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 February, 2005

February Issue of Law Practice Today is Now Available

Monday, February 28th, 2005

I may be a little biased since I’m an editor and on the board of the ABA’s webzine Law Practice Today, but the February issue, with a TECHSHOW 2005 preview theme, is another good one. It’s also available via RSS feed or you can subscribe to the monthly email update.
You’ll find great tech articles from Dan Pinnington and Joe Kashi. Joe’s article, “Is 64-Bit Computing Worth It? A Performance and Cost Comparison,” will show you why I think Joe is the best writer on computer hardware you’ll find among the legal technology experts, as well as saving you a significant amount of money.
You will also find a new column on Adobe Acrobat tips from David Masters, who wrote the book, a great assortment of columns, and articles on the core topics of finance, management, marketing and technology.
I’ve written this month’s Strongest Links column on resources about disaster recovery and turned a well-received blog post into an article called “What Are the Most Common Mistakes a New Legal Blogger Makes?
Lots of great stuff in this issue.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]

Firefox Security Issues – Might Be A Good TIme to Take a Closer Look

Monday, February 28th, 2005

I’m getting pretty ambi-browserous these days. Because of the wildly inconsistent approaches IE and Firefox seem to take to javascript windowing especially, I never know when I’ll need to switch between browsers.
As I’ve noted before, I tend to favor Firefox for the tabbed browsing. I’d like it even better if the tabbed browsing worked a little more consistently, but Firefox is a work in progress, and I’ll accept a few quirks.
I met Tom Sherman, at JotSheet, in January at BlogWalk Chicago and have become a fan of his blog, which can be funny, irreverent and incisive. Tom has a great post today called “Mozilla Firefox security: User smugness from the Foundation’s silence?” on the issues raised by Firefox’s approach to security patches, which seem to take the form of quiet version upgrades, and whether that approach is appropriate as Firefox becomes more widely adopted.
I’ve noticed before that one of the benefits of Firefox version upgrades sometimes was sometimes listed as “improved security.” I’d later learn through some of the security blogs that the upgrades contained security patches.
One, perhaps unintended, result of all the euphorious reviews and recommendations to ditch IE and install Firefox to avoid security issues is to lull new Firefox users into a false sense of security.
Consider Tom’s analysis:
“Telling your users to upgrade is a viable strategy when your user base is geeks. That’s not the profile of the typical FF user anymore. Furthermore, as Firefox’s growth slows, we know empirically that users are downloading FF more infrequently. Besides, to the average user, what’s the real, demonstrable benefit of downloading and installing Firefox 1.0.1 (which is really just a security patch, similar to a Window Update) when he’s already got 1.0 or 1.0PR? In his mind, 1.0PR, 1.0, and 1.0.1 are basically the same programs. At least Microsoft makes it mindlessly easy.”
Tom’s discussion of this issue is quite even-handed and makes his post important reading for Firefox users.
He also adds some follow-up comments about Firefox’s automatic updates being as a welcome feature.
I agree, but here’s my difficulty:
The current version of Firefox is 1.0.1. My version identifies itself as version 1.0. I have Firefox set up to check for updates automatically. I also manually tried to update it just now, in two different ways. I get messages that no updates are available.
Am I running an updated version 1.0.1 that is misidentified on the “About Mozilla Firefox Screen” or am I running an version 1.0 that will not update and may have security problems? I don’t know.
I might need to download the most current version and reinstall Firefox.
As Tom suggests, I’d guess that if the same state of affairs existed in IE, there’d be quite a bit of uproar.
As I said, I actually like and use Firefox, but it cannot be a good thing to leave users in doubt about security or to make it difficult to run a secure version, whether your name is Microsoft or whether it is Mozilla.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]

Congratulations to PHOSITA – Winner of Best Law Blog in 2005 Business Blogging Awards

Saturday, February 26th, 2005

I’m a little late on this one, but I wanted to congratulate Doug Sorocco at the PHOSITA blog on winning the Best Law Blog award in the high-profile 2005 Business Blogging Awards.
PHOSITA covers intellectual property law issues and is just one of many great IP law blogs now available.
I’m pleased to see Doug get some well-deserved recognition. This award also helps all legal bloggers by letting the rest of the business world know that there are great legal blogs out there.
A big thank you to Doug and the other nominees for carrying the cause of legal bloggers out into the world at large.
And a big congratulations to Doug for winning the award. Pretty cool!

Beyond Bullet Points – Way Beyond Anything Else You’ll Read About How to Use PowerPoint Effectively

Friday, February 25th, 2005

People frequently ask me for good books to help them learn to how to do PowerPoint presentations. As I posted here, I always recommend two books, Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics and Jerry Weissman’s Presenting to Win. Interestingly, neither is really about PowerPoint.
Last year, I started to add Cliff Atkinson’s Beyond Bullets blog to my list. Nearly every post to this blog contained great ideas and tips about presentations, using PowerPoint and telling your stories.
One day, Cliff announced that he had gotten a book deal and would be putting his blog on hiatus until he finished the book. Here’s how big a fan I was of the blog – I never removed the subscription to his feed from FeedDemon. I wanted to be sure that I didn’t miss the day when Cliff returned to blogging.
His return came recently and I received an email from Cliff asking if I’d like to get a review copy of the book. Would I!!!
I got an autographed copy of the book, called Beyond Bullet Points, yesterday and stayed up a little bit too late, literally reading it from cover to cover in one sitting.
My conclusion is a simple one. If you give any presentations, you have to read this book. If you want to have happy audiences, you want to implement the lessons of this book.
Last summer, I completely overhauled my approach to making presentations. I decided to move aggressively to a “rule of threes” approach and simplify my slides and approach. I also spent a lot of time thinking about a book called American Jeremiad by Sacvan Berkovitch that I read in college. Berkovitch’s book analyzed the classic form of American sermon, known as the “jeremiad.”
It’s a familiar form that goes something like this:
1. There is a shining city on the hill to which we aspire.
2. We, to one degree or another, are sinners in the valley.
3. Here’s what we can do to get ourselves back on the path to the shining city.
I decided to adopt this approach with, believe it or not, a presentation on knowledge management for lawyers.
I used the same set of slides for both a 90 minute and a 30 minute version of the same presentation.
And, it worked better for my audience and for me than I had imagined possible.
However, and this will bring us back to Atkinson’s book, the jeremiad form did not fit some of the other topics I tried it with, although the “rule of threes” (three main points, three subpoints for each point, and three sub-subpoints for each subpoint) is an approach I’ve really grown to appreciate.
Beyond Bullet Points emphasizes some of the most important things I’ve learned while presenting over the years (take your audience from point A to point B, understand what your audience wants to learn, keep the focus on your message, not your slides, and the like), but it also sets out a disciplined system that makes it highly likely that you will achieve these goals.
And it gives you practical lessons and tools, including a heavy emphasis on the “rule of threes” to turn your presentations and your slides into a coherent whole that works for both you and your audience.
The organizing thread of the book is a real-world challenge – can you create a great PowerPoint presentation without using all the boring bullet points? Atkinson’s efforts show that the answer is a resounding “YES!!!”
In fact, he shows you several ways to do so. For me, the most impressive is a set of slides that have two words on each slide. Astonishing!
Here’s what I like. Cliff takes the ideas I was finally just beginning to intuit and develops a systematic approach that will put the best presentation techniques at your disposal through a set of structured steps and templates.
In the course of the book, however, he also demonstrates that telling a story, especially telling the story that makes sense for your audience, is the necessary foundation. Technique helps you tell a great story, but technique won’t save a poor story.
The key lesson, then, is to look beyond the great techniques and work on your story.
There are so many great lessons in this book that is difficult to highlight just a few. I know that I’ll be making a greater commitment to storyboarding and scripting. Cliff offers an approach to creating handouts that seems like a sure winner. It’s almost impossible for me not to dispense with bullet points for my next presentations – I have to try that approach.
Where the biggest value from the book comes for me, however, is in adopting a “screenplay” acts and scenes approach to a presentation. This approach pulls together so many elements of a great presentation and gives any presentation an excellent and versatile structure.
It also focuses on the notion of “story.” Atkinson sets out twelve classic story lines that we have grown to expect. If you organize your presentation along one of these story lines, your odds of bringing your audience with you will increase dramatically.
In the case of my “jeremiad” approach, I had hit on one of the classic story lines. It didn’t work in all cases, but now I have at least eleven other story lines to chose for my next presentations, one of which will be suitable to my story and my audience. In fact, I saw that my next two presentations fit well into two different classic story lines.
It’s amazing stuff. Lots of distilled wisdom. Structured approaches. Step-by-step instructions in using PowerPoint. Downloadable templates from his resource-laden website.
Thank you Cliff for writing this classic on the subject. It’s the perfect answer to the “PowerPoint is destroying the culture” crowd. PowerPoint is a tool and I love see a great craftsperson use a tool well.
I’ll be reading this Beyond Bullet Points again and again. You will see its impact in my presentations for years to come.
Ease on over McCloud and Weissman, make a little room on the shelf for Atkinson. I’ll be recommending three books to everyone now. And, don’t forget about the Beyond Bullets blog (better yet, subscribe to the feed) for ongoing pearls of wisdom.
[Disclosure: I'd be this much of a raving fan of this book even if Cliff hadn't sent me an autographed copy. I was already planning to buy it on the day it was first released.]
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]

Bright Eyes – Astonishing Music

Friday, February 25th, 2005

I’m very fortunate to number among my best friends for many years two of America’s greatest poets, Karen Kovacik and Jim McKelly. I recently learned from Karen that she’ll have a new book of poems published this summer.
A few years ago, Jim and I were having our traditional annual get-together while he was in town during late December visiting his parents and his sister’s family. He told me that I should go out and buy a couple of CDs from a group called Bright Eyes that had impressed him greatly.
I must have been absently nodding “yes” or being a little noncommittal, because Jim said, “Look at me and listen to what I’m saying. You have to get the CDs and listen to them. I don’t usually say anything like this about any band.”
That got my attention. He doesn’t usually say that about any band. And he does have the fact that he introduced me to Springsteen’s music as part of his track record.
So, I went out and bought two CDs: Lifted or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground and Fevers and Mirrors. I even listened to them and I became a big fan. In fact, Bright Eyes (and the driving force behind it, Conor Oberst) impressed the heck out of me.
A few weeks ago, I heard from Jim asking if I had gotten the two new CDs from Bright Eyes, Digital Ash in a Digital Urn and I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning. I made some comments about adding them to my Amazon Wish List and getting ready to buy them, but I felt a moral force coming from Jim that led me to get out there and get the CDs bought.
I’ve been doing a lot of listening and, once again, the songs impress me greatly.
Jim has been raving, in a low-key way, about the poetry of Oberst’s lyrics. The lyrics are indeed compelling, even haunting, but I’ve been struck by the music, which is difficult to describe, but both quite familiar and strikingly original at the same time.
I’ve tried to think of analogies, comparisons. Today, I was reminded of both Jonathan Richman and Lou Reed – which really means the Velvet Underground. There’s some Neil Young, especially the country-tinged Neil Young. But the analogies don’t quite work. There are elements that seem as traditional as American folk can get and yet elements that are strikingly unique and modern.
I’m also struck by the impact of some of these songs. They may sneak up on you. If you listened to one of these CDs, you might initially wonder what the big deal is. With a little patience, you will be pulled into a new world. There’s a song (I’m terrible with titles) that uses the world “wild” in the refrain. My immediate reaction, before the song was even half over, was that this song was a classic “wild” song, on the order of “Wild Horses” or “Ask the Angels.”
Cool stuff. And something to try if you are feeling that music today isn’t what it used to be and want to take a path less traveled, one where a very large talent walks with long strides.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]

Socha and Kennedy Look into the Electronic Discovery Crystal Ball

Thursday, February 24th, 2005

The latest “Electronic Discoverers” column by George Socha and me (Dennis Kennedy) has been published on the excellent site.
In the column, called “Looking into the Electronic Discovery Crystal Ball for 2005—Predictions, Observations and Opinions,” George and I serve up our images from from our looks into the crystal ball for electronic discovery in 2005 and beyond. Perhaps not surprisingly, any look into the future use of technology by lawyers brings back memories of technology discussions from the past. Interestingly, many of the lessons you need to know have already been available for several years.
I think the money quote from the column this month might come from me, for a change:
“In many ways, George, I don’t see much mystery about 2005, although I’m sure that we’ll see some surprises. The winners in 2005 will be those who make the efforts to learn all that they can, develop personal relationships and potential partners with those in the electronic discovery space, and, perhaps most important, seek out and listen to the wishes, concerns and recommendations of their clients. It will be a year to get out from behind your desk and work with people rather than paper.”
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]

Looking for a Few Good Sponsors for a Variety of Events and Other Opportunities (Not for Me), Plus a Few Thoughts on Apply Open Source Business Models to Blogging

Thursday, February 24th, 2005

I’ve become involved lately in a number of projects where people are asking me if I can help them attract and sign up exhibitors and sponsors. I’m always happy to help out, but I’d prefer not to go back to the same pool of vendors over and over again.
In most of the cases, the events or publications focus on legal technology and will have audiences of lawyers, IT people, office administrators and others interested in law and technology topics. Illustrations would be the ABA TECHSHOW or the Missouri Solo and Small Firm Conference. Often these will be events at which I’ll be speaking and I’m just trying to help the organizers out and provide ways to connect the audience to relevant vendors who provide useful products and services for that audience.
There are also other areas that arise from time to time. For example, consider events or publications involved in broader, though still related, topics like those to be addressed at LexThink! Chicago or even charitable or educational events, such as at my daughter’s school and elsewhere.
In almost every case, I’m talking about a modest amount of marketing dollars from a vendor. For some events, I can also point out higher dollar / higher exposure opportunities. I like to ask only when I see a “fit” between audience and vendor.
I’m not looking to get involved in the process with each event or opportunity. I simply want to help match up appropriate vendors to these audiences and make vendors aware of opportunities that might be attractive and useful to them. In most cases, I’ll make the appropriate introductions, route people in the right directions and step out of the process. I’m just trying to help out the nice people involved in these activities when they ask if I can help them on the vendor side.
If any of these opportunities might appeal to you or your company, let me know and I will follow-up with you. If I get enough indications of interest, I might set up a web page or other means of creating a “clearinghouse” so legal tech vendors, especially, are aware of these opportunities.
Although I’m not looking to turn this into a part-time job, I guess I’d also be willing to hear from vendors who might be looking for appropriate marketing opportunities at these types of events, publications and the like and set up something to help match up interests and events.
Please email at denniskennedyblog @ if you have an interest in opportunities I’m already involved with or any of the “match-making” ideas I mentioned. I’d greatly prefer emails to phone calls.
Moving on to a Related and Important Point
For purposes of clarification, at this point, I’m not talking about anything that has to do with my blog, LexThink or other related projects of mine. Those will be handled differently (of course, I’m always happy to talk to you about opportunities with those projects).
As many of you know, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and talking with people about advertising, sponsorships, ads in feeds and the like in connection with DennisKennedy.Blog. As I see more and more blogs covered from top to bottom with GoogleAds, I’ve become far more hesitant about adopting an advertising model for my blog.
Credibility, trust and at least the sense of “objectivity” (I minored in philosophy, so it’s difficult for to discuss objectivity as something that really exists – we all are loaded with points of view and assumptions) are precious commodities and the going rate for advertising models strikes me as way too small a price to charge for risking a significant loss in any of those categories.
What’s the answer? I’m not sure yet. My latest thought is that some kind of “relationship” model (think of the entertainment industry – a package of appearances, “endorsements,” and other elements of an actual win-win relationship that places a fair value on the benefits gained) probably makes the most sense for bloggers, if it can be handled carefully and with disclosure. I’m convinced that the randomly-served ads model is a disaster for bloggers and sponsorships, which initially appealed to me greatly, have their own set of complicated issues. I’m also happy to talk with anyone about these issues, either conceptually or in the sense of something real, because they are difficult issues with significant potential consequences, ranging from impact on credibility to ability for a blogger to pay his or her bills.
I spoke last year for half a day on the legal issues involved in the Open Source licenses. I started to think that blogging had many similarities with Open Source software. For one thing, it seems that some core aspect of blogging – the blog itself, the feed (or perhaps an excerpt feed) – must be free (both as in beer and as in freedom). As in Open Source, the potential for making money from your efforts should(?) come from what you surround the free part of blogging with – services, products, “combinations/distributions,” merchandising, seminars, and other things that have long been discussed by Stallman, Raymond, Perens and others in the Open Source (and/or Free Software, in deference to the distinction that Stallman and FSF make about Open Source) movement.
While I have sometime had some fun with the “making money with blogs” vs. “making money from blogs” distinction (which (surprise!) often seems to let the person asserting the distinction justify his or her commercial efforts while criticizing others), there is a core of truth in that notion and bloggers would do well to study Open Source business models (here, here, here, here and here, for starters) before jumping into advertising approaches.
I checked my web traffic stats for recently and saw that I was just shy of 200,000 hits in December, the majority to my blog. That number is staggering to me. Two years ago when I started my blog, I was very pleased with hits in the 10,000 to 15,000 range. However, even if I were to assume a total of 2.5 million hits for 2005 (and, believe me, I know that hits is not a good number to use), I don’t know of advertising models that would net me more than a few extra bucks.
On the other hand, if I write about a product or service for lawyers in 2005, it clearly has a significant impact on the level of attention and probably sales of that product or service. However, part of the reason for that impact comes from my credibility and “objectivity.” The irony of the situation is that my mention of a product can help the company selling it, but to keep my independence that mention probably cannot benefit me.
Somewhere, in a place far away from advertising, should be a model that accommodates the various issues and addresses the economic realities. I’d love to find an answer that works for me, so I’m always happy to talk with people who have thought of ways to address this issue.
As I suggested, lately some variation on the “entertainment” model seems to hold the most promise.
P.S. A lot of people have mentioned me, my writing and my blog in very favorable terms lately. I greatly appreciate that and try to thank everyone (privately) by email. Sometimes that takes me longer than I might hope, so let me send a big public “thank you” to those people. The feedback on my writing I’ve gotten lately has been best I’ve ever received and I’m thrilled that many people find what I’m writing to be helpful and, in some cases, even inspiring.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]

Passion is No Ordinary Word

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2005

The Graham Parker fans out there will get the reference in the title.
J. Matthew Buchanan has been in a groove lately on his great Promote the Progress blog. I liked his recent comments on my recent post answering a question about the future of small firm bloggers (short answer: the future is so bright we gotta wear sunglasses).
I recommend his post, which focuses on the word “passion,” in large part because he makes the point I was trying to make in a succinct and convincing matter.

By Request Tuesday – Is There Still Room for Small Firm or Solo Lawyer Blogs?

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2005

Are you serious? There’s more room than ever and better prospects than ever.
The recent focus on blogging by large firms has caused some bloggers at small law firms and solo lawyers to become concerned that there will no longer be a place for them in the blawgosphere.
I must admit I had a bit of concern about whether blogs by individual practicing lawyers could survive when a number of law professor/ law school blogs launched last fall. My concern was that, given how difficult it is to maintain a consistent pattern of posting to a blog, blogs staffed with law student interns gathering the latest and greatest information would overwhelm the efforts by solitary lawyer bloggers. My concern lasted only a few weeks.
Here’s what I noticed.
1. In the blog world, the clear individual voice carries more weight than a more homogenized group voice.
2. In both the law school group blogs and the big law firm blogs I’ve seen to-date, there is a tendency to move toward a high quantity of posts on a daily basis. At the same time, there is also a tendency to move away from assessing the importance of the information in each post. If you make 20 posts a day and do nothing to differentiate them or identify the importance of them, you reduce the utility of your blog to your readership and make your blog’s feed a likely candidate for deletion from my newsreader. I’ve practiced law for more than 20 years, I don’t recall many days where there were 20 items related to my practice that were must-reads.
3. In a related sense, blogs staffed by students or associates often have posts that do not show an appreciation of the context of the information being presented or its importance to the audience. In other words, you may not find the experience, expertise and judgment that you find in the blog of a practicing lawyer with significant experience. Note that I used the word, “may.” There are blogs that fit these categories that do a great job. If you combine heavy volume and doubts about the understanding and judgment of the posters, you have the perfect recipe for losing audience.
4. Let’s face it, big law firms are looking at blogging for marketing purposes. The long-time individual practicing lawyer bloggers (and other individual legal bloggers) are blogging because they have passion for their topics and blogging itself. Blogging has become part of who they are and they understand their audiences’ interests and needs. Marketing might be part of why they are blogging, but it’s not the only reason – not by a long shot.
5. Personality is a big part of any successful blog. Personality is hard to develop in any group blog. In an official big law firm blog – fuggettaboutit.
6. You want to know how to do a great big law firm blog? Get the star partner who really knows the stuff to blog about his or her area of expertise. Go back to the early days of the lawyers with web pages. Look at Lew Rose and his advertising law website. Yeah, it was Arendt Fox’s website, but we all knew it was Lew and it showed his expertise and personality. Look carefully at upcoming big law firm blog launches and you’ll see fingerprints of marketing departments all over them. That approach might work, but I’m taking a wait-and-see approach.
7. Big law firms are notorious for twice-a-year “quarterly newsletters” and other efforts that got off to a flashy start and then went . . . nowehere.
Blogging has been the realm of individual voices. The entry of “official” blogs, blogs by large firms and various group blogs with make the blawgosphere more varied, probably richer and perhaps more “professionalized,” but it ain’t going to displace all the individuals. Solo lawyers and small firm lawyers will continue to set the pace and drive the most interesting innovation in legal blogging.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]

By Request Tuesday – What’s Your Take on All These Big Law Firm Mergers?

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2005

This question is sometimes asked in this way: Will medium-sized firms disappear?
Bruce “Adam Smith, Esq.” MacEwen posted an important analysis of this issue a while back. I like Bruce’s analysis but I’m not as positive about the megamergers.
What’s my take when I read about the stream of mergers of large law firms?
Excuse my language, but I don’t have an effing clue what’s going on in the case of most of the ones I’ve read about.
Most of them seem like there’s been a failure of imagination and some sense that getting bigger is the best route to take because it’s better to do something than do nothing.
I’d expect to see enormous levels of lawyer attrition, IT integration headaches and puzzlement on the part of clients.
Here’s one example of my take on the subject. I understand “cherry-picking.” I understand going out and getting superstars to staff areas where you plan strategic growth or where clients need additional services. However, why would you pick up an entire firm to fill those needs? You are begging for attrition on both sides of the merger, and likely to lose plenty of people that you’d like to keep.
Integrating two large firms, in terms of people, systems, IT and everything else, is likely to be a long, involved process that will inevitably take most the eyes of most lawyers and staff off the ball for a significant time.
I’m a big fan of Tom Peters and his approach informs my own. Read some of Peters’ comments on recent business mergers and his negative responses to some of them. I simply don’t see the business case in most of the stories I see about large law firm mergers. I’ve never felt that combining two struggling organizations gives you any guarantee that you’ll end up with one combined, successful organization.
So, I don’t even pretend to understand this trend. I’d put my money on leaner, faster, client-focused firms, boutique firms and creative affiliations like consortia and even the so-called “virtual” law firms.
Just my opinion. FWIW.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]