I’ve waited far longer than I ever intended to review The Lawyer’s Guide To Collaboration by familiar lawyer-bloggers Tom Mighell and Dennis Kennedy. It’s not that I haven’t had time to read the book – in fact, I devoured it the moment it arrived and reference it frequently for various projects in my practice. No, I’ve delayed in part because I was hoping that the $89.95 cover price would go down (and it has, on Amazon) because that kind of price tag makes even a book as wonderful as this one a tough sell. And I also stalled because I was hoping that the passage of time would take the edge off of my crazy enthusiasm for this terrific book. But since that hasn’t happened, 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.
The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration describes a range of technology tools that lawyers can use to work with clients or other lawyers. Tom and Dennis take a comprehensive approach, covering everything from free open source tools like Google docs and wikis, to modestly priced applications like Basecamp or Zoho. And they also show you ways to use familiar tools for collaborating, like Adobe Acrobat and even email.
What makes the book so great from a practical perspective is that it lets you get started right away. The authors make specific suggestions on steps to take to incorporate the technologies into your practice, and with some of the technologies (such as Google docs or Adobe), they provide comprehensive instructions on how to use them, including screen shots.
What’s also great about this book is that because Tom and Dennis have practiced as lawyers, they’ve written the guide to make it user friendly for lawyers. Many times, I’ll get fed up with some technology articles because they go off on tangents, talking about features that I simply have no interest in as a practicing attorney. 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. In addition, because Tom and Dennis are lawyers, they take on ethics issues, from protecting client confidentiality to ownership and control of information to privilege head on, and thus, will put lawyers at ease as they adapt this technology.
Once you start reading and applying this book, you’ll come up with ideas to implement in your practice that you never envisioned. For example, perhaps you’ve thought about hiring a virtual assistant or paralegal but figured that it wasn’t worth the extra trouble to manage them. But with collaborative project management tools, you can seamlessly coordinate with virtual workers. Or maybe there’s another legal expert in your niche area and you want to work together on a book (which is, after all, what Tom and Dennis did). Perhaps you’ve always wanted to create an extranet for clients but deemed it too costly – collaborative tools give you those options.
Though I’m a perennial cheerleader for solo practice, I realize that no lawyer is an island. There are only so many hours in a day that we can bill for time, only so many errors that our eyes alone can catch only so many ways that we can look at a problem. But collaboration removes these limitations, and lets us expand the possibilities of what we can accomplish. And most of all, it gives us a tool to empower and share information with our clients and at the end of the day, improving the quality of legal service is, after all, is what legal technology should be all about.