2009 Update Version of Our Collaboration Tools Book: Want to Review It?

We've updated our book, The Lawyer's Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies, for 2009 with some new material that is included on a CD with the book. The CD includes a new chapter on tips, an article on trends, forms, audio and other updates. The CD itself can be ordered through through the ABA Web Store via this link (the book itself is here). The book is also available through Amazon.

We're also looking for a few people with a strong interest in the the book and a good audience for the book that we can send review copies to. If that might be you, please get in touch with us and tell us about your interest and audience. We can then work with our publisher to get you a review copy. Of course, we'd hope that you would then publish a review. You can get in touch by using the form on our contact page, leaving a comment to this post, emailing us personally, or contacting us through Twitter (@collabtools, @denniskennedy or @tommighell).



Free Podcast Interview on Collaboration Tools and Technologies

We have recorded a roughly 14-minute podcast in which we talk about some of the main themes of our book and add a few new insights into the subject of collaboration tools and technologies. You can download an mp3 (right click on the link and click on "save link as . . .") of the podcast here

We also wanted to remind you that we have also created a Twitter identity for the book. If you follow us at @collabtools on Twitter, you'll get regular reports with links to helpful articles and blog posts, tips, and pointers about collaboration.

As many of you already know, we'll also be speaking on collaboration tools at ABA TECHSHOW 2009. We hope to see you there, especially since one of the sessions we'll do is a roundtable "unconference" session where we'll let the audience set the agenda to cover the issues they most want to learn. Be aware that there's still time to take advantage of the $200 "early bird" discount on registration for TECHSHOW. 



Eating Our Own Collaboration Tools Dog Food

Last night, Tom and I were finishing up work on a new project (that I now realize as I write this, I might not be able to disclose quite yet).However, it is definitely related to our book and collaboration.

I thought it might be instructive to describe the tools and techniques we actually used as we worked to finish this project.

We were working, simultaneously, on several articles, a list, some forms and an audio file.

First, we exchanged emails to confirm our to-do lists and the division of labor.

I had the job of preparing a couple of first drafts. I went first to Google Docs to do those.

We also opened up a Skype instant messaging session so we could send quick messages back-and-forth, especially to get quick answers to questions.

When I finished a first draft, I'd share the document with Tom so he could access it in Google Docs.

By the time, I had finished drafts, Tom had emailed me Word versions of other documents he was finishing up with revisions marked with Track Changes.

We used Skype to alert each other about areas to pay special attention to or questions we had about the documents, as well as share some ideas.

I marked my changes  to Tom's documents in Word with Track Changes and emailed the documents back to Tom to finalize so he could submit them as Word documents.

We were also using Skype to make decisions about going forward with preparing an audio file from a recording of one of our presentations and making a last-minute decision to add another list to our set of materials.

Tom took my first drafts out of Google Docs, put them into Word documents and used Track Changes to show his edits.

While he was doing this, I used Audacity to do some clean-up and light editing of the audio file.

Tom then sent me the edited Word documents, which I checked and made minor revisions to, again using Track Changes. I also used Skype instant messaging to discuss a change Tom made that I thought made a different point than the one I had intended. We discussed that and decided on the final wording. I then emailed the Word documents back to Tom to finalize (Tom was taking charge of submitting all of our materials.)

Once I finished the audio file (approx. 50 megabytes), I used YouSendIt to transfer the large file to Tom, who received notice that it was available and downloaded it.

We then compared noted and checked our lists using Skype IMand determined that we we were done.

Tom then assembled all of the files and used Drop.io (which he prefers for its ability to handle multiple files) to send all of the files in, beating our deadline by a day.

We then used Skype IM to get caught up on other things we had been doing.

Some takeaways:

1. We actually use the collaboration tools we write and talk about.

2. We like having a tool box of collaboration tools for different purposes rather than being concerned with a single all-purpose collaboration tool.

3. Different tools work well for different purposes.

4. Even in the same project you might use a number of different tools to do the same types of thins.

5. We really like the way you can open a constant communications channel to help you work by using instant messaging.

We invite your comments.



Help Us Create a Big List of Collaboration Tips - Collaboratively

We're working on creating a big list of tips for collaboration projects, collaboration tools and collaboration technologies. It currently runs about 150 tips.

We'll use the list of tips for handout materials for our upcoming presentations at the ABA TECHSHOW and for some other ideas we have in mind that we'll share later. We'll post the tips you provide as well.

However, since the tips are about collaboration, it only made sense for us to do the list, well, collaboratively, as an experiment in crowdsourcing.

Here's the idea: If you wan to participate, send us your favorite tip or tips (let's try to keep it to a sentence or two each) in one of the following ways:

1. As a comment to this post;

2. Via Twitter to @collabtools, either as a direct tweet (start tweet with DT) or as a reply (start tweet with @collabtools). You can also add a hashtag to the tweet, either #collabtips or #collaboration; or

3.  By email to either denniskennedyblog @ gmail . com or tmighell @ gmail . com.

Please be sure to provide your name, so we can give you attribution.

If you have any questions, let us know.




The Case for Collaborative Tools

Lucie Olejnikova and Jessica de Perio Wittman have written an excellent article, The Case for Collaborative Tools: Long-distance teamwork on a shoestring budget.

Their summary of the article:

"This article shares a bit of our  experiences (the exciting and the frustrating moments), and outlines how we used free online collaborative tools to make the long distance seem short. This article also discusses the advantages and disadvantages of long-distance collaboration and how to apply the same tools and principles to a variety of work settings, such as law firms, firm libraries, court libraries, public libraries, and academic libraries. In addition, we mention the psycho-sociological aspects of a long-distance, Web-based communication, as well as its impact on project administration and budget."

Of special interest is the survey they took and the results they obtained about use of collaboration tools. I also like the focus on free collaboration tools and the way they tested out the ideas we have in our book.

Excellent insights, important conclusions and highly recommended. Excellent work. It also helps confirm our belief that law librarians will be the leaders in the early stages of adoption of collaboration tools.


Carolyn Elefant's Review of the Book

Carolyn Elefant is one of our favorite bloggers and people. She's also the author of the excellent book, Solo by Choice.

We're thrilled to see Carolyn's review of our book.

Carolyn captures the heart of the book and how we wanted it to be a practical guide that gave lawyers practical information, practical steps and practical ideas to improve their practices and lives and also pointed out ways that lawyers can come up with their own creative ways to use these tools.

Carolyn gives some excellent ideas, with an emphasis of how these tools can help the solo lawyer. You'll benefit from Carolyn's perspectives and ideas.

The money quote:

But Tom and Dennis always tie the technology back to the purpose, recognizing that for lawyers, technology is a means to deliver legal services more efficiently and effectively and not an end in itself.

And were more than happy to take this compliment:

I'll just go ahead and rave:  The Lawyer's Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies is a book that opens huge possibilities for solo and small firm lawyers and will change the way you market and run your law firm.

Thank you, Carolyn. We hope that solos and small firm lawyers who read your book and our book will find the tools they need to change the practice for the better.

Collaboration Tools at ILTA

We presented twice on collaboration tools and technologies at the excellent ILTA 2008 conference last week - a must-attend-at-least-once event for anyone seriously interested in legal technology.

Tom and Dennis at ilta

We learned that there were 14 sessions addressing collaboration topics, showing the growing interest in the subject matter of our book.

We were quite pleased with the feedback we got on the book and learned that one of the other speakers had quoted from our book.

We recorded a portion of one of our presentations (had a technical difficulty) and hope to turn that into some kind of podcast.

The great news was that our sessions were well-covered by live-bloggers, Doug Cornelius, LawyerKM and David Hobbie, which gives you a great way to see what we covered in the sessions. A very special thank you to them. As a fascinating observation about live blogging, LawyerKM's outlines of the sessions were actually better than the speaking notes I had in front of me. Doug provides a handy set of links to the posts on our sessions under the heading of Collaboration Tools on his post here.

We'll also make one or more versions of our slides available on this site. In due course.

West also produced a video of Tom talking about the book.





Collaboration is Global - Just One Example

Our recent article in Law Practice Magazine focused on how collaboration can happen around the corner or around the world. It's surprising how often collaboration on projects these days has a global dimension.

It should not be a surprise that the first article we wrote about collaboration technologies after we finished the book was for a publication outside the United States.

The article is called simply "Get Smart" and appeared in the Law Society of Ireland's Law Society Gazette. I noticed that a PDF version of the article (page 40) and the issue in which it appeared is now available on the Internet. We hope that you'll now find it a little easier to collaborate with your favorite Irish lawyers, but lawyers all over the world will benefit from some of the ideas and tips in the article.


Human Factors in Collaboration Tools Efforts

The selection of software, web-based services and other collaboration tools is just one step in the process of a successful collaboration tools effort. The human element will play a gigantic role in determining the outcome of your projects.

In our new article on the local and global impact of collaboration tools," Collaborative Technologies: Working with Others Around the Corner or Around the World," in the July 2008 issue of the ABA's Law Practice Magazine, we included a sidebar listing six key factors in developing a collaborative culture and environment that will enhance collaboration tools implementations in your organization. Technology does not play a role in any of the factors.

The sidebar is called "Tips for Creating a Culture of Collaboration" and starts with the following observation:

The human and cultural behavior between your collaborators will drive, dictate and ultimately determine the success of your collaboration projects. In other words, collaboration is a profoundly human endeavor, and if you ignore or downplay the human factors, you are setting up your project for failure.

We offer these six tips (check out the article for details):

1. Know thyself.
2. Know thy collaborators.
3. Build on what works.
4. Investigate team-building and collaboration strategies.
5. Consider incentives and penalties.
6. Remember that culture is a moving target.

Knowledge management expert Jack Vinson recently posted on a similar topic at "Robertson: Ten tips for succeeding at collaboration." In the post, Jack comments on a presentation by James Robertson (available here) and highlights and comments on Robertson's key points:

1. Recognize when collaboration will work.
2. Understand where collaboration fits in.
3. Establish a portfolio of tools.
4. One tool will NOT unite them all.
5. Identify an owner of collaboration.
6. Define boundaries and relationships.
7. Establish policies and support.
8. Start by 'gardening.'
9. Focus on business needs.
10. Don't forget it's all about the people!

The money quote from Jack's post:

"'Pilot in an area that people care about.' Don't bother piloting in IT or in the KM team. They aren't normal people!"

Researching and evaluating software and technology is fun and it's where the money gets spent, but you'll do well to think about the human element and the human factors that will make the difference between successful and not-so-successful collaboration tools projects. In the best projects, people took the time to consider the cultural issues and align the tools to the culture. Set aside some time to think about it.