My July ABA Journal tech column is called “Are You Vulnerable? Sometimes a Good Hack Can Help.” The column provides a gentle introduction to vulnerability testing as part of your security efforts.

The focus of the column is on simple assessment as a key building block of your security plan – how do you know what steps to take if you don’t know where you currently stand? I take a look at some do-it-yourself tools, but concentrate on the idea of hiring a third party to do some vulnerability testing, something sometimes known as “white hat hacking.”

In vulnerability testing, the third party expert, at your direction, probes your network and systems and reports on the vulnerabilities it finds. You can take that report to determine where your security might need to be shored up.

Although you might think that this is something only for large firms, it’s important to realize that many smaller firms handle lots of sensitive client data, as well as internal firm data. You should be able to find providers of vulnerability assessments who will offer flat-fee options in the few thousand dollar range.

As I say in the column: “And since security is a process rather than a destination, vulnerability assessments should be performed from time to time on a schedule that makes sense for your practice.”

Money quote:

Data breaches can be time-consuming, publicly embarrassing and costly to deal with, and they might require notifications and even law enforcement involvement.

Read the entire column at Are You Vulnerable? Sometimes a Good Hack Can Help.

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

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The new book Allison Shields and I have written called “LinkedIn in One Hour for Lawyers” is now available and also as an iBook. Also still available, The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together, by Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell.

My latest tech column for the ABA Journal is called “Data Diet: Feed Your Head with a Better Info Balance.”

This column grew out of some podcasts I listened to of interviews with Clay Johnson about his new book, The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption.

Some of Johnson’s main themes won’t be a big surprise to you – decreasing the quantity of information you consume – but he also makes some great points about improving the quality of your information intake as well. As I say, “We might want to reduce our intake, but we also want to improve the ‘nutrition’ of what we do consume.”

This ABA Journal column gives an overview of Johnson’s ideas and gives a few suggestions for improving your data diet.

We’ve recently gone to a lower word count on the column, so I don’t go into a lot of detail. (Lower word counts are a mixed blessing for me – a little easier to write, but not everything will fit.) My idea is give you you some good starting points and practical ideas.

I’m also hoping the comments section will let other people contribute their ideas. I see that the initial comments mention the idea of listening to podcasts at double speed, one of my favorite suggestions.

The money quote:

Social media analyst Clay Shirky has famously said we suffer from filter failure rather than information overload. Concentrating on improving your information diet might be the best move you can make this year.

Check out the article here.

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

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My latest tech column for the ABA Journal is called “Got Disaster? Your On-Hand Technology Can See You Through.”

This column grew out of a podcast Tom Mighell and I did called Technology in a Time of Emergency, which was, in a way, our response to the tenth anniversary of 9-11 and which also grew out of some long power outages I went through over the years and the history of how blogging and social media have played roles in major natural and other disasters. I recommend the podcast episode highly – it’s one of our favorites and it has a lot of useful information and insights.

This ABA Journal column is a short version of some of the ideas in the podcast, distilled down to a few main take-aways.

The money quote:

I don’t want to downplay the importance of data backup and disaster recovery. However, in a real disaster, our concerns are more personal, more visceral and more immediate than just our data.

The article focuses on four key areas – electricity conservation, SMS, smartphones and apps, and Twitter and social media – and gives a few ideas on ways they can help you when you face the unexpected. Although I hope you never have to use any of these ideas, it’s best to be prepared.

Check out the article here.

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

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My latest tech column for the ABA Journal is called “BYO Upgrades: How to Set Your Priorities.”

My editor, Reg Davis, gets the credit for this topic. The premise was to imagine you have a good technology budget (we said $3,000) and assume that everything was possible in terms of technology and policy.

The idea is that this simple exercise would tell you a lot about what you want, what is important to you, and where your priorities are. Once you complete the exercise, you can do a little analysis. For example, if you wanted to spend $600 of your $3,000 on training, you might question the actual percentage of your tech budget you are spending on training.

I make some suggestions in the article, based on my perspective, but the key to this exercise is that you determine your own answers.

As I conclude, “Most of us will find a gap between what we are spending money on and what we think we want to spend on. Closing that gap is a great technology goal for 2012.”

I enjoyed writing this column and hope that you enjoy it and find it helpful. Check out the article here.

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

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My latest tech column for the ABA Journal is called “Solid State Drives Can Bring Magic to Your Computer.”

This column grew out of two things: how much I love the solid state drive in my MacBook Air (as you’ll be able to sense from the article) and a fascinating podcast with Scott Moulton on Solid State Drive Forensics. Solid state drives (SSDs) bring great benefits, but they are also at the frontier of computer forensics.

The article is meant to give an introductions and overview of SSDs and get people thinking about the role SSDs will be playing in our computing experience.

There’s some good discussion in the comments about a number of the issues SSDs raise, even though the remarkably crabby “Jojo the Magic Monkey” seems to think the article is “garbage.” That’s disappointing, of course, because I’m generally more successful with the magic monkey audience.

You’ll also see in the comments and if you do some price checking, that the article was written before flooding in Malaysia helped push the prices significantly higher than at the time I wrote the article. That’s a danger of writing on print publication schedules.

That said, I don’t think I’d buy a computer without an SSD again even at today’s higher costs – it’s made that much of a difference.

Check out the article here.

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

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My latest tech column for the ABA Journal is called “Tie Down That Wi-Fi: Security in Public Requires Vigilance.”

It’s meant to be a simple primer to improve your level of security when using a public wifi hotspot, with the emphasis on free and simple techniques. It’s not so much that people are careless with the use of public wifi, especially on Windows computers, but that they haven’t been taught the basic precautions.

This article focuses on the basic precautions – assess vulnerabilities (tools like Shields Up, apply basic protections (firewalls and malware protection), limit potential for damage (turn off file-sharing), and treat security as an evolving process (practice safety, monitor developments and try to keep improving).

In one sense, like the old “I don’t have to be faster than the bear chasing us, just faster than you” joke, you want to make yourself a less inviting target than the other people using the wifi hotspot.

If no one taught you the basics of wifi security, this article will be a helpful start. It’s probably a good refresher for many of you.

I’ve gotten some good feedback on this article from people who’ve found it helpful.

The money quote:

A few simple steps can help you be safer, but the key is to remember that good security is an ongoing process and commitment.

Check out the article here.

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

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The ABA Journal has published my latest monthly legal technology column in its May 2011 issue. The column is titled “Declutter Home Hard Drives and Aid Performance.” The column covers some simple ways you can declutter, clean up and organize your hard drives. I do focus on your home computer(s), but similar principles will apply in the work setting.

Here’s the inspiration behind the column. I got a new personal computer for 2011 (MacBook Air) and needed to load data and files onto the new computer. That process got me thinking about whether there were some good ways to keep drives organized and to get them in good order after, seemingly inevitably, they get cluttered and wildly disorganized.

As I say in the column, “While it’s tempting just to buy a bigger drive or rely on desktop search tools or the enhanced search tools in recent versions of Windows and Mac OS X, these approaches are only short-term fixes.”

Although I couldnít resist the chance to work the buzzphrase “data hygiene” into the column, I decided to focus on a few basic principles and techniques – pruning, decluttering and organizing.

In pruning and decluttering, you look to eliminate duplicated and unneeded files and stop your computer from automatically creating and saving excessive numbers of files to free up space. After pruning and decluttering, you take a closer look at your approach to folders and try to simplify your approach.

Just some nuts-and-bolts concepts, but if you are moving data to a new computer, you’ll appreciate the making some efforts in these directions. Even if you are not moving to a new computer, you’ll appreciate having a cleaner, better-organized file structure.

Check out the article here.

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

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At ABA TECHSHOW 2011, I got the opportunity to speak with Rodney Dowell on the topic of the “Open Source Powered Law Firm.” Rodney was great, the audience was engaged, and I really enjoyed the experience. Gwynne Monahan does a nice job of capturing the session in her post, “First Mac, then #cloudcomputing so perhaps #opensource #abatechshow.”

As I mentioned in the session, former Red Hat CEO Bob Young was a keynote speaker at ABA TECHSHOW 2000 and, I believe, this was the first TECHSHOW session since then to focus on Open Source software. Young’s talk inspired me to write a law review article on the Open Source licenses in 2001 (“A Primer on Open Source Licensing Legal Issues: Copyright, Copyleft and the Future,” 20 St. Louis Univ. Pub. L. Rev. 345 (2001)) and put together a list of web sources on Open Source legal issues. I’ve been interested in Free and Open Source software and the philosophy behind it ever since. If you Google my name and “Open Source” you’ll find some of my writings and a couple of podcasts (e.g., this podcast).

I’ve had the chance in 2011 to write one article and co-author with Gwynne Monahan another on the use of Open Source software in the practice of law.

The major article is the one with Gwynne that was recently published in the March/April 2011 issue of the ABA’s Law Practice magazine. It’s called “10 Tips for Getting Started with Open Source Software” and it’s meant to be a easy and practical introduction to Open Source Software and the role it might play in law practice. As you might guess from the title, it feature ten important practical tips.

In my monthly technology column for the American Bar Journal in March 2011, I wrote a short and concise introduction to Open Source software in law practice called “Free Can Be Good: Add Open Source to Software Considerations.” In the column, I conclude: “Open Source programs are be coming realistic alternatives for lawyers, especially for focused tasks. Now is a great time to add a consideration of Open Source software to your technology decision-making process.”

Through the presentation and the articles, I wanted to join with Gwynne and Rodney in raising the profile of Open Source software, highlighting its growing importance and introducing the philosophy and reality of Open Source software.

Open Source is about community. The articles and presentation are meant to start the conversation, but we also wanted to find ways to continue and extend the conversation about the use of Open Source software in the practice of law. One step in that direction is a new LinkedIn group called Open Source Tools for Law Practice. With luck, it will grow to help people find others interested in Open Source and offer a place for conversations. If you are interested in Open Source, please consider joining the group.

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

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The ABA Journal has published my latest monthly legal technology column. It’s called “MacGyver Your Software: Necessity Reveals Useful Tools You Never Knew Your Software Had.” It covers some ways you can cleverly make use of the standard programs you have to do some things that you thought only programs you don’t have could do.

As I say in the column,

I have noticed that many lawyers who make innovative use of technology in their practices take advantage of program features not commonly used by others. Often, this results from the lack of budget or permission to install new programs. Necessity becomes the mother of invention.

Those of you famility with TV history (and who isn’t?) will get the reference to MacGyver, who could also make some amazing new use out of seemingly random materials at hand to escape from difficult situations.

Many lawyers with limited technology tools have felt like a MacGyver trying to cobble together software and hardware to accomplish something that technology they didn’t have would easily do.

The premise of this column is to take a look at ways you can use common tools for quite different purposes, not just give you some tips to use existing programs better.

Some examples include using your word processor as a metadata scrubber or blog publishing tool, presentation programs as a graphics editor or audio/video editor and Adobe Acrobe for a wide variety of purposes.

The idea is to get you to think in new ways and not to throw your hands up in despair because your firm won’t let you get tools you need. There are other options.

The money quote from the column:

Now is a great time to explore the unused features in software you already have. If you unleash your inner MacGyver, do some exploring and are willing to be creative, you are likely to find a much bigger and better-stocked toolbox than you ever imagined.

Check out the article here.

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

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The ABA Journal has published my latest monthly legal technology column. It’s called “Bite the Bullet Point” and deals with the growing problem of poor use of PowerPoint slides that drains all of the energy out of many presentations I see today, especially those by lawyers.

As I say in the column, “The biggest problem I see is that people have moved the focus from the speech and the speaker to the slides.”

Or, as I also say: “[M]ost complaints about PowerPoint are like blaming modern hammers for poorly built houses. It’s not the tool, but how the user uses the tool.”

Everywhere I turn lately, I see references to “death by PowerPoint” and similar harsh critiques of the use of technology in presentations today. There’s no question that most “standard” presentations these days bury you in bullet points and boredom. Worse yet, after seeing all the slides and hearing the talk, you often don’t know what the main conclusion is, what should matter to you, and, most important, what you should do next.

If you’ve read this blog or my articles, including my ABA Journal column, over the years, you’ll notice that focusing on using technologies as appropriate tools is a recurring theme of mine. As tempting as it might be to want the “new shiny thing,” you’ll want to always keep in mind that technology is a tool and you should always keep in mind the ways a new technology can help you do what you actually want to accomplish.

Think about the oft-cited example that vendors want to sell you a drill, but what you want to buy is the holes you need to get the job accomplished. The drill is just the vehicle that gets you to the holes.

That’s the background for the new column – my concern that the focus for presentations has turned to slides, PowerPoint (or Keynote), video, audio, design and transitions, and away from educating, persuading and inspiring.

However, I’ll stress that I’m not a PowerPoint opponent. When it’s used correctly, it can definitely help you educate, persuade and inspire. If you don’t think that’s the case, you haven’t seen someone use PowerPoint really well in service of their message.

In the new column:

I run through a list of some of the things that bother me about how many people use PowerPoint in presentations these days. I’ll note that it’s a 650-word column, so I couldn’t fit everything in there, but you’ll get the idea.

More important, I give six of my best suggestions to help you break out of today’s PowerPoint and presentation traps:

1. Ask the question: Are slides even needed?

2. Remember that slides must serve the presentation, and not vice versa.

3. Keep the focus on the presenter and presentation, not the slides.

4. Don’t make slides do double duty. A huge problem I often see is using the same slides for the presentation and the handout.

5. Details matter. At a minimum, view your slides on the screen from the back of the room before you speak. I hate it when the speaker knows a slide can’t be read and apologizes out loud for it. Fix it; don’t apologize.

6. Find new role models. I’m a huge fan of Cliff Atkinson and his influential book on presentations called Beyond Bullet Points. His approach to slides is very visual, with minimal text and no bullets. He emphasizes the importance of theme, structure and story. Spend some time watching TED Talks videos and videos of other great presenters.

I’d definitely like to hear your reactions to this article and to the topic. I actually wrote it several months ago and when I re-read it, it really seemed to reflect the theme of practical and effective use of technology to help you with what you do everyday that’s been my goal with the ABA Journal tech column over the years. Let me know if the column works that way for you.

If I would have had a few more words for the column, I might have added a seventh point about hard work and rehearsal (although it’s alluded to in the column). As I mentioned earlier, I’m not anti-PowerPoint. In fact, I’ve always liked it. What I like, though, is the way it makes some aspects of preparing a presentation easier and frees you up to spend more time and effort on your message, your delivery and your audience. As they say, you can work smarter, not harder, and focus your effort on what matters most.

Check out the article here.

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

Follow my microblog on Twitter – @dkennedyblog. Follow me – @denniskennedy

Now Available! The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together, by Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell. Visit the companion website for the book at LawyersGuidetoCollaboration.com. Twitter: @collabtools