Stretch your memory. Think back to the early days of e-mail. Did you resist? Fess up. Are we all at risk for resisting the next wave?
Around 1995 I wrote an article arguing that lawyers should use e-mail. Seems quaint, but trust me, it was necessary. I noted that phone calls and meetings are synchronous, meaning everyone has to present simultaneously. In contrast, e-mail is asynchronous, meaning recipients can deal with messages when they want.
Most large law firms now can share documents with clients via extranets – an asynchronous collaboration tool. Large firms are less equipped with synchronous tools such as instant messaging or web conferencing. Is that because lawyers don’t need to collaborate in real-time? Or do they just resist new tools (as many did e-mail)?
New web tools (Web 2.0) allow virtually instant sharing of the same document or spreadsheet. Collaboration is also a big theme for Microsoft Office 12. The synchronous v. asynchronous question re-emerges.
A few months ago I wrote that collaboration is about coordination, communication, and co-creation of work product. All three C’s can have synchronous and asynchronous elements. It will be interesting to observe if lawyers adopt any of the emerging forms of synchronous collaboration.
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