is someone who I’m hounding to start a blog on music law.
Emmett just sent me a link to a great article called Idle Worship, or Revisiting the Classics, by Jim DeRogatis.
DeRogatis ostensibly reviews a new book called Kill Your Idols: A New Generation of Rock Writers Reconsiders the Classics. The book has the great premise of having a new generation of music critics look back at some of the “classic” albums of the 60s and 70s and write about why they despise those albums.
From the article:
“If we want to be high-minded about it, we can call it a spirited assault on a pantheon that has been foisted upon us, or a defiant rejection of the hegemonic view of rock history espoused by the critics who preceded us. If we want to use the vernacular, we can say it’s a loud, angry but hopefully amusing “f— you” to the ubiquitous forces of nostalgia: the schmaltzy Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the tawdry VH1 “Behind the Music Specials” and the endless Rolling Stone magazine lists of the 500 Greatest Albums in Rock History (which never, ever seem to get it right).
The point of the book isn’t to make readers change their minds about works they hold near and dear; I agree with only about a third of the essays myself. It’s to make them think about what they value in these allegedly great albums; about why, exactly, these works have been included in the canon, and about whether an art form as loud, rude and unruly as rock ‘n’ roll should even have a canon in the first place.”
That second paragraph of the quote is worth reading again.
DeRogatis goes on to reprint his critique of the “Sergeant Pepper’s” album. There’s some great stuff there, although there’s nothing more fun than hitting a Beatle’s fan with a dead-pan look and a “The Beatles were before my time” comment.
It’s an enjoyable article to read, it makes me want to read the book and it’s a great “find” by Emmett.
Emmett is the author of a now out-of-print niche classic on power pop music called “Pop Power!” Emmett’s blog would be a great place for him to revive and refresh that classic work in addition to providing a great resource on music law for bands and artists – but, hey, that’s just my opinion – no pressure, Emmett.

At U.N. Conference, Officials Say Spam Can Be Beaten in 2 Years

Wednesday, July 7th, 2004

From the always-excellent GigaLaw.com:
At U.N. Conference, Officials Say Spam Can Be Beaten in 2 Years
I’m sorry, but this headline and story defies my tiny level of comprehension. Handling WMDs, the global war on terrorism, AIDS, world hunger in two years, I can understand. But spam?
I was not convinced until I saw the solution. It’s so brilliant, so inspired. A bit obvious, yes, but it takes a visionary to truly “see” the simple beauty and elegance of the solution.
No, it’s not a Spam for Food program.
It’s more legislation, of course. D-oh! It was so clear – why couldn’t I have thought of it?
Earth to UN! Oh, never mind.
I have to admit that I’m beginning to question the logic and priorities of the institutions and governments around the world just a tiny little bit.

Well, At Least St. Louis Still Has That Blawg City, USA Thing Going For It

Wednesday, July 7th, 2004

St. Louis has a very good local news blog called Blog St. Louis, even though it took an unfortunate hit recently by all-but-guaranteeing the Gephardt as VP pick. Hey, as rumors go, the evidence looked pretty good.
However, Houston has an awesome local stories blog in Houston’s Clear Thinkers. It’s a must-read for me just for its overall quality. With Houston’s news well in hand, they had the chance recently to skewer St. Louis’s light rail system in their post, “The Economic Absurdity of a Light Rail System,” which highlighted an article written by people in the St. Louis Office of the Federal Reserve.
A quick check of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch website shows no mention of this article, indicating what we think of the “newsworthiness” of this item (or the possible consequences of living in a one newspaper town).
But, watch it Houston. St. Louis may still have thousands of homes without electricity or cable TV as we reach day 3 after a thunderstorm, and there may be questions about our light rail system, but we are still Blawg City, USA.

Starting a Solo Practice Out of a Home Office

Wednesday, July 7th, 2004

There was great discussion on the fantastic Missouri Bar Small Firm Internet Group mailing list today chock full of advice to a lawyer who was considering starting her new practice from a home office.
Unfortunately, in my continuing saga of the power outages, cable TV outages (during tonight’s repeat of the episode of Monk that we apparently missed, for Chrissakes! You tell me what credit would adequately compensate my daughter and I for that!), customer support call horror stories and other glitches that have greeted my return to St. Louis, my contribution to the discussion was rejected repeated by a mailserver that refused to recognize my email address (OK, Mr. Wiseserver, how come you have no problem sending the emails to my addresses?) and claimed that I was attempting to send an attachment.
Well, I have other options. Here’s the mildly edited and disguised message to the list that originated the discussion:
“I am starting up a solo practice in estate planning and elder law and I have lots of questions. I have been pondering the idea of practicing out of my home, and traveling to my clients. I spoke with a few people at the conference who had had good experience with it, but I am not getting positive feedback from other attorneys in the town where I will be practicing. Opinions and/or advice anyone?”
Here’s my unedited response (that means that I’m sure that I must have intended any typos or other errors):
Let’s see. The other attorneys in your town see you as a likely competitor. You might want to factor that into your evaluation of the objectivity of their advice. By the way, part of this comes down to that old childhood philosophical question: if the other attorneys in your town all jumped off the Empire State Building, would you jump off too?
Seriously, though, all of the other positive encouragement you have received from members of this list is right on track, in my opinion. The world is changing and expectations are very different today than they were even a few years ago. To me, that means that the home office option is one that must be considered in every start-up practice, and probably will be a wise choice in most cases.
As far as estate planning clients, by 1998 when I left the estate planning department at The Stolar Partnership, it was already starting to be the exception when clients came into the office instead of us going to them. While there is a “downtown St. Louis” component to this issue, I can tell you that all of the biggest St. Louis firms now have offices in St. Louis County for the purpose of servicing estate planning clients. Requiring the “elderly” elder law clients to come to your office may not make sense in any number of cases.
I went from law offices on ten floors with 300 lawyers to working out of my house. If you made me pick one word to describe the experience, I would choose “liberating.” My clients are business and technology clients. Do they have an issue? Not at all. Some compliment on my business judgment on cutting overhead and everyone else appreciates my willlingness to make “house calls.” Most of my work is done via phone and email.
On the other hand, I think that the home office approach will work best when you can handle your work by relying on technology, temps or even “virtual legal secretaries.” Once you need full-time employees, it will be much harder. On the other hand, lawyers with leased offices may be willing to “lease” you secretarial hours, storage space, meeting rooms, reception services and the like on an outsourced, or pay-as-you-go basis. In one of the “projects I know that I’ll never get done so why do I kid myself” ideas that I have on my list is creating a web page or exchange where lawyers can offer and seek out these types of arrangements. I hereby donate that idea to anyone of the SFIG list who can put it together.
I believe that in the areas that you intend to practice (especially elder law), the willingness to “make house calls” or meet in a place convenient to your clients could be a “positive market distinguisher.” If you worked out an arrangement with a bank, for example, to use a conference room for meetings, you’d probably develop relationships and get new clients.
If clients have to come to your house (especially felony criminal clients – despite the presumption of innocence), or if you require more than a limited staff, working out of your house might create some problems, zoning or otherwise (consider access and disability issues for elderly clients).
As I tell people in my presentations, a solo practice is ultimately a cash-flow business. If you cut your expenses, you improve your chances to get into the black faster. Is your money more effectively spent on an office lease or on marketing or technology? I can adjust my marketing or tech budget in a poor month, but a lease payment comes due whether you have a good month or a bad month.
Those of us working from home are probably going to be taking over the world in a few years anyway, so climb on board the home office train. As they say, “People get ready, there’s a train a-coming, don’t need no fancy lease, just climb on board.”

Battling Blog Comment Spam – Turn em Off

Wednesday, July 7th, 2004

Today, on the otherwise rational Net-Lawyers email list, people who I truly admire were sharing the time-consuming acrobatics that they are willing to go through in a fruitless attempt to stop comment spammers on their blogs.
Enough, I said. Let me take a mildly contrarian approach.
You can’t stay ahead of the spammers. They’ve now added Trackback spam to their repertoire. See, e.g., http://www.elise.com/mt/archives/000577trackback_spam.php.
I flat out don’t allow comments on my blog – sort of a tribute to Ronald Reagan’s famous “Mr. Green, I paid for this microphone” moment. The spammers have destroyed my use of my telephone with unsolicited calls, my email with barrage after barrage of messages, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay to give them a platform from which to destroy blogging for me, too. If they are going to destroy my blog experience, they are going to have to earn it the hard way. I’m not giving them an inch this time. As for pre-approving commenters, I’m not sure I understand why I need to do all the work – shouldn’t the spammers do all the work? That’s why they have rooms full of programmers in Eastern Europe working all day long for anyway. Let them pay the programmers to earn their pay instead of making me put together whitelists and other time-consuming temporary fixes. “Whitelists” baffle me in this context. There’s no way that I could have approved in advance comments from many of the bloggers I now count as friends.
And, blog comments would be just one more type of communication that I’d be late in responding too and never having the time to police. My hats off to the people who want to do the comment thing, but blog comments just seem like the worst of all possible worlds for me. People who have something to say to me about my blog can email me. If they have something they need to perform in public as a response, they can use their own blog and I’ll see it here. For other blogs I might do, comments might make sense, but this blog is the microphone I paid for. They can go ahead and send me regular spam or call me at home during dinner, if they want, and leave my blog alone.
Finally, I remain hopeful that Congress will soon approve the CAN COMMENT SPAM bill that should eliminate the entire problem.
By the way, to all the spam filter fans out there, thank you for your continuing efforts to endorse programs that further destroy the remaining utility of email. Today’s example, I look unprofessional for not turning in an article because someone’s spam filters blocked two emails I sent with the article attached. Welcome to 1980s email all over again – “Ring, ring. Just calling to see if you got the email I sent you.”
Shouldn’t this be our battle cry? “Never give in – never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the spammers.”
For now, if you want to split the cost of my hosting fee, then we can talk about providing you a platform to spam and deface my blog. Until then, let’s just keep the microphone turned off.
In fairness to the spammers, however, I must admit that today I received a subject line that made me chuckle from Daniel Yankovic, a nom de plume of a spammer who apparently enjoys spoofing my email address. It said simply, “Pornstars use Cialis to stay hard.” In its own way, it struck me as the highest attainment of the spammer’s art and I fear that we face only a downward curve in spammer creativity after this point.

Lights Out in Webster

Tuesday, July 6th, 2004

If you are a heavy metal historian or had your heavy metal formative years during the mid-1970s, as I did, you may have noticed the reference in the title to the classic title track from the seminal UFO classic, Lights Out.
I was reminded of the song all last night and through this morning. We arrived back in St. Louis (the suburb in which we live is called Webster Groves) at the same time as a thunderstorm.
Not that power outages in our neighborhood are common, but, after racing between raindrops to get our luggage in the house, we started to collect flashlights and candles. A quick check of the weather showed no warnings and the radar showed a line of showers that was all but through. In a few minutes, the house went dark.
And we’re still without power. The electric company estimates that we will get our power restored sometime after 9:00 tonight. As I drove around looking for a free Wifi access spot (it took three tries), I was amazed by the extent of the power outages, especially in the business districts.
If you are familiar with St. Louis, you know that one of the most hellish experiences you can have is trying to sleep on a July night in St. Louis without air conditioning or even a fan. I can attest to that, even though I did enjoy a series of fascinating, near-hallucinatory dreams. Perhaps the only thing more hellish is spending a July day and evening in a house with no air conditioning, fan or refrigerator.
So, we are working today on running errands to air-conditioned spots, visiting family members and the like.
A few major shout-outs, however, are definitely in order.
First, to Intel for the Centrino chip – wireless access and still more than 4 hours of battery life left (even after starting with a not-fully charged battery).
Second, to Sony for the Vaio PCG-Z1AP and the great decision to include the Centrino.
Third, to Panera/St. Louis Bread Company for breakfast, air conditioning and the free WiFi access.

St. Louis, Missouri Crowned “Blawg City, USA”

Sunday, July 4th, 2004

Scraps and Workshop #1
I attended a seminar this May in Huntington Beach, California, which has the storied nickname “Surf City, USA.”
When freshening up my list of legal blogs (often referred to as “blawgs,” a term originated by Denise Howell (one of the legal bloggers I refer to as “The First Ones”) (see background story)), I noticed that the St. Louis metropolitan area has a high concentration of popular and influential blawgs.
Consider for a moment:
Matt “the [non] billable hour” Homann – Perhaps the most influential blawger on alternative billing and law practice innovation issues and creator of the “Five by Five” feature, probably the best example of a regular, ongoing blawg content feature.
Evan “Notes From the Legal Underground, The Illinois Trial Practice Blog and The Illinois Personal Injury Blog” Schaeffer – Evan is hands-on the funniest of the blawgers, writes regular insightful and humorous essays and, through his multiple blogs, dispenses a lot of great, practical information. He ties with Jerry Lawson for maintaining the higest number of high-quality blawgs. I admit to being a little jealous of that, but I also have a kind email from Evan that I treasure because he thanked me for inspiring him to start a blog on account of a presentation that I made that I had felt had fallen on deaf ears.
George “George’s Employment Law” Lenard – If you want to see a great example of how to operate a legal subject-matter-specific blog, George’s blog is a great starting point. There is consistently good practically and thought-provoking content. George’s recent posts on health care insurance issues that effect all of us are especially good.
Dennis “DennisKennedy.Blog” Kennedy – Hey, that’s me. (At least I didn’t put my blog first on the list.) I am proud of what I’ve done on my blog – it includes some of my best work.
By any standard, that is a very strong list of blawgs. In the near future, with a bit more arm-twisting from me, I expect to see several new blogs from St. Louis lawyers that will unquestionably become highly-praised and valuable blogs. You know who you are .
However, does this list really get St. Louis to the point where it can claim the crown of “Blawg City, USA”? The answer: a resounding “yes!”
Here’s why. There are not yet very many legal blogs. There are also a limited number that have a high stature, large audience or great infuence. And the blawgs that fit those categories are widely scattered across the country.
Ernie the Attorney is all but synonymous with New Orleans, but you don’t think of other New Orleans blawgers.
Tom “Inter-Alia” Mighell may well be the most brilliant of the blawgers and, in my mind, the lawyer who understands blogging better than anyone else, but most people wouldn’t associate him with Dallas or be able to think of any other Dallas blawgers.
Marty “The Trademark Blog” Schwimmer may have the single best example of a subject matter expert blawg, but you do not associate him with a cluster of New York City or even East Coast blawgers.
While Denise “Bag and Baggage” Howell would be at or near the top of any list of most influential blawgers, there is not really a Los Angeles area cluster of blawgers. There are a number of Southern California blawgers, but that’s a big area. In addition, Denise lives and works within walking distance of Surf City, USA, so another nickname would be more appropriate.
Rick Klau is another of “The First Ones” and as influential as can be, but I don’t have the sense of much else happening in blawging in Chicago.
The law professor bloggers are scattered all over the place and many blawgs do not give you a sense of geography.
The biggest competitor to St. Louis, in my mind, is Washington, DC. The lineup of Jerry “NetLawBlog” Lawson (the wisest blawger), Sabrina “BeSpacific” Pacifici (the most professional blogger) and Carolyn “My Shingle” Elefant (a fantastic example of a content-rich resource blog) is a formidable one indeed. However, since Washington, DC is the nation’s capital, it is fair to have it defer to St. Louis on the “Blawg City, USA” designation.
Finally, as bloggers know, there’s an enormous first-to-market advantage of simply making the claim that “St. Louis, Missouri is Blawg City, USA” and seizing the benefits of the Google results that will arise from this post itself – not that, heaven forbid, that is what I have in mind with this post.
It is incumbent upon those of us who make up the current first group of blawgers to blaze the paths, create the directories and establish the maps and geography of the blawging world for those who follow us and those who will become the future readers and creators of blawgs. In this 200th anniversary year of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, I now plant the blawger flag and proclaim that St. Louis is Blawg City, USA.
In the words of Jan and Dean:
“You know they never roll the streets up ’cause there’s always somethin’ goin’
(Blawg City, here we come)
You know they’re either out blawgin’ or they got a party growin’
(Blawg City, here we come)
Yeah, and there’s two swingin’ blawgs for every attorney
And all you gotta do is just subscribe to the RSS feeds”

Celebrate the July 4th Holiday with a Free Pepsi Edge from Jeff Gordon and Me

Sunday, July 4th, 2004

Man! Despite the long rain delay, the edge-of-your-seat last laps of last night’s Pepsi 400 more than lived up to the historical name of the race – The Firecracker 400.
In a “we could not have planned this any better” marketing moment, Jeff Gordon’s win triggered a Pepsi promotion that allows everyone to get a free 2-liter bottle of the new Pepi Edge.
Simply go to http://www.pepsiedge.com and register today before 9:00 EST and you’ll receive a coupon for a free bottle. If you are reading my blog today, have a free Pepsi Edge, courtesy of Pepsi, Jeff Gordon and me, as a way of celebrating the 4th of July, the Pepsi 400 and my upcoming 400th post to this blog.
[IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: More than a few "legal marketing experts" have opined that lawyers should NEVER make references to personal interests on their blogs, especially interests that, in the opinion of these experts, might show that the lawyer is a human being or has interests in anything other than snobbish, high-falootin' cultured and "professionally correct" things. Mentioning NASCAR is an example that has been commonly used as a "no-no" to avoid. My continuing response to these "experts" is and has long been: GET A LIFE! Any web marketing "expert" who gives you advice that suggests that you can be more successful by reducing the personality and individuality of your web presence betrays an utter lack of understanding of the history of the Internet, the reasons for site success (especially in the blog world) and how clients ultimately choose lawyers. I've given you more valuable information for free in this tongue-in-cheek disclaimer than you'll ever get for the thousands of dollars you may pay to "experts" who encourage an impersonal approach. I now get over a million hits a year on a legal website that dares to be personal, human and individual, including specifically mentioning NASCAR if I feel like it, or anything else for that matter. Check out the web sites of the button-upped experts as a comparison and do the math. As is the case with all of the best and most popular legal bloggers, I'm a blogger who happens to be a lawyer rather than a lawyer who created a blog as part of a paint-by-the numbers marketing plan. Vive la difference!! Please feel free to use the language of this disclaimer when posting on a subject that the "experts" might not consider high-falootin' and cultured enough. Declare your independence today from the "cult of hyper-professionalism" that wants to crush every element of individuality out of the practice of law and make lawyers conform to their dry and lifeless standards. And have a Pepsi Edge on me. It's Independence Day.]