Technology-Lawyer

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. DennisKennedy.com 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

Posts Tagged ‘legal’

Tech Resolutions for 2011

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

The ABA Journal has published my latest monthly legal technology column. It’s called “Happy New Tech Year: 4 First Steps for the Next 365 Days” and, as you might gather from the title, it makes some recommendations for “new year’s resolutions” you might make about technology from 2011.

Although, I make a few specific suggestions (e.g., change all of your passwords), the article focuses on the notion of how to make good resolutions and to focus on what makes the most sense for you.

As I say in the column, “Think of resolutions as first steps that are simple, easy to accomplish and targeted toward areas that will reduce friction between you and the rapidly changing world of technology.”

I highlight four areas you might want to focus on for 2011.

1. Protect Yourself. Examples include change all of your passwords or get a password management program.

2. Spruce Up Your Online Presence. Examples include refreshing your design, updating pictures and visiting your profiles on online directories.

3. Learn. Pick a technology topic, program or feature (track changes, email management, PowerPoint) and take a class or find other ways to learn it well. Or subscribe to a podcast like The Kennedy-Mighell Report to keep up-to-date on legal technology developments and topics.

4. Innovate. I like to try one new technology every year. I think this is my year of the Mac. 2011 might be a good year for you to try a cloud computing application.

The money quote:

Technology is definitely complicated, but lawyers have to keep up. The best way is to have some written resolutions that help you take small steps. Go for easy wins, build momentum and surprise peopleóincluding yourselfówith how far you can go in 2011.

Check out the article here.

Tom Mighell and I also discuss this topic, with a strong focus on how to make resolutions that you will actually complete, in a recent episode of the Kennedy-Mighell Report podcast.

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

Follow my microblog on Twitter ñ @dkennedyblog. Follow me ñ @denniskennedy

The Lawyerís Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together, by Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell. Visit the companion website for the book at LawyersGuidetoCollaboration.com. Twitter: @collabtools

Your Questions Answered in Next Kennedy-Mighell Report Podcast

Friday, December 24th, 2010

NOTE: The podcast mentioned in this post can now be found here.

I’ve been able to talk Tom into doing our next episode of The Kennedy-Mighell Report podcast as an all question-and-answer show where we try to answer legal tech questions from our listeners (and readers of this blog).

Now all we need is a show’s worth of questions to answer.

That’s where you come in.

Send us your questions in the next couple of days by leaving a comment on this post, by emailing me (denniskennedyblog @ gmail.com) or my direct messaging Tom (@tommighell) or me (@dkennedyblog) on Twitter.

Any topic is fair game. If you wanted to try this, you might record your question as an audio file and we’ll try to insert it into the show.

Also, please let us know whether you want us to mention your name on the episode.

Thanks for your help and thanks for listening to the podcast in 2010. We’re especially proud of of last episode, “What’s the Word for Legal Tech in 2010,” which is an homage to one of our favorite podcasts (and one that was inspiration for our podcast, ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption (PTI) podcast.

A special thanks, too, for all the positive feedback I’ve received on my 2010 Blawggie Awards post.

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

Follow my microblog on Twitter – @dkennedyblog. Follow me – @denniskennedy

Now Available! The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together, by Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell. Visit the companion website for the book at LawyersGuidetoCollaboration.com. Twitter: @collabtools

MacGyver Your Software

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

The ABA Journal has published my latest monthly legal technology column. It’s called “MacGyver Your Software: Necessity Reveals Useful Tools You Never Knew Your Software Had.” It covers some ways you can cleverly make use of the standard programs you have to do some things that you thought only programs you don’t have could do.

As I say in the column,

I have noticed that many lawyers who make innovative use of technology in their practices take advantage of program features not commonly used by others. Often, this results from the lack of budget or permission to install new programs. Necessity becomes the mother of invention.

Those of you famility with TV history (and who isn’t?) will get the reference to MacGyver, who could also make some amazing new use out of seemingly random materials at hand to escape from difficult situations.

Many lawyers with limited technology tools have felt like a MacGyver trying to cobble together software and hardware to accomplish something that technology they didn’t have would easily do.

The premise of this column is to take a look at ways you can use common tools for quite different purposes, not just give you some tips to use existing programs better.

Some examples include using your word processor as a metadata scrubber or blog publishing tool, presentation programs as a graphics editor or audio/video editor and Adobe Acrobe for a wide variety of purposes.

The idea is to get you to think in new ways and not to throw your hands up in despair because your firm won’t let you get tools you need. There are other options.

The money quote from the column:

Now is a great time to explore the unused features in software you already have. If you unleash your inner MacGyver, do some exploring and are willing to be creative, you are likely to find a much bigger and better-stocked toolbox than you ever imagined.

Check out the article here.

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

Follow my microblog on Twitter – @dkennedyblog. Follow me – @denniskennedy

Now Available! The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together, by Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell. Visit the companion website for the book at LawyersGuidetoCollaboration.com. Twitter: @collabtools

Big Answers for Mid-Sized Law Firm Problems – Podcast

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Tom Mighell and I have recorded another episode of The Kennedy-Mighell Report podcast and it’s now available on the Legal Talk Network and on iTunes, with an RSS feed here. The episode is called “Big Answers for Mid-Sized Problems” (show notes here), and it’s sponsored by Clio. A special thank you to readers of this blog who listen to the podcast – consider trying out an episode or becoming a regular subscriber through iTunes or our RSS feed.

We have a special guest host for this episode – our friend Catherine Sanders Reach, Director of the < "http://www.abanet.org/tech/ltrc/home.html">American Bar Association’s Legal Technology Resource Center.

Here’s the episode (#44) description:

There are lots of technology resources and conferences for large firms and small firms. Mid-sized law firms often feel that needed information and resources can be difficult or even impossible to find. Where can mid-sized firms get appropriately-focused technology assistance? In this episode, co-hosts Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell and special guest host, Catherine Sanders Reach talk about the unique issues mid-sized law firms face, suggest practical steps those firms can take to address those issues, and discuss ways to improve the legal technology landscape for mid-sized firms.

I’ve long felt that the most underserved area of legal technology is the unique needs and issues faced by mid-sized law firms and legal organizations. If you are in a small firm or a big firm, you’ll find a lot of resources and conferences. However, it’s difficult to find resources (or conferences) focused on mid-sized firms. I keep thinking that I’d like to create a “portal” to resources for mid-sized firms in my spare time. Then again, I keep thinking that I’ll have some spare time to do that.

We brought Catherine in not just because we like her and think she is one of the most knowledgeable people out there, but because the ABA’s Legal Technology Resource Center has survey information and other data that give us some insights into the mid-sized market.

We start with a definition of mid-sized firms that moves from my “mid-sized is a state of mind” approach to a more practical definition of 10 – 100 lawyers, that breaks into two categories – 10 to 49, and 50 to 100.

There are a number of issues that begin to separate mid-sized firms from small firms – IT employees, sophistication of applications, tech committees, to name a few.

Catherine does a great job of highlighting key findings from the most recent ABA survey and looking at historical trends. If you deal with technology in a mid-sized firm, you’ll want to hear this information.

We also give a few suggestions for mid-sized firms and realize that this is a topic we’ll come back to in a future podcast.

I’ve become quite worried about mid-sized firms in today’s market and some of the issues they face. Technology might not be the most difficult one, but it’s well up on the list. Our podcast will give you some ideas, but providing education and resources for mid-sized firms should get a bigger share of the legal technology discussion than it seems to be getting today.

In our “stuff Tom and Dennis having been talking about” segment, we include Catherine and take a look at some recent surveys in Macintosh use by lawyers and discuss whether or not Macs are starting to make inroads into law offices. Perhaps the most interesting point is that the growing use of Macs by lawyers (and their family members) might have implications for future Mac use in law firms, especially as we see growing interest in the “Bring Your Own Computer” approach to work technology.

We end the episode with our Parting Shots segment, in which we give a couple of useful tips. Tom talks about Google’s new Cloud Connect. Catherine has a very useful Outlook tip. I mention TechnoLawyer as an excellent resource for mid-sized firm lawyers, as is the ABA’s Legal Technology Resource Center.

Let us know what you think about this episode. Show notes for the podcast are here. And try some of the back episodes as well. I recommend subscribing to the podcast on iTunes so you automatically get each new episode as it is released. You can also now follow the podcast on Twitter at @tkmreport.

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

Follow my microblog on Twitter – @dkennedyblog. Follow me – @denniskennedy

Now Available! The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together, by Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell. Visit the companion website for the book at LawyersGuidetoCollaboration.com. Twitter: @collabtools

One Inbox to Rule Them All – Podcast

Monday, December 13th, 2010

Tom Mighell and I have recorded another episode of The Kennedy-Mighell Report podcast and it’s now available on the Legal Talk Network and on iTunes, with an RSS feed here. The episode is called “One Inbox to Rule Them All” (show notes here), and it’s sponsored by Clio. A special thank you to readers of this blog who listen to the podcast – consider trying out an episode or becoming a regular subscriber through iTunes or our RSS feed.

Here’s the episode (#43) description:

Facebook has just announced its new Facebook Messages, which has been referred to as “Facebook email” or a “Gmail killer.” It’s not exactly email, but it does aim to centralize all of our messaging in the Facebook platform. Given Facebook’s scope, is this a game-changer? In this episode, co-hosts Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell take a look at Facebook Messages and its implications, how social media and webmail are changing our relationship to email, and whether Facebook Messages or other forms of webmail are in your future. After you listen,

I keep hearing myself say this year that is “email is broken.” Facebook Messages is the latest high visibility effort to radically change the way we use email. In part, it’s a way to give you a Facebook email address, but, more so, it’s a way to bring email, instant messages, Facebook messages and the like into a unified inbox.

We were a little wary of any high-profile “email replacement” after Google Wave fizzled out, but we explored some of the potential advantages and disadvantages of a Facebook-based approach, including potential electronic discovery issues and reservations about giving Facebook even more of our information.

I’m intrigued by the idea of a unified inbox or social media dashboard, whether it might be Facebook Messages or something yet to come. Whether or not Facebook Messages is the right answer or not, the fact is that anything available to Facebook’s 500 million users simply cannot be ignored. You’ll want to watch developments in Facebook Messages before they sneak up on you.

In our “stuff Tom and Dennis having been talking about” segment, we take a look at our practical experiences with e-book readers and share the ways we have found them useful. Tom, a longtime user of the Kindle, also talks about his experience with the iPad as an ebook reader.

We end the episode with our Parting Shots segment, in which we give a couple of useful tips. Tom talks about the Rockmelt Browser, a new browser that incoporates social media. I was dubious about a new browser, but Tom managed to get me interested in trying it, even though I haven’t started yet. I recommend the Canadian Broadcasting Company’s Spark podcast, a weekly radio show hosted by Nora Young that covers technology and its many consequences in an engaging, entertaining and educational way. I especially liked episode 127.

Let us know what you think about this episode. Show notes for the podcast are here. And try some of the back episodes as well. I recommend subscribing to the podcast on iTunes so you automatically get each new episode as it is released. You can also now follow the podcast on Twitter at @tkmreport.

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

Follow my microblog on Twitter – @dkennedyblog. Follow me – @denniskennedy

Now Available! The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together, by Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell. Visit the companion website for the book at LawyersGuidetoCollaboration.com. Twitter: @collabtools

Integrating Practice Management Tools in Law School

Monday, November 15th, 2010

Tom Mighell and I have recorded another episode of The Kennedy-Mighell Report podcast and it’s now available on the Legal Talk Network and on iTunes, with an RSS feed here. The episode is called “Integrating Practice Management Tools in Law School” (show notes here), and it’s sponsored by Clio. A special thank you to readers of this blog who listen to the podcast – consider trying out an episode or becoming a regular subscriber through iTunes or our RSS feed.

Here’s the episode (#42) description:

With law firms cutting back or eliminating summer internships and law schools focusing on teaching theoretical legal concepts, law students find themselves in a difficult position in a difficult market. How can law students learn needed practical skills, including how to use legal technology? In this episode, co-hosts Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell talk to Professor Clark D. Cunningham from Georgia State University College of Law, Jonathan Call, law school student at GSU College of Law, Jack Newton from Clio and Andy Adkins from the University of Florida Levin College of Law, about the exciting and innovative efforts to bring practical skills training, including legal technology, to law schools and law students.

Tom and I have long had an interest in ways education about legal technology can be improved for lawyers and law students. I especially enjoy the chances I get to talk to law students about legal technology. In addition, Tom and I are contributing editors for the new Legal Skills Prof Blog, part of the great Law Professor Blogs Network.

When we learned about the experiment the Georgia State University College of Law was doing with our podcast sponsor, Clio, we decided that it was a perfect topic for the podcast. A big thank you to Christy Burke and the great team at LegalTalkNetwork (especially the fabulous Kate Kenney), we put together a big show with four guests to talk about the project, put it in context, and, we hope, point to ways other schools might try similar experiments.

We divided the episode into two segments. In the first, we get an “on the ground” report on the Georgia State University School of Law experiment from Professor Cunningham and Jonathan Call. In the second, Jack Newton of Clio gives us his observations and insights from the vendor perspective and our good friend, Andy Adkins, adds his vast knowledge and perspective to talk about where this experiment fits into the history of bringing technology to law students, law professors and law schools.

This is exciting stuff. And it’s important work. If we are going to significant change in the use of technology in the legal profession, it is likely to evolve from these types of experiments to get the next generation of tools into the hands of the next generation of lawyers.

The one great insight I got from this conversation, and I should have thought of this before, is that because cloud-based tools can be used in schools without the need for additional computer infrastructure, it’s possible to move quickly on these types of initiatives.

A big “thank you” to all our guests. Let us know what you think about this episode.

We end the podcast with a Parting Shot about our involvement with the Legal Skills Prof Blog and how we are excited to be part of that project. Check out the blog here.

Give our new episode a listen and let me know what you think. Show notes for the podcast are here. And try some of the back episodes as well. You can also now follow the podcast on Twitter at @tkmreport.

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

Follow my microblog on Twitter – @dkennedyblog. Follow me – @denniskennedy

Now Available! The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together, by Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell. Visit the companion website for the book at LawyersGuidetoCollaboration.com. Twitter: @collabtools

Top Tech Tips for Today’s Travelers – Podcast

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Tom Mighell and I have recorded another episode of The Kennedy-Mighell Report podcast and it’s now available on the Legal Talk Network and on iTunes, with an RSS feed here. The episode is called “Top Tech Tips for Today’s Travelers” (show notes here), and it’s sponsored by Clio. A special thank you to readers of this blog who listen to the podcast – consider trying out an episode or becoming a regular subscriber through iTunes or our RSS feed.

Here’s the episode (#41) description:

Traveling with technology today has, simultaneously, gotten both easier and harder. On the road, you need to be resourceful and give yourself plenty of options to meet unexpected challenges. At the same time, you still want to “pack light.” In this episode, co-hosts Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell share their notes and experiences from a recent trip, offer some of their best travel tips, and make a few predictions about where traveling with technology is headed.

Tom and I had just returned from a great trip to Washington, DC for the American Bar Association’s Law Practice Management Section’s fall meetings. We had compared notes with other attendees about what we have learned about traveling with technology over the years. We thought it would be fun and instructive to share some of our favorite travel tips and observations with our listeners.

We talked a bit about how our traveling styles differ. It’s essential to have a good understanding of your own style, what technology you actually use, and what you really want to accomplish. From that base, you can make smart choices about what you need for each trip.

Tom and I joked a bit about how your bag is really the most important “technology” tool you need, but it’s clear that your choice of computer bag (or backpack) can be important. My big observation from my recent trip was how valuable a sportscoat with lots of pockets can be.

We talk about Internet connections, power cords, the rise of smartphones and much more. Tom also gives his opinion on whether you can travel with an iPad and no laptop. We also talk about software and Internet services we find useful while traveling.

When traveling, I’m a big believer in giving yourself a number of options while still consolidating what you take down to the acceptable minimum. You have to be resourceful and be prepared for the unexpected. In the podcast, you’ll hear lots of our practical tips, both those that we have learned the hard way and what we’ve learned as helpful advice from travelers we know.

In our “stuff Tom and I have been talking about” segment, we discussed the upcoming 25th anniversary of the ABA TECHSHOW, the promotional video we shot for TECHSHOW, and the value of attending legal technology conferences.

We end the podcast with our Parting Shots – practical tips you can use right away. Tom recommended Google’s Gmail Security Checklist. I like a post from Dave Taylor that explains how to download your personal information from Facebook.

Give our new episode a listen and let me know what you think. Show notes for the podcast are here. And try some of the back episodes as well. You can also now follow the podcast on Twitter at @tkmreport.

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

Follow my microblog on Twitter – @dkennedyblog. Follow me – @denniskennedy

Now Available! The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together, by Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell. Visit the companion website for the book at LawyersGuidetoCollaboration.com. Twitter: @collabtools

Mapping Your Return to Useful Websites – Podcast

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Tom Mighell and I have recorded another episode of The Kennedy-Mighell Report podcast and it’s now available on the Legal Talk Network and on iTunes, with an RSS feed here. The episode is called “Mapping Your Return to Useful Websites” (show notes here), and it’s sponsored by Clio. A special thank you to readers of this blog who listen to the podcast – consider trying out an episode or becoming a regular subscriber through iTunes or our RSS feed.

Here’s the episode (#40) description:

Internet search is only half of the equation. Many times, you simply want to return to a site you had previously found. Managing bookmarks and favorites has long been a less-than-satisfying experience. Why is this simple concept so difficult in practice? In this episode, co-hosts Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell discuss recent developments in bookmark management, different approaches and tools you might try, and directions, like social bookmarking, in which we might be headed.

I’ve been looking, unsuccessfully, for a great bookmarking solution ever since I started using browsers a zillion years ago. In many ways, my first website was an attempt to make my bookmarks (or, as they are known in the Internet Explorer world, “favorites”) portable and accessible from anywhere.

I’ve had partial successes from time to time, but lately I find that bookmark management has become more difficult and more complicated than ever.

In this episode, Tom and I look at the current difficulties and possible solutions, the methods we each have tried and now use, and tentatively suggest some directions that look promising.

I’ve been surprised recently by several people who asked me about what social bookmarking tool I use. I’ve tried quite a few and failed at all of them. Tom and I have tried several just in connection with sharing links for our podcast and we’ve gradually drifted away from each of them.

Despite my pessimistic attitude, Tom and I dove right in to the topic and covered a lot of ground.

We highlighted three developments that have had a big impact on bookmark management: (1) Using multiple browsers or changing browsers, (2) Xmarks and the risks of online bookmark management tools, and (3) perhaps most important, the growing use of social media and mobile devices to share links.

In many ways, we’re rushing into the usual walls – volume overwhelming management tools, silos, folder management, dead links – and adding the complication of multiple sources, multiple devices and multiple browsers.

In an interesting way, we’re moving back to early web concepts – trusted resources, curation, lists of links, and link blogs. And it all relates to personal knowledge management concepts.

In our “stuff Tom and I have been talking about” segment, we discuss Jim Hammond’s recent post A Complete Guide to Dealing with e-Junk, which is both a good example of a blog post that serves as a curated list of useful links and a great resource on the topic of disposing of outdated technology.

We end the podcast with our Parting Shots – practical tips you can use right away. Tom likes a blog post called “Top 10 Cloud COmputing Blogs to Read. I recommend a great podcast interview of Donald Tapscott on his new book Macrowikinomics with Leo Laporte as the interviewer.

Give our new episode a listen and let me know what you think. Show notes for the podcast are here. And try some of the back episodes as well. You can also now follow the podcast on Twitter at @tkmreport.

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

Follow my microblog on Twitter – @dkennedyblog. Follow me – @denniskennedy

Now Available! The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together, by Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell. Visit the companion website for the book at LawyersGuidetoCollaboration.com. Twitter: @collabtools

Presumptuous Computing – Podcast

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Tom Mighell and I have recorded another episode of The Kennedy-Mighell Report podcast and it’s now available on the Legal Talk Network and on iTunes, with an RSS feed here. The episode is called “Presumptuous Computing: But I Didn’t Ask for That” (show notes here), and it’s sponsored by Clio. A special thank you to readers of this blog who listen to the podcast – consider trying out an episode or becoming a regular subscriber through iTunes or our RSS feed.

Here’s the episode (#39) description:

You go to Google and find the new “instant search” feature has been turned on for you. You upgrade a program and find that all of your personalized settings have been reset to the program defaults. Facebook changes privacy settings. Twitter surprises you with a new interface. Why do technology companies seem to think that they can make these changes for us? In this episode, co-hosts Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell discuss the idea of “presumptuous computing,” the rise and implications of this phenomenon, and what you can do to keep pace and protect yourself.

Three years ago, I wrote a blog post called “Presumptuous Computing – A Trend to Reverse,” in which I argued that too many software vendors were acting like they knew best about what we wanted and generally not acting like good guests on our computers. I had a whole laundy list of irritating examples, from Windows updates to iTunes.

Fast forward three years. While some things have gotten somewhat better (like Windows updates), there’s a whole new generation of programs and web-based services that annoyingly make changes to the user interface, default settings and other features without telling us, let alone giving us any choice.

Tom and I revisit the topic and our general annoyance with the practice and the attitude that “vendor knows best” that too often seems to underlie it. We cover a long list of examples – Google Instant, Google Buzz, Facebook privacy settings, iTunes. The trend simply hasn’t reversed.

We also talk about some practical ways to protect yourself and take better control of your our computer. As Tom says, “Read. Be Smart. Don’t Assume.”

In our Q&A segment, Tom and I answer a couple of questions about the the results from a couple of questions on the use of collaboration tools from the 2010 Inside Legal / ILTA Member Technology Purchasing Survey and specualte on trends in collaboration tools in law firms.

We end the podcast with our Parting Shots – practical tips you can use right away. Tom likes two iPhone/iPad apps for marking up PDFs – Signit! and iAnnotate. I recommend Olivia Mitchell’s blog post The Seven Types fo Presentations to Avoid.

Give our new episode a listen and let me know what you think. Show notes for the podcast are here. And try some of the back episodes as well. You can also now follow the podcast on Twitter at @tkmreport.

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

Follow my microblog on Twitter – @dkennedyblog. Follow me – @denniskennedy

Now Available! The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together, by Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell. Visit the companion website for the book at LawyersGuidetoCollaboration.com. Twitter: @collabtools

Using PowerPoint as a Tool, Not as a Necessary Evil

Monday, October 4th, 2010

The ABA Journal has published my latest monthly legal technology column. It’s called “Bite the Bullet Point” and deals with the growing problem of poor use of PowerPoint slides that drains all of the energy out of many presentations I see today, especially those by lawyers.

As I say in the column, “The biggest problem I see is that people have moved the focus from the speech and the speaker to the slides.”

Or, as I also say: “[M]ost complaints about PowerPoint are like blaming modern hammers for poorly built houses. It’s not the tool, but how the user uses the tool.”

Everywhere I turn lately, I see references to “death by PowerPoint” and similar harsh critiques of the use of technology in presentations today. There’s no question that most “standard” presentations these days bury you in bullet points and boredom. Worse yet, after seeing all the slides and hearing the talk, you often don’t know what the main conclusion is, what should matter to you, and, most important, what you should do next.

If you’ve read this blog or my articles, including my ABA Journal column, over the years, you’ll notice that focusing on using technologies as appropriate tools is a recurring theme of mine. As tempting as it might be to want the “new shiny thing,” you’ll want to always keep in mind that technology is a tool and you should always keep in mind the ways a new technology can help you do what you actually want to accomplish.

Think about the oft-cited example that vendors want to sell you a drill, but what you want to buy is the holes you need to get the job accomplished. The drill is just the vehicle that gets you to the holes.

That’s the background for the new column – my concern that the focus for presentations has turned to slides, PowerPoint (or Keynote), video, audio, design and transitions, and away from educating, persuading and inspiring.

However, I’ll stress that I’m not a PowerPoint opponent. When it’s used correctly, it can definitely help you educate, persuade and inspire. If you don’t think that’s the case, you haven’t seen someone use PowerPoint really well in service of their message.

In the new column:

I run through a list of some of the things that bother me about how many people use PowerPoint in presentations these days. I’ll note that it’s a 650-word column, so I couldn’t fit everything in there, but you’ll get the idea.

More important, I give six of my best suggestions to help you break out of today’s PowerPoint and presentation traps:

1. Ask the question: Are slides even needed?

2. Remember that slides must serve the presentation, and not vice versa.

3. Keep the focus on the presenter and presentation, not the slides.

4. Don’t make slides do double duty. A huge problem I often see is using the same slides for the presentation and the handout.

5. Details matter. At a minimum, view your slides on the screen from the back of the room before you speak. I hate it when the speaker knows a slide can’t be read and apologizes out loud for it. Fix it; don’t apologize.

6. Find new role models. I’m a huge fan of Cliff Atkinson and his influential book on presentations called Beyond Bullet Points. His approach to slides is very visual, with minimal text and no bullets. He emphasizes the importance of theme, structure and story. Spend some time watching TED Talks videos and videos of other great presenters.

I’d definitely like to hear your reactions to this article and to the topic. I actually wrote it several months ago and when I re-read it, it really seemed to reflect the theme of practical and effective use of technology to help you with what you do everyday that’s been my goal with the ABA Journal tech column over the years. Let me know if the column works that way for you.

If I would have had a few more words for the column, I might have added a seventh point about hard work and rehearsal (although it’s alluded to in the column). As I mentioned earlier, I’m not anti-PowerPoint. In fact, I’ve always liked it. What I like, though, is the way it makes some aspects of preparing a presentation easier and frees you up to spend more time and effort on your message, your delivery and your audience. As they say, you can work smarter, not harder, and focus your effort on what matters most.

Check out the article here.

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

Follow my microblog on Twitter – @dkennedyblog. Follow me – @denniskennedy

Now Available! The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together, by Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell. Visit the companion website for the book at LawyersGuidetoCollaboration.com. Twitter: @collabtools