Way back in 2008, Dennis Kennedy and I wrote The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together – hard to believe it has been 7 years since we wrote that book! We recently decided to revisit the topic on our podcast, so in our latest episode of The Kennedy-Mighell Report, we survey the 2015 collaboration landscape in The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies. Check out the show notes for links to the different things we talked about.
I must confess to some frustration on this subject, because I’m just not convinced that lawyers use collaboration tools as much as they could, or should. Sure, we are using instant messaging, text messages, and social media more these days – if you can call social media a collaboration tool. But I tend to think of those tools as more communication than collaboration. When I think of true collaboration, I think of using tools that help lawyers get stuff done – whether it’s a legal document, a project, or a simple brainstorming exercise.
Let’s take document collaboration as an example. Google Docs has been around for nearly 10 years now, and has continued to improve itself over the years. It’s a great way to collaboration on a document – any number of people can review the document at the same time and edit it together. Having the document in a central location where a single version can be edited by everyone at once is much more efficient than creating multiple versions of a document, having many people creating documents with different revisions at the same time, and having email flying back and forth carrying different revisions of the same document. Yet, other than those lawyers who are regular Google Apps users, I’d wager that very few lawyers use tools like this to collaborate on documents.
You may say that you don’t use Google Docs because you use Microsoft Office for your documents. But Google Docs can handle Word, Excel and PowerPoint files just fine. Even better, Microsoft has rolled out its own online collaboration platform, Office Online, which is a nice tool that handles online document collaboration with relative ease.
Am I wrong about lawyer use of document collaboration tools? Here’s your chance to tell me. I created a Document Collaboration Tools survey with Google Forms, and I’d love for you to let me know what tool(s), if any, you use to collaboration on documents. If you want to continue the conversation, leave a comment below – let’s discuss the types of collaboration tools you use with your clients or other lawyers. I’d love to know more about what you are all doing out there.
At this time of year, every year, you can count on a regular deluge of articles on New Year’s Resolutions, “getting a fresh start,” and all types of advice to suggest that everything you did last year was a failure, and to make sure this year is not a similar disaster, you’d better get started now. Interestingly, this year I have seen many more “anti-resolution” articles, along the lines of “I don’t believe in resolutions” or even “I believe in evolution, not resolution.” And the anti-resolutionists have a point. I would guess that most people’s resolutions don’t make it past the first quarter of the year, let alone the first month.
Pessimism aside, I do think there is value to setting goals for the year, particularly in the area of technology. I would wager that for most of you lawyers, technology is not your day job. Instead, it’s a cost center – something that costs your practice money, with little opportunity for boosting your bottom line. And technology doesn’t make you a better lawyer – sure, it can improve the service you provide to clients, but it doesn’t help with essential skills of lawyering. So why bother keeping up with technology at all?
For one thing, it’s sort of an ethical requirement, at least according to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct (Comment 8, at the bottom). As I interpret the comment, to “keep abreast [of]…the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology” includes not just the technology you currently use in service of your clients, but technologies you don’t use, but which might elevate or improve the services you provide to them. For lawyers, that last part is tough – see the above statement about technology not being your day job.
That’s why I think it’s important to at least try to set a few goals each year where technology is concerned – reasonable goals, goals that don’t cut into your law practice or require you to sacrifice too much of your personal life. In the latest edition of The Kennedy-Mighell Report, Dennis and I talked about how that might be accomplished. In Making Your 2015 Technology Resolutions, we discuss how to go about setting technology goals for the year, and we give some examples of the types of goals we have both set for ourselves this year. For most lawyers, my advice on selecting a goal would be to smart small, with one goal – either 1) learn a completely new tool that can help your practice – document assembly, project management, time and billing, whatever is most relevant to you; OR 2) learn more about a tool you already use, but probably aren’t using as well as you would like. Tools like Word, Excel, or Acrobat. As I mention in the podcast, Lynda.com is a great site for learning how to use just about any software program out there.
Check out the show notes for links to the things we mentioned in the podcast, as well as my and Dennis’s goals for 2015 – to hold us accountable when we take a look back about a year from now.
For years, I have used (and recommended) two Bluetooth keyboards, primarily when I am using my iPad. I tend to use Apple’s Wireless Keyboard more; it’s reasonably thin and light, and I like that it’s a full-size keyboard, which is not the case with most of the other portable keyboards for the iPad. If I have a complaint, it’s that it is too big and clunky – of course it’s all relative, but if I could find a Bluetooth keyboard that was smaller, I’d jump at it in a heartbeat.
The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover is a thinner, smaller keyboard, and I do like it a lot, but I could never get into using it with my iPad – I prefer to keep a cover on my iPad, and you can’t have a cover and use the Ultrathin Keyboard Cover. It’s either one or the other. That means if you happen to drop it, you might be more like to suffer real damage, especially if the case comes open during the fall.
But Logitech recently released a Bluetooth keyboard that has the potential to replace both the Apple and Ultrathin keyboards – for me, anyway. Its new Keys-To-Go keyboard is a significant departure from what you might think of in a mobile keyboard – but it also may be just what you’ve been waiting for. Keys-To-Go is a flat, rectangular board, measuring 5.39″ tall by 9.53″ wide, and weighing a mere 6.35 ounces. It’s not a full-size keyboard; by comparison, the Apple Wireless Keyboard is 5.12″ tall by 11.06″ wide, and weighs almost 12 ounces.
It doesn’t feel exactly like a “mini” keyboard, however – it was relatively easy for me to type without my fingers stumbling over each other. More on that later.
The keyboard is made of FabricSkin, a material Logitech has used on other iPad keyboard folios. The material is water resistant and easy to clean – it feels very sturdy to the touch. Some reviewers have complained that the FabricSkin feels cheap to the touch – it doesn’t feel that way to me, but I’m also not looking for luxury in a portable keyboard.
The keys are almost flush with the keyboard itself; just enough is raised so that your fingers can move from key to key. And although the keyboard itself is very thin (1/4 inch), when you type on it, you can very clearly feel the keys being depressed. This has been an issue I have experienced with other “flat” keyboards, and Keys-To-Go is definitely the most successful at maintaining a true typing experience. That said, some of the keys – most notably the spacebar – would not always work when I pressed down. This is very much the exception and not the rule, and I think that it will go away the more I use it – but it’s what I noticed most with the keyboard out of the box. Not a dealbreaker for me, however – I would still use this keyboard.
Keys-to-Go is designed for iOS devices – iPads, iPhones, and Apple TV. That’s why the top row is full of great shortcuts for your i-Device. With a press of the right button, you can:
- Go to the Home Screen
- Open a preview of currently running apps
- Open Spotlight Search
- Bring up the virtual keyboard
- Take a screenshot of the current screen
- Music/video controls – Stop/Pause, Fast Forward, Rewind, and Volume Controls
The keyboard is rechargeable, and boasts a three-month battery life. A USB cable comes with the keyboard so you can charge it.
Other reviewers have said that there are better, more responsive keyboards out there for the iPad and other iOS devices, and they are probably right. The main reason I’ll be using Keys-to-Go as my primary portable keyboard is its size – it is so thin and light, it is much easier to store and carry than any other Bluetooth keyboard I have owned. I’m used to a smaller keyboard, and I’m also not a snob about the feel of the FabricSkin. It’s priced at $70, which is the same as Apple’s Wireless Keyboard – a cheaper price point might have been nice, but in all I’m satisfied with this keyboard.
Logitech Keys-to-Go Keyboard | $69.99 | Available in Black, Red and Teal
I am a firm believer that there can never be too many practice management resources for solo lawyers. As the name implies, solo lawyers don’t have the colleagues to help them when it comes to technology, marketing, finance, and overall management of a law practice. That’s why I was pleased and flattered to participate in The Art of Being Solo, a summit hosted by attorney Sarah Poriss. It’s a free online interview series designed to explore the issues and challenges faced by solos and small firm attorneys to answer the question “How can we all build a law practice that we love and that inspires us?”
She already has twenty interviews posted, with many of them dealing with marketing-related issues. You’ll also find some technology and finance interviews, including the interview I gave on the benefits of incorporating a tablet into a law practice. I enjoyed our discussion, and hope you will too – click the link above to access the interviews!
The subject of passwords is one that is both fascinating and frustrating to me. We know that it’s getting easier and easier for hackers to crack our passwords; just three years ago, a nine-digit password would take 44,530 years to crack, but today that same password can be cracked in less than a day, according to Passfault. And yet, when I mention this in speeches that I give, lawyers invariably give a heavy sigh, roll their eyes, and promptly tune out. I know what they’re thinking: “12 digit password? It’s hard enough for me to remember the name of my dog and the numbers 123!” The idea of coming up with a different, really complicated password for every site we visit is just too overwhelming for most people – so they continue to use the same short, repetitive, simple passwords they have used for years.
So we shouldn’t be surprised to find out that the retailers where we set up our passwords are acting as enablers, allowing us to continue this practice of weak password-setting. In a new report out from password manager service Dashlane, the company found some pretty amazing practices among the Top 100 online retailers. Among the findings:
- 55% of the stores still accept notoriously weak passwords like “password” and “123456” (seems like if the other 45% don’t allow it, this should be a simple problem to fix)
- 51% still allow you to keep trying out password after password even after 10 unsuccessful attempts. What this means is that the “brute force” hacker can keep beating away on the lock, until it finally finds a password that will unlock the door.
- 61% do not provide any guidance when setting a password, and 93% do not provide a password strength assessment. I would guess that those Password Strength meters are able to shame at least some people into setting a stronger password.
Interestingly, most of the sites mask your password as you enter it, which actually does very little to secure it – as a general rule, the password blank on a website is not unsecure, unless someone is looking over your shoulder as you enter it.
Security Expert Steve Gibson of Gibson Research Corporation took the data and put it into this great spreadsheet. Take a look and see how your favorite online retailer fared. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t look too good for Amazon, Walmart, or Dick’s Sporting Goods.
There’s no good solution to this problem yet, but it’s not for lack of trying. Google declared last year that “Passwords are Dead,” and companies are already using fingerprints, pictures, and even winking to avoid password-based access, with mixed results. Google talks about eventually moving to hardware token-based authentication, but we’re not there yet. Two-factor authentication is also a good way to secure access to websites – but try telling that to a lawyer who already has to remember a complex password. “Now you want me to use a 6-digit number on top of a password?”
So what do lawyers do now? I’ll come back to the best, easiest way to create and manage secure, complex passwords: the password manager. There are several password managers out there, including:
I’m not going to spend time comparing these tools with one another – although I’m partial to LastPass and 1Password, all of them will do a good job helping you to select and manage passwords. Just pick one and start using it.
In the next post, I’ll show how I use LastPass, so you can see how the workflow is easy and fast once you get the hang of it. In the meantime, let me know what you think – is this an issue that’s being blown out of proportion? If you don’t use a password manager, why not? Share your thoughts in the comments.
The latest episode of The Kennedy-Mighell Report is called Automation or Control: Why Attorneys Must Choose (I didn’t choose the title) – in it, we discuss the fact that technology services are increasingly connecting to each other, automating things that we used to have to do ourselves. For example, my Fitbit now talks to my scale, my fitness app, and the app I use to track the food I eat. It’s a great convenience that all of these services talk to each other – I don’t have to worry about entering information into each service. It just all works. Is that a good or a bad thing? For me, anyway, in most cases it’s a good thing; technology should be about making your life easier, not harder – and if you can find ways to automate the things you do now, then why not give it a try?
That is, however, until the technology decides it knows what you want better than you know what you want. An example of that happened to me this morning. I routinely use both Spotify and Songza to listen to music, when I’m working out or just plain working. Being apps in this age of social media, both services allow me to tweet or post to Facebook the songs that I’m listening to at any given moment. My sharing philosophy is not that granular; most people don’t really care about my taste in music – besides, why give people an extra reason to make fun of me? When I installed both of these apps, I specifically instructed them that I did not want them to post my music-listening habits to Facebook. That worked well, for awhile. Then I changed computers and reinstalled Spotify on the new computer. The default setting in Spotify is to “share everything,” so my Facebook friends were instantly treated to hours worth of my music listening. When an aggravated friend pointed out that “I love you, but I really don’t care about what music you listen to,” I finally became aware of the problem and (mortified) immediately corrected it by changing my settings in the Spotify desktop app. Problem solved…..right?
Not so fast. Spotify updated itself on the iPhone just this morning. Either the settings for the iPhone app are separate from the desktop app, or it just decided to ignore my earlier instructions. Anyway, Facebook friends were once again subjected to a steady stream of workout hits and country music. The net result is that I have disabled both Spotify and Songza within Facebook, so neither of those services can post to my Facebook page ever again.
I could have done this from the beginning – after all, I am under no obligation to connect any app I use to a particular social media service. But I always like to have the option of sharing something, whether it’s a song, my location, or a book I’m reading. But we are now in an age where “Share Everything” is the default setting – which can be very hard to monitor if you’re not the “share everything” kind of person. Tools could help us with this – they could remember our preferences on an account level, so that those settings could be applied no matter whether we change computers or get an updated version of the app. But not many apps do this – which puts the burden on us to keep track of all the relevant settings. I now understand why so many people choose not to share with most social services – it’s just too big a hassle to keep up with it.
I would seriously consider investing in a company that came up with the “social media dashboard” concept – one place where we could store all of our preferences on what/how we want to share information on the Internet. Each app we use would be required to connect to that dashboard to gather our preferences, then communicate them to whatever social media site we want to use. I doubt this kind of standardization is coming along anytime soon – but it’s nice to dream about it.
What are your thoughts? Is automation getting out of hand?
We’ll end the week with a fun blog – Blawgletter is published by Dallas lawyer Barry Barnett, and it features “legal bits you can hold onto.” He talks about a number of legal topics – recent posts have discussed Peer-to-Peer movie sharing opinions, the Supreme Court’s “first sale” decision, and other recent decisions of interest to lawyers.
I am finding that there are number of areas of law that give rise to a high percentage of law blogs of particularly low quality – and bankruptcy law is one of those areas. It’s so hard to find a bankruptcy law blog with any quality content on it. Today’s blog, from the Law Office of Shawn Wright, tries to give some practical advice to consumers who might be facing bankruptcy – the posts are helpful, and the tone is not really salesy.
The Securities Edge is a securities blog for middle-market companies – it focuses on topics of interest to executives of middle-market businesses. Recent posts have discussed topics that include “say-on-pay” litigation, the new private market for unlisted stocks, separating the positions of CEO and Chairman, and more. It’s published by Gunster, a firm with offices all over Florida.
I have to admit, when I saw the title of today’s blog – Screw You Guys, I’m Going Home – I didn’t immediately know what the topic would be. But the tag line says “What you need to know before you scream ‘I Quit,’ get fired, or decide to sue the bastards,” so today’s blog features some great posts on employment law. It’s published by Donna Ballman, an employee-side employment lawyer and author. Some of her recent posts have covered topics like Lies Your Employer Tells You, You Have the Right to Say No, and whether journalists are exempt from overtime. Good stuff.
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