Dennis Kennedy

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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 December, 2005

A Memo to the IT Department: The Lawyer’s Wish List for Knowledge Management Projects – Article

Wednesday, December 7th, 2005

[NOTE: This is another in the series of repostings of my previously-published articles. I thought I'd complete my thoughts on knowledge management (KM) with this short, very informal article I wrote in 2004. It's a simple "ten tips" article, again pulled from a seminar presentation I gave. What's interesting to me now is that it introduces two ideas that became very important for me as I discussed KM (and, frankly, other legal tech issues). First, bridging the wide communications gap between lawyers and IT people is vital. Second, there is an element of creativity in what the best lawyers do that often is not appreciated by the designers and implementers of legal software. If you can identify and honor those creative elements, your chances for successful projects increase dramatically. ]
A Memo to the IT Department: The Lawyer’s Wish List for Knowledge Management Projects
If you are a lawyer in a firm of any significant size, you have been or will one day be involved in a “knowledge management” project. You will hear of the enormous benefits it will bring to you, how law firms are in the “knowledge business,” and that it will cost a lot of money. You may not hear some of the other benefits because you are thinking about what “a lot of money” may mean. You will hear more buzzwords than you can imagine and you may start to think that you heard some of the same talk about the document management system (DMS) the firm implemented a few years ago.
At worst, you may feel like your firm wants to run a vacuum cleaner on your brain, suck out everything that you know and then discard you. You may see the potential benefits, but your most fervent hope is that the new system does not make it any harder than it already is for you to do your work.
If you had the time in your busy day to jot down your wish list for a KM project, it would probably look something like this:
1. Honor My Uniqueness. Even if you really don’t think that what I do is unique, I certainly do. I’ve developed ways of practicing law successfully in a high stress environment. If you come in and act like you can do it better than I can or that what I do is no different from any other lawyer, I will push back.
2. Understand My Practice. Many technology people assume that every lawyer’s practice looks like a litigator’s practice. Nothing could be further from the truth. Make the effort to learn what I do, who my clients are, what documents I produce and what my typical work day is like.
3. Ask Me What Must be Fixed. Lawyers are great at spotting problems. You’ll need a thick skin, but sit down with me and ask me what can be made to work better and what simply does not work. I will tell you.
4. Ask Me Questions About Anything You Do Not Understand. I know that lawyers talk too fast, use a lot of jargon and assume that people are more familiar with lawyers do than they really are. Stop me. Ask the questions you have. I’ll slow down and explain, or tell you to come back when I have the time to explain. I don’t care if you keep coming back and asking more questions as long as we can move to a good result. On some days, I’ll be happy for the interruption.
5. Listen to What I Tell You. I will think that I gave you my key points in order of importance. I will expect to see that you have addressed these issues. If you fall down on this point more than a few times, I simply will not trust you and will be reluctant to contribute.
6. Quick Responses are Usually Good Responses. If we talk about a feature or a wish I have and you take several weeks to get back to me, I may forget what I told you or I may criticize you for doing exactly what I told you to do. Lawyers like people who are responsive. Lawyers are also comfortable working with drafts of documents. Show me a quick prototype or mock-up and I’ll be more helpful.
7. Make it Easy. I guarantee you that your vision of how a page should be laid out and my vision will be very different. However, I’m more likely to be convinced that my vision is correct. I will not be so insistent if you give me ways to do common tasks in a very easy way, such as by clicking on a special button, giving me a custom menu or other means.
8. Keep in Mind That Lawyers Are Creative. In many cases, KM efforts treat lawyers as if our main skill and need is to locate and re-create old documents. That could not be more wrong. The best lawyers see connections in what appear to be unconnected things and solve problems before others even see that a problem might exist. Lawyers need to look at things in a number of different perspectives, “slice and dice” information, trace out relationships, brainstorm and use a number of creative processes not often associated with lawyers. If you lock me into an elaborate and inflexible category system or, worse, put me into a world limited to Boolean queries, I simply cannot do my work.
9. Understand the Demands of a Billable Hours World. The efficiencies you can create for me have real consequences in a billable hours compensation system. Some of the resistance you see to your best ideas may come from my unresolved issues about compensation and the like. Help me understand the implications better and we can work well together.
10. Limit Your Technical Jargon. We have enough jargon of our own. We care much more about the results than the process you are using. If you meet me half way on your jargon, I’ll try to meet you half way on mine.
Conclusion. It’s not too difficult to work with me. Treat me as an individual, not a “knowledge worker unit.” Seek out my opinions and listen carefully to what I have to say. Show that you want to help me make my job easier and do it better. Try to talk with me and not at me. We can get farther by working together instead of against each other.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]
This post brought to you by Dennis Kennedy’s legal technology consulting services, featuring RSS and blogging consulting, technology audit, strategic planning and technology committee coaching packages especially for medium-sized law firms (15 – 100 lawyers) and corporate legal departments.

Ten Tips for Successful KM Projects in Law Firms – Article

Tuesday, December 6th, 2005

[NOTE: This is another in the series of repostings of my previously-published articles. This article is an article on knowledge management from 2004. I'd probably include more discussion of blawgs and RSS today. It's practical stuff and was taken from a KM seminar I did in 2004. As I've mentioned, I really enjoy writing and speaking about knowledge management and don't get as many chances as I'd like to do so. I'm now quite bullish on today's KM tools and techniques. I have not updated this article.]
Ten Tips for Successful KM Projects in Law Firms
Law firms struggle with knowledge management. On the one hand, law firms are classic examples of information and knowledge businesses. On the other hand, managing lawyers has often been likened to “herding cats.” Combining “knowledge” with “management” in the law firm setting has proven to be surprisingly difficult.
The legal landscape is littered with the debris of abandoned brief banks, ineffective document management systems and little-used practice management tools. We have reached this point not through lack of effort or failure to make the required investments, but rather because of difficulties inherent in today’s practice of law. Some of these difficulties are well-known – emphasis on billable hours, lack of incentive structures, and the legendary “busy-ness” of lawyers. Others are more subtle and perhaps less subject to change.
Walk into the office of almost any lawyer. What are you likely to see? A desk piled high with files and scattered papers. Files and papers covering the floor, credenza, chairs and any other available space. A computer monitor covered with Post-it notes. The lawyer’s secretary’s cubicle may look no different. How realistic is it to think that we can transform this picture into a sleek, well-oiled, computer-based knowledge management system?
There’s no question, however, that there are many good reasons to try to do so. The following ten tips will point you in directions that maximize your chances for success in legal KM projects. While nothing can guarantee success in trying to manage anything having to do with lawyers, these steps will help you move toward solid, measurable and appreciated results in your projects.
1. Bag the Jargon and Give Us Buttons. If you use the word “taxonomy,” you will lose the interest of many lawyers. If you use “taxonomy” and “ontology” in the same sentence, you may lose them forever. Concepts like “tacit” and “explicit” knowledge are simply not helpful to most lawyers. Forget the “XML” and “SQL.”
Lawyers tend to be doers. They can learn the underlying concepts, but will do so only if there is a good reason to do so. Because the emphasis is on “doing,” it is important to stress the “what” rather than the “how.” Find out what lawyers what to accomplish, give them a method to accomplish it, and then work on making it as simple as possible to execute that process. Ideally, give lawyers a button to click on or a tab that shows the information that they want. Hide the process and highlight the result.
2. Try to Adapt the System to Lawyer Behavior and Not Vice Versa. After twenty years of practicing law, I have a tendency to laugh when I hear about knowledge management systems that require significant changes in lawyer behavior. I heard recently of a system in which lawyers would be expect to fill-in thirty-five (!) fields of information for each document. One CKO I know checked the firm’s document management system and found that at least 20% of all documents were classified only with default options (e.g., Firm – Miscellaneous). I have had lawyers tell me that there is no way that they would enter even two fields. You can bring a KM system to a lawyer, but you cannot make a lawyer use it.
This behavior is clearly self-defeating, but you make a big mistake if you think that it does not exist and will not persist. When in a hurry, every lawyer will develop work-arounds to avoid cumbersome data entry requirements. If you require fields, give lawyers drop-down menus.
More important, however, is that the implementation of any successful KM system requires a solid understanding of how lawyers work and how they will not work. If you design a system that does not reflect the way lawyers work, you all but guarantee its failure. Because lawyers are creatures of habit, especially in times of stress, and conservative by nature, expecting behavioral changes, especially in times of high stress, is simply not realistic.
3. One Size Does Not Fit All. You want to be very careful about rolling out a “firm-wide” knowledge management system that looks and works the same for all lawyers. Lawyers work in many different ways. Practices vary from department to department and from lawyer to lawyer. The needs and practices of litigators are far different than those of corporate or transactional lawyers. Tax lawyers and employment lawyers, for example, may have completely different needs. A system that fits the way some of my former law partners work would be a horror show for me.
If you do not fully understand these differences and you attempt to roll out a single-interface, single-approach KM system, I guarantee you that it will be “doomed.” Your odds of significant adoption, let alone success, will be greatly diminished. You will see significant “leakage” out of your system as lawyers use their own work-arounds or even ignore the system.
You must take the time on the front-end to understand how lawyers work and also look for ways to build in flexibility and personalization to make it easy for lawyers to use your system in a way that complements how they work.
4. Enter Data Once; Use Many Times. For many years, the promise of document management, case management and other legal software has been that we can enter information only once and then it can be used in many places. The reality, however, is that, as a lawyer, I found that I was entering client and matter numbers in many different places, time after time. In too many cases, information that is already in the “system” must be re-entered with regularity. ODBC was supposed to make this problem go away and now most legal back office programs, DMS and the like are all built on SQL databases.
However, far too often, information in one database is not used by other databases. Given the tendency of lawyers to disregard or work-around field entry requirements, it is vital to use existing database information to automatically generate metadata about documents. Even if the results are not perfect, they have to be better than what we are now getting. For example, in many firms, email is an unconnected island of information that exists outside of DMS. Even if all you could do was automatically and invisibly pull and assign client number and a limited amount of other metadata based on the domain name to which an email was sent, you would be miles ahead of what most firms have now.
5. Address the “Pain” and Handle the Perceived Problems. In many cases, a KM system offers lawyers solutions for problems that they do not have. For example, a common selling point for KM is that I can automatically update the cases mentioned in my documents. I am not a litigator. My documents are almost always agreements. This “feature” would play almost no role in my practice. Similarly, a system that helped me locate and use “clauses” would be more valuable than one that focuses on documents.
There has been a lot of emphasis placed on the ability to find “documents” in the world of KM. For some lawyers, this emphasis is correct. For others, the ability to locate the “expert” or other KM concepts may be far more important. In each case, however, I can guarantee that a conversation with a lawyer will reveal several places where the current system gets in the way of what the lawyer wishes to do and causes “pain.” If you can identify those pains and solve them, you will build strong momentum for your KM system, often with surprisingly little effort.
6. Expand the Concept of “Document.” The initial focus on “documents” in DMS proved to be unwieldy when email usage exploded and important “documents” stayed outside the DMS. Today, think about instant messages, RSS feeds, voicemail, social software, deal rooms, web meetings and more new ways people work together that all create valuable information that does not fit the standard concept of “document.” As is the case in email, these new forms of communication may well contain the most valuable “knowledge” with respect to a case, transaction or other legal matter. If my KM system does not sweep this information in and make it usable, then the KM is not as useful as it could be or, worse, is potentially dangerous if I proceed on the basis that it is a complete system.
It has also become clear that expecting lawyers to fill out surveys, write memos or otherwise reduce to paper their resumes, areas of expertise and other information that would be useful to others is not wise. The use of audio and video to gather this information by interviews holds much promise in KM. Even if all you do is to assign interns to interview lawyers on video with a set of questions, you will be miles ahead of where most firms are. The results would include video, audio and transcripts. Audio and video would be especially valuable for firms with lots of offices.
In my old firm (300 lawyers), it was difficult to learn much about lawyers in other offices from the standard bios and black-and-white headshot photos you had available. If, on the other hand, I could have viewed short videos of the lawyers talking about their backgrounds and what they did, it would have been more valuable by orders of magnitude. Think about tip number 2 above for a minute. Lawyers like to talk about themselves and what they do, but they do not have the time to write all of that down. Audio and video techniques offer enormous promise.
7. Mimic the Standard Web Experience. Lawyers use Google, Amazon and any number of the other “ten most popular websites.” Usability experts, such as Jakob Nielsen, confirm that the best approach to take for your own website is to adopt many of the standard navigation, placement and other practices of these sites. As a result, users take advantage of familiar skills that they have learned and used on the websites that they use most commonly. Resist the urge to create new navigation schemes or to “break” common user expectations.
Adopting a web interface or “portal” front-end to your KM system, therefore, just makes good sense, as would using Outlook as a front-end. It is difficult for lawyers and other users to move between programs that work in different ways. We are all at a point where we do not want to learn any more interfaces or find that we have to go to another program to get information. If you can mimic the common web experience and give access to the underlying information from a “start page,” you can expect a great level of acceptance of your project.
8. Make Categories Flexible. I must admit that my eyes roll up into my head when people start talking about taxonomies, especially custom taxonomies. I recently abandoned yet another system of subfolders for email and bookmarks because it no longer worked. I have found that categories evolve over time and that I often will not know what the “right” category for certain information is until I am in a context where I need to use the information.
There are many problems with categories. How do you handle items that should be in multiple categories? How can I split up categories or create new subcategories? What about variations in naming? My biggest difficulty often comes when I am presented with a list of categories and my item simply does not fit any of them.
You will see occasional references to “liquid” categories or “flexible” categories as potential solutions for these kinds of issues. “Saved search” techniques may also become valuable in this context. Much work remains to be done in these areas, but a system that allows for the easy creation of new categories and the easy reassignment of items to categories will be much more acceptable than a rigid, committee-developed taxonomy system.
9. Make it Personal. If I go to, I will find “My Recommendations,” “My WishList” and other personalized features. I can create and customize “My Yahoo,” “My Excite” and “My FindLaw” pages, to mention only a few. I can use “skins” in a number of programs to make my user interface look the way I want. Certain sites with cascading style sheets (CSS) even allow me to change the look and feel of the pages I see.
Consider the likely reaction of an audience accustomed to this level of personalization and control to a KM system that is rigid, inflexible and offers no ability to customize. Nothing is more personal than knowledge management. In fact, there is an argument by some KM experts that KM can only be achieved through personal KM. If you do not give users the ability to personalize and control their experience, your odds for success will diminish greatly.
10. Hitting Solid Singles Beats Swinging for Home Runs. I cringe when I hear that a law firm plans to implement a KM “solution” for lawyers. The best approach for getting lawyers to use technology is to build momentum by introducing a string of incremental successes, each of which addresses a real-world, well-understood problem lawyers are facing while not doing violence to the way they like to practice law.
If you remember back to when you were first taught to hit a baseball, you’ll probably recall someone saying over and over, “Just meet the ball. Don’t try to kill it.” As you adjusted to the more realistic ambition, you noticed that you began to hit the ball more consistently and probably farther than you did when you tried to swing like Babe Ruth. The same principles apply in KM for law firms. Listen carefully to what lawyers are saying, make the effort to understand how they work, develop fast prototypes that show that you listened to their concerns, and make it easy for them to do the things that they care about doing. Reduce your big ambitions, concentrate on the ball, relax and be ready to make adjustments, and focus on the solid hits. Over time, a string of solid results can build something far more spectacular than what you might have originally envisioned.
Tools are very important in KM, but it will be whether you can use your KM tools to create tools that your users can easily use that will be the key to any successful KM project. KM in law firms is no easy task, but if you implement the tips in this article, you can greatly enhance your likelihood of achieving success for the long term.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]
This post brought to you by Dennis Kennedy’s legal technology consulting services, featuring RSS and blogging consulting, technology audit, strategic planning and technology committee coaching packages especially for medium-sized law firms (15 – 100 lawyers) and corporate legal departments.

A Great Set of Microsoft Office Tips

Tuesday, December 6th, 2005

Ed Mendelson’s article “Office Problems, Solved” in PC Magazine is one of the best articles I’ve seen on truly useful tips for Microsoft Office programs.
From how to back up your options to how to use macros to getting rid of line breaks in pasted text, there’s great stuff here.
My favorite one is how to create a Work menu for frequently used documents.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]
This post brought to you by Dennis Kennedy’s legal technology consulting services, featuring RSS and blogging consulting, technology audit, strategic planning and technology committee coaching packages especially for medium-sized law firms (15 – 100 lawyers) and corporate legal departments.

December Issue of Law Practice Today Published Today

Monday, December 5th, 2005

The new issue of the ABA Law Practice Management Section’s webzine, Law Practice Today was published today. I’m an editor and on the board, so, in my potentially somewhat biased view, I think it’s great and encourage you to check it out.
The feature article is a roundtable article called “Looking Back and Looking Forward,” which got together most of the LPT editors and a few guests to talk about what technologies we actually used and liked in the last year. It’s a fun and informative article. We all like the roundtable article format.
The article was written in part as an experiment in using the Web 2.0 collaboration tool, Writely ( To say that we liked our experiment with Writely is quite an understatement. It seems perfectly suited for use in creating this type of article. We’re already planning to use it for regular roundtable articles in the future, including an article on Web 2.0 apps for the next issue.
The issue has the usual assortment of good articles. Let me highlight first Fred Faulkner’s article where he revisits three predictions about legal technology he made at the beginning of the year. I have to remind Fred that it’s best to write those predictions articles and either not revisit them or only revisit the ones that were on target. I learned that from the newspaper psychics. I think Fred did better than he gives himself credit for and I’m in 100% agreement with his quick predictions for 2006.
The second article I’ll highlight is Patrick McKenna’s excellent “Bringing Outside Voices In: The Logic For Having An Advisory Board,” which I highly recommend. I must admit, however, that it did leave me thinking about whether I could come up with a way to get Patrick on my advisory board. As an aside, one of the interesting things I’ve noticed happening in blogging this past year is that a good number of bloggers have become informal advisory and sounding boards for each other in an organic and collaborative way.
Finally, Tom Mighell and I wrote the Strongest Links column on the topic of legal ethics resources. We didn’t use Writely, though. We used an old-style technique – we used a “best of” the column approach (which was a working theme for this issue) and Tom took his excellent article on legal ethics resources from April and we updated it with some new resources and updates.
I mention the way Tom and I wrote this column because I noticed recently that some people apparently do not realize that I have been writing this column with Tom for the past year in preparation for me transitioning it over to him. Truth be told, he does most of the work on the columns (and all of the best work – I primarily handle the mistakes and typos), although they are true collaborations. Tom is enormously talented and I hate to see his efforts slighted because people make the assumption that I am the lead writer of the column. For example, the instant messaging column we did, which I think is our best, was Tom’s idea. He deserves far more credit on these columns than I’ve seen him given lately – as they say, be careful when you assume.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]
This post brought to you by Dennis Kennedy’s legal technology consulting services, featuring RSS and blogging consulting, technology audit, strategic planning and technology committee coaching packages especially for medium-sized law firms (15 – 100 lawyers) and corporate legal departments.

Do-It-Yourself Knowledge Management Practical Personal KM – Article

Monday, December 5th, 2005

[NOTE: This is another in the series of repostings of my previously-published articles. I ran across this article today. It's from 2003, and it distilled a lot of my thoughts on "personal knowledge management" (PKM) in the legal profession. I remember that it was one of my better-received articles. I really enjoy writing about knowledge management and don't get as many chances as I'd like to wribte about KM and PKM. My latest approach to PKM is that I have created a folder called Research and I save PDFs and other documents into that folder and use Copernic Desktop Search as a way to find information when I need it. In a sense, I'm creating my own little "information cloud" of locally-available information that I've already identified as potentially useful. I also still use a good number of the techniques mentioned in this article. As I mention at the note at the end of the article, I was a little pessimistic about KM when I wrote the article. I'm now quite bullish on today's KM tools and techniques. I've added a few notes in the article to update certain sections.]
Do-It-Yourself Knowledge Management: Practical Personal KM
Recent experiments implanting memory chips directly into brain tissue notwithstanding, the holy grail of integrating computer technology into the practice of law remains a distant hope. Lately, we have heard much about “knowledge management” as the new tool to “leverage” lawyer knowledge, experience and expertise and more efficiently use what we know.
There is much hype about knowledge management, or “KM” as the cognoscenti call it. KM is a nebulous, seemingly ever-changing concept that varies as each new vendor enters the field. For the average lawyer who needs a time management tool just to schedule some time to learn the differences among case management, document management, litigation management, customer relations management and practice management, the introduction of KM into the mix may be the “management” straw that breaks the camel’s back.
KM software “solutions” are generally expensive and directed to big firms. They can do amazing things, but too often are not implemented in effective ways. However, the promise of KM appeals and applies to all lawyers, even if million dollar KM solutions do not.
This article takes a different approach to KM. I call it “do-it-yourself KM.” I believe that individual lawyers and small firms can use existing tools, obtain inexpensive tools we don’t already have and employ unused features of those programs to create simple, practical and useful personal knowledge management tools that help them not at the theoretical level, but where the rubber hits the road.
I will take a look at a number of software programs you probably already own and suggest simple ways to turn them into tools and resources that simply and quickly achieve some of the basic goals of knowledge management, such as easy retrieval of reusable knowledge materials. Try a few of these approaches and you will begin to understand the practical value of KM and use KM more effectively than the big firms with high-end but underutilized KM software.
1. Email Programs.
Collecting and retrieving relevant information easily is a key element of KM. Today, we receive much useful information through email. Email newsletters, messages from discussion lists and emails from clients and colleagues contain valuable “knowledge” that might be reusable. Emails contain references to cases or articles, instructions, recommended professionals, tips and other valuable material.
While there are many good reasons to improve your management of email, KM may provide the best incentive. I suggest the simplest of approaches: start to use folders for email. Using the “New” option under the “File” menu, you can create new folders and subfolders in your inbox. You can then copy messages you later might need into one or more of those folders. When you later are trying to remember something you saw earlier, simply use the “find” function to search the folder and you have a solid “knowledge retrieval” system. [Note: If you use Outlook, the free Lookout plug-in from Microsoft will change your entire outlook on Outlook. It is an astonishingly fast search engine that typically returns results in under a second.]
For example, for several years, I have routinely placed all of my email newsletters into a “Newsletters” folder. When I run into an issue that I think I might have seen something about recently, I run a search in that folder and generally can find the reference I need. I usually delete newsletters after they get to be six months old to keep the folder manageable.
Similarly, you might create separate folders for discussion list messages, messages from colleagues and the like. I suggest resisting the urge to set up too many folders so you don’t have to figure out which folder you might have put the information into. In fact, you might just set up one folder, call it “KM” and copy any message that contains useful info into that folder for later searching. Don’t forget that you can use email “rules” to automatically move or copy messages to particular folders and that can make this process even easier.
Because Outlook and other email programs do not have the greatest search tools, looking at inexpensive search tools such as Enfish ( or making use of email search tools in a document manager such as Worldox ( might improve this approach for you. [Note: In addition to Lookout, I also use the Copernic Desktop Search tool. Another interesting option is to use Adobe Acrobat 7's ability to create PDF files from your Outlook folders and then use Acrobat's cataloguing and indexing tools. You can also use your RSS news aggregator as another ad hoc KM repository.]
2. Word Processing.
You can find a number of tools in your word processing program that can be used for knowledge management. Sophisticated users can take advantage of autocomplete features, smart tags and wizards to create reusable material that can be invoked and reused with little or no effort. I recommend that you take a look into some of those and consider training for those features.
However, let’s keep it really simple. The simplest form of KM is creating forms. When you finish a document, consider whether it might serve you later as a form. If so, replace the names with blanks, add a few notes (such as, in a lease, is it pro-lessor or pro-lessee?) and save it as a new document. Keep all your forms in one folder so you can find them easily. Merely adding the notes and a descriptive name (“Pro-lessor triple net lease form”) is an enormous advantage over the common approach of trying to remember the last lease that you did.
Another simple and powerful approach is to harvest new clauses or legal arguments on a regular basis. Create a “clauses” or “legal analysis” document and, on a regular basis, copy new contract clauses you create or use, variations of clauses, arguments from briefs on standard issues and similar material into this document. Add a few notes about each and you have a stored repository of valuable work, plus the “knowledge” you associate with it by adding notes on use.
3. Document Management.
Many lawyers and firms have a document management tool, such as Worldox ( These powerful tools help you identify, locate and retrieve your documents. You can do full-text searches, key word searches and associate documents with each other. In most cases, lawyers do not take full advantage of these tools.
However, with a minimal amount of effort, you can greatly enhance the KM value of these tools. In document management programs, you create a “profile” of each new document, which typically includes client and matter numbers, author name, title, etc. Lawyers hate to be bothered with filling in these profiles. As a result, it can become very difficult to find documents and the software is not as useful as it could be.
There are four simple steps to take to enhance the KM potential of your document management software. First, spend a few extra seconds filling out as much of the profile as you can. Second, when you are finished with a document, dictate some key words for your secretary to add to the profile. Third, clearly label forms and make sure that forms are kept in one place where they are easy to find. Fourth, choose title names and key words with the idea that you will want to find and reuse the documents later.
4. Contacts.
It’s not what you know but whom you know. Outlook, other contact managers and practice management programs will keep track of your contacts for you.
Too many attorneys, however, enter only the basic address, phone number and email information. Each of these tools provides places to enter additional data, to group contacts by categories and to retain important information about your contacts, from names of secretaries, birthdays, where you met and much, much more. A minimal amount of effort to add this information to a contact listing can pay off big later.
Also, most of these tools let you process the information you collect. Do you know which of your contacts provided you with the most referrals last year? Would you like to know that the next time you have an extra hockey ticket and see a note that the contact is a hockey fan? [Lookout, Copernic Desktop Search and other desktop search tools make searching contact information easier and faster today. If you upload your contacts to LinkedIn and use its "grab" tool, you can harvest contact information from emails automatically and even use the LinkedIn network with ease.]
5. Internet Bookmarks.
You can find a lot of great information on the Internet, but it’s not so easy to find it again when you want it. Traditionally, browser programs have allowed you to collect links to web sites either as bookmarks (in the Mozilla family of browsers (FireFox or Netscape)) or as favorites (in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer).
Your list of bookmarks or favorites can quickly get overwhelming and unwieldy. The good news is that the browsers contain organization and management tools. These tools (e.g., those found on the drop-down “favorites” menu in Internet Explorer) allow you to create folders, move and organize your bookmarks and favorites. Using convenient folders and cleaning up your list of favorites can make them substantially more useful and aid you in retrieving information that you have already found once.
There are also third party bookmark managers (e.g., PowerMarks, and online bookmark repositories which allow you to access the same set of bookmarks no matter where you are. [Note: There is still no "great" bookmark management tool. I like the Omea Reader from JetBrains and also use Copernic Desktop Search to index and search bookmarks.]
There are also great tools like Copernic Agent ( that allow you to search multiple search engines and once and to save and reuse the search requests. These tools are another set of simple and inexpensive tools that provide excellent KM results.
6. Practice Management Software.
According to a recent ABA survey, the number of lawyers reporting that they use case or practice management tools (for example, Time Matters ( and Amicus Attorney ( has doubled in the past year. [Note: Most recently, I've heard that these programs have a market penetration of about 20% in the legal industry.] These programs have definite KM implications because they offer ways to collect, retrieve and, most important, share knowledge and expertise.
The key to using these tools for KM is to start to think about ways to use them other than just for standard office and case management. Here are just a few examples in Time Matters: stored Lexis search capability, full-text search tools, and the ability to create “non-client” cases and matters for stored research, training tools, forms and instructions. Thinking about these kinds of uses will help you realize the potential of these programs as a great platform to implement simple and beneficial KM initiatives.
7. Document Assembly.
A significant number of lawyers are using document assembly programs (such as HotDocs ( and GhostFill ( to automate the drafting of documents. These programs allow the user to answer a set of questions and automatically generate a good first draft of a document based upon those answers.
With only a little extra effort, these tools can have KM implications. Implementing a routine effort to add new clauses to the document assembly system will help you consistently use your latest and best approach and save you from reinventing the wheel. More importantly, building some explanations into the system will help with training, minimize mistakes and improve quality.
For example, if the user of your document assembly system reached a question that gave a number of choices, you might explain in what circumstances a choice was or was not appropriate. In addition, by using the answer to a question to generate all related clauses, you could eliminate situations where a user answered questions in a way that produced inconsistent results. All of this leverages the knowledge and expertise that you have gained in your practice and turns it into practical results – the primary goal of all KM. [NOTE: I am the eternal optimist when it comes to document assembly. I created some document assembly applications for my law firm more than fifteen years ago. The adoption in the legal industry has proceeded quite a bit more slowly than I expected, to put it mildly. In 2005, we saw the arrival of some new tools and approaches that make document assembly an area to watch in 2006. People still underestimate the value of simple document assembly apps.]
8. Networking.
Even the best KM effort has limited impact if you implement it only for yourself, while even the simplest KM effort can have results multiplied many times over if your whole office shares it. In each case where you consider a KM effort, look for ways that you can use your computer network. Because case management tools are usually network applications, they make an excellent platform for simple do-it-yourself KM efforts.
As many lawyers have also discovered, there is KM power in other networks. The ABA Solosez list and state bar email discussion lists are often cited as invaluable resources for solo and small firm attorneys to get advice, recommendations and help over the Internet. [NOTE: The network of bloggers is an amazingly valuable network for me these days.]
9. CaseMap.
CaseMap ( is a litigation knowledge management tool that costs under $500. CaseMap allows you to work with the facts and issues of your case in powerful ways to formulate strategy, assess the strengths and weaknesses of your case and organize and present your case in the most persuasive manner. It also unlocks all the information in your case that is typically hidden in legal pads, banker’s boxes and attorney’s heads.
For example, in CaseMap, you and your colleagues can assess each fact in your case for its relative strength or weakness and determine whether it is favorable or unfavorable. Facts can also be associated with specific issues. In how many cases would it be helpful to you to have a list of all strongly favorable, undisputed facts on the causation issue, with the names of the relevant witnesses and researched associated with each fact?
CaseMap is an inexpensive and powerful KM tool that no litigators should be without.
10. Routine Recording and Transcription.
Do you routinely tape your presentations and arguments? Why not? If you think you have a good reason, why not videotape or audiotape your practice sessions?
Recording spoken and performance materials can be an excellent KM tool. The recordings might be used for training other lawyers. Transcripts might be made so that the material s could later be reused for articles, seminar materials, email newsletter or web site content. Would a potential new litigation client benefit from seeing a video clip of you in action?
The opportunity to capture this type of material is routinely lost by lawyers. The availability of relatively inexpensive video cameras, recorders and voice recognition software, when combined with the today’s digitization techniques, opens up a new world of possibilities in this area. [NOTE: I feel even more strongly about this today.]
Practical Tips for Getting Started in DIY KM.
Here are a few of my best tips to get started with do-it-yourself KM.
1. If you don’t understand the whole KM concept, don’t worry about that one little bit. Even the experts can’t agree on what KM is. What you care about is the practical, real-world impact of KM techniques for you. You practice law, not linguistics or philosophy.
2. Start with a few easy efforts. Look through the items above. Make a list of the ones that seem easiest for you to do and where you can see that they would bring quick, concrete results. For example, it’s easy to record presentations and have your secretary transcribe them. It’s also easy to create a “KM” folder for email.
3. Consider how you work best. KM techniques that force you to modify how you work are doomed to failure. If you aren’t collecting clauses with notes, circle the clauses on a printout and dictate some notes and have your secretary take care of it. Dan Felean of PensEra (, a KM tools company, argues persuasively that KM is a team sport and that the best approach to KM in the legal profession involves building upon the routine relationships and tasks of lawyers and their staffs.
4. Set reasonable, business-oriented (or personal and professional) goals. We can all go a little overboard on technology. Think in business terms. If you are applying the simple KM approaches that I suggest above to contacts, don’t think in terms of either technology or “contact management.” Think in terms of the effects and goals that you want to achieve. Do you want to “implement a contact management system” or do you want to know who your top twenty sources of referrals are and what kind of “quality contacts” you are having with them? I hope that’s a rhetorical question.
5. The network is the message. Personal knowledge management is great, but the real power of KM comes from sharing. Look to ways to put KM efforts in place across your network and to take advantage of the collective knowledge of the whole team.
The approach that KM software vendors have taken to KM today is not working yet for many lawyers. Lawyers now find KM impossibly vague, very expensive and, rightly or wrongly, just today’s flavor of “management.” At the same time, lawyers need to take advantage of KM tools and techniques to cope with increasing information overload, new competitive pressures and changing economic realities. Ignore the hype. Take a do-it-yourself approach to KM and try to get real-world business results using tools you already have or can cheaply obtain and you will move well ahead of those who are content merely to debate KM concepts. [NOTE: Although I was critical of the high-end KM tools at the time I wrote this article, in part I used that critique as a rhetorical device to make the argument for the personal KM approach taken in this article. The focus of this article is individuals and small firms. I am quite bullish on today's generation of KM tools for larger firms – what a difference a few years can make.]
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]
This post brought to you by Dennis Kennedy’s legal technology consulting services, featuring RSS and blogging consulting, technology audit, strategic planning and technology committee coaching packages especially for medium-sized law firms (15 – 100 lawyers) and corporate legal departments.

Is Email Putting Your Company at Risk?

Sunday, December 4th, 2005

The Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance Journal has a piece called Is Email Putting Your Company at Risk?” that includes some quotes from me on the potential legal and liability issues involved in business use of email, and some thoughts about how to handle those issues.
The article and quotes come from a press release from Fortiva that talks about the fascinating results they found in a recent survey about the business use of email.
The money quote:
While a majority of employees (73%) who use email at work are aware of corporate email policies, less than half (46 per cent) say they always adhere to the policy. This statistic suggests a lack of understanding among employees of the importance of an email policy.
Here are my comments:
As email is being used increasingly as evidence in lawsuits, it is very important for organizations to educate their staff on what is and isnt acceptable in a workplace communication, said Dennis Kennedy, an information technology lawyer and legal technology consultant based in St. Louis, Missouri.
Those organizations that dont implement effective policies and procedures, train their people, and enforce policies for email are at serious risk of facing both future lawsuits and unhappy results in those lawsuits.
These statistics reinforce the fact that businesses need to do a better job of reducing their risk by communicating their policies more effectively with employees and backing up that communication with training and well-designed technology solutions, Kennedy added.

Thanks to Michael Arkfeld for the pointer to the article, which includes some eye-opening information about how people are using email these days.
[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.

Data Diligence – Legal Issues in ASP Contracts

Sunday, December 4th, 2005

Jennifer Jones has a very good article in ComputerWorld called “Data Diligence: It takes a skilled lawyer to skirt danger zones in a managed service provider agreement.” I was fortunate enough to be one of the people quoted in the article, which is my first appearance in ComputerWorld, a publication I have read and admired for many years.
The article is a great primer on the many issues that can be raised when entering even the simplest “managed service provider” (MSP) or “application service provider” (ASP) agreements. In this area, small and medium-sized businesses often face the most pitfalls.
From the article:
Vigilance is prudent, not because MSPs are neglectful but because problems are common, experts say. “When outsourcing, it is surprisingly easy to do things like run afoul of a privacy policy,” says Dennis Kennedy, an IT attorney in St. Louis.
If you are considering this type of arrangement for IT services – and most everyone is these days – be sure to check out the article.
[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.

Law and Order in Open Source

Friday, December 2nd, 2005

If you were interested in my recent article on best practice for using Open Source software on, Computerworld has a good article called “Law and Order on the Open-Source Range” that addresses some of the practical issues and approaches businesses are taking when they use Open Source software.
The approach of Fidelity Investments mentioned in the article – in essence, an internal Open Source task force – is especially interesting.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]
Like what you are reading? Check out the other blogs where I post – Between Lawyers (feed) and the LexThink Blog (feed).

Seven Quick Negotiating Tips from Columbo – Article

Thursday, December 1st, 2005

[NOTE: This is another in the series of repostings of my previously-published articles. This article is from my "Practical Technology Contract Review News," a newsletter I did a couple of years ago, before concentrating on blogging and other writing efforts. This article is meant to be fun, but still give you some helpful tips about negotiation. And, yep, my daughter and I are still Columbo fans.]
Seven Quick Negotiating Tips from Columbo.
My daughter and I have been watching reruns of the old Columbo TV show. It struck me that there are some good lessons to learn from these shows about contract negotiations. Consider these:
1. Do Not Underestimate the Opposing Party. The criminals always make the assumption that Columbo is not an opponent who matches up to the high opinion they have of themselves.
2. “Bear with me, I’m just trying to understand this.” Columbo often uses this tactic to get his adversary to spin out explanations of events in ways that show contradictions. Try this: “Bear with me, I’m just trying to understand how if your software infringes someone’s copyright, and we can’t even see the source code, why should we bear the risk of an infringement claim instead of you.”
3. “My superiors want me to tie up all the loose ends. You know how they can be.” This tactic is actually a variation of #2. The advantage is that you can keep a friendly relationship and blame the boss.
4. Be Polite But Be Persistent. Columbo uses a very high level of patience combined with a dogged persistence. He remains personally likeable while continuing to move toward his goal. The opposing party still likes you, but they reach a point where they just want you to stop coming back to the same point about the damage cap, and may become willing to give on the point.
5. Ask for the Opposing Party’s Help. A good tactic when you reach the endgame stage. “Can you help me out? If we can just get these two points – and they really are minor points when you think about it – then I know we’ll get the signature and put this one to bed.”
6. “Just one more thing.” Columbo says this signature line as he gets to the door to leave, as if he has just remembered a small point that slipped his mind – almost as an afterthought. The “one more thing,” in fact, deals with his major reason for having the conversation in the first place. Psychologically, Columbo’s opponent has already mentally “closed the door” on the conversation, dropping his or her guard, and leaving an opening to make the point with greater effect.
7. Keep Your Focus. Misdirection plays an important role in Columbo’s style and approach. However, his focus never wavers from his goal of solving the case.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]
This post brought to you by Dennis Kennedy’s legal technology consulting services, featuring RSS and blogging consulting, technology audit, strategic planning and technology committee coaching packages especially for medium-sized law firms (15 – 100 lawyers) and corporate legal departments.