In March 2020, the trajectory of our lives changed dramatically, and no matter how you look at it, the world will never be the same. Our communities, our perspectives, and the way we interact have fundamentally changed as a result of the pandemic. Social distancing has been required for far longer than anyone expected, and as a result, we are increasingly relying on technology to bridge the communication gap, especially in the business world.
At the onset of the pandemic, collaboration technology was quickly jury-rigged, offering enough short-term solutions to the problem of remote collaboration. However, now that we are on the other side of this life-changing event, short-term stopgap measures are proving to be insufficient. Businesses, including law firms, are looking to implement longer-lasting communication and collaboration tools as the benefits of using these technologies for efficiency and business continuity purposes are well established.
For law firms seeking to make this happen, a new book by Dennis Kennedy and Thomas Mighell, “The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technology, Working From Home,” provides much-needed guidance. I received a copy of the review and found it very informative with lots of advice and how-tos for attorneys looking to learn more about collaboration technologies.
Why you should read this book
Simply put: lawyers have an obligation to be technically competent. Part of that responsibility includes learning technology so you can make an informed decision when choosing new software for your law firm.
In 2012, the ABA revised its comments on Model Professional Conduct Rule 1.1 to include the concept of technical competence. The amendment imposes a moral obligation on lawyers to keep pace with technological changes, and reads as follows:
maintain ability. In order to maintain the necessary knowledge and skills, lawyers should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technologies, engage in continuing learning and education, and comply with all continuing legal education requirements that lawyers receive are subject. (emphasis added).
Since then, the vast majority of U.S. jurisdictions (40 to date) have added comments to their ethics rules, signaling an obligation for lawyers to keep pace with technological change.
According to Kennedy and Miguel, part of this capability includes the use of collaborative software:
This book serves as an extended argument that lawyers can no longer practice law or provide legal services effectively without being proficient in collaboration tools and techniques…you don’t need to know everything about collaboration tools and techniques to be competent, but you Should be aware and aware of those that you use or are expected to use in practice.
This book bridges this knowledge gap and gives you the information you need to make informed decisions about implementing new collaboration technologies in your law firm.
what will you learn
You may recognize the many benefits of collaborating in the cloud, but like many lawyers, you can be overwhelmed by the sheer number of collaboration tools available. That’s where this book comes in: it provides a roadmap to help you choose the right collaboration tools for your law firm.
Topics covered include:
- Collaboration Technology Available to Lawyers
- Practical tips for using collaboration tools in common environments
- How to choose the right tool and understand the issues involved
Use collaborative technology
- Trends and Developments in Collaboration Tools
- How to Develop a Strategy for Implementing Collaboration Tools
your practice and make better decisions about which collaborations
Tools used in various environments
12-step process for choosing a collaboration tool
Not only does the author describe the ins and outs of the collaboration tools available to lawyers, but he also provides a 12-step process for developing a plan designed to help you choose the collaboration tools your law firm needs.
Each step is covered in detail in the book, but to pique your interest, here is a list of steps:
Step 1: Collaborative Audit – Review Your Company’s Processes
Step 2: Collaborative Audit – Tools to Assess Your Company
Step 3: Collaborative Review – Picture Where
Step 4: Brainstorm where you want to go
Step 5: Conduct a Customer Survey
Step 6: Define Point B
Step 7: Determine what your existing tools can do
Step 8: Research and familiarize yourself with the current situation
for collaboration tools
Step 9: Set some priorities
Step 10: Gain buy-in from company stakeholders
Step 11: Consider Your Culture
Step 12: Treat this as a process
Collaboration Tool Spotlight: Client
A key collaboration tool in this book is the client portal. The authors recommend client portals because they are “basic building blocks for online collaboration (because they) combine… the best elements of a modern multi-purpose public website with the security and control of a private internal application.”
The client portal solves many key issues for lawyers, the most important of which is client communication. The authors explain that customer portals provide an easy, secure way to ensure open lines of communication with customers:
One of the most common complaints clients make against attorneys, and the subject of many disciplinary complaints, is that attorneys fail to keep clients informed about what is going on in their affairs. Portals help solve this problem by creating channels for regular, always-accessible communications, updates, and alerts for litigation and transactions. A portal that keeps your clients updated, provides them with news and developments, and even allows them to collaborate on projects and documents will show them that you’re following them.
According to Kennedy and Mighell, the easiest way to implement a client portal in your firm is to take advantage of the portal functionality built into legal practice management software. By doing so, you will have a range of collaboration features and capabilities at your disposal:
Practice Management Portal. Practice management tools provided
Probably the best known and most popular client portal today.
Clio, Rocket Matter and MyCase offer secure client portals as part of
Their standard service provides out-of-the-box customer access to bills, documents, secure messages, tasks and calendars.
Since many attorneys are already using online practice management tools, it makes sense to look for client portal options here first.
Of course, there are many other collaboration tools available to lawyers. The good news is that you can learn all about them in this book.
If your company doesn’t have powerful, easy-to-use collaboration tools, 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 comprehensive how-to guide, you’ll have a roadmap to success that includes the information you need to choose the right software for your law firm and clients.
Nicole Blake is an attorney in Rochester, NY and the firm’s director of business and community relations my situation, a web-based legal practice management software.her legs write a blog Since 2005, a weekly column The daily record since 2007, is the author lawyer cloud computingco-author Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontierand co-authors New York Criminal Law. She’s easily distracted by bright, shiny tech and the potential for good food and wine.You can follow her on Twitter @nikiblack she can be firstname.lastname@example.org.