Sun. Dec 4th, 2022

technology-gba60a2045_1920(1)In March 2020, the course of all our lives shifted, and no matter how you look at it, the world will never be the same. Our communities, our perspectives, and the ways in which we interact were fundamentally changed due to the effects of the pandemic. Social distancing was required for far longer than anyone expected, and, as a result, we grew to rely on technology to bridge the communication gap, especially in the business world.

At the start of the pandemic, collaboration technologies were quickly jury-rigged, providing a sufficient short-term solution to the remote collaboration problem. However, now that we’re emerging on the other side of this life-altering event, the short-term stop-gap measures are proving to be inadequate. Businesses, including law firms, are seeking to implement more-permanent communication and collaboration tools now that the benefits of using these technologies for both efficiency and business continuity purposes have been clearly established.

For law firms seeking to make that jump, a newly released book by Dennis Kennedy and Thomas Mighell, “The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies, Work from Home Edition,” offers much-needed guidance. I was provided with a review copy and found it to be incredibly informative with lots of advice and how-tos for lawyers seeking to learn more about collaboration technologies.

Why You Should Read This Book

Simply put: lawyers have a duty of technology competence. Part of that duty includes learning about technology so that you can make informed decisions when choosing new software for your law firm.

In 2012, the American Bar Association amended the comments to Model Rule of Professional Conduct 1.1 to incorporate the concept of technology competence. This amendment imposes an ethical duty on lawyers to stay abreast of changes in technology and reads as follows:

Maintaining Competence. To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology, engage in continuing study and education and comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which the lawyer is subject. (emphasis added).

Since that time, the vast majority of jurisdictions (40 thus far) in the United States have added commentary to their ethical rules indicating that lawyers have an obligation to stay on top of changes in technology.

According to Kennedy and Mighell, part of that competence includes the use of collaboration software:

This book serves as an extended argument that lawyers can no longer practice law or effectively deliver legal services without the skilled use of collaboration tools and technologies … You do not need to know everything about collaboration tools and technologies to be competent, but you should be aware and knowledgeable about the ones you use or are expected to use in your practice.

This book bridges that knowledge gap and arms you with the information needed to make educated decisions about implementing new collaboration technologies into your law firm.

What You’ll Learn

You likely recognize the many benefits of collaborating in the cloud, but like many lawyers may be overwhelmed by the sheer number of collaboration tools available. That’s where this book comes in: it provides a roadmap that will assist in choosing collaboration tools that are a good fit for your law firm.

Topics covered include:

  • Collaboration technologies available to lawyers
  • Practical tips for using collaboration tools in common settings
  • How to select the right tools and understand the issues involved in
    using collaboration technologies
  • Trends and developments in collaboration tools
  • How to develop a strategy for implementing collaboration tools in
    your practice, and make better decisions about what collaboration
    tools to use in a variety of settings

The 12-Step Process For Choosing Collaboration Tools

Not only do the authors cover the ins and outs of the collaboration tools available to lawyers, they also provide a 12-step process for developing a plan designed to help you choose the collaboration tools your law firm needs.

Each step is addressed in detail in the book, but to whet your appetite, here is the list of steps:

Step 1: The Collaboration Audit — Review Your Firm’s Processes
Step 2: The Collaboration Audit — Assess Your Firm’s Tools
Step 3: The Collaboration Audit — Painting a Picture of Where
You Are
Step 4: Brainstorming Where You Want to Be
Step 5: Implement a Client Survey
Step 6: Define Your Point B
Step 7: Determine What Your Existing Tools Can Do
Step 8: Research and Become Familiar with the Current Landscape
for Collaboration Tools
Step 9: Set Some Priorities
Step 10: Get Buy-in From Stakeholders in your Firm
Step 11: Consider Your Culture
Step 12: Treat This as a Process

Collaboration Tool Highlight: Client Portals

One key collaboration tool featured in the book is client portals. The authors recommend client portals because they are “the basic building blocks of online collaboration (since they) combine … the best elements of a modern, versatile public website with the security and control of a private, internal application.”

Client portals address a number of pivotal issues for lawyers, not the least of which is the client communication problem. The authors explain that client portals provide a hassle-free, secure way to ensure an open line of communication with clients:

One of the most frequent client complaints about lawyers, and the subject of many disciplinary complaints, is that lawyers do not keep clients informed about what is happening with their matters. Portals help solve that problem by creating a channel for regular, always accessible communication, updates, and alerts on lawsuits and transactions. A portal that keeps your clients up to date, provides them with news and developments, and even allows them to collaborate on projects and documents will show them that you are paying attention.

According to Kennedy and Mighell, the easiest way to implement client portals in your firm is to take advantage of the portal functionality built into law practice management software. By doing so, you’ll have a full range of collaboration features and functionality available to you:

Practice management portals. Practice management tools offer
probably the most well-known and popular client portals today.
Clio, Rocket Matter, and MyCase offer secure client portals as part
of their standard services, which provide client access to bills, documents, secure messages, tasks, and calendars right out of the box.
Because many lawyers are already using online practice management tools, it makes sense to look here first for client portal options.

Of course, there are many other collaboration tools available to lawyers, as well. And the good news is that you can learn all about them in this book.

Next Steps

If your firm doesn’t yet have robust, easy-to-use collaboration tools in place, what are you waiting for? Start researching your options today, and be sure to incorporate this book into your technology-purchasing process. With this clear and thorough how-to guide in hand, you’ll have a roadmap to success that includes the information you’ll need to choose the right software for your law firm and clients.


Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Director of Business and Community Relations at MyCase, web-based law practice management software. She’s been blogging since 2005, has written a weekly column for the Daily Record since 2007, is the author of Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York. She’s easily distracted by the potential of bright and shiny tech gadgets, along with good food and wine. You can follow her on Twitter at @nikiblack and she can be reached at niki.black@mycase.com.





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