Dennis and Tom’s new book, “The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools & Technologies: Work From Home Edition,” is available now! Debbie Foster hosts this episode to chat with Dennis and Tom about their writing process for this new edition and specific tools lawyers need to make the most of modern legal practice.
As always, stay tuned for the parting shots, that one tip, website, or observation that you can use the second the podcast ends.
Have a technology question for Dennis and Tom? Call their Tech Question Hotline at 720-441-6820 for the answers to your most burning tech questions.
Show Notes – Kennedy-Mighell Report #323
A Segment: Debbie Foster Interviews Dennis and Tom
B Segment: Interview, Part II
Intro: Web 2.0, Innovation, Trend, Collaboration, Software, Metadata… Got the world turning as fast as it can? Hear how technology can help, legally speaking with two of the top legal technology experts, authors, and lawyers, Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell. Welcome to The Kennedy-Mighell Report here on the Legal Talk Network.
Dennis Kennedy: And welcome to Episode 323 of the Kennedy-Mighell Report. I’m Dennis Kennedy in Ann Arbor.
Tom Mighell: And I’m Tom Mighell in Dallas.
Dennis Kennedy: In our last episode, we discussed where collaboration fits into your Technology Stack and why we believe most organizations are not giving enough consideration to what we call the Collaboration Layer of their Technology Stack. And we did that to give you a look into some of the big takeaways from our new book, the ‘Lawyers Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies the Work from Home Edition’. In this episode, we invited friend of the podcast and legal technology expert Debbie Foster to interview us about the book and our perspectives on collaboration tools. Remember, we are collaborating with others all the time and we best get good at it. Tom, what’s all on our agenda for this episode?
Tom Mighell: Well, then it’s in this edition of the Kennedy-Mighell Report, we will indeed be discussing some of the main takeaways from our new book, available at the ABA Bookstore. With our friend and legal tech superstar Debbie Foster. In our second segment, Debbie will ask us even more questions. As usual, we’ll finish up with our parting shots of that one tip website or observation that you can start to use the second that this podcast is over. But first up, guess what? We want to announce the publication of a fabulous new book for anyone in the law using technology and that’s just about everyone in the legal profession and everyone who interacts with the legal profession. And the latest edition of our book, ‘The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies Work from Home Edition’, is out and available for order, we will include a link in the show notes. And while we’re talking about the book, let’s talk more about the book. We have invited Debbie Foster of Affinity Consulting, an expert on what is actually happening on the ground in legal technology today, to ask us some questions about the new book. Debbie, I’m going to turn things over to you at this point. You can fire when ready or introduce yourself some more, or whoever you want to get started.
Debbie Foster: Well, what I really want to know is, is this the part where we get to rename the Kennedy-Mighell Report to the Kennedy-Mighell-Foster Report, even just for one episode?
Dennis Kennedy: No.
Tom Mighell: I would say you need a good 25 episodes under your belt before we can add your name to it.
Debbie Foster: Got you. Okay, well, let’s jump in and talk about your book, which by the way, not that I would say anything different, but what a great book it is. And it covers so many amazing topics around collaboration, not just about collaborating on documents or meetings. And I really enjoyed reading the book. But I do have some questions, I would love to know first. Tom, I’m going to pitch this one to you. What was the biggest thing you learned inwriting the second edition of this book?
Tom Mighell: What I learned the most is I’m going to chick in out on this question, sort of because this is the thing that I keep learning. This is the third edition of the book I think is that we’ve done and both editions, what I have learned so much of is how collaboration tools change and how many tools we talked about in previous books that just didn’t exist anymore. They were gone, it was like they never existed. They were white from the landscape. We had to remove them from the book, which shows that there’s a lot of impermanence around some collaboration tools.
However, some of the big ones, the ones that I think we spend a lot of time talking about in the book, have grown and have gained more prominence in our lives, in lawyers’ lives. We’ll talk about that as part of the past couple of years with COVID. So, I feel like some tools are tools are fly by night, some tools are there to stay. And so, my lesson there is when you’re choosing collaboration tools, pay attention to who the vendor is and don’t just go looking to see one and say, “hey, this meets all of my criteria.” Learn as much as you can about them to see are they going to be a vendor that’s going to be herein a year or less or is this somebody that is going to be a good partner for us moving forward?
Dennis Kennedy: And so, what I would say is something that one was sort of this reinforcement of what I felt from the beginning, which is the collaboration as a team sport and so you need to think in terms of the whole team critique. But I think what I really learned was this need for flexibility and to be able to use a number of different tools based on what the people you are collaborating with are using. So, the more flexible you can be, the better. And sort of my mantra in collaboration tools is make yourself easy to work with. And I think if you use that as a guiding principle that got reinforced for me as we were writing this book.
Debbie Foster: Yeah, I think it’s kind of a follow up to what you both just said. Being easy to work with is really important, and I think we’re always looking for ways to be easier to work with. And you all uncovered a couple of big things for me in the book. One of them was just the technology that you have there’s so much power there that you’re not taking advantage of. But the second thing is kind of tied back to what Tom said. How in the world does a normal person keep up with all of the new things that are coming out? Forget about the stuff that we own already that we can take better advantage of? What is your recommendation for how to not get tool exhaustion? Like not always be looking for something better? I feel like that is something that our client struggle with all the time, is maybe I just need something new when they have so much power and just what they already own. So, Dennis, how about you on that one?
Dennis Kennedy: Well, I think this is the classic case of the perfect being the enemy of the good. And when I teach law students, I jokingly say something that most lawyers will say anyway here throughout their career, that people went to law school because they didn’t want to do math anymore or they didn’t want to do math and science. And sort of what I found is that lawyers will take on almost any legal problem, but they totally freeze up when it comes to technology. I don’t know why that is. So, I think it’s a matter of just paying attention to what’s going on in the world. I think there’s like tons of learning through COVID, especially on what the adjacent professions are doing.
So, look at what doctors are doing with patient portals. Look at what your dentist is doing. Look at what accountants and your tax return people are doing and say, why should I be doing that? They’re starting to become easier to work with. And I’m going back to doing it like the old ways and kind of get stuck in there and say the technology is too hard. If I just spend dedicate a little bit of time every week or so to say, I just want to kind of follow what’s going on in the legal technology world. You’re going to identify some things that help you. And the focus is always on what problem do I have in front of me that the technology might solve? And you just kind of keep asking that question and paying attention to what’s going on, and there are some things that are just going to jump out at you and start with the small steps, as we always say.
Tom Mighell: I was reading a while back about a productivity author, was talking about how when we’re all in search for the best productivity tools, that when we start to feel like we aren’t as productive, we blame it on the tool and not on our process. And so, we have to go and find the latest tool. And then for a little bit, we have a new task manager and suddenly we feel great, amazingly productive until like three months later when we have a bad patch. I think it’s the same with collaboration tools. So, I would say two things, but I don’t think it’s a problem. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to say, “hey, we’re using this right now for that, are there new tools out there that have new features? Are there features that I want to think about that I don’t know about?”
I think exploring every now and again to see what is new is useful and having a good resource, which by the way, the collaboration tools directory that we created as part of the book is a great resource. It’s a curated set of all the sites we mentioned in the book. I’m adding new sites all the time. As I learn about them. I’m taking sites off that’s turned out to be going away. I think that’s a great place to go and look. Take a look and see if you see anything new. And then even better, most of these tools, most of the tools we talk about takeout the Microsoft’s of the world. Most of them offer free trials. So, don’t dive in immediately. Stick your toes in and see if you like something take a trial.
There’s nothing wrong with doing that on a periodic basis. But to Dennis’ point, don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good and don’t go switching just because you feel like the grass may be greener somewhere else.
Debbie Foster: Yeah, I love that you’re keeping up that that resource guide, I think that will be incredibly helpful. So, I don’t want to bring a cliché into this, but it has been said multiple times, I’m not even sure who the originator of the comment was that COVID advanced legal tech 10 years and 10 months. I don’t know if that’s actually true or not, but I’d love to hear from your perspective on the collaboration side of things. Did we fast forward 10 years and 10 months when it comes to collaboration, Tom?
Tom Mighell: I would say 10 years is a stretch. I would say that it is amazing to me how many lawyers started talking about just Zoom after when COVID started. It’s just the fact that they discovered a tool that how long has it been around 2014, 2013? I mean, it’s been around for almost 10 years and it was just suddenly discovered by most lawyers in the world in the year 2020. So, forcing lawyers and — digital signatures and getting away with the paper signature, I think is another big one. But forcing lawyers to think about a different way of doing their work was I think, a big shift in things, whether it moved forward 10 years, I don’t know. I would say and I’m going to borrow just a little bit from one of the other questions here, which is what changed since the last edition?
I think COVID brought around a lot of this change. Obviously, the amount of meeting tools that people are using, or the fact that people are using more of Zoom, more Microsoft Teams. To me, that’s a big change from the last edition, but here’s the other piece. The other piece, I think is huge is the number of tools that sprang up around meetings saying, “You know what? Let’s make our meetings more effective.” Let’s have something that takes down all of our notes while we’re talking. Let’s have something that allows us to have good standup meetings, or one-on-one meetings with people. Let’s have meeting tools that allow us to do a synchronous meeting instead of regular meetings. Those things I don’t — if they existed before COVID, they weren’t very prominent, they weren’t something that we were paying attention to and now they are all over the place.
And I think lawyers are not even really taking as much advantage of those tools as they are as they should be. I mean, I see some who are using things like otter.ai to transcribe meetings and things like that. But I still don’t see a lot of these tools popping up in the legal field. So, I would say yes, it advanced, but not 10 years. I would give it like for four — four years maybe, five, something like that, at least in collaboration.
Dennis Kennedy: I’d like to — my version of is I take it advanced legal tech 10 months in 10 months. I mean, you know, to me it’s like —
Tom Mighell: I’m too optimistic aren’t I, okay.
Dennis Kennedy: No, I mean, I think Tom and I, you — I think we talked about this on a podcast once. If you said to us in 2019 that where we find ourselves right now was like 10 years of advance, we would be like in a different field. I mean, it’s like, you’d say, “Yes, it advanced online meetings, video conferencing, a few other things. But I work with a very large law firm, and they sent me an invoice and I went to pay by credit card, and they don’t take credit cards. I mean like — I’m like, “Come on.” You’re like, “What year are we in?
So, I think we’re seeing these little bits here and there and you see, especially in what I’ve called like, the newest generation of lawyers in small firms, I think are doing super cool things with technology and collaboration from the beginning. I think you see some really cool stuff in client portals. But that’s not like — that technology has been around for a long time. And I think, my experience talking with — working with law students, they are not impressed in — saying they’re impressed with the technology in the law firms they go to is not a word they would ever use. They’re taking step backwards. So, I think it’s a good thing and maybe it’s a good sales thing and puts pressure on people, but I don’t think that legal tech advances much or changed as much as the whole world changed.
Debbie Foster: All right. So, Dennis, I’m going to throw this one to you. If a genie was going to grant you three wishes to improve the use of collaboration technologies in the legal profession, what are the three wishes, but they can’t be more than 30 seconds each?
Dennis Kennedy: I’d say that you take a straw — like a hard look at the patient portals with your medical or your health care providers.
I would say, talk to the people you work with and I would figure out the most important things you need to do and then use the platforms that you had to do that. And to me, that means Microsoft 365 for using the collaboration component, but much more intensively. How was that for timing, Tom?
Tom Mighell: That was good timing.
Debbie Foster: That’s pretty good.
Tom Mighell: Does it mean I get to answer it now? So, my three wishes — my first wish is, please try to stop using email, please reduce the use of email. I mean, I will say that for the clients that we have convinced to work with us on Microsoft Teams on projects, it’s just so easy to have everything all in one place. We’re not worrying about email that often. That’s my number one wish is that try to avoid email as a collaboration tool. It’s a necessary evil, but try your best to find other ways around it.
My next wish would be similar to Dennis’, which is talk to your clients. Find out what your clients are doing, learn what they do, because again, this is going to be a continuing theme of this podcast, which is learn the best ways to work with your clients, but also find a way to do it in which you — that doesn’t mean you’re working with 300 different collaboration tools, because your clients all do different ways to do it. So, find a way to strike that balance with them.
And then my third, my third wish — I guess my third wish is, spend more time looking at the tools you have right now, learn about the collaboration. I’m hoping that you did this during COVID. You learn different ways that they can collaborate, but maybe not. So, take a look at those tools. Really learn how to make good use out of those tools and what they do. I think that will do you better than searching for another tool out there. You may already have it in your house.
All right, that’s the first set of questions. I think Dennis and I are relatively unscathed. So, before we move on to the next bit of question from Debbie, let’s take a quick break for a message from our sponsors.
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Dennis Kennedy: And we’re back. Debbie, let’s get back to your questions about our book, The Lawyers Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies Work from Home Edition. What’s up next?
Debbie Foster: So, speaking of the Work from Home Edition, I think work from home is one of the biggest struggles that law firms and legal departments and everyone is really still facing trying to find the right amount of balance. But I’d love to hear from you all, and maybe we’ll start with Tom here. How much did work from home drive the use of collaboration tools? And is it going to continue to be the thing that drives things forward?
Tom Mighell: I actually like the second part of that question better, “Will it continue to drive things forward?” I’ll get to that in just a second. I think it did a lot to drive the use of collaboration tools. I think it had a lot to do with the fact that suddenly, what we’ve been talking about this in our circles in legal technology circles, we’ve been talking about using the cloud, and how to make use of the cloud for, I don’t know, 10-15 years. And now, when people were working from home, they had no choice but to use the cloud. I mean, that was the only option to be able to share a document. You couldn’t put things on a server and get to it in an easy way. You couldn’t have meetings without using the cloud.
And so, I think that working from home was a huge change and should have been a huge measure of adoption of collaboration tools by law firms. Now will it continue to drive things forward? I think that’s the more interesting question, because we are seeing more and more firms going back to the office. The real question that I have there is, there appears to be, and Dennis will say this more often than I will, there appears to be some desire to quote go back to the same old way we were doing things beforehand because that’s what we’re used to doing.
But I will also say, the courts aren’t planning to go back to the same old way. They’re still doing virtual things. They’re more things that are — they’re striking a balance now. They’re not having trials by Zoom anymore because more people are going back to the courthouse, but they’re having hearings by Zoom and you setup for those. So, they’ve now found a hybrid. They’ve now found a mixed approach. I think that’s going to happen more often, is to look for ways to make collaboration work.
Look at the things that worked while we were working from home and then now that more people are working in the office, I think that there’s going to be some value in. Let’s pick the things that worked well then and see if we can adapt them to whatever this new work environment is that we’re going to be in.
Dennis Kennedy: Yeah, I would go a little bit further even that time. I would say that enabling the ability of people to work from home was the biggest driver during COVID especially at the beginning. That’s where people firms had to get up to speed. I think whether it continues to be a driver going forward, I think it’s tricky and there’s a dynamic that needs to be work out as we kind of are, you know, I would say we’re in this sort of low troughs of the waves of COVID. So, we’ll see — the future is a little bit unknown there.
But, definitely lawyers, especially newer lawyers and some older lawyers want to have that flexibility that comes from working from home and especially of any kind of commuted all. You could sort of wondering like what’s the point of it anymore. That’s what I think it’s really been called into question and where the collaboration tools come into play.
So, to the extent that lawyers weren’t already looking at Cloud tools they definitely are now. And then, when you have, like the natural disasters like Hurricane Ian, which Tom and I sweat a little bit about Debbie being safe enough through that, that’s going to drive firms that aren’t already on the Cloud, into the Cloud because just the whole disaster with recovery thing and it’s – the cloud infrastructure is going to be a part of existing firms have been through that.
But anyway, you starting up new firm is going to be built using Cloud tools and that just flat out enables collaboration technology. So, I take that work from home will be part of that dynamic but it’s sort of rethinking where you can be most efficient, most productive and what’s the best way to do the work your client’s need?
Debbie Foster: So, the natural disaster thing is certainly interesting and we were all doing this work when Katrina happened. I don’t know what year that was but it’s got to be — gosh, 17 or 18 years ago it seems like, but —
Dennis Kennedy: Yeah, that’s like 2005, I think.
Debbie Foster: Yeah. And I think that there are definitely some lessons here. Dan and I were in New York yesterday and went to — or today actually, went to the 9/11 Memorial and was, you know, walked in and saw the pictures of the papers scattered all over the place and it reminded me again about that how important it is that we’re really thinking about not just collaboration tools, but the idea of not being dependent on an office or a paper file or all of those things that we kind of grew up having at our fingertips, and kind of the things that drove what we did next, what was the next piece of paper on my desk, how important it is to think about these collaboration tools letting us really be nimble in where we work and how we work.
And so, you all were talking about these decisions are getting easier. Making decisions about collaboration tools, about buying them, about using them are getting easier for firms. Aside from the natural disaster thing because it’s not front of mind for everyone. Why do you think that it is getting easier for people to make those decisions about collaboration tools, Dennis?
Dennis Kennedy: Well, I think a couple of things. I think it becomes part of that whole technology framework where you’re saying — like the idea of saying I’m setting up this internal — especially starting from the starting firm. This internal network and internal servers and on-premises software that I install and maintain and do updates and the capital outlay that you have to do for that versus saying, I get these Cloud tools, I’m paying monthly subscription price. I get, like these great case management, other tools for small, very small amounts per month, that’s driving it.
I also say that if we look at the whole nature of the cyber security threat vectors, it’s crazy to think that you can handle those cyber security on your — internally in a law firm. So, that’s another reason to pushes you to the Cloud and then I think once you look at when you’re in the Cloud environment that all the collaboration tools open up and they’re almost like built in as a part of these Cloud-based tools.
So, if you’re using like a case management tool, it’s going to allow your — like most of the collaboration that you would want to do with the client. They come in, they can add and make appointments on your calendar. They can check documents, obtained copies of things, see what’s going on and check status. They can pay their bill with the credit card. All these sorts of things and versus saying, “oh I’m going to go out and try to find software and an IT person who would set that all up.” It’s just like a world of difference. Like why would you do that, especially when you see like all these companies now just starting up, like essentially billion-dollar businesses in Amazon, web services on the Cloud from day one just grabbing the existing tools.
So, that’s why I think it easier and then, as we talked in the book a lot about and we’ve talked about on the podcast with some of the platforms like the Microsoft platform in particular, you already have it and it’s just kind of starting to use the collaboration tools that are built into it. So, I think there are a lot of choices, but like I said before, the perfect is the enemy of the good. It’s just so easy to get started now. I mean, just grab something and use it and if you outgrow it, then you outgrow it and you pick something. But a lot of times, that’s a good problem. If you say like, oh, it didn’t work because we had too many clients and they were paying us too much and now we have to get like a new case management tool. That’s not actually a good problem to have, right?
Debbie Foster: Yeah, Tom?
Tom Mighell: My answer is more simplistic than that, which is, I think that COVID and the work from home situation forced open the eyes of a lot of lawyers just to the notion of collaboration tools that they didn’t understand what existed at the time and that now they have a better idea that those things exist. And so, now they know what is possible and that I think that we are going to see more lawyers start to ask about as new tools get adopted saying, “all right, is there a way we can do this that made it as easy for us to work with our clients or work with each other as we did when we were working from home.” I think that those questions are going to rise to the top of mine more often and more frequently than they did before which is why I think it will be easier. Kind of a simplistic answer, but I think it’s just awareness is much better than it was before.
Debbie Foster: So, I’m going to ask you a little bit of a curveball question. And Tom, I’m going to toss it to you first, because I think your answer is going to be really interesting given the work that you do right now. How much of the demand for better collaboration is coming from the clients?
Tom Mighell: Well, from the work that I do right now, I would say not a lot. I mean, not as much as you would think. I usually have to be the one to ask the question, how do you want to collaborate. I don’t get demands on how to collaborate. There have been some clients where I usually say is, “we prefer not to collaborate by email, but we’re happy to use whatever you want to use on your end, if you would prefer that we come into your environment or we can set something up on our end that you can come into.”
And, I would say these days 80% of the time they are wanting to come into our end because they don’t have anything on their end and/or too, if they have something, they’ll say something like, “well, we have a secure FTP, will that work as a collaboration site?” And I’m like, “no, that will not work as a collaboration site.”
So, I think that there’s still work to be done there. I think that companies are not doing an — and I would say, we work with companies that would be more likely to use Microsoft Teams for collaboration than Slack and most of those companies went with Zoom as their video tool and themes as a — and they’re using it just as a chat tool. They’re just using it to chat, they’re not using all of that. So, there’s still a lot of work to be done. That’s in the corporate world. I’m sure that there is some analog there in the legal world that I don’t see very often, but yeah, there’s still a little work to do.
Debbie Foster: Dennis, what do you think about the client side? Because I’m sure your perspective is — maybe not the same as Tom’s coming from a different place, but I see a lot of client demand for better collaboration. Do you see that too?
Dennis Kennedy: Yeah, I think that’s across the board. So, I would sometimes say to people like imagine that I was the general counsel of your corporate client. What kind of demands do you think I’d be putting on you and people laughs nervously about that? But I’m like, why shouldn’t I do that? And then, then I look at things that I’ve had to do like so I got updated estate planning documents and I had to go down. And we had to go down to the bank, and we spent like an hour getting things witnessed and notarized. I’m like what century are we in? My daughter the other day was, Heather, I found out taking pictures of a paper document. She had to print out and fill out to email back to somebody and that’s the experience of you know like the 20-year-old, 30-year-olds these days.
It’s going like people want me to fax stuff, they want me to scan stuff. They don’t even own printers and so that’s not the world they live in. So, I think that you make it specific client demands, but I think it’s like an evolution of the client expectations and I see like whether it’s no criminal law which were like the first group of lawyers at the first practice area, I think that really moved to text because that’s what their clients used, the family law. They were doing online conferencing probably before anybody. They have some different things so you see these movements happening and they’re from clients, but I still hear a lot of the larger law firms say “we use this and our clients need to use that, because we don’t want to have like 500 different things.”
And I want to go like “there’s not 500 different programs for one thing.” It’s easy to standardize and I hate to tell you this, but from the large corporate client side, truth be told, the big law firms are a dime a dozen and that in this market if you say like we’re going to make it hard for you to work with us, then we can. There is 100 law firms that would be happy to take that business from you and law firms need to be aware of that. So, I think that the client thing is a driver and they were all getting used to like you said, if you think about medical and your experience with patient portals, the good ones. Do you start to question why you don’t see that with law firms?
Debbie Foster: Yeah.
Dennis Kennedy: And that’s the competition.
Debbie Foster: Yeah. Well so, I’m wondering if people are listening to this and thinking, “oh my gosh, where do I even get started?” Like, what there’s a lot here, there’s so much that I don’t know. There’s no possible way I can learn all of these things. Where do they get started? What is the first step, Dennis for someone who’s going what should I do next besides read the book? Read the book would be the first thing.
Dennis Kennedy: Well, I think that sort of where the book pays for itself is in the sort of client audit forms and some of the other things that we set up to kind of walk you through processes. I mean, frankly I think the book pays for itself with those things. So, I think it comes through this sort of assessment inventory. Figure out what’s going on, what you have, what the problems are, don’t try to solve everything. There’s no silver bullet. Once a special platform, just go through and say, what are the most important things? What will it take to get from point A to point B and then plot out that paths, face things in but everything — I drive everything of like what are the problem you’re trying — what’s the problem you’re trying to solve? And how do I make it easier for the people who want to work with me to work with me.
And that you’re 90% there and then you go back and say like “maybe I already own tools that will do this.” And we’re still a safe where people are pretty tolerant. I mean, I think I still hear lawyers, primarily say “oh I hate Zoom because of this”, like minor thing and you’re going like “look Zoom is magic right”, like look the look at what we’re doing now. It’s totally magical what’s happening here. And there is not this perfect tool out there that you need to have these given features. And we’re not in a world of some of these areas of legal tech where there’s like 200 different choices, which to me, means they’re zero choices. But there are some basic tools that can take you a long, long way and 60% of the way, 80% of the way, even 50% of the way is a big improvement from where you are, because the technique these days is people don’t tell you that you’re not satisfying them.
They just ghost you and all of a sudden, you’re not doing work for anybody and so I’d be out there asking people. We give you the survey forms, stuff like that that you can start to do. And then you just have to say this is important enough to be. Tom and I weren’t born innately with this knowledge of legal tech. Debbie wasn’t born innately with that. We just went out and learned it like you’re a lawyer and one of the skills that you’ve developed in law schools how to learn new things. So, learning technologies is not different than learning anything else. You just got to say that I’m a beginner again. And go out and say, there’s some problem and problem to solve is just a great way to focus that.
Debbie Foster: Tom.
Tom Mighell: So, I just realized as you’re answering that, that it’s hard to ask a question. What is the first thing you should do when both Dennis and I basically agree on what the first thing should be. So, I’ll answer the question in a slightly different way and say “go open Microsoft Word or Excel or Adobe Acrobat and look for the share function.” Look for the share button on a Word document and think, oh my gosh, I could share a link with somebody rather than emailing the document as an attachment to them.
And go and explore and see what tools are available to you to actually share or collaborate within the applications that you’re using on a regular basis. If you’re not used to doing any kind of collaboration, go and just click there and there’s a — if you’re using a most up-to-date version of Word or Excel or PowerPoint, there will be a button up there that says share. Click on it and see what happens. That’s a good first step to take, lots of steps after that but I think that’s an easy way to dip your toes in and get started. All right, we are way past time, so I’m going to say let’s take a very short break for a message from our sponsor and then let’s try and get out of dodge quickly.
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Tom Mighell: And now let’s get back to the Kennedy-Mighell Report. I’m Tom Migghell.
Dennis Kennedy: And I’m Dennis Kennedy and we’re back with Debbie Foster of Affinity Consulting for what we are now definitely going to call it the lightning round. Let’s see, if Tom and I are able to give lightning answers.
Debbie Foster: All right, here we go. Number one, our client portal is necessary, Tom.?
Tom Mighell: Yes. Okay, I’ll give a little bit more of an answer. So yes. I mean like Dennis has been saying your doctor has a portal. There are so many different places that have portals. How hard is it to have an area where I want to get to see my bill? I want to be able to see my document. I want to be able to upload documents that you might need for us. How hard is that? Yes, they’re important. Dennis.
Dennis Kennedy: I would say yes, if you would like to survive in this world.
Debbie Foster: All right, Dennis you first, what’s your favorite part of the book?
Dennis Kennedy: Well, I alluded to this earlier. I take that it’s the forms that we put together and the templates that we did. And I think that’s what makes this book especially valuable to many partners to law firms to Law Firm technology committees and basically they just put on the shelf of your Law Firm libraries to make it available to people. I probably buy a copy for my IT director as well, but I think it’s those forms and the thought process that we give you are the sort of the step-by-step approaches we give you to think through how to select tools.
Tom Mighell: Oh, l I got to answer that question, don’t I? Sorry. I was just sitting here thinking what is my answer? So, my favorite part of the book, what I like about every time we write this book is what our new tools that are out, that are responding to specific issues. One of my favorite parts of the book to research was the idea of virtual offices where — and what I mean by virtual is that they make use of spatial audio to make you feel like you’re actually in an office where you can move your avatar into an office, or you can go into a conference room and then you can talk to people who happen to be in that room. But when you leave the conference room with your avatar, you walk down the hall, the “hallway.” You can’t hear anybody because the spatial audio works in just magic ways. I really like thinking about all the new tools and where we continue to evolve from a collaboration standpoint.
Debbie Foster: Okay. This rapid fire is only for Tom not, Dennis. Tom, are you ever going to let Dennis use the word “co-collaboration?”
Tom Mighell: Well, so I can’t stop him from using “co-collaboration”, really. I mean, I just can’t, and he says it constantly. I just don’t understand it. I don’t, I don’t, because collaboration is collaboration. That’s like saying, “Am I gonna use the term driving-driving”? I mean, I’m driving and I’m like, there’s — co-collaboration is just collaboration and that’s, that’s really all I have to say about.
Debbie Foster: Okay, Dennis, what collaboration tool has helped you the most lately?
Dennis Kennedy: I really love Calendly for scheduling appointments. And this is again finding the right tool for the right job. So, people want to talk to me and I love opening up portions of my calendar through Calendly, and then people can grab a free time and set up a Zoom call and then Calendly, confirms that, puts it on calendar, sends out reminders. It’s just amazing for things that are like appointments that would be done by Zoom. It’s just an amazing thing to say, like let’s type, you know, just — and I can say, “Go to my Calendly link and just pick the time that’s best for you,” and it’s just makes I think super easy for people to contact me.
Debbie Foster: Tom.
Tom Mighell: So, it’s a feature of a tool and not a tool. I talk about Teams a lot. I love Teams. What I used to hate about Teams was, if I was presenting something, if I was giving a presentation and I wanted to watch my presentation, I couldn’t also see the people that I was talking to. But now, with the addition in PowerPoint of the button that just says, “present in Teams”, then it opens up — It’s just an amazing tool because, one, it opens up PowerPoint in presentation mode within Teams, so you can see everybody. It allows people to actually move back and forward in your deck if you choose to allow them to do that. You can annotate. You can see notes. It’s something I use now constantly because it makes presenting in Teams so much easier.
Debbie Foster: Okay, sidebar, I just learned something new. I’m going to have to go check that out. I had no idea that existed, that’s awesome. Okay, Tom, who will benefit the most from buying this book?
Tom Mighell: I think who will benefit the most are those lawyers and legal professionals who might not be collaborating as much as they need to or realizing, “Hey, we’re doing it the old-fashioned way. We’re still mired in paper. We’re still sending emails more often. We are faxing more often than we want to.” I hope that’s not happening very often. I hope that COVID did away with the fax to a large extent, but you never know.
I think that the ones who benefit the most from this are those who want to learn more about how to collaborate and what the right tools to think about collaborating are, and then I suppose also those who are already collaborating but want to look at new tools and new things, new ways to do it, that they might not have thought about before. That’s everybody, though. So, I just basically said it’s for everybody.
Dennis Kennedy: Well, I think, for me, while I was writing the book, I was thinking most about what I would call decision-makers in the legal profession and decision makers who want their law firm or their law department to survive into the future. Because collaboration is essential, clients are going to expect it, and this just kind of is, you know, just the ante that you need to come up with to stay in the game over the next, 10 years.
I think that’s the 10 months advance in 10 years. I don’t agree with that, but I would say that if you want to survive for 10 years, you’re going to be heavy, heavy in collaboration, and on the next book, we’ll be talking about — we’ll be able to talk about metaverse and blockchains and stuff like that in ways that we weren’t able to do for this book. But there’s a lot that’s going to be coming, as long as the countries in the world don’t manage to blow us all up, will be there’s a lot to look forward to.
Debbie Foster: All right, last rapid fire. Anything else that you want to mention, one last thing about the book that maybe I didn’t ask you about? Dennis, you go first.
Dennis Kennedy: No, I think I mentioned it — I think that, like I said, the value I think comes from the processes and the templates and the forms that we give you. I think that if you took our client survey form from the book and send it to your clients, you would, like, you all rely on buying the book would be amazing.
Debbie Foster: Tom?
Tom Mighell: The link is in the show notes, buy the book. That’s all I’m going to say. We are way past time, so I want to say thank you so much to Debbie Foster for humoring us and asking us some great questions, and we look forward to getting you back on the podcast so that you can increase your chances of having your name added to the show at some point in time in the future.
Dennis Kennedy: Now, it’s time for our parting shots and we’re going to make Debbie stick around, because we know she’s also going to have one great tip, website or observation you can use the second — this podcast in. Debbie, take it away.
Debbie Foster: So, I’m going go with Calendly, and I know that you just said it, Dennis, but Calendly has literally changed the way that I schedule and the way that I give people access to my calendar. But, I want to first say that I listened to a very short podcast and, of course, I can’t remember which podcast it was, that said that here’s my calendar link to schedule email has gotten out of control, too many people are doing it, it’s disrespectful, you don’t even have time to get me scheduled on your calendar, you want to send me a link, and I think that the magic there is in how you offer up your calendar link.
So, for those of you who have steered clear of that because you think that that’s kind of awkward, I add my calendar link and say, “We have a couple of options. I’m happy to work with you one-on-one and schedule something. But, if it’s easier for you, here’s a link to my calendar and you can see all the times that I’m available, and if you can’t find something that works, just let me know and we’ll work on something else”. And I’ve never gotten any pushback on that.
There are two quick things about Calendly. Number one, it’s not exactly a Calendly thing, but I use my email signatures to give people five or six different options. So, I just literally right-click in my signature and say, “One hour appointment two weeks from now”. That’s what the signature is called. So, they can’t even pick a time for two weeks, or 30-minute appointment ASAP as soon as they want to do it. And the second thing is, I use it for specific scheduling.
So, if I have a firm that’s going to use a calendar link to schedule 10 meetings for one-on-one conversations with me, I create an availability schedule just for that firm with just the dates I want them to be able to schedule it, and I send them that magical link and they can’t schedule before, they can’t schedule after, they can just schedule in that window, and it’s so powerful. They have a polling tool, it’s really, I love it. That’s my parting shot.
Tom Mighell: All right. My parting shot is, it may be something that you have already experienced, but if not, I continue to experience it on a regular basis. I experienced this often enough that I’m making it a parting shot, which is, if you find yourself using more than one meeting tool per day, whether that’s Teams or Zoom or Google Meet, and you also have headphones or a speaker or microphone that’s not your laptop or your desktop built-in, make sure that whatever meeting tool you have has not hijacked and/or reconfigured the tools that you’re using.
I can’t tell you how many meetings I’m on where somebody joins and they just came from a Teams meeting and they’re logging into a Zoom meeting or, God forbid, somebody who came from a GoToWebinar meeting today, and we couldn’t hear them because they’re headphones or their speaker didn’t work anymore.
So, always do a check. When you start a new tool up, do that in microphone check. Teams or Zoom let you do it immediately. You can do it very easily in any of the tools that you have. Just check it out because you will be doing yourself and all of your meeting attendees a favor by making sure that all your equipment is working before you join the meeting. Dennis.
Dennis Kennedy: Very timely time, Tom. I just had the thing with Google Meet today, and they totally hide where you can find the settings to make those, those changes back. So, super annoying there. And then, just to echo what Debbie was saying, that I also use Calendly to say, “To make things easier for you, I am offering this Calendly option so you can just grab the time that’s best for you.” So, I don’t say like it’s for me, it’s really for them. But, my parting shot is my newest project, which I’m not going to go into in much detail here, but I decided, and got Tom’s help on doing this, sort of like a next step in using notion, was I’ve created a set of resources for Law Department Innovation, which is sort of going to be my theme going forward.
And I created something called “The Law Department Innovation Library”, which is a set of different resources that I will keep building over time, like Tom is doing with our Collaboration Tools Guide, but I built it out of Notion so it’s easy to update and maintain. It’s at ldilibrarycom, and I hope everybody checks it out. Both of us is an example of what you can do with Notion, and if you’re interested in innovation, I’m going to try to make it, like, the go-to place for everything that’s useful and in that category.
Tom Mighell: So, that wraps it up for this edition of the Kennedy-Mighell Report.
Thanks for joining us on the podcast. You can find show notes for this episode on the Legal Talk Network’s page for the show. If you like what you hear, please subscribe to our podcast in iTunes, on the Legal Talk network site, or in your favorite podcast app.
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So, until the next podcast, I’m Tom Mighell.
Dennis Kennedy: And I’m Dennis Kennedy. And you’ve been listening to the Kennedy-Mighell Report, a podcast on Legal Technology with an internet focus. If you like what you heard today, please rate us on Apple Podcast, and we’ll see you next time for another episode of the Kennedy-Mighell Report on the Legal Talk Network.
Outro: Thanks for listening to the Kennedy-Mighell Report. Check out Dennis and Tom’s book, ‘The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together’ from ABA Books or Amazon, and join us every other week for another edition of the Kennedy-Mighell Report, only on the Legal Talk Network.