Intranet Ignorance is NOT Bliss – Part 2

Roosevelt and Churchill in conversationA constructive conversation is one that leads to greater understanding. While blogging sometimes feels like a solitary activity, occasionally readers pay a writer the compliment of commenting on her work. Then the conversation begins. When the participants in that conversation are good-natured and well-intended, that conversation can become a constructive one that leads to greater understanding.

Last week I hoped to start a conversation that I believe is long overdue in the legal industry. That conversation concerns how law firms go about deciding to purchase intranet/portal technology. Law firm knowledge management departments often see an intranet as a core part of their offering to the firm. Yet too often the technology is chosen by the IT department and does not always serve the needs of the KM department. Unfortunately, some KM professionals are not aware that there are alternatives readily available in the market, so they cannot engage their It colleagues in a more productive conversation about the relative merits of the various technology offerings.  The result is rarely good for the KM department or the lawyers it serves. Consequently, my assertion was that Intranet Ignorance is NOT Bliss.

My solution to this problem was not to recommend a particular technology solution. Rather it was to urge my law firm KM colleagues to make sure they had done their due diligence to understand fully what the market offers before choosing any product. I closed my blog post by asking my readers to do themselves the favor of exploring alternatives to SharePoint before they make their purchase decision. If SharePoint is the right choice, then they should go ahead with it. If it is not the right choice for them, then they should choose another intranet product.

There is nothing radical about this advice. I would give it to someone contemplating a home purchase, a car purchase or even a toaster purchase. We make better decisions when we have better information. I’m simply asking my law firm colleagues to ensure they have better information.

In the spirit of better information, I am reproducing below two comments I received on my blog post via LinkedIn. Normally I would simply have responded in LinkedIn, but the word limitations there did not permit a thoughtful response. Therefore, I have moved the conversation here:

Comment from Doug Horton, President and CEO, Handshake Software:

Mary, I realized you got paid to review this software but having downloaded and read their SharePoint v. Interact whitepaper, there are many false assumptions in their comparison when viewed in the context of law firms. You know that Handshake Software is the #1 provider of SharePoint products and services to the legal market. You may not know that we have at least one client that is using our software and integrations to create an Intranet without SharePoint. Anyway, I would be happy to discuss offline with you or anyone else.

My response to Doug’s comment:

Doug, thanks very much for reading and commenting on my blog post.

I was asked by Interact to prepare a knowledge management white paper for the legal industry. I was not paid to review their software. My blog post on intranets was intended to start a conversation about right-sizing intranet investments in law firms. The white paper has the same goal. Your comments help by pushing this conversation forward and, for that, I thank you.

You mention in your comments that the company you founded and lead, Handshake Software, “is the #1 provider of SharePoint products and services to the legal market.” I congratulate you on the success of your company. In light of that success, I must note that my economic interest in Interact is infinitesimal in relation to your economic interest as the founder, president  and CEO of a company that continues its Microsoft SharePoint-focused growth in 2015.  Consequently, I was disappointed when you suggested that economic interests would sway me. This seems unfair in light of our relative economic interests.

You mention there were false assumptions in the Interact document to which I linked,  but you did not provide any specifics. That paper cites sources such as Gartner and AIIM. Are you questioning those sources or something else?  I would like to learn more specifics about your concerns. Until then, it is hard to respond to a general allegation. You offered to have an offline conversation on this, and I would welcome that opportunity.

Finally, I am delighted to learn from your comment that you have at least one client that is using your software and integration to create an intranet without SharePoint. Would you be willing to tell me more about that case so that I can feature it in one of my blog posts? The experience of that firm would undoubtedly be instructive for other firms weighing an intranet purchase decision.

– Mary


Comment from Ted Theodoropoulos, President, Acrowire:

Like Doug, I would also challenge the validity of Interact’s assessment of SharePoint. SharePoint doesn’t include workflow and forms? You can’t have a SharePoint environment stood up in weeks? There are no search analytics in SharePoint? All these assertions are completely inaccurate. I would also challenge the assertion that no CIO has been fired for deploying Microsoft products. I know a few legal CIOs personally who were let go for embarking on initiatives in which SharePoint was leveraged for uses in which it is not particularly well suited (i.e. legal DMS).

My response to Ted’s comment:

Ted, thanks for your comments on my blog post.

You noted that you share Doug’s analysis, so I’d invite you to take a look at my response to Doug.

In your comments, you referred to assertions that (i) SharePoint doesn’t include workflow and forms, (ii) you can’t stand up a SharePoint environment in weeks, and (iii) there are no search analytics in SharePoint. I did not make those assertions in my blog post and I did not see those assertions in the Interact document to which I linked from my post. Can you tell me where you found them?

Finally, you stated “I would also challenge the assertion that no CIO has been fired for deploying Microsoft products.” In fact, that was not my claim. I said: “No CIO of a law firm was ever fired for buying Microsoft products.” (emphasis added)  My point was simply that Microsoft is often seen as a safer choice at the purchase stage than smaller, less-established vendors. However, I understand that the Microsoft label will not protect a CIO who has not deployed the software appropriately. Your example proves my understanding to be correct.

Would you be willing to tell me more about the examples you have in mind regarding CIOs who failed to deploy SharePoint properly? In particular, I would be interested in learning about the failed SharePoint-as-DMS examples you mentioned. This topic comes up frequently in law firm KM circles, so it would be good to have more facts at hand about why SharePoint does not deliver as a DMS.

– Mary


As I stated earlier, a constructive conversation is one that leads to greater understanding. It is my hope that Doug, Ted and others in the legal industry will join me in creating this constructive conversation regarding intranets. I know there are some law firms that are happy with their SharePoint deployment. I also know that there are law firms that are not as happy. As we raise everyone’s understanding about intranet technologies and opportunities available in the marketplace, we ensure that people make smarter purchase decisions. Obviously, the implementation is in each purchaser’s hands, but if they correctly make the first critical decision — buying the right software — that should put them miles ahead in terms of implementation, adoption and engagement.

At the end of the day, isn’t that where all of us want to be?


[Photo Credit: Roosevelt and Churchill in conversation (Zorba the Geek) / CC BY-SA 2.0]


Canadian, Please (#CLawBies2012)

Every December the good folks at Stem Legal encourage bloggers to promote the many fabulous Canadian law blogs that are now available. And this year is no exception: a quick look at the #Clawbies2012 Twitter hashtag reveals some worthy additions for your RSS feedreader. As a Canadian living in the United States, it’s my great pleasure to do my part for this commendable effort. So I’m offering my nominations for the 2012 CLawBies awards based on blog posts regarding one of my favorite topics — social media and the law:

I’d encourage you to check out these blogs, as well as other blogs listed on the website. In addition, check out the Canadian, Please video I’ve posted above (make sure you turn on the captions!). Once you’ve finished both exercises, you might understand better why Andrew Gunadie and Julia Bentley claim in the video, “I know that you wanna be Canadian.”




The 2012 Blawggie Awards

Best Actress Academy Awards Dennis Kennedy has just published the 2012 Blawggie Awards, which he describes as his “personal and highly-opinionated perspective” on the best law-related blogs of the year.  These awards are a public service that he has cheerfully rendered since December 2004.  In reading his awards posts over the years, you will inevitably discover a writer (or several writers) that you want to follow.

This post is my thank you to Dennis for including Above and Beyond KM in his 2012 list of noteworthy blogs.  When Dennis paid me a similar compliment in my first year of blogging, it was a wonderful form of encouragement for a novice discovering the wild (and slightly daunting) world of legal blogging.  Now that I have several years of blogging under my belt, the inclusion of my blog in Dennis’ 2012 list is even more welcome. The reality is that it takes a fair amount of effort to mount a solo blog year after year. While I doubt most of us write to win awards or commendations, I must admit they are awfully nice!

Dennis is a blogging veteran who has experienced and written about “The `Unbearable’ Everydayness of Blogging“. For those of us treading the same road, it is a real gift to have him reach out and shine a light on our efforts. On behalf of myself and all the other legal bloggers you’ve supported over the years, I thank you, Dennis.

[Photo Credit: Cliff]


In Praise of Older Blogs (#ClawBies2011)

Maple Leaves The older I get, the more I appreciate the effort it takes to get the important things done right.  Blogging is no exception.  Lots of blogs (and their bloggers) start out with a bright burst of energy and enthusiasm, only to falter when they come face to face with the realities of regular blogging.  As I have learned, it is very hard to maintain a schedule of regular blogging.  So I  remain impressed by those who do.  Equally impressive are the folks who have been blogging for years, but still find a reason to blog regularly and, more importantly, still find something interesting to say to their readers.

Accordingly, on this occasion of the the nominations for the 2011 ClawBies Awards, I thought I should pay tribute to Canadian bloggers who are relative “old-timers” in terms of their length of service in the blogging field.  Their longevity is a testament to their creativity, mastery of the art, and stick-with-itness:

  • Connie Crosby.  Let me start by nominating “Info Diva” and consultant, Connie Crosby.  Blogging since 2004, Connie consistently provides her readers with the latest information and guidance in the areas of information management, social media and legal libraries.  In addition to her own blog, Connie is a contributor to the phenomenal blog. Active on Twitter and in several professional groups that meet face-to-face, Connie is a blogging leader.
  • Garry J. Wise. The Wise Law Blog casts its net widely, covering legal, political and technology topics.  Garry started the blog in 2005 and has been joined over the years by contributors from his firm and by the occasional guest blogger.  In addition, he and his colleagues provide legal news updates via Wise Law on Twitter. The “140Law” headlines give readers a quick way to track legal developments in their Twitter feed.
  • Allison Wolf.  Blogging since 2006, Allison provides timely and thoughtful advice in The Lawyer Coach Blog.  If you take a moment to read some of her posts, you’ll soon discover that her coaching advice is not limited to the world of lawyers and law firms.  Rather, it has broader application across a variety of workplaces.  In addition to her blog, Allison is a columnist on

There is an old proverb that claims that “old age and treachery will overcome youth and skill.”  While I know little about the chronological ages of the bloggers nominated here, the quality of their blogging suggests that they have cornered the market on skill.  On behalf of their readers past, present and future, I wish them many more years of continued blogging success.

[Photo Credit: Hugh Bell]


Help This Underdog

It was an honor to learn that Above and Beyond KM has been nominated for The 2011 ABA Journal Blawg 100. In this fifth anniversary of their annual contest, the editors of the ABA Journal sought recommendations from readers and then selected the final 100.  Now, the hard part begins.  The ABA Journal would like our readers to vote for the blogs that they believe should win in each category.  Because of past “voting irregularities,” each voter must register before voting. You’re allowed 12 votes, so you can vote several times in each category that interests you. May I request that one of your votes in the Legal Tech category go to this blog? (Just click the icon at the top of the right-hand column of this page or at the bottom of this post to vote.)

One of the challenges of this process is that not every reader will be sufficiently motivated to take the time to vote.  So, if you don’t wish to end up as the blogger with no votes, you have to get down on bended knee and beg your friends and family to visit the ABA Journal site just for you. I’m exceedingly grateful to my friends and family who have done this in the past for me, but I’ve been conscious of the fact that we solo bloggers have a tough battle when we’re in the same category as group blogs.  For example, my good friends the great geeks (3 Geeks and a Law Blog) are also in the Legal Tech category.  If all of us get down on bended knee to beg for the support, then on straight numbers alone I’m out of the running since the great geeks combined have many more friends and family than little ol’ me.  (Thankfully, the ability to vote for more than one blog in a category could level the playing field — you can vote for both of us!)

Rather than prematurely exiting the field, however, I thought it might be helpful to remind myself and my readers of some of the blog posts you’ve told me you’ve enjoyed this year:

As you can see, it’s been an interesting year.  So please excuse this shameless self-promotion. I’d be grateful for your vote if you are so moved.  But regardless, please know that I am always grateful that you read my blog and even comment on it or tweet it from time to time. You definitely make it worth my time.


– Mary


Please click the Vote for this Blog picture below to support this blog:


America Borders on the Magnificent

“America Borders on the Magnificent” was the tag line of a brilliant series of posters promoting travel to Canada in the 1980s.  I proudly displayed these posters on my dorm walls and loved the look on the faces of my US classmates when the meaning of that tag line finally dawned on them.  I was reminded of the truth of that tag line as I carried out my annual review of the magnificent Canadian legal blogging scene in preparation for this post nominating blogs for the 2010 Canadian Law Blog Awards (the CLawBies). Started in 2006, these awards recognize bloggers relevant to the Canadian legal blogosphere.  The nominees ran the gamut from well-established blogging icons to newbies in need of an encouraging word.  In each case, the nominations and awards have been handled in a typically Canadian fashion — with warmth, generosity and modesty.

Since I have readers on both side of the border, I’m hopeful that this post will remind my readers in more southernly  climes that casting their reading nets up north can yield some rich results.  There truly are some fantastic bloggers between the 49th parallel and Alaska. To get a sense of the full range of Canadian blogs available, take a look at the Canadian Law Blogs List maintained by Stem Legal.  For a quick sample, here are my nominations for the 2010 CLawBies:

  • David Ma offers a nice blend of legal insights and practical technology advice on Techblawg.  While the black letter law he discusses may not be as helpful south of the border, lawyers and non-lawyers alike will be grateful for his guidance on common technical challenges such as handling the fall-out of the end of Delicious.
  • The writers at Blogosaurus Lex aim high. Sponsored by Alberta’s Legal Resource Centre, their goal is to speed public education about the law.  Their posts are practical and written in plain English.  This is entirely in keeping with what they call their Guiding Ideal:  “Law plays an essential role in the maintenance of a democracy. It is a bulwark against tyranny and a mechanism for advancing the cause of justice. Public legal education is, therefore, fundamentally, citizenship education that ensures that the public understands and supports the rule of law, makes effective use of the justice system, and engages effectively in ensuring the system meets the changing needs of society.”
  • Samantha Collier is a marketing professional with the patience necessary to work with lawyers.  And, she’s willing to tackle a subject regarding which many lawyers are skeptical or scared:  social media.  Her Social Media for Law Firms blog covers a range of issues that lawyers and law firms on the cutting edge should be considering such as building a social media strategy, optimizing your use of popular social media platforms (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.), and how to handle online criticism.  It’s topical and it’s practical.

No review of Canadian legal blogging would be complete without recognition of the continued excellence exhibited by Connie Crosby, Jordan Furlong and the entire blogging team at Slaw.  When I referred to “blogging icons” at the beginning of the post, these were the folks I had in mind.  They set an impressively high standard for the rest of us.

[Photo Credit: vtgard]


Radio Silence

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I haven’t been a regular writer lately. In fact, last month I published the fewest number of posts of any full month since I started blogging in 2008. Please don’t take this as a sign of my disinterest. Radio silence can occur for a variety of reasons.  The reality is that I’ve had some other projects on my plate that have demanded an enormous amount of time, leaving me little time for blogging.

While it may seem casual to some, I’ve discovered that blogging requires a fair amount of time and thought.  Over the last two years, I’ve blogged in the early morning and very late at night.  In addition, I’ve had to set aside time to do the reading that makes it possible for me to write.  And then, there’s the thinking time.  While I’m not always successful, I do try to process information before committing it to writing.  While there are many helpful blogs that focus on being primarily a conduit to the work of others, I’ve tried to balance some original writing with simply sharing information with my readers.  Lately I haven’t had the time to do any of this so you and I haven’t had these posts.

What I’ve learned through this forced hiatus is that I miss the stimulation and discipline of regular blogging. Above all, I’ve missed having opportunities to be in conversation with you.

They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder.  In my case, at least, I can say that’s true.  I do hope it’s true for you as well.

[Photo Credit:  YivaS]


My ClawBie Nominations

December is the month for nominations for the Canadian Law Blog Awards (or CLawBies). In typically understated Canadian fashion, bloggers are asked to nominate other blogs and bloggers of note, and to modestly refrain from plugging their own work. In the spirit of the season (and of these generous awards), here are my nominations:

  • What smart person would fail to read a blog entitled Wise Law Blog?  Not this one!  Great writing covering a range of legal and political topics is the highlight of this blog.  As an added bonus, Gerry Wise includes news from both sides of the 49th parallel.
  • To be honest, “style” is not a word I regularly associate with the law.  However, I’m prepared to believe that lawyers can be stylish when I read Precedent.  News, comments, gossip and amusement – that’s the bill of fare the writers at Precedent offer.  And, it’s fun to boot.
  • Connie Crosby is a self-professed “Info Diva” who covers a broad range of topics stretching from social media to classic librarian issues.  In the process, she leverages her deep knowledge of lawyers and law firms to keep her posts relevant for those of us in the legal industry.

Finally, how can a blog post discussing Canadian legal blogs fail to recognize the category-busting blog that is astonishing in its range and depth.  I’m speaking, of course, of  It is an amazing resource for lawyers and other folks interested in all things legal.  To the marvelous team of bloggers at Slaw, all I can say is thanks for another terrific year of entertaining and educational posts.


ABA Journal Blawg 100

What a wonderful surprise!  Today the ABA Journal released its Third Annual Blawg 100 List and I’m delighted to report that Above and Beyond KM has been included in that list along with some truly remarkable law blogs.  The list was compiled by the Journal’s editors, who this year asked readers of legal blogs to recommend their favorite blogs.  Those recommendations are like gold to any blogger, and I am truly grateful to all of you who suggested this blog.

Now that the list has been published, the next step is for readers to vote for the blogs  that they like the best in each of the 10 categories.  This blog is in the “Legal Tech” category along with the following impressive blawgs:

The voting has begun and the results will be reported in February.  If you are so inclined, I’d be grateful for your support.  All you have to do is cast your vote before December 31.  Regardless of whether you vote or not, please do check out the blogs on the list.  They are a terrific entry point to the riches of the legal blogosphere.

Before I sign off, I do want to thank all my readers.  As I’ve learned over nearly two years of blogging, you are an extraordinarily generous group of people.  Some of you leave comments when you read something of interest.  Others of you tweet a blog post that has caught your fancy.  Still others send me e-mails from time to time just to let me know that something in the blog has resonated with you.  And then, there are those of you who don’t contact me, but are kind enough to recommend Above and Beyond KM to your colleagues and, in this case, to the ABA Journal.

Please accept my deepest appreciation.  It’s a great pleasure to write for and with you.


The Paralysis of Choice

I’ve been staring at WordPress themes for hours on end and am going cross-eyed.  There are just too many choices.  The problem is that I’ve been laboring under the foolish notion that somewhere out there is the perfect WordPress theme for me.  Dumb!

The reality is that in blogging (as with many* things), all we need is a good enough choice.  The hunt for the perfect choice is just another way of delaying the need to make a commitment.  No matter what you’ve heard, we now know that there is really no guarantee that if you hunt longer you’ll find perfection.  In fact, Barry Schwartz tells us in the Paradox of Choice that most of the time the only reward for the painstaking weighing of too many choices is  — too much stress.

Now think about how we approach knowledge management projects.  If we listen to the siren song of vendors, we all too often choose projects with big budgets and big expectations.  As a result, every decision is fraught because the price of failure is high.  After all, how do you tell the partners in your law firm that you’ve spent thousands of their dollars on a “good enough” (but definitely not perfect, and possibly not great) solution?

Somehow we have to change our mode of operating, moving away from big productions worthy of Cecil B. DeMille, and closer to an indy film created with a camcorder.  When the stakes are lower, we are less likely to succumb to the paralysis of choice.  And then, a solution that is “good enough” suddenly becomes … perfect.

* Just for the record, nothing I’ve written here should be construed to apply to the choice of a significant other — especially if that person is reading this  blog!

[Photo credit:  Gregor Rohrig, Creative Commons License]