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 October, 2005

Why Aren’t More Lawyers Doing E-Discovery?

Monday, October 31st, 2005

Whenever I talk about electronic discovery with non-lawyers, they always are surprised by how lawyers seem to avoid electronic discovery whenever possible. They often ask me why I think this is the case. I don’t really have the perfect answer for that question, although I tend to use the “fear” answer more frequently these days.
Tom Mighell, Evan Schaeffer and I, however, show no fear in trying to give our answers to this question in our latest “Thinking E-Discovery” column called “Why Aren’t More Lawyers Doing Electronic Discovery?” on the essential electronic discovery portal site, We really enjoyed writing this column and I recommend it highly.
I’m still trying to do my part in educating those of you who deal with lawyers struggling with the whole notion of electronic discovery, as well as lawyers wanting to learn more about electronic discovery, with the seminar I mention at the end of this post. Mention this post when you book my seminar and I’ll give you a 5% discount.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]
This post brought to you by Dennis Kennedy’s half-day electronic discovery seminar – “Preparing for the New World of Electronic Discovery: Easing Your Transition from Paper to Electronic Discovery.” Contact Dennis today for more information and to schedule a seminar for your firm or legal department.

Document Management and the Mathematics of Technology Investment – Article

Monday, October 31st, 2005

[Note: This post is another in the series of reposts of some of my articles. My friend Tom Burke at Worldox mentioned to me the release of the new Worldox GX version of the popular and well-regarded document management program. I've liked Worldox for many years and Tom is one of my favorite people in the legal tech world. In honor of the new version of Worldox, I'm reposting an article I wrote on document management basics back in 1999 in my monthly column for The Indiana Lawyer. I've updated the prices listed in the article, but otherwise left it unchanged except where indicated.]
Document Management and the Mathematics of Technology Investment
I read the other day that, on average, we spend sixteen minutes a day looking for lost or misplaced items. Based on my experience in law firms, sixteen minutes seems a little low. Lawyers seem to spend a great deal of time looking for documents, on their computers and even on their desks.
If we assume that the average lawyer works 250 days a year, then he or she spends approximately 67 hours a year looking for documents. The median hourly rate for lawyers these days is about $150 per hour. Sixty-seven hours times $150 per hour gives us approximately $10,000 as a monetary cost of looking for documents. On average. Your situation might result in a higher number.
Lawyers sometimes question the benefits of technology spending because they see the benefits as too intangible. Let’s try this experiment: imagine a technology that reduces the times you spend searching for documents on your computer in half, or to eight minutes a day. As you will soon see, this estimate is very conservative. Over the course of a year, that technology could save you $5,000. You can see a “return on investment.” In fact, if you can successfully implement that technology for under $5,000 per user, you pay for the technology in savings in the first year alone.
I like to use document management as an example of a technology with an excellent return on investment because it is a simple, utilitarian technology that does not immediately grab your attention.
Document management software simply provides a way to “manage” your computer files so you do not have to deal with the intricacies and limitations of standard filing conventions of Windows or other specific programs. This industry segment grew up as a means to get around the infamous “8 and 3″ eleven-character file name limitation of DOS. You may remember the days of using a file name such as TILARTDM.999 for an article written for The Indiana Lawyer on document management in September 1999.
Users struggled to find ways to name documents in 11 characters and still be able to find them and figure out the shorthand months or years later. Some users established thousands of directories and subdirectories as a way to organize files.
Conceptually, a document management program intercepts the “save” command and presents you with a screen that allows you to give your document an extended name (such as “Smith v. Smith Motion to Modify Child Support”) and to provide “profile” information (author, typist, client, matter, keywords). After you fill out that screen, the document manager continues the “save” and files the document for you. When you next open the file, you simply retrieve it out of the document management software, with the extended range of options and ease of use it provides, rather than fussing with the underlying file structure.
The key to document management is that you really don’t care where the file sits on a hard drive, you just want to be able to find, access and use it quickly. Document management software allows you to do this. And a lot more.
Other helpful features let you do full text searches across your hard drive or network, organize your documents in a structure meaningful to you, associate keywords (such as “form”) with documents, and share the “knowledge” accumulated in your documents and across your firm.
Full Text Searching. Document managers each use some form of indexing on a regular basis to let do lightning fast full text searches of all your files. Instead of vaguely remembering a memo on postnuptial agreements done 3 or 4 years ago and sending out a team to track it down, with document management, you can search on words and phrases much like you can with a search engine on the Internet or with LEXIS or WestLaw. Running a search on “memorandum and postnuptial” will, within seconds, give you a workable list of likely candidates. In some instances, you might need to refine your search once or twice. Many firms have bought document management programs for this feature alone.
Improved File Structure. In many firms, you find a hybrid of file management structures. Some attorneys have separate directories for each client. Some have directories by document type. In some cases, each attorney has an individual directory containing all of his or her documents. In each case, sharing documents or finding someone else’s documents becomes quite difficult.
Since the physical location of a file does not matter in a document management system, you can specify client, matter and other information for each document and create “views” that allow a user to see, for example, all the documents involving a certain matter arranged in reverse chronological order. Click on the document you want and you can retrieve it. The underlying location of the document simply becomes irrelevant. If you like to see all of the files you have created in one place, you can do that. At the same time, an associate can have another view of all documents relating to a client that includes your documents. Each view exists independently and neither view affects the other.
Profiling Documents. Document managers let you categorize documents and then use those categories for searches. For example, identifying authors will later allow you to retrieve all memos written by a particular summer associate. Categorizing certain documents as forms (and protecting them from editing except by designated individuals) can help you set up an excellent form file.
Knowledge Management. “KM” is a big buzzword these days. You can use profiling and categorizing aggressively to help share important information and even the accumulated knowledge or wisdom across a firm. For example, by using keywords, you might also be able to find easily documents like buy-sell agreements with rights of first refusal favorable to the shareholder leaving the business.
You have a number of choices in document management programs. Four of the “big names” are PCDocs [now Hummingbird], Worldox, iManage [now part of Interwoven] and ProLaw [Now part of Thomson Elite]. Each does a few different things in a few different ways. All are worthy of consideration.
Here’s an example. The current pricing structure for Worldox is $375 per user for the first year and $70 per year thereafter. You’ll also need a modest workstation for indexing and some time of set up profile screens and other features. Other document managers typically require a separate SQL server and, for that reason, can be expensive for small and medium-sized firms. But . . . remember the $5,000 per year in “lost” time example (and each vendor will tell you that estimate is highly conservative) and consider how quickly your investment might pay for itself.
Document management is an example of using technology to help lawyers right where they live – under a huge stack of documents – and in a way that helps them directly. Some even suggest scanning all documents in your file, getting the scanned document files into your document management system and then literally having an electronic copy of your entire case file retrievable on your computer. The math on document management is surprisingly easy. Your life might well be a little easier too.
An earlier version of this article appeared in the October 13, 1999 issue of The Indiana Lawyer.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]
This post brought to you by Dennis Kennedy’s half-day electronic discovery seminar – “Preparing for the New World of Electronic Discovery: Easing Your Transition from Paper to Electronic Discovery.” Contact Dennis today for more information and to schedule a seminar for your firm or legal department.

Extranet Basics: Taking a Step Toward a Client-focused Practice – Article

Sunday, October 30th, 2005

[Note: This article, written in 2000, may have been the first place where I started to set out my notion of "client-driven technology." I recently enjoyed a compliment from an extranet vendor about how he had pointed many people to this article over the years. Extranets may now be the easiest way for law firms to provide clients with something they really want by offering a helpful technology. As recent surveys show, extranets are still not used very often by law firms,]
Extranet Basics: Taking A Step Toward a Client-Focused Practice
When we think about technology, we usually focus on ways to make our practices more productive and our lives easier. These are important goals, but in this column I want to shift our usual focus away from ourselves to our clients. As the legal profession sees growing competition both internally and externally, retaining existing clients will become increasingly important to many firms’ survival.
An Internet application called an “extranet” may prove to be an excellent way for many law firms to use the Internet to improve the attorney-client dynamic and retain current clients.
Everyone is familiar with the Internet, the giant global network of computer networks. And nearly everyone has used an Internet browser, such as Internet Explorer or Netscape’s Navigator, to find helpful web sites. Some of you may even be familiar with “intranets,” or large internal web sites within a single firm. The former Latin students out there will not be surprised then to find that extranets refer to private web sites that are directed to one or more outside entities.
An extranet is a private, secure web site that, while available over Internet through a browser, can be used only by a limited audience to whom you have given the necessary permissions. Conceptually, there are two types of extranets. The first is a standard web site that has password-protected private areas of content and features. The second is a web site that gives password-protected access to limited portions of a firm’s intranet or internal computer network.
The key difference between an extranet and a web site is that an extranet is secure. No one gets access unless permitted.
A law firm can use an extranet to open access to a controlled number of outsiders, typically co-counsel and clients. An extranet also allows you to customize the levels of access and the amount and type of information made available. Since an extranet is programmed like a standard web site, you can have text, graphics, audio, video, message boards, chat sessions and any other Internet feature on your extranet. In other words, you can personalize an extranet specifically for your client, not unlike the My Yahoo web site.
A few examples are in order. On an extranet site, you might make sanitized versions of research memos and updates to articles available to clients only. You might make copies of all a client’s documents, including drafts in progress, available only to that client. In litigation, you might give a client access to deposition transcripts or even video of depositions, or share all case information with co-counsel. An extranet might provide a client with instant access to time and billing information, electronic bills, and message boards to leave comments for attorneys. Rather than preparing huge closing binders for real estate deals, a firm could instead give a client an electronic copy on an extranet. An extranet might provide clients with updates of legal developments and summaries of cases of interest.
The beauty of an extranet is that your clients require no technology other than a computer, an Internet connection and a browser. And they can access your extranet from any place they can access the Internet.
Extranets have become popular in the corporate setting and, as a result, law firms are getting pressure to offer extranets. As the Internet increasingly changes our expectations about customer service, lawyers must keep up with developments. For example, many consumer web sites show you how many units are in stock before you order and let you track your shipment with the click of a button. Why shouldn’t a client expect to click on a button and see current billings and work in process?
Extranets can be developed internally or “outsourced” to a company like LegalAnywhere that provides a packaged solution. As an extranet gets more complex, or ties into your computer network, you will need a higher degree of sophistication and programming, but standard approaches can serve you well as you get started.
Extranets require commitment. They must work flawlessly. They require that you pay attention to message boards and update content regularly. As you provide features and your clients use them, your clients will suggest new features and expect you to add them. Adding video, message boards, chat rooms or other features can place demands on your systems and your people.
Costs, not surprisingly, will vary, but your first extranet can serve as a template for many other clients.
While I believe that extranets offer a way for firms to innovate and even transform a practice, let me focus on the practical – cutting costs. There are two sides to this cost-cutting equation. With an extranet, you can readily find savings in paper, printing and copying costs, long distance, overnight shipping and postage costs, and travel costs. Moving to a form of electronic billing may help you be more efficient in billing and collecting from your clients.
More important, however, is to focus on the ways an extranet can save your clients money. Can you save them copying, printing, shipping, long distance and travel costs? What if you offer a discount for moving to electronic billing? What client will not like a lawyer suggesting ways to save money?
Extranets can also help you market to your clients. By keeping them informed and making them aware of all your services, you add value to the relationship. An extranet can tie a client to your firm, not just to the attorney with the personal relationship. If a client gets used to the benefits and conveniences of its customized extranet, the client will find it harder to go with a lawyer who is leaving your firm or to another firm without the same level of service.
Clients do not like it when they feel you are not paying enough attention to them. An extranet that keeps them up-to-date, provides them with news and developments and even allows them to collaborate on projects and documents will show your clients that you are paying attention.
If you get the underlying concept of extranets, you should already be generating some good ideas. Extranets are increasingly common in class action cases, multi-state complex litigation and general corporate representation. Extranets offer a way to move toward a more client-focused practice and should definitely be on your technology agenda.
An earlier version of this article appeared in the March 15, 2000 issue of The Indiana Lawyer.
[Originally posted on Dennis Kennedy.Blog (]
This post brought to you by Dennis Kennedy’s legal technology consulting services, featuring RSS and advanced blogging consulting and technology committee coaching packages for law firms, corporate legal departments and other professional services providers. And, of course, consulting on extranet options and opportunities.

The Best is the Enemy of the Good: Making Good Technology Choices

Friday, October 28th, 2005

[Note: This article from late 1998 is one of my favorite little articles. It covers a topic that I often struggle with. Re-reading it, I was struck at how applicable it is to the new world of Web 2.0 apps.]
The Best is the Enemy of the Good: Making Good Technology Choices
I have recently been rereading Harry Beckwith’s wise book on marketing called Selling the Invisible. I cannot recommend this book too highly. It is a collection of short kernels of wisdom on much more than marketing that will make you stop and think on nearly every page.
I had dog-eared a page that contained a short section called “Fallacy: Perfection is Perfection,” where he says “You can easily get stalled from the shift from strategy to tactics because you are paralyzed by the desire for excellence.” He goes on to say that here is a good way the rate the “Best Plans” in order of desirability:
Very good
Not good
Truly god-awful

This list gets my interest. Why does good rank above best? “Because,” he says, “getting to best usually gets complicated.”
Indeed it does. Beckwith says we start to face issues like can we agree on what is best, how long will it take to agree, and will reaching best in one area require sacrifice in other areas? The most important of these questions is “will all that excellence really benefit the person for whom it is intended?”
The greater the push for the perfect plan or result, the more chance what we will instead find is delay. Beckwith says that a “paralysis” sets in from the “fear that executing the plan will show that the plan was not perfect.” As he says, “too often, the path to perfection leads to procrastination.”
I was reminded of this again because I am in the “buying a new computer” mode, a time when my friends know that it is best to avoid me, at least on that subject. I’ve read every article on laptop computers, checked all the comparison ratings, talked to everyone who will listen to me, and . . . done nothing. I even tried to break the spell by writing an article for Lawyers Weekly USA on how an attorney should choose a laptop computer, but still haven’t been able to follow my own advice in my article – even though my advice really makes a lot of sense to me.
It’s the curse of The Best. Not the best computer, mind you. Instead, the best decision about a computer. I’ve fallen into the perfection trap. My quest has become finding the best performance and features for the lowest price, a goal that, even if achieved, will probably be mooted within a week or two.
In the technology arena, many people are motivated primarily by avoiding the truly god-awful decision. With research, consultation and reasonable efforts in the decision making process, you can get into the “good” choice range pretty easily. According to Beckwith, this is a result that ranks above Best. Ironically, often the only “truly god-awful” choice is standing pat with obsolete technology and doing nothing.
Often, it doesn’t take much more effort to get from “good” to the “very good” category. Think about it, really: either Word or WordPerfect, by any standard, are very good choices, as are Novell or Windows NT on the network side, Netscape Navigator or Microsoft’s Internet Explorer as browsers. You can’t go too wrong. A choice can be made pretty quickly and then efforts focused on making it work for you.
Unfortunately, especially in a committee setting, that’s easier said than done. Inexorably, you start to move toward the Best. The tip-off is when you start to talk only of specific features and move away from discussing benefits to users.
This movement toward the Best moves you away from reality to a fragile construct that finally barely can stand on its own. An example? I did all this research, came to a decision about a laptop computer. I mentioned the brand I was considering to a friend and the friend made a comment about how the on/off switch on his laptop of the same brand really annoyed him. Boom, I tossed away my decision and went back to square one. And I didn’t even try the on/off switch for myself.
You will recognize this phenomenon at your law firm. Months go into making a decision and one day someone reports that a friend’s law firm tried the same approach and it was a disaster. All the work you did gets thrown away and yesterday’s consensus gets tossed into the trash can.
How many reviews do you have to see to convince yourself you are right? Your focus can easily turn to an abstract notion of the perfect choice and you get stuck.
I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about the implications of handheld computers (e.g., the Palm computing devices). What intrigues me is that these devices are moving us to a place where we can choose a device that reflects how we work best instead of being forced to accommodate our working patterns to the technology. You like to write out things – get a computer that has handwriting recognition. Like to dictate first drafts – speech recognition.
Here is a clue to dealing with the curse of the Best. Turn the focus back on to what you need, what will help you and what will make you work better. Move away from an endless comparison of features, especially those features you probably won’t use. Do the same thing on a firm-wide basis and keep those questions at the forefront as you make decisions. As Beckwith says, focus on what will really benefit the person for whom the technology is intended.
This approach should move you comfortably into the zone of the good and very good. You can then move forward and focus on making what you’ve chosen work better for you.
When you start to drift into the nether worlds of the Best and find yourself stuck, turn to the practical, not the ideal, the real-world concerns, not abstract test results, and filling your needs, not the often esoteric concerns of reviewers.
As Beckwith says, “Don’t left perfect ruin good.” Or, as my wife says, “will you just buy a computer?”
An earlier version of this article appeared in the November 1, 1998 issue the Legal Technology Strategies Newsletter.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]
This post brought to you by LexThink!(TM) – The Conference, Re-imagined. LexThink! – Think big thoughts, do cool things, change the world. November 11 & 12 – LexThink BlawgThink – the legal blogger unconference.

Seven Easy Ways for Law Firms to Throw Away Money on Technology – Article

Thursday, October 27th, 2005

[I wrote this article at the end of 2003. The end of the year has always seemed like a great time to step back and take a close look at what you are doing and see if it makes sense to continuing doing it. No one likes the word "audit," but taking a close look at what you are doing right and wrong is a necessary first step for doing strategic planning for your technology. Or you can keep pouring money down the drain.]
Seven Easy Ways for Law Firms to Throw Away Money on Technology
Technology spending has grown to comprise 4 to 6% of the average law firm’s budget. The sad story is that many law firms, despite their best plans and intentions, are throwing many of their technology dollars down the drain.
I am talking about real money, not potential savings, not speculative productivity numbers, and not “potential” new clients from web sites or “knowledge management” efforts. There are many ways to toss away money on technology. How many of the following ways to waste your budget apply to you?
1. Do not align technology projects with business goals. The results: projects that never get completed or produce any benefit and diversion of dollars away from great projects to pet projects.
2. Do not quantify and measure results. The results: projects with costs far greater than any benefits and lingering projects on which the plug should have been pulled long ago.
3. Buy new software when you already own software that would perform the task you require. The result: your losses compound as you add training costs for the new software to the costs of the software.
4. Be unaware of all of the legal software alternatives. The results: paying too much for software that sort of fits your needs when better options exist.
5. Do not explore volume licensing options and, in particular, Microsoft licensing options. The results: paying a higher price than necessary and, in the case of Microsoft products, incurring unnecessary upgrade costs.
6. Have a technology committee without experience, expertise and a clearly-defined mission. The result: even simple projects take years to make decisions about and IT staff operates on its own.
7. Fail to educate your IT staff about your legal practice and the unique issues involved. The results: ill-advised decisions, misdirected priorities and technology gaffes involving clients.
And these seven ways represent just the tip of the iceberg. You may also be putting money into technologies already known to be on their way out, locking up your data in proprietary systems, buying overpowered or underpowered hardware, paying insufficient attention to security and antivirus issues, and creating difficulties in communicating with clients. You have to find a lot of extra hours to bill to be able to toss away that kind of money. The best route, of course, is to take a good hard look at what you may be doing wrong, refocus your efforts and save some of the money you are wasting to use for technology that helps you.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]
This post brought to you by Dennis Kennedy’s legal technology consulting services, featuring RSS and advanced blogging consulting and technology committee coaching packages for law firms, corporate legal departments and other professional services providers.

Al Robert Requests Some Help

Wednesday, October 26th, 2005

Al Robert, an alumni of LexThink 1.0, posts a request for help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He’s a great guy in a tough spot, as you’ll see from his post. I wanted to help get the word out and, if you have ways you can help out, please get in touch with Al. As he suggests, “what a difference a day can make,” for any of us, at any time.
It’s important to remember that the effects of natural disasters do not end for those directly involved as our memories of the disasters start to recede.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]

Reprising Carolyn Elefant

Wednesday, October 26th, 2005

In honor of BlawgThink 2005, Carolyn Elefant posted a link to a great presentation-by-blog she and Jerry Lawson did in 2003.
Let me reprise my original post on that presentation in honor of all of Carolyn’s great work on
What Blogs Can Do for Solo and Small Firm Lawyers is a cool new approach to doing presentations via blogs by Carolyn Elefant and Jerry Lawson. It has great content and is a highly inventive use of the blog form.
I think the “blog presentation” approach makes great sense as a way to repurpose a presentation on the web. My opinion, however, is that this approach is too “texty” for a live presentation and PowerPoint, used well, is a better tool.”

The presentation stands the test of time and is full of useful information. It’s also interesting to see the “blogroll” for that presentation blog and see the list of excellent blogs that have also stood the test of time. Great stuff.
Carolyn will be one of an amazing slate of speakers we’ve been fortunate to put together for BlawgThink 2005. We’d love to see you there.
I know that many of you are curious about Jerry Lawson’s blog silence of late. I’ve exchanged emails with Jerry recently and can report that he is well, but extremely busy, and, with luck, we’ll see his return to the blogosphere before too long.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]
This post brought to you by LexThink!(TM) – The Conference, Re-imagined. LexThink! – Think big thoughts, do cool things, change the world. November 11 & 12 – LexThink BlawgThink – the legal blogger unconference.

Introduction to Mind Mapping – Article

Wednesday, October 26th, 2005

[With our big MindJet Mind Manager 6 announcement today for attendees of BlawgThink, I thought I'd post my August 1999 article on mind maps. I've updated a few references and eliminated some links that no longer work, but this will give you my general approach to mind mapping and why I've used them for many years.]
I wasn’t planning on it, but I started a spirited discussion thread on the TechnoLawyer list a month or so ago about mind mapping and mind mapping software. Portions of the thread can be read in the August/September 1999 issue of Law Office Computing.
Mind mapping, or radiant thinking as it is sometimes called, is a fairly new technique that allows you to both brainstorm and structure your thoughts using graphics, colors and words in a free-ranging map. It’s easier to see than to describe, so take a look at some examples at or
My recommended starting point is Tony and Barry Buzan’s The Mind Map Book. Tony Buzan ( is the acknowledged authority on mind maps. Michael Gelb’s How to Think Like Leonardo DaVinci is another interesting starting point as Gelb analogizes mind mapping to DaVinci’s notebooks which were replete with drawings and notes.
Mind maps are generally seen as an alternative to outlining. My third grade (or whenever) teacher who first taught us outlines put the whammy on me for outlines. I really don’t like using formal outlines and the association of outlining with law school exams is not a pleasant one. But, I did find myself pleasantly surprised by the Palm outliner, BrainForest, which prompted my role in the discussion thread.
The main criticism of outlines is that they force you to impose a rigid structure on your thoughts as you put them down on paper. They also get unwieldy as they become more complicated (hmm, here’s a point W.3.c.ii. ? I wonder what in the world point W.2 was). In general, outlines do not allow your ideas to flow.
Mind mapping lets you brainstorm and generate and connect ideas. More important, you can see new connections between ideas and make new connections. You can also take your mind map and turn it into a traditional outline later.
I’ve used mind maps regularly for several years. I like the process and the results. In fact, I have a whole notebook full of mind maps of articles, plans and ideas.
As a general matter, you take a piece of paper, turn it lengthwise, write your main idea in the center and make a related drawing. You then start to radiate ideas around the central image. For example, with an article like this one, I would start with the word “Mind Maps” and an image in the middle of the page and then surround it with other points I wanted to raise: “comparison to outlines,” “resources,” “Harhai article,” “PowerPoint lessons” and other points. I might draw little pictures with each point.
Then I’d move to each individual point and repeat the process. For example, for “comparison to outlines” I’d surround it with “third grade experience,” “law school exams,” “RIGID,” “unwieldy” and maybe a picture of a person with the flow of ideas out his head blocked by a dam called outline. You try to get your ideas out of your head and onto paper, without self-criticism. That can come later.
At some point, you reach a sense of “done” and you can then look at the tentative mind map. You might add some new points, draw arrows between points, number points or leave gaps for something you might add later. You might use highlighters or different colors of ink. In fairly short order, you have most of your ideas on the piece of paper and the structure that those ideas have may become much more apparent to you.
Contrast this to preparing an outline, where I tend to fuss over numbering schemes and can’t get past the notion that you must have at least 2 sub-points. What I learned, though, from the discussion thread and from using BrainForest on the Palm is that if you are willing to break the “rules,” outliners can give you a lot of flexibility because you can move points around and even do some brainstorming.
Unfortunately, outliners still don’t let you view your ideas and see the structure that may be present in your ideas as readily as mind maps do.
The downside of mind mapping (other than the difficulty of explaining it to a senior attorney and the more “rational” and traditional of your colleagues) is that that the best mind maps are like miniature works of art and you feel obligated to include drawings. If your elementary school teacher left you with the feeling that you didn’t have a single artistic bone in your body (don’t get me started on what my elementary school music teacher did to me with music), this can be daunting.
Enter the world of mind mapping software like Inspiration and MindManager. What if instead of drawing on big sheets of paper, you had a computer program that allowed you to select images (or draw them) and arrows, shapes, et al.? What if you could move parts of your map around and resize them automatically? The mind mapping programs let you mind map on your computer.
These programs can work either for creating a mind map or for “cleaning up” a mind map you’ve made on paper. There’s a certain tactile element to creating a mind map on paper that might get lost for some people if they tried to start with a blank screen rather than a piece of paper. [Note: Tablet PCs rock in connection with mind mapping.] Since mind maps are about promoting the flow of ideas, you want to focus on what works best for you. Some people also like to draw their own images and not pick among pre-fab images.
I’ve found the opposite to be true. One of my favorite parts of creating a PowerPoint presentation is the part where I sort through the clipart library to find an image that fits the points I’m making on the slide. Many times, once I make the selection of the image, I realize another point or two I want to make, change the order of points or realize what example or anecdote I want to use in that portion of the talk. It’s a fascinating element of the creative process and has brought home to me both that the visual element is a key part of the thought process and that the more senses that you can use in the creative process the better.
Mind mapping is one of a number of “thinking tools” that are becoming available to lawyers as technology slowly begins to give us tools that help us work the way we work rather than forcing us to work in ways that programs work. CaseMap (, to me, is another important legal “thinking tool.” Others have experimented with the Brain ( and Trellix. For a great introduction to legal thinking tools, take a look at Steve Harhai’s excellent article in the November/December issue of Law Practice Management magazine, a version of which is on the web at
If you are interested in mind mapping, the definite starting point is Buzan’s The Mind Map Book. I’d try making a few mind maps and seeing if they work for you before jumping into a program. I assume that the choice of this type of program will be highly idiosyncratic and that there’s no one “best” program out there, but I wouldn?t expect the main features of the programs to be too different. Mind mapping is a fascinating and useful “thinking tool.”
Want to attend BlawgThink? Let me know.
Note: This article is one of a series of my previously-published articles that I’m making available for free on my website and incorporating into my blog. Other of my articles may be found in the Articles category archive on my blog.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]
This post brought to you by LexThink!(TM) – The Conference, Re-imagined. LexThink! – Think big thoughts, do cool things, change the world. November 11 & 12 – LexThink BlawgThink – the legal blogger unconference.

A Mobile Computing Kit for Lawyers – Article

Tuesday, October 25th, 2005

[Written in December 2004. Published in Law Office Computing.]
A Mobile Computing Kit for Lawyers
An anthropologist could spend years studying what lawyers carry in their briefcases and laptop bags and how the items have changed over the years. There is always a story that explains the need for each item. The story usually involves a traumatic incident that made the lawyer vow never to travel without the item ever again.
In my case, you will find the screwdriver I carry because I couldn’t unscrew a projector cord that had tightly secured too tightly to keep the cord from pulling out of my notebook computer. You will see the USB hub I carry because I can’t always fit USB devices into the space for the USB ports on my notebook. The three-prong adapter is the result of finding myself with a three-prong plug in a room with only two-prong outlets.
You get the idea. However, my purpose in this article is not to share my technology snafus that only seem funny in retrospect. Instead, I want to help you put together the best travel kit for your mobile computing needs based on the lessons I’ve learned the hard way and from the wise and kind advice of others.
1. The Focus is You.
In mobile computing, the idea is not to assemble a set of 5-star reviewed devices, hot gadgets or status items. You want to have the tools that help you get your work done, often when you are under pressure, up against time deadlines or in other stress-inducing situations.
Your first guiding question should be, “What do I need to do?” Great athletes visualize themselves in expected scenarios, from making the perfect shot to skiing the perfect slalom run. The best users of technology use a similar visualization process.
Think carefully about the scenarios in which you are most likely to use a notebook computer. Picture how you will actually be using it. If you expect different types of uses, consider how the notebook will work for you in the most important setting.
For me, I care the most about how a notebook works for me when I do presentations, many of which involve air travel. That use dictates my choices. If your main use will be taking notes in depositions or drafting documents in your favorite chair at home, my choices will not be the best choices for you. Focus on what works best for you.
The second key question is just the follow-up to the first one, “Does the item you want actually help you do what you want to do?” If you plan carefully, visualize and understand what you need, you will know the answer to this question. The true challenge is whether you can put aside cost, envy, desire and all of the other tangible and intangible issues that conspire to keep you from voicing that answer and acting on it.
2. Let’s Get Started . . . With the Bag.
Your choice of computer bag plays a more important role than you might imagine.
What you have in your ultimate travel kit will be limited by how much you can fit into the bag. As a result, your ultimate travel kit is going to contain something less than everything that you might want and something more than the bare minimum essentials. You want to make the best use of the space you have.
I have been using a two bag approach. The first bag is an “everyday bag.” For the past six years, I’ve used a Targus combination bag that can be carried as a briefcase, used with a shoulder strap and also works as a backpack. It’s very versatile and makes a great standard choice.
However, even in the backpack mode, it still gets heavy when I hoof it long distances through airports. I now use a wheeled laptop bag when I travel. I thoroughly recommend this approach for air travel and other times you need to carry a heavy bag for an extended time or distance. Test them out before you buy because small details make big differences. Features I like include the little feet on the bottom that keep a bag from falling and smoothly rolling wheels.
Certain people might also consider a less-functional “dress bag,” such as a fancy leather or aluminum case for client meetings or court appearances. Don’t forget about functionality in your quest for style. The other option that might come into play is the “bohemian” backpack or satchel to make the scene at a coffee house.
A well-chosen computer bag is an essential component of the ultimate travel kit.
3. The Essentials.
The notebook computer is the central core of your travel kit. Today’s notebook computers truly have the power and storage capacity to let you carry your office with you. If you haven’t purchased a computer in a few years, you will be amazed at what you can get today.
It’s hard today to make a really bad choice in notebook computers and most of the ones available will do more than the average lawyer requires. There are still a few important factors to consider.
First, you will want to identify the appropriate category for you. Today, there are six categories of notebook computers to consider. One of them will make the most sense for you.
The Middle of the Road – These moderately-priced notebooks are solid, if unexciting, computers that are great all-around choices. They fall into the middle in almost every category and will never dazzle anyone with their design. However, they do almost every job well.
The Desktop Replacement – These notebooks are high-powered and high-priced. They are also big in many ways – big screens, big hard drives and did I mention the big prices? If you handle large amounts of data or work with audio and video, you might consider these. The cost can be a thousand dollars or more than a middle of the road computer.
The Subnotebook – If you travel, every pound you save is important. You can find subnotebooks under four pounds. There are tradeoffs with subnotebooks, including smaller screens and external, rather than internal, CD or DVD drives. These make the most sense for frequent travelers or if you simply want to use a computer in different rooms in your house.
Tablet PC – Tablet PCs seem to be made with lawyers in mind, yet lawyers rarely buy them. No one really understands why. Tablet PCs are full-featured computers that allow you to enter data and write on the screen with a stylus. If you are a litigator, you owe it to yourself to look closely at the Tablet PCs. Other lawyers should consider them as well. The cost differential is less than most people think. Tablet PCs would be great on crowded flights.
The Mac Notebook – Macintosh notebook computers are a realistic option today. They are excellent wireless tools and highly-regarded notebooks. Consider your actual uses and what software is available. If you do your homework, there might be a Mac in your future.
The Mini-Theater Notebook – This new category consists of behemoth notebooks with very large screens, DVD drives and great video and sound cards. They will meet your work needs, but they are unparalleled for watching movies on DVDs. These might be good choices for litigators working with video depositions or for lawyers who need large screens for particular purposes. Frankly, though, traveling with small children is one of the best reasons for using one of these. These notebooks probably are options for small firm lawyers because it is difficult to imagine getting a request for one of these approved by a large firm IT department.
Recommended Specs in 2005.
I see 512 megabytes of RAM as a minimum choice these days and suggest getting a gigabyte of RAM. Unless you are playing high-end games or working with video, almost any processor chip available today will be more than adequate for normal use. The built-in wireless networking and improved battery life make the notebooks with Intel’s Centrino chips a good choice.
Take a good look at screen size and quality and pick the one you like. USB and Firewire ports are all-but-required today. Bigger hard drives are better. I recommend some form of optical writing device – DVD writer, CD-RW, or a combo DVD/CD-RW. If you don’t have a Centrino-based notebook, a wireless network card (very inexpensive) is essential.
4. Communications/PDA Device.
Notebooks with wireless Internet access are changing the equation in this area. I personally have moved to a notebook computer and a standard cell phone and stopped using a PDA (Palm or Pocket PC device). This area is truly one where personal preferences reign supreme. Make your best choices and toss them in the bag. Don’t let your IT department convince you that a Blackberry is as good as having a notebook.
5. Accessories – Essential.
Required Power Supplies, Rechargers and Add-on Devices – You cannot live by batteries alone. In fact, you will want to use AC power whenever possible to reserve battery life for when you need it. Some notebooks have swappable or external drives. Take them with you.
USB Flash Drives – These tiny devices hold a ton of data at a tiny price. Since the summer of 2004, prices have plummeted, all but killing off floppy drives. These drives come in 128 megabyte, 256 megabyte, 512 megabyte and 1 gigabyte sizes and plug into the USB port on your notebook. They are indispensable. They are also easy to lose, so be careful with them. Your travel kit should have one or two of these.
USB Optical Mouse – Gadget gurus talk about all kinds of cool devices. The one thing they all use is an USB optical mouse. These are often available for under $20 and come in wired and wireless flavors. If, like me, you have the habit of dragging your thumb across a touchpad, these are immensely helpful. Just plug them into your USB port and your ready to roll.
Portable USB Hub – With so many useful USB devices available, you can easily have more devices than ports. For about $20, you can get a very small 4-port hub to plug into your notebook’s USB port and plug in four devices.
Headphones – If you can’t work on a plane, you might as well listen to music or watch a movie. They can also come in handy if you don’t want to talk to the people sitting next to you.
The Emergency CDs for Your Computer – They’re no help if they’re at home.
Standard Network Cable and Phone Cable – Worth their weight in gold when you need them.
A Small Screwdriver or Toolkit – Or any other item that past experience has taught you that you can’t be without. Be prepared. Avoid the Swiss army knife with tools unless you enjoy getting the full security treatment in airports and seeing your knife tossed into a trash can.
6. Accessories – Recommended.
Three-prong Adapter, Extension Cord and/or Small Power Strip – An adapter will one day save you if you have any cord with a three-plug. In many rooms, there are available outlets, but they are too far away from where you are sitting. Making your extension cord or power strip available to others is a great way to make new friends.
Surge Protector – Of course, no one ever buys one of these until their notebook gets fried. Some “mobile essentials” packages combine these with a mouse, USB hub or other useful items.
Extra Battery and Extra Power Cord – I didn’t list these items as essential for two reasons. First, they can add significant weight. Second, they can be breathtakingly expensive. I once packed the wrong power cord. I learned that a replacement cord was $150 and a universal power cord cost about the same. I thank my co-presenters for loading my presentations onto their computers. I’ll consider buying one of these if I see a great sale price or if I make the same mistake a second time. For long plane trips, a second battery may be a necessity. Emergency power sources may make sense if you will be away from electrical sources for an extended period of time.
Blank CDs – Not everyone has a USB port and sometimes a network connection is not available. CD drives are almost universal and a blank disk will give you another option for transferring data.
7. Accessories – Special Situations.
USB Hard Drive – External hard drives with USB (or Firewire) connectors are an attractive way to back up your data or carry large amounts of data. You can now routinely find 100+ gigabyte hard drives for not much more than $100.
Remote Control Mouse and Laser Pointer – Depending on your style of presenting, these can be useful devices, although remote controls can be a little temperamental.
Digital Camera – A surprisingly versatile tool that can be used in a number of useful ways, including, in a pinch, as a document scanner.
iPod/MP3 Player – Another versatile device that can be used for more than listening to music or audio CLE, including as a voice recorder or as an extra hard drive.
Portable Printer – For most lawyers, the extra weight and space will rule out portable printers. However, they may be invaluable for you in your practice, especially in a courtroom setting.
Projector – If you need a projector, you can expect to be carrying an extra bag. Key factors: your brightness needs, weight/portability, and compatibility with your notebook. The extra cost of wireless projectors might well be justified by the elimination of the need to carry around a cable. An extra bulb is a must.
8. Helpful Hints.
Watch people who travel a lot when they dig into their computer bags. You can learn a lot of useful tools and techniques. Here are two useful tips.
Resealable Plastic Bags – Many mobile lawyers use one- and two-quart resealable plastic bags to organize the items in their computer bag. Group like items into bags and label them. This technique allows you to check to make sure you have what you need and should prevent you from taking the wrong power cord or other similar mistakes. Plastic bags also work well when you use two or more computer bags and transfer items between them. They are also great for storing your snacks.
A Couple of Pens and a Small Notebook – Sometimes paper is the best or only option.
9. The Final Check.
Take everything that you have decided must be in your ultimate travel kit. Put it in your computer bag and attempt to zip it closed. Give your self time to stop laughing. Eliminate items until the bag can be zipped without undue effort. Even better, clear enough room to throw in a book or a couple of magazines, airport souvenirs for your children and whatever items you will need to remove from your pockets to make it through airport security without setting off the metal detectors.
10. Bringing It Home.
When putting together your ultimate travel kit, the emphasis must be on “your.” Use this article and the advice of other people as checklist of items for you to consider, not as requirements. Consider carefully what you want to do and what you will need. Then make the best choices you can.
Learn from your mistakes and always be on the lookout for ways to improve what you are doing. Listen patiently to what experts tell you, but observe carefully what they actually do and what they actually use.
Mobile computer will only become more common. Whether your mobile computing is by flying around the country or the occasional trips to the local coffee shop, you can put together a great travel kit that works for you and keeps the items you need most often with you when you need them most. The effort you put into getting it right will pay for itself many times over.
Veteran mobile computing lawyers also develop a travel kit of useful services to cover emergencies and other surprises.
1. Backup National ISP Account – Don’t delete all those AOL and other ISP offers that come preloaded on your new notebook. In a pinch, you can activate one if you have no other way to get Internet access.
2. Internet Email Accounts – Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo Mail and other free email accounts give you options for sending and receiving email if you can’t get to your usual email account. Most services offer address book and even calendaring functions.
3. Internet Fax Service – Maxemailsend and eFax are two examples of inexpensive Internet fax services that let you send and receive faxes by email. You can fax yourself at your hotel to get a printout of a document if you are otherwise unable to print.
4. Online Backup Services – An online backup service will give you accessible storage space for a copy of your presentation or other documents you need. You might also email the documents as attachments to yourself at an online email address.
5. Online Bookmark Repositories and Newsreaders – Get access to all of your bookmarks and favorites no matter where you are. Bloglines is a popular online newsreader so you can keep up with the RSS feeds you read.
6. Connect to Your Office – Depending on your setup in your office, Citrix software, virtual private network software, GoToMyPC or PCAnywhere will allow you to access your office network from the road.
Note: This article is one of a series of my previously-published articles that I’m making available for free on my website and incorporating into my blog. Other of my articles may be found in the Articles category archive on my blog.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]
This post brought to you by Dennis Kennedy’s consulting services, featuring RSS and advanced blogging consulting and technology committee coaching packages for law firms, corporate legal departments and other professional services providers.

The Mysterious World of Metadata – Article

Monday, October 24th, 2005

[Written in January 2005]
The Mysterious World of Metadata
A. Introduction
Recent stories about lawyers releasing documents containing embarrassing hidden data have highlighted the dangers of “metadata,” especially in documents created with Microsoft Office programs. Unfortunately, other lawyers who do not learn how to deal with metadata will suffer the same public humiliation. Metadata may not be the most important issue in electronic discovery, but it is one issue that lawyers must be familiar with because there will be negative consequences if they don’t address the well-publicized issues.
A. What is “Metadata” and Why We Should Care About It
The hidden data we call metadata is another example of a helpful feature that has some unfortunate negative consequences. The term is occasionally used in a limited or otherwise imprecise way, so let me give you my definition.
1. Defining the Term
“Meta” is the Greek word for “about.” Metadata refers to certain data that are associated with a document, but are not generally visible in the ordinary display or printing of the document. Common examples include comments, markup and revisions, author, owner and other information, and even records of versions. Although metadata is often discussed in connection with Microsoft Office documents, it can be created by many software programs.
2. Why Metadata Exists
Metadata is not inherently bad. It depends on the context we find it and who is viewing or using it. For many purposes, especially for collaborating on documents, this information is helpful and valuable. The “Track Changes” features, versioning, document and author information and other metadata can be very useful when several people work on a document. Once the document moves out of “friendly hands,” however, it can cause some damage if it is revealed, ranging from embarrassment to devastation of your case. Imagine the consequences if a document included a different settlement figure or candid comments about the strength or weakness of certain points.
3. Good Metadata and Bad Metadata
While it is tempting to think in terms of “good” metadata and “bad “metadata, it is more useful to think in terms of the amount and types of information that a particular piece of metadata carries. Some metadata is all but innocuous – file name, file type, creation date and the like. However, in certain cases, this information can turn out to be key evidence in a case. Other metadata is rich in information content – comments and revisions, for example – and you would generally not want this information to fall into someone else’s hands. The context is what is important. A document might have more than one hundred metadata items associated with it. Unless you know what metadata exists, you cannot make good decisions about it.
It’s also worth noting that some metadata may be altered or incorrect. For example, in the document properties, fields, such as author, may be edited and the “statistics” information for some Word documents bears no relation to reality.
B. Metadata You Might Find – Microsoft Word Example
Microsoft Word metadata gets the bulk of the attention these days, so let’s take a closer look at it. Do you know how to check for metadata in Word documents? Microsoft’s website is a useful resource for information about this hidden data.
1. Document Properties
Even if they are aware of metadata being created and associated with a document, many people do not realize how simple it is to view the metadata in documents. We will not go into much detail here, but spending 5 to 10 minutes under the Help menu in Word or on Google will open up new worlds for you.
For a quick example, simply open a Microsoft Word document and click on “Properties” under the “File” menu. You’ll find a screen that will allow you to see the wide range of metadata that is and can be associated with a Word document. People have been embarrassed by nearly all of these items, from revealing that someone outside the firm was the original author of an agreement to showing only a few minutes of actual editing time on a document for which many hours of time was charged for preparation. Again, it’s not so much the information itself – it’s the context that matters.
2. Track Changes and Comments
Everyone’s favorite forms of metadata are “Track Changes” and comments. An opposing party or even a judge can turn the “Track Changes” back on in a document after you thought you turned them off. There are lots of embarrassing and costly examples I’m sure that you have heard about. The sensitivity of this information is obvious.
You simply must learn how these features work and what precautions to take. Note that Office 2003 has built in some warnings and settings to help you out. Note too that you can set up Word to reveal hidden information in documents, which helps you see what is in your documents and, of course, will let you see what might be in documents that are sent to you.
3. Earlier Edits and Versions
If you are not careful about default settings, you may find other surprises. Earlier versions might be included as part of the final document you send, even if you use Adobe Acrobat to create a PDF file as a way to remove metadata. In certain situations, a Word document might contain information to allow someone else to use the “undo” feature to reveal changes and revisions.
D. Playing Offense and Defense with Metadata
Obviously, you want to be careful on this issue. It should be equally apparent that metadata can be a two-way street and that there are offensive and defensive uses of metadata.
1. Protecting Your Documents
Job one, of course, is to protect your own documents. You also want to understand what metadata is associated with your clients’ documents and the implications of that metadata.
A commonly-advised approach is to strip the metadata from the documents. There are several inexpensive software tools that will remove the metadata from or “scrub” Microsoft Office documents. Remember that Excel and PowerPoint files also contain metadata and spreadsheet files might have very damaging revisions or evidence of prior calculations. Microsoft also has a free “Remove Hidden Data” tool, but it only works with the newest versions of Office and you will need to study the published list of known issues.
Other common solutions are to save Word files as PDF files, use WordPad, a stripped-down word processor in Windows, or save the file in the RTF format. Note that Adobe Acrobat can now introduce its own metadata. Scrubbing and other techniques will work, but they may not get everything and it is important to follow developments in this area. There is currently an ongoing discussion about whether Word metadata can in fact carry through to a PDF document.
2. Showing Metadata in Other Documents
Playing defense on metadata is hard work. Playing offense is much more fun. Not to give away secrets, but a number of excellent lawyers have been aware of metadata and how to read it for years. They have used metadata as one more weapon in their arsenals. As we have suggested, it takes only a few setting changes in Word, Excel or PowerPoint to reveal, on a routine basis, the metadata associated with documents you receive. Perhaps the memo you had hoped would be the “smoking gun,” but was not, actually has the smoking gun hidden in it. At this point, it is hard to argue against treating the checking of metadata as a standard practice. However, it is worth noting that some commentators have opined that this practice is just plain wrong.
3. Difficult Ethical and Other Considerations
Metadata raises its own set of difficult ethical and other issues. Consider this question: what happens when I realize that I have produced or am compelled to produce documents that have damaging metadata in them? Am I compelled to affirmatively reveal it?
Given the lack of awareness of many lawyers, simply turning off the “track changes” on Word documents, which does not remove the metadata, does in fact make it invisible to unsophisticated readers. How would a court treat that approach? Is it possible to educate a judge about metadata and obtain a protective order that effectively permits the scrubbing of metadata? Should discovery requests routinely refer to production of documents in a format where metadata has not been scrubbed or altered?
I have little doubt that we will soon see court decisions on some of these questions. This area is one where you will want to track developments carefully. One good approach is to think of metadata in the same light as handwritten comments on paper documents. What would you do with the paper? Let those principles guide you in handling metadata.
E. Conclusions, Tips and Action Steps
The good news in the world of metadata is that, in many cases, you can address the primary issues relatively easily and inexpensively. The bad news is that there are a lot of metadata issues to worry about.
Let’s end with three action steps for you to take in the next few days.
First, an easy one. Open up a Word document, check the properties and see what you find.
Second, write down on a piece of paper the software tool that your firm uses to scrub metadata from documents and locate and read your policy for when and how to use it. If you can’t do either, find out why.
Third, take a few documents created outside your firm and try to turn on the “Track Changes” or show hidden data features. Think about what you find and decide whether you have the nerve to check your own documents.
As always, it’s best to be embarrassed in private than in public. If you don’t get metadata, metadata will get you.
Note: This article is one of a series of my previously-published articles that I’m making available for free on my website and incorporating into my blog. Other of my articles may be found in the Articles category archive on my blog.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]
This post brought to you by Dennis Kennedy’s half-day electronic discovery seminar – “Preparing for the New World of Electronic Discovery: Easing Your Transition from Paper to Electronic Discovery.” Contact Dennis today for more information and to schedule a seminar for your firm or legal department.