Bill Gates Sends Me an Email That Pulls Together Some Ideas I’ve Been Thinking About Recently

I received an email from Bill Gates today. Well, so did thousands of others, I’m sure, but I’ve always wanted to start a blog post off like that. Unlike many who received it, I would bet, I read it from beginning to end. I encourage you to do the same.
The email is called “Beyond Business Intelligence: Delivering a Comprehensive Approach to Enterprise Information Management” (note: URL for this email will likely change in the future, so check the archive of emails at that link) and, in it, Gates offers some thoughts about the next ten years.
I like the email because I noticed that Bill and I are thinking along the same lines. For example, he ends the piece with:

“As we look ahead to the next 10 years and the promise of the New World of Work, I believe we are on the verge of an idea that is even more powerful: the age of friction-free innovation.”

Friction-free innovation. Matt Homann and I have been talking about and working on improving innovation in professional services for the last year-and-a-half through LexThink. It’s nice to be on the same page with the richest guy in the world.
That aside, however, I recommend that you read this email. It’s not too long, and I’m intrigued by the vision of the future of technology sketched out there.
There are a number of ideas that caught my attention.
1. The yin/yang notion of information overload (which we all know) and information underload, a way of looking at the other half of the equation of how technology seems to leave us so unsettled these days. He says: “The other problem is something I call information underload. We’re flooded with information, but that doesn’t mean we have tools that let us use the information effectively.”
He goes on to sketch out those tools and the business priorities they must address: Productivity; Collaboration; Business intelligence; Workflow optimization.
People who talk to me these days about where legal software needs to go have certainly heard these four topics from me a lot lately, especially the fourth one.
2. Gates, in some comments that I’m not necessarily sure are directed at Google (although I’m sure that’s the way some will take them), mentions “enterprise-enabled search” as one direction we must go. If you’ve talked to people facing the gargantuan issues involved in records management, compliance, information governance and electronic discovery, you will know that “enterprise-enabled search” is not a buzzword du jour. It focuses on some real issues that must be addressed sooner rather than later.
3. Gates also mentions, almost in passing, knowledge management in the context of “enterprise-enabled search.” This goes back to business priorities. Are we managing information just for litigation purposes (e-discovery) or just for regulatory purposes (compliance) or should we take the opportunity to extend and close the circle and use that information in creative, positive and broader ways? Again, this is a theme that has been filtering into my presentations on electronic discovery and information lifecycle management.
4. Sharepoint Server as a platform. I’ve given two presentations in recent weeks on legal technology trends in which I highlight ten trends. One of them is the growing interest and likely uses of Sharepoint Server in law firms. Gates, in his email, sketches out the role Sharepoint Services may play and points to something new called Knowledge Network for Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007. He says, “Another new technology aimed at streamlining information access that should be available in the near future is an enhanced search tool called Knowledge Network for Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007. This add-on will track expertise and relationships in an organization so information workers can quickly connect to people with the right skills and knowledge.”
5. At TECHSHOW 2005, Marc Lauritsen was reviewing the histroy of legal technology and made a comment about tasks that it made sense for computers to do and tasks that it made sense for humans to do. It struck me then, and does even more so today, that part of the reason we see dissatisfaction and burnout in the legal profession is that, arguably in many cases, lawyers are still doing work as humans that should at this point be done by computers, freeing them up to do more of the creative things that play such a big part in being a lawyer. Properly understood, we should be trying to use technology to enable us to move in that direction.
In his email, Gates says: “In this New World of Work, repetitive, uninteresting tasks like moving data from one system to another will be automated and employees will focus much more of their time and creative energy on work that generates real value and growth.”
And that should be the money quote for this email.
My point here is not to say, “hey, Bill Gates and I are thinking a lot alike these days,” but to say that there are some trends, forces, needs and tools that are starting to come together. Some of these I had noticed; some I hadn’t. But the email frm Bill Gates helped pull together a lot of different pieces in a very helpful way for me. Some may say that nothing in here is all that original, but it is the synthesis of these ideas and the vision and direction that is revealed in the email that is original and. to me, quite exciting, even if it might be ten years away.
I invite you to read the email and see what impact it has on you.You can subscribe to these emails from Gates from the page you will find the email.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]
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Reminder: Technology Primer for Solo and Small Firms Teleseminar on Thursday

On Thursday, May 18, the American Bar Association Law Practice Management Section, ABA General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division and ABA Center for Continuing Legal Education are presenting a teleseminar called “Technology Primer for Solo and Small Firms.” The program features the lead editor (Bill Gibson) and three contributing authors (Natalie Kelly, Dan Pinnington and me) of the latest edition of the excellent “Flying Solo” book.
From the program description:

This teleconference and live audio webcast will show you how to make better use of legal technologies to improve your practice. Join our expert faculty to learn how you can use technology to be more effective and efficient.
Attend this program to learn how to:
+ Protect the security and privacy of client and firm data from viruses, worms, hackers and your own staff
+ mprove client service and communications through the amazing power of practice management software
+ Avoid malpractice claims and ethics complaints that can result from the improper use of technology
+ Manage email communications to ensure that the flood of business-related messages and SPAM does not affect your client relationships or your ability to practice
+ Find and use the best online legal resources and marketing tools to improve and build your practice
+Train yourself and your staff to maximize your practice and technology investment
Our seasoned presenters will give you their favorite practical tips and tricks for doing more with and getting more from legal technology.

The teleseminar, on May 18 from 1:00 to 2:30 Eastern, is a full 90 minutes, and will be loaded with practical tips and recommendations. Natalie and Dan are two of my favorite presenters to listen to and to work with.
More details and online regisration is at
This will be a valuable program for current solo and small firm lawyers and those thinking about becoming solo and small firm lawyers. One great thing about this teleseminar for big firm lawyers – you don’t have to worry about running into one of your colleagues as you might at a traditional seminar.
I hope you can join us.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]
Learn more about legal technology at Dennis Kennedy’s Legal Technology Central page.
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Cautionary Tales from Government IT Efforts

Allan Holmes’ article, “Federal IT Flunks Out” on tells the sobering and ultimately frustrating story of where tons of money and effort have been squandered in federal government IT projects over the past ten years. The focus is on the role of CIOs in government agencies.
The article also discusses the law that was passed to avoid this very result.

The Clinger-Cohen Act, passed in a rare act of bipartisanship 10 years ago, outlined steps that were designed to cast federal CIOs in the role of strategists who could help agencies formulate new business processes to streamline operations, improve the delivery of public services and reduce the risk of system disasters that test citizens’ faith in government—and, from time to time, put their lives in danger. Officially known as the Information Technology Management Reform Act of 1996 (and later renamed the Clinger-Cohen Act after Rep. William Clinger and Sen. William Cohen, who pushed the legislation through), the law demanded that federal agencies follow corporate America’s best practices for managing IT. Agencies were required to hire a CIO, institute investment controls and establish performance goals and metrics to measure progress. The law was hailed as the tool that would finally fix federal IT.

As the article points out, the Act is another example of how legislation on technology issues never quite seems to get the job done (CAN-SPAM anyone?) even with the best of intentions. Paul Brubaker, one of the lead authors of the law when he worked as a Republican staff director for Cohen, has said, “We really thought we had it nailed. . . . We were going to change the way government managed IT and in doing so, possibly change government. . . . The Clinger-Cohen Act was totally bastardized to fit political agendas in both [the Clinton and first Bush] administrations, missing the point of making the CIO a strategic player in an agency rather than just the technology go-to guy. . . . We have the same basic problems we did 10 years ago.””
I highlight and recommend this article not just as another infuriating example of “your tax dollars at work” (or the frightening security threats we continue to face because of these practices), but as a cautionary tale that you will want to consider as you look at your own IT projects and the role that your CIO (or you as a CIO) plays in yor organization’s success.
Holmes, through a series of many interviews notes four key factors that have led to the problems:
1. The CIO’s lack of authority, specifically over budgets.
2. Cultural and political resistance that derails sound IT practices.
3. Poor project management discipline.
4. Paperwork exercises that require CIOs and their staffs to spend huge amounts of time proving that they are adhering to administration directives.

Sound familar?
As Holmes notes, the solution lies in leadership.
The money quote:

John Flaherty, chief of staff for Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, stood up to say a few words about [retiring Department of Transportation CIO] Matthews’ accomplishments, pointing out that Matthews was always quick to help Mineta when his BlackBerry wasn’t working.
Flaherty wasn’t kidding.
A number of people present saw Flaherty’s comment as a perfect illustration of why IT at the federal level is so troubled. Government CIOs are still seen as guys who fix BlackBerrys.

Important topic – great article – highly recommended.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]
This post brought to you by LexThink!(R) – The Legal Unconference. Ask us about private LexThink retreats and conferences for your firm, business or organization.
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DIY Electronic Discovery

Feeling brave? Maybe it’s not quite like DIY brain surgery or DIY rocket science, but maybe a lawyer might try his or her hand at do-it-yourself electronic discovery.
A great new article from computerforensics and electronic discovery expert Craig Ball called Do-It-Yourself E-Discovery raises the important question of when and how you might want to deal with certain parts of electronic discovery matters yourself.
In Craig’s article, the example is email and .pst files. Craig looks at a number of software tools before deciding on dtSearch. He invites others to suggest other options, with all due warnings about understanding the “chain of custody,” spoliation and other evidentiary issues inherent in any DIY approach. Do not underestimate these issues. You must understand the risks (see the quote from Craig below).
Note that you might also obtain the forensically-sound copy you need and then have a second copy prepared that you will use these DIY tools on to screen the copy without compromising the evidence of the other copy.
I suggest taking a look at some free and inexpensive tools and some tools you may already own – the X1 search tool, Adobe Acrobat 7 (import the PST files into Outlook and then use Acrobat to save the folders as PDF files to work with) or the free Copernic Desktop search tool,. You might even try to import the PST file and then export it out of Outlook into an Access file. There may be other creative options. I’m looking forward to hearing about them.
Remember that (1) you might get the opposing party to agree to using these simple and cheap tools and get a judge’s approval as an alternative to full-blown approaches in appropriate cases, (2) these tools might help you see whether use of more expensive and more elaborate tools will be needed, or (3) you might use these tools for other screening purposes.
As Craig says:

As a computer forensic examiner, I blanch at the thought of lawyers harvesting data and processing e-mail in native formats.
“Guard the chain of custody,” I want to warn. “Don’t mess up the metadata! Leave this stuff to the experts!”
But the trial lawyer in me wonders how a solo/small firm practitioner in a run-of-the-mill case is supposed to tell a client, “Sorry, the courts are closed to you because you can’t afford e-discovery experts.”

This is an intriguing, potentially quite important, topic that deserves some serious thought and attention. I congratulate Craig for raising the topic and look forward to the discussion it raises. For example, see Evan Schaeffer’s post here.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]
Learn more about electronic discovery at Dennis Kennedy’s Electronic Discovery Resources page.
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Are Tech Costs Spinning Out of Control?

Good question. I participated in a roundtable article in the latest issue of the ABA’s Law Practice Magazine called “Tech costs spinning out of control? What you should and shouldn’t do: Pointers and predictions for solos and small firms.” The article has a stellar list of legal technologists as participants: Sharon Nelson, Craig Ball, Jim Calloway, Dennis Kennedy, Ross Kodner and John Simek. Lots of great ideas and useful information for law firms considering technology options. The issue also has a great article on blogging from Tom Mighell, my partner in the new podcast, The Kennedy-Mighell Report.
In related news, Helen Gunnarsson’s great article on legal blogging, “Do We Blawg and How?” (formerly available only in print) is now available online.
And, the May issue of the ABA’s Law Practice Today webzine has also just been published.
Finally, I noticed that I’m quoted in a third article this week on This time it’s in a very good article by Ann Sherman called “Firms See Waves of Problems from Employee Web Surfing,” which covers some of the important issues raised in technology use policies, or the lack thereof.
Lots of good reading.
[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. More information on the “Second Pair of Eyes” packages for legal technology audits and strategic planning may be found here (PDF).
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