Collaboration Tools and Technologies

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Authors: Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell


Allison Shields (AS): What is the main message of your book?

Dennis Kennedy (DK): Law is a collaborative profession. Every day, in every way, legal professionals work together with many others – lawyers (colleagues and opponents), clients, the courts, experts, government workers, business partners, and many more. Often by default, we all have ways of working with these other people that we might not choose if we were starting from scratch. The good news is that there are technologies, tools, and processes that can enhance your collaboration efforts, make it easier for people to work with you, and improve your life. This book will guide you down the path to improved collaboration.

AS: Who is your book written for? Who would get the most out of reading your book?

DK: Although our intended audience includes legal professionals of all types, we have been surprised at how much feedback we’ve gotten about how valuable this book is to people outside the legal profession. We wrote the book for people who have clear problems in their existing collaboration methods and want to solve them thoughtfully with real-world results, whether they use new technologies, better use of old technologies or without using technology at all. Legal professionals who need to collaborate with others will find this book useful for making practical decisions about the tools that would make their collaborative efforts most successful.

AS: What inspired you to write this book?

DK: We had been using a number of collaboration tools to write articles. We saw the benefits, especially when we compared them to the tools we had to use at work. We still remember when “redlining” meant using a ruler and a red pen to show edits. It could well have been that we finally had one too many email chains of a dozen or more emails trying to find a time that would work for a group to have a conference call that gave us the push to write the book. Seriously, though, we simply saw this topic as addressing the most important practical challenge lawyers would face moving into the future, especially as they need to get closer to their clients and their clients’ processes.

AS: What experience, knowledge or special training helped you to write this book?

DK: We’ve both been in the world of legal tech for many years. We’ve written hundreds of articles, recorded hundreds of podcasts, given hundreds of presentations, and each have written several legal technology books. We were early users of many of the collaboration tools we discuss in the book and have used them for our own projects. Because this is the second edition of our book, it’s fair to say that writing the successful first edition was a big help.

AS: What problem faced by lawyers does your book solve/address?

DK: Lawyers, as a group, are considered too hard to work with, especially by clients. This book provides lawyers with practical information, action plans, checklists, and more to help them become the easiest lawyer (or other legal professionals) to work with instead of the pain point, and in turn will make them more popular, more respected, and more in charge of their collaborative projects.

AS: How is this book different than other books written on this topic?

DK: We focus on real problems, offer practical approaches, and give you a straightforward guide that allows you to make your own best choices based on what you have and what you need. Frankly, there’s not really anything else out there like this book. Other books in this category are more theoretical than practical and don’t dive into the tools, planning, and real-world questions in the way that we do. Also, our focus on questions, checklists, action steps, and examples of tool categories as well as specific tools means that the book does not date itself too quickly unlike many technology books.

AS: What was your biggest challenge in writing this book?

DK: Collaboration tools do change a lot. Most of the URLs we used in the first edition are now dead. That required a lot of updating. We also had to make some choices about what tools we thought would have longevity. For example, we dropped wikis in this edition and added Slack. In the first edition, smartphones, apps, and cloud computing (at least the term) were still on the horizon. The concepts are similar, but the ubiquity of those tools made a big difference. The good news for readers is that we’ve done most of the tool-finding work for you.

AS: What do you think will surprise readers most about your book?

DK: We often get feedback that readers at first don’t understand the idea of “collaboration technologies” and aren’t sure about whether the tools even apply to them. Almost immediately, they say, they were struck at how integral these tools were to everything they do every single day. And they notice that many of their default collaboration methods were quite cumbersome and difficult, growing out of legacy choices they’d never make again. For many, the simple collaboration audit checklist we provided is a big eye-opener.

AS: What is the most important takeaway readers will get from your book?

DK: That it is possible and desirable to become a good collaborator, and that being easy to work with will provide you with a major competitive advantage and make your work life easier and more interesting than it is now.

AS: What advice would you give to others who want to write a book for the Law Practice Division?

Think practical! Lawyers are looking for guides that give them a framework or plan for achieving their goals. If you can do that, you will have a great book. And, of course, we have to say that collaboration with a co-author makes the project more enjoyable and lets you share the joy of the book launch with someone who understands what you went through.

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