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. 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 August, 2004

KM Resources – Search and Taxonomies White Paper, Blog23 and Twyla Tharp

Friday, August 6th, 2004

I’ve been doing some research and planning for an upcoming KM presentation. I’ve found three great resources recently that I wanted to share.
1. A modestly intrusive free registration is required, but the white paper : EContent Leadership Series: Strategies for Search, Taxonomiy and Classification looks like (since I haven’t completely read it all yet, I can’t make any pronouncement yet) it might be a treasure trove of articles about the areas of search and taxonomies. I learned about it this morning from Econtent Magazine‘s ECXtra Bulletin. The teaser for the white paper was compelling – “BECAUSE WHAT WOULD YOU RATHER DO? SEARCH . . . OR FIND?”
The whole notion of taxonomies raises a difficult practical issue in legal KM. If you mention the word “taxonomy” to a lawyer, you’ve all but lost him or her. If you use “taxonomy” and “ontology” in the same conversation (let alone, God forbid, in the same sentence) with a lawyer, you might as well spend your time talking to a brick wall.
For lawyers, using the term “finding tools” will be a better approach than talking about “search engines.” It’s like the switch in perspective that comes from saying that our real focus when buying a power drill is not really the drill, instead it’s the hole that we plan to make.
2. In one of those cases where I’m not sure whether this post is really great because it is great or because I agree with it, Blog23′s Personalization, Classification and Staying Ahead of the Reader makes some profound observations about how we think, learn and organize information.
Here’s the premise:
“But there is something that can be done online which isn’t possible in print, and that is to reconfigure my newspaper to the topics I want to read about, to make smart choices for me and to give me easy ways to make my own choices about what to read.”
In brief, the post sets out the positives and negatives of the two most common approaches to info consumption – personalization and categorization. Most of us will agree with the limitations of these approaches.
There is also a third alternative (and I think there may be more). This third alternative is called a “document-centric” approach. To summarize this approach:
“For us, the document is in a class of its own (or a bucket of its own, to stay with the earlier metaphor). So, we don’t have just one bucket, or 400,000 buckets, but as many buckets as there are documents, each of which can temporarily become home to other, related documents according to the user’s interests. The document is our best guide to what the reader is interested in right now. The document is richer than its metadata (unless that metadata cost more to produce than the story). And the reader’s interest in the document may be different from the interest of someone who happens to have read some other documents that I’ve also read.”
I’m intrigued by this – it “feels” right to me. Both my personal interests and my categories do change (I’m about to dump my latest effort at creating a useful subfolder system and try another, much looser, one). Categories and documents make the most sense within the applicable context. In other words, I regularly find that I do not know what the “right” category is (or whether an “info object” should be in more than one category) until I am in a place where I want to use it.
However, the answer is neither singular, simple, or even yet known:
“But all three appraoches have merit (personalization, classification and document-centrification — OK, we’ll have to think of a better -ation there), and perhaps the best way to serve the reader is for all of us to collectively keep churning out new and innovative ways of helping users find the information they want, perhaps combining several of our techniques into an intuitive UI, giving the user that thing which makes their world go around: choice.”
Yeah, baby. You are talking to me now. There’s some cool stuff going on in that area around Blog23.
3. I plan to write more about this next item in the neaar future, but suffice it to say that Twyla Tharp’s recent book, The Creative Habit, has completely changed my thinking on KM and a number of other important things. It also helped me finish several uncompleted projects that were dogging and blocking me – no small feat. And, on top of that, you get an “open the hood” look into the creative processes of one of our greatest living artists as she discusses how she created some of her most successful (and unsuccessful) works.
Here’s my best short review of the book – I have now finished my fourth reading of the book and my copy is full of notes, markings and underlines. I can guarantee you that this is not my usual reaction to a book. You may not “see” how this book might apply to KM or to you, but if you have developed any confidence at all in my opinions, you will want to read this book in the very near future.

Beyond Bullets – Aristotle’s Top Ten PowerPoint Tips

Friday, August 6th, 2004

I amke no secret of the fact that I am a huge fan of the Beyond Bullets blog, an incredibly useful site on the subjects of PowerPoint and presentations.
The most recent lesson from Beyond Bullets is called Aristotle’s Top Ten PowerPoint Tips
Here’s the fundamental problem:
“When you work in PowerPoint in a storyboard view, it can be a very powerful way to capture, distill and arrange your thoughts. But PowerPoint is also a visual design tool, and we’ve unfortunately fallen victim to an unfortunate side-effect — obsessing over the surfaces of individual slides at the expense of the structure of the argument across slides. In many cases, there is no rhetorical structure whatsoever in a PowerPoint presentation, only a loosely-related string of lists. Instead of a strong and clear argument, we get a weak and fragmented assortment of ideas that muddy up the minds of the audience and the speaker.”
Here are Aristotle’s (that’s the ancient Greek Aristotle, not Shaq, the Big Aristotle) top ten tips:
“1. Be logical.
2. Think clearly.
3. Reason cogently.
4. Remember that argument is the life and soul of persuasion.
5. Study human nature.
6. Observe the characters and emotions of your audience, as well as your own character and emotions.
7. Attend to delivery.
8. Use language rightly.
9. Arrange your material well.
10. End crisply.”
Finally, the Beyond Bullet’s lesson to be learned:
“Tip: Before you start working on your visuals, view your PowerPoint slides in Slide Sorter and check them against this 10-point checklist of tips. Are your headlines logical, and orderly? Have you researched your audience? Do you have a crisp ending? Practice giving the presentation to your team with only the headlines, so you can attend to your delivery. When your headlines, storyboard structure and delivery have all passed the bar of Aristotle’s Top 10 Tips, then it’s time to start working on your visuals, confident they have a solid foundation to rest upon. This way, even if your laptop fails and you don’t have a PowerPoint to work with, you’ll know you have 2,500 years of history to guide your sails on a clear course toward results.”
I’ve probably given at least a hundred different PowerPoint presentations and read just about everything I can get my hands on about using PowerPoint. I can tell you that you will have a difficult time finding any better advice than what you will find in this Beyond Bullets post.
If you are a serious student of PowerPoint, I’ll tell you that the two books from which I have unquestionably learned the most about using PowerPoint in presentations are Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics and Jerry Weissman’s Presenting to Win, neither of which, as the astute reader might notice, appear to have much to do with PowerPoint.

Marketing Pros Say Now is the Time to Advertise on Blogs

Friday, August 6th, 2004

I love it when marketing experts and professionals make the argument that I’ve been making for a while. It somehow seems so self-serving when I say it.
From AdRants:
Tom Hespos Says Advertise on Weblogs Now
“Underscore Marketing’s Tom Hespos writes in a MediaPost article about the benefits of weblog advertising.
While blogs carve out their niche in the realm of news media, advertisers and marketers can benefit tremendously. The blogosphere, as it is called, is filled with influential opinion leaders. By adding blogs to your media campaign, you can tap into these influentials through advertising and sponsorship and see a nice return for a comparatively light spend. Enjoy it while it lasts. Blogs won’t be a cheap media buy forever, especially after our society fully embraces them as a critically important part of political communication and discourse.”
I prefer to use a “sponsorship” approach on my blog. Let’s talk about opportunities here and at The Blawg Channel.

Seminars I Wish I Could Attend – Free Software Foundation

Thursday, August 5th, 2004

The General Public License might well be one of the top ten most influential legal documents of the 20th century. It certainly is one of the most influential legal documents that most lawyers have no awareness of.
On August 24 and 25, the Free Software Foundation will be putting on a two-day, in-depth seminar at Stanford University on the GPL and other aspects of Free Software and Open Source software. If you are involved in technology law, this program is one to take a good hard look at to see if you can attend. With presenters like Dan Ravicher, you are going to get as good an understanding of the GPL as it is possible to get in two days. For more information on the GPL and the Open Source licenses, my Open Source License Law Resource Page is a good starting point.
In my case, I’ll be at LawNet at the same time, where I’ll be speaking about KM on behalf of SydneyPLUS and hoping to get the chance to meet up with some of the legal tech bloggers who will be attending.
I got the grand tour of SydneyPLUS’s kmBuilder yesterday and it impressed the heck out of me for several reasons. First, it seems extraordinarily “forgiving” in that it allows you to make major modifications and revisions to database templates and fields on the fly, allowing great customization. Second, they come into legal KM from a strong library and library science background, making their approach to handling information much more nuanced and friendly than the typical law firm IT department approach. Third, well, you will have to attend my presentation.

Applying Open Source to the Legal Process: A Perfect Example

Wednesday, August 4th, 2004

Marty “The Trademark Blog” Schwimmer is one of the few lawyers I know whogets the Open Source philosophy, its implications and its applications.
In his post, “Let’s Open Source The International Trademark Metasearch,” Marty identifies a significant problem, sees a solution that commercial developers probably cannot or will not solve, and recognizes how an Open Source approach will produce a result that helps everyone.
Take a look. You will appreciate the wisdom of this creative approach. If you understand this post, you will take a big step toward understanding the whole “Open Source” concept. If it gets your interest, my Open Source License Law Page is not a bad place to start.
I expect more ideas for these “Open Source” projects in the area of the practice of law will be coming. The question is will we bring them out of the idea stage and into reality.

A Great Example of the Type of Technology Law Articles I Like to Find

Wednesday, August 4th, 2004

Edward Perlman’s “Integrating Business Goals And The Law In Licensing Deals” is a great example of the practical, tell-me-the important-stuff articles I like to find and recommend to non-lawyers.
The money quote:
“Lawyers and business executives have very different perspectives on the topic of licensing. Your outside counsel probably focus on what rights, obligations and liabilities are created in your company’s license agreements. As in-house counsel, you want to know whether the license will successfully advance your company’s business strategy of obtaining a technology or financial profit, or both. Obviously, integrating both sides is critical.”
Perlman makes short, solid points that summarize the business goals (the “whys”) and the approaches you can take (the “hows”). Lawyers often assume that you have thought through all the business issues and options. Businesspeople often have an unstated assumption that they expect their lawyers to bring up alternatives rather than stick to the draft agreement at hand.
Lawyers need to consider both viewpoints. Clients need to consider both viewpoints. In many cases, that does not happen, especially when lawyers are unfamiliar with licensing in general, with licensing and related strategies in your industry, and, worst of all, with the technologies at issue in the license.
Perlman’s article is a great example of a way to bridge that gap. Highly recommended.

Summer Reading Tips for Tech-oriented Lawyers

Wednesday, August 4th, 2004

Jerry Lawson recently reminded me that the second edition of Bob Ambrogi‘s book, The Essential Guide to the Best (and Worst) Legal Sites on the Web, has now been published. I got the chance to talk with Bob a few months ago when he had just finished the final galley proofs and the book was headed off to the printer.
For those who don’t already know this, Bob is the real deal. He’s been writing about and reviewing legal websites since the very beginning, and there’s no better authority on the topic. Bob was also in the first big group of lawyers to create websites with great content and he is also one of the early lawyer bloggers (LawSites). My comment on the first edition still stands, “A highly useful and well-organized reference tool that should be kept beside every lawyer’s computer.”
I’m way overdue in mentioning Meg Spencer-Dixon’s very useful The Lawyer’s Guide to Palm-Powered Handhelds, a book in which I played a small role in the editing process and will confess my bias toward. I like the practical focus of this book, which shows how lawyers can use and benefit from Palm devices more so than dwell on esoteric, technical matters. This focus works well for me and for most lawyers. If you’ve bought a PDA, you might as well find ways to get your money’s worth out of using it. This book will definitely help.
As long as you are putting together a reading list, don’t forget that technological innovation in the practice of law necessitates a rethinking of how we charge our clients. Three great starting points on that topic are Jim Calloway and Mark Robertson’s Winning Alternatives to the Billable Hour, 2nd Edition : Strategies That Work, Paul Dunn and Ron Baker’s The Future of the Firm, and Alan Weiss’s Value-Based Fees.
Why not turn off that darn computer and read a book for a change?

I found a great quote about blogging – and it was from me!

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2004

I love the global aspect of the Internet. Tonight, I ran across an article on legal blogging in the Australian Lawyers Weekly.
It’s a very good article, but I was surprised (and pleased) to find a few quotes from me in the article, from an article I wrote a while back.
At the end of the article, I saw the following sentences that conclude the article:
�Firms who saw the down economy as a good time to take a nap on technology had better hear the alarm clock. The blawgers woke up the internet community in 2003. In 2004, it�s morning again in legal technology, and from where I stand, it is a sunny day.�
Wow! That really nails it, I thought. I checked who had said it and it was me. That’s good stuff. If I’m writing stuff like that, it’s no wonder so many people seem to like my articles.
By the way, it’s still a sunny day and the sun is shining brightly over at the Blawg Channel. Check it out.

Ron Friedmann on Elephants and e-Billing

Sunday, August 1st, 2004

Ron Friedmann consistently writes some of the best analysis of legal tech and law practice issues that you will find. His latest gem is called “E-Billing Ignores the Elephant in the Room.”
The money quote:
“E-billing may save on administrative costs but misses the main point. Now watch out – here comes a mixed and mangled metaphor – e-billing is really just the elephant�s dung heap. Push around the dung, position it more neatly, maybe even pick a bit off the pile, and presto, the problem is gone. But it�s not; the elephant remains with an unending new supply.
To really lower costs, focus on how the dung gets there. Put that elephant on a diet by making lawyers work more efficiently and effectively.”
Ron refers to a white paper for LawNet on e-billing. He says, “The white paper shows that e-billing adds costs and creates hassles for law firms. I have yet to see empirical evidence that client savings from e-billing exceed the extra costs incurred by firms. (The economist in me suspects that e-billing may add to rather than save total system cost.)”
I have to disagree with Ron a bit on this one. It depends on your definition of e-billing. Many solos and small firms have moved to electronic billing approaches, which have the dual benefit of getting information to clients in a manner that can process quickly (if they choose) and gets the lawyers paid more quickly and easily.
In a more traditional large firm setting, I can see where there would be an argument that e-billing creates hassles for law firms. If I were a client, my reaction would be: “So what? I’m supposed to pay more or process bills more inefficiently because of your crappy billing and accounting systems? I don’t think that makes any sense.”
However, I don’t want to quibble with Ron. I strongly agree with his conclusion:
“So if clients are not going to analyze e-billing data, then why not just start with how lawyers work? Why not examine the actual means of practice rather than the small – or not so small heaps – that billing leaves behind?
Where are the bold GCs willing to talk about the elephant and take it head-on?” [emphasis added]
For an excellent view of current attitudes of corporate counsel toward outside law firms, check out the recent ABA Journal article “The Outside Looking In.” One of my favorite co-presenters I’ve ever shared a podium with is Jeff Carr, who is quoted in this article. Believe me, he is one of the bold GCs and one of the true innovators in new ways to pay for legal services. He definitely talks about the elephants.

Can I Market MY Law Practice With Both Hands Tied Behind My Back? In Missouri, I May Have to

Sunday, August 1st, 2004

Missouri’s newly proposed revisions to the rules for lawyers wanting to advertise, market or solicit potential clients have been released for comments. Comments are due by the end of August.
I discuss the proposed rules in much more detail in this post on The Blawg Channel.
I’m dumbfounded by the proposed revisions. They are over-complicated, contradictory, do not take into account new technologies (such as the very new idea of email), apply rules appropriate to a limited number of trial lawyers to all lawyers, and generally micromanage the advertising process to guarantee that any efforts that follow the rules cannot possibly be effective.
Here would be my approach. Identify the specific problem areas. Consider the general principles of the First Amendment. Determine the least intrusive approach to address the specific problem area. Do no harm.
However, I’m not on this committee and, frankly, I have no idea what is intended to be accomplished by these rules or what thought processes produced them. Take a look for yourself and decide.
The only good news I see is that presenters talking about the wacky world of lawyer advertising rules have about 15 minutes of new comedy material.
I’m just at a loss trying to understand this kind of stuff. Heck, I gave them a set of comments a month or so ago, including a suggestion that referring to wording required on the “outside of an envelope” would make the committee look ridiculous in an era of email. They apparently were not persuaded by my comment on that subject or any other. I expressly offered to review the proposed rules for technological anachronisms, but was not taken up on that offer.
For a great thought experiment, imagine a yellow page ad strictly limited to no more than 1/4 of a page with all of the disclaimers and required language these rules require. You may have to leave your address out the ad.
I scratch my head in disbelief, but presume that these rules will pass with no further changes. I’m pretty sure that blogs are not outlawed by the rules, but I’m sure that I’ll be adding a ton of disclaimer language to my blog and website rather than using the time trying to earn a living.
The irony, of course, is that the existing rules should cover the concerns the drafters seem to be most concerned about and that it might make a bit more sense to enforce the rules than to micromanage the marketing materials and marketing efforts of all Missouri lawyers.