8/11/09

I'm Calling It!! - There's an "E-Discovery Bubble"

There comes a point in time where you have to shake your head and say that we've created something that is unsustainable. Whether it was the Dot Com bubble in the 90's or the Housing bubble this decade, there is a point in which you have to stand back and say that reality is going to cause a backlash at some point and cause the bubble to burst. It is August 2009, and I'm calling it: "Electronic Discovery Is A Bubble" and in the next couple of years, if not sooner, it is going to burst.
Why is it a bubble?
First of all, the basic "idea" behind e-discovery is something that is difficult, if not impossible to accomplish. That idea is that electronically stored information (ESI) can be captured, indexed, encoded, filtered and searched so that you can find that smoking gun that every lawyer dreams of finding. Craig Ball, in the August 2009 issue of Law Technology News, gives some good examples of how difficult this process is.
Secondly, it is too expensive. Just with the Dot Com and Housing bubbles, you cannot expect clients to continue to pay exponentially for the cost of processing, indexing and reviewing ESI if that cost is greater than the reward. In other words, why would your client pay $1 million in E-Discovery costs for a reward of $500 thousand?
Zubulake vs. Rule 1, FRCP
In the same issue of Law Technology News, David Waxse, U.S. Magistrate Judge, District of Kansas, gives us his favorite quote, and I find it to be a great quote to use when discussing E-Discovery and the overall cost:
Our job is to secure the 'just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action.' -- Rule 1, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
Compare this quote to the rules set forth in Zubulake or in the new California E-Discovery rules (here's a great [PDF] overview from Winston Strawn attorneys), you'll find that the two concepts do not mesh.
I'm not saying that E-Discovery is going away, what I'm saying is that there is going to come a "correction in the market" over the next few years that will burst the bubble in the cost of collecting and analyzing ESI. Whether it is through reduction in cost by companies doing ESIwork in-house, through outsourcing, settling costly ESI matters early, or by courts revising laws to prohibit costly E-Discovery requests or shift the cost burden across the parties, you are soon going to hear a "pop".

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8/10/09

It's "Not" The End Of The World - And I Feel Well Rested

Last week I vacationed in Colorado and did not take my work laptop with me. Instead, I relied upon my 3 year old BlackJack (version I) and limited cell reception to check work emails once a day. In the end, I'm sad to find out that the office back in Houston survived just fine without me for a week. But, I'm also happy that I've not created a situation where I've become indispensable to my co-workers. I've had a saying that I've used over the past 20 years or so that I'm always afraid of breaking: "If someone has made themselves indispensable or unreplaceable, then you need to fire them." The primary reason is that if you have someone like this, you've allowed them to created a single point of failure that will eventually come back to haunt you and your organization.
When I worked for a library services company, I was required to take a vacation each year of no less than 5 consecutive workdays in a row. The idea behind the forced vacation was to make sure 1) that I was actually taking some time off from work; and 2) that I wasn't creating my own little fiefdom within the organization where we couldn't survive without me.
I remember one time questioning my boss (different job) about relying too much on specific individuals for important business processes. When I asked my boss who was backing up the guy (I'll call him 'B.A. Baracus') in charge of our email system when B.A. goes on vacation, the reply was that B.A. was required to take his work laptop with him on vacation and therefore there wasn't a need to have a backup for B.A. I sat there and nodded, watched B.A. lug a 10 lbs. laptop bag over his shoulder, and then went back to my desk and made sure my resume was updated and ready to send out.
Now, granted, there were many little things that didn't get completed while I was out on vacation, and my physical in-box was stuffed full of invoices ready to be sent to accounting, but almost all of it could have been handed off to someone else if I had decided to escape from the world and become a recluse in a cabin somewhere around Pikes Peak. I'm glad that I'm appreciated at work and missed when I'm away on vacation, but I'm also happy to see that I haven't become unreplaceable. Now I can go on that winter cruise to Mexico and not even worry about checking email... that's a great feeling.

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8/7/09

CLE 2.0

Jordan Furlong’s question on The Future of CLE posted on LinkedIn got me thinking. The question leveraged my prior 3 Geeks post on the Googlization of CLE and included his comments about how CLE’s role could shift towards professional development. So what if we take a step beyond Googlization (which is so “3 months ago” as my son says) and think of applying Web 2.0 to the CLE world? In Web 2.0 environments you stay current by monitoring blogs, watching tweets and engaging in the dialogue. Most of my continuing education comes from these sources. And more importantly, it has greater value based on my participation. I can comment on LinkedIn like I did with Jordan. I retweet on interesting tweet and add a thought. Then another participant does the same. Or they pick up a related line of thinking and extend the dialogue. The result is a combined, asynchronous effort that brings many minds together and allows them to all benefit from the shared experience. The sum is much more than the parts. This post is a great example of that effort. Last October I made a blog post. Jordan creates a Discussion on LinkedIn that extends the idea. A number of comments give me the CLE 2.0 idea which results in this blog post (which will result in some tweets and more comments). On one layer this is basic 2.0 in action. But from the CLE perspective, I now have a new set of tools and methodology for helping lawyers stay current on their practice skills. And this new approach has the potential to deliver much higher value than the old-school presenter/audience model. Am I suggesting CLE Boards accredit CLE 2.0? They should at least start thinking about the idea and how it might benefit the practice of law. Do I still go to live programs? Of course. But those are for the personal interaction as much as the education. If I relied solely on live programs for continuing education, my current knowledge base would be considerably less (Greg – hold your comments on that point). As you might guess – I welcome your comments on this subject.

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8/4/09

It's All In How You See It

Do you know what I hate about movie reviews? Chick flicks. Yeah, that's right. Chick flicks. And do you know what I hate about book reviews? Romance novels. Yep. And do you know what I hate about car reviews? Make-up mirrors. Uh-huh. Are you sensing a theme here (pretend its the SAT/LSAT/MCAT/Dumb, generalized, multi- tests that allege to set standards)? ANSWER: The reviewers are not of the same personality-type as the consumers. So remember, when testing your web pages, don't build them to please yourself or your boss. As my boss told me when I first started, "we've fallen in love with our own artwork". I know it is hard to remember. I cannot tell you how many meetings I have been in and we all get caught up in how slick and gorgeous the page, the color, the design, the layout is. We forgot: we aren't the ones who are looking at the pages once it is built. Or we are worried that the approving partner won't like it so we build it to get it approved. Instead, think about your audience; your potential site visitors: what is the predominant personality type? What appeals to them? I know that marketing people that I have worked with are the creative sort. We love to talk, like lots of colors, the prettier it is, the happier we are. And IT, well, they like black and white, either/or kinds of choices. Plain, straight-forward, no-nonense pages are our designs of choice. Now do you see why web sites should be built by both marketing and IT people? So put on your thinking cap: envision your "jury". Conduct voire dire. Once you've figured this out, you've done some good research and can start putting together a plan. Oh. And the chick flick/romance/car rant? Well, its just me being me. I saw "Ugly Truth" and loved it. The Chronicle book reviewer panned one of my favorite authors. And, well, you know, car reviewers NEVER mention make-up mirrors. See?

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7/31/09

Cash 4 (Lawsuit) Clunkers?

The Cheap Geek took advantage of the Cash 4 Clunkers deal this week and traded in my 17 mpg Chrysler MiniVan for a 50 mpg Prius.
The minivan was probably worth $2000.00 tops - as it really got about 14 mpg and had 176K miles on it. So in the end, I got a deal, the car dealership got a sale, and my van got removed from the road and will get to retire to the farm along side my childhood pet dog, Lucky. According to the papers this morning, the program is so popular that it is quickly running out of money, and Congress is rushing to put more money into the program to keep it going.
Now my thoughts start to wander and I begin thinking how can this idea be transferred to helping the court system reduce the number of cases it handles, thus reducing the overall strain on the system? I'm going to toss out a couple of suggestions, but I really would like everyone to put on their "thinking caps", or as I like to call it "crazy idea initiators", and help me come up with some other ideas that might help reduce the number of cases currently clogging up the courts.
Here's my thoughts:
  1. Civil Cases: If the case is older than 1 year and is still ongoing, offer the Plaintiffs a cash payment of $4500 or 50% of the demanded amount (whichever is less) to drop the case. Make the Defendant pay $2750 or 25% of demanded amount (whichever is less). That way, everyone "gets a haircut" and the courts reduce their overall burden.
  2. Criminal Cases: Same idea -- misdemeanor cases that are older than 1 year and the penalty can be handled by a "fine" - Have the defendant plead "guilty" or "no contest" with agreement by the court to expunge the record after one year if the defendant is not arrested again. Have the defendant pay 25% of the fine. On this one, there shouldn't be a need for the government to ante up any money as it would "pay" the court to get this case off of its docket.
I know... I know... you're thinking that I've hit Happy Hour a little early for a Friday morning. But, why not have some fun with this??
What are your suggestions (crazy or not) on how the Cash 4 Clunkers concept could be used to reduce the caseload on our courts??

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7/29/09

Capturing Knowledge: If You've Highlighted Everything, You've Learned Nothing

Reading Patrick Lambe's Green Chameleon post entitled "Memory and Infantilism" reminded me of a saying I heard in law school about identifying what is, and what is not important. Lambe discusses the total screw-up that NASA did with the Lunar tapes, and the UK police did in losing important files related to a horrific child-rape case. Although there is a lot of facts surrounding both of those examples, it really, really boils down to the fact that we believe we can basically capture and maintain everything that we think is relevant to what we may want on down the road.
In a way, we do this with our Knowledge Management approach to everything from email to client files to court documents to contact relationship data. There is a whole subset of the legal industry (e-discovery) that has sprung from the idea of "everything is there, we just need to drill deep enough into the data to find it." These practices have created a misconception that if we keep everything, the "important" information will be there when we want to find it. Tapes regarding the Moon landing will be there 40 years later... files regarding DNA evidence will be there when the Judge asks for them... that email that your former boss sent you telling you to do something will be at your fingertips when your new boss asks "why the Hell did you do it that way?"
This all reminds me of a saying that someone told me back in law school. "If you highlight the entire casebook, you've learned absolutely nothing."
In other words, you should only highlight (store and archive) those things that you think you'll have to recall later on the final exam. The same concept could be adapted to how we treat the KM life cycle of information that flows through our possession today. Regardless if it is email, client files, or court documents there needs to be a realistic approach to how we handle that information. The most obvious would be any legal obligation we have to maintain and archive the information. There are certain things we should legally and/or ethically keep for a specific period of time. But, most of the data that we handle does not fall under these requirements. In fact, I'd wager that 90% of the emails, electronic documents, or paper documents we keep, we do because we are implementing the "CYA" rule.
The problem comes down to an issue of "mass". It is very easy to file things away on backup tapes, or ship hard drives and paper documents off site for a hundred years. In some cases it is actually cheaper to keep files in off site storage for a few decades, than it is to pay the cost of having the items destroyed. The combination of "CYA" + ease of storage + idea of easy recall creates a situation where we've highlighted everything, and cannot recall the important items later. The result is like a 2nd year law student that has highlighted his entire Federal Civil Procedure book... When asked to recall specific information, we find that we either cannot recall the information (tapes got erased, DNA evidence got misplaced, etc.) or, we cannot isolate what is important versus what is irrelevant (the old back the dump truck up and give them everything we know approach.)
Knowledge Management should not be based on a "cast a wide net" approach to the information that flows in and out of our firms. In fact, most information should be ephemeral in nature; addressing only the specific need of the moment and not be thought of as a permanent addition to the knowledge of the firm. When we try to capture everything, we end up capturing nothing. In the end we end up losing the important pieces of knowledge because they are buried in a mountain of useless data filed under the topic of "CYA".

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7/27/09

Leverage is Good

Some recent comments disparaging leverage inspired me to pick up the gauntlet. Much like Dennis and Tom's recent podcast on "What Technology is Dead Today" I expect the title and discussion promoting leverage may bring some attention. In Patrick Lamb's post on the subject he chastises Lexis for promoting good leverage in an ad campaign. Patrick thinks this is ridiculous and "out of touch." The Lexis ad states that with good leverage "even though billings shrink - profit per partner goes up." Patrick closes by commenting "what does this ad say to clients ....?" Normally I am very much on the same page as Patrick, but will take the opposite podium on this one. First, let's bring the two statements above together, which is to say - What do lower billings say to clients? As a client I want my law firm to be pushing work to its lowest cost source. Why would I pay partner rates for associate level work? Especially in traditional hourly billing arrangements, smart leverage benefits clients. The price of the 20 hours of time the client buys goes down. This is a win-win deal. Adding alternative fee arrangements (AFAs) to the mix ups the ante on leverage. Under AFAs law firms are more financially motivated to be efficient (and effective). Numerous articles and posts on AFAs state that the real trick for lawyers using AFAs will be effectively managing to a budget. What this means is using smart leverage. The ugly side of leverage as always been the pyramid-scheme aspect of it. A firm cannot keep adding to the base of the pyramid when all entrants are expected to rise to the top. That type of leverage is dead. Look at Microsoft, IBM, etc. These companies are leveraged to the hilt. They don't have a quarter of their employees serving as owner-managers. Their employees are ... employees. Though employees own stock, they do not have input into management decisions. Besides, I don't want Bill Gates programming code for me. I can only imagine what his hourly rate would be. Firms that will succeed going forward will be those who understand that effective leverage means lower costs for clients and better profitability for the firm. At the same time they will retire the pyramid scheme that should have died a while back. Let the games begin!

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7/23/09

Uncreative Thinking is 'Still' Done Better By Machines

I read a lot. But, I don't usually read the same book twice (because I already know how it is going to end!) But, I do love me some SciFi and Vampires and Humor, so when I get that all rolled into one, I make an exception and read the book again. I do it for fun, not for business research or to get some type of deep philosophical experience out of the deal. However, coming in on the bus this morning, and re-reading Christopher Moore's 1995 book Bloodsucking Fiends, I read a passage that made me put the book down and really think. (You can read the passage starting at page 84 via Google Books.)
Moore's characters, a bum who is known as the Emperor of San Francisco, and a young aspiring writer named C. Thomas Flood are discussing the well-dressed business folk that are scurrying about. The Emperor calls them "Fallen Gods" because the things that have made them successful are going away and they will soon be losing out to the "chinless techno-children... and their silicon-chip reality." Then the Emperor says something that really got me thinking. "Uncreative thinking is done better by machines."
Now, skip ahead 14 years and the chinless techno-children are now seen as the new Gods. The old Gods and their ability to push paper around has been replaced by the new Gods' ability to push large amounts of data around. The new Gods' success has simply been to find a more efficient way of pushing information (a.k.a. 'paper', 'emails', 'databases', etc.) around. But, has the increase in efficiency helped make either man or machine more creative thinkers? Or, have we created a situation where we're still on an uncreative path, but making up for it in volume?
When we look at technology in the legal setting, whether it is legal research, knowledge management, or electronic discovery, we've seemed to have taken the last 14 years to increase the scale of what we do. We can now push more information around -- We can now store Terabytes of information -- We can now virtually capture every keystroke that an attorney makes. But, have we made ourselves more creative, or have we simply increased the volume of information each of us can access? Uncreative thinking is still done better by machines. What we really need to ask is whether we are using the efficiency of the uncreative machines to push these tasks off of our people and allowing them to use their creativity to come up with better and more effective solutions?
Thanks to a book about vampires, I was reminded that machines (computers, software, databases, etc.) are efficient yet still uncreative in handling information and should be designed to our human resources to be more effective and creative in accomplishing their work. So, when you're ready to upgrade that hardware or software, you really should sit down and ask yourself this: "How does this make my people more creative and effective?"

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7/22/09

Your Most Important Brand Ambassadors: Your Staff

Early in my working career, I used to fill in for the receptionist at lunch time. It fast became one of my very favorite duties. You see, the receptionist knows EVERYTHING. She knows who’s working the hardest, who’s taking long lunches, who’s meeting with clients, who’s ducking out early. And let’s not forget all the little “personal” calls she patches through. It was better than watching “All My Children”! During my short stint as a secretary, I knew more about my boss’s personal life than his wife did. I’m just sayin’ … Then when I worked in the expense reports team of a large firm’s account receivables department, I quickly found out who could be trusted and who couldn’t. You see, in a corporate setting, everyone sees everything. Maybe not in totality, but enough to judge the character of a person. And the staff is much smarter than most lawyers give them credit for being. Let’s not even talk about the prestige that staff may assume when working for a law firm. You may be the nicest lawyer on the planet but if your staff has imbued itself with some sort of attitude for being associated with a law firm and is throwing the law firm’s weight around, it just looks bad to outsiders. So remember, treat your staff like the brand ambassadors that they are. And if they don’t understand their importance in presenting a message of client service, make sure and make that message clear. Teach your receptionists, secretaries and paralegals to have a “client service” attitude. Conduct training classes, be a good role model, make it a part of their evaluation. When I hire anyone in our department I look for “client service” skills. I look for large good doses of humility, empathy and kindness. If these skills aren’t present, they usually don’t pass my litmus test. And as I always tell new managers: you have got to check your ego at the door. We are here to serve the lawyers and to serve the clients. Its not an easy job. But then again, that is why work is called “work”.

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7/20/09

Competitive Intelligence in a Web 2.0 World - Part 2: Uncovering the 'What' and 'Who' of LinkedIn

[Note: Another brilliant Guest Post from our unofficial 4th Geek, Laura Walters]

LinkedIn has become the most popular of the professionally focused social media sites, and therefore a goldmine for various competitive intelligence tidbits, sometimes disclosed inadvertently. What I particularly love about LinkedIn is the web you begin to detect between contacts and their current and previous circles of friends and colleagues.

Here’s a brief look at some of what – and who - you can uncover using LinkedIn:

Company Info Bonnie Hohhof over at the Society for Competitive Intelligence (SCIP) gives us a rundown on the company info available:

To start, first Click on the “companies” heading at the top of the LinkedIn page, and you are offered the opportunity to find companies by keyword (can also limit search by country or postal code), by company name, or by industry. You can also get there by clicking on the company name in a person’s LinkedIn record.

Once you’ve identified the company you want to look at, LinkedIn gives you a short description of the company and employee information:

· How many of their employees are on Linked in and a list of their names, titles, and locations from those individual entries. (Provides you a potential list of contacts, locations where the company has a facility, and the types of activities at a location as extrapolated from the titles.)

· A list of their new hires, LinkedIn users who have indicated in their profile that they’ve recently joined this company. List includes their current title, their previous company and title, and how long ago they were hired. (Potential source of information on companies they left, an indication of specific movement from another company, the rate at which the company is hiring new people, and the specific knowledge base of the new hires.)

· Recent promotions and changes, LinkedIn users who have recently indicated in their profile that they’ve recently changed positions at this company. List includes their current and previous titles, and when the change took place. (Where’s the growth ahead in the company, potential dissolution of a specific department and replacement of those individuals in another part of the company.)

· Popular profiles of Linkedin users who are highlighted because they may be actively in the news, referenced in blogs, participating in industry groups, and/or frequently the result of searches and other activities within the Linkedin network. (Identify the ‘movers and shakers’ of the organization.)

A section titled “related companies” also provides additional information:

  • A link to any division or subsidiary company record in LinkedIn. (company organization)
  • Common career paths for the company’s employees – companies they came from and companies they left to. (Companies working in similar areas, potential competitors.)
  • A list of companies that the company employees are most connected to. (People they know and talk to.)
  • The key statistics box gives you a variety of background information on the company.
  • The locations of the company and how many employees with LinkedIn profiles are at each location.
  • The headquarters address.
  • Type of company (public/private).
  • Company size.
  • Last years reported revenue.
  • When the company was founded.
  • The URL for the company website.
  • If available, a link to articles on the company in the popular business press.
  • Common job titles and percentage of employees in each one.
  • The top school employees attended
  • The media age of employees
  • Employee gender split in percentages

A handy box titled “Jobs” lists how many open positions in the company has posted on LinkedIn, a link to a list of those jobs, and then a link to each position’s details. A “news about” section provides titles, sources, and dates for the most recent three articles on the company, with a link to each one. And if the company is public, the page shows basic stock prices.

LinkedIn has partnered with Capital IQ to provide company data.

Legal Intel Shannon Shankstone wrote one of the first articles on the use of LinkedIn for CI in the legal industry for the Marketing the Law Firm Newsletter. She cites a great example of the potential for finding competitor firm client information using the tool:

“A quick search for a well-known law firm listed one of their attorneys as the top result. Although Mr. Lawyer made his connections private, he did not shy away from requesting recommendations. He lists over 40 recommendations, 26 of which are from clients. Some of these clients are (names have been withheld, but are available on Mr. Lawyer's profile):

• A publicly listed hotel and resort corporation;

• A large biotech company; and

• A private equity firm.

At first glance, the CI pro now knows at least 20 of Mr. Lawyer's clients (some clients had more than one person recommending Mr. Lawyer). Were a firm considering approaching Mr. Lawyer as a lateral hire, they would include this information, and an analysis of the clients, to determine if Mr. Lawyer's client base was in line with the firm's business development goals.

If, on the other hand, a firm was competing with Mr. Lawyer's firm for work from a company in the hotel industry, then Mr. Lawyer's recommendations might be leveraged to the CI pro's firm's advantage. While Mr. Lawyer may point to his recommendations as proof that he has delighted clients in this industry, the competing firm may highlight this as Mr. Lawyer having a better relationship with a competitor company.”

Also Noteworthy Way back in 2008 3 Geeks did a posting on law firm alumni groups on LinkedIn. The numbers have no doubt gone up since then, and warrant a periodic search and scan to see what’s new.

There is a blog now dedicated to LinkedIn Intelligence that shares news and updates on LinkedIn technology as well as specific uses for harvesting info.

And there are currently 67 LinkedIn Groups pertaining to Competitive Intelligence. Joining Groups is a way to connect with folks you may not have a mutual LinkedIn contact for (once you join the group and are accepted as a member, just select the appropriate Group as the link to “Add Contact to Your Network”).

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7/17/09

From Revenue to Profits – The Big Shift

Law firms, especially BigLaw, like to talk about leverage these days. We at 3 Geeks have previously posted on various aspects of this discussion, especially as it relates to alternative fee arrangements.
But what are we really talking about when we talk about leverage? I suggest we are actually talking about profit. But just like 'marketing' was a dirty word before firms embraced it: profit is a dirty word now. So instead we talk about "leverage" with some veiled, hoped-for result of sustaining or growing partner incomes. I suppose we do talked about Profits Per Partner (PPP). But this discussion is a ruse since it doesn't really address the issue of profitable work for a firm, but instead is some odd reference to how much money - on average - a partner at a given firm is making. Leverage aside, we are now starting to see a shift in the dialogue actually to "profit." This shift is a good thing. What this shift means for law firms is very important. For all the talk about Alternative Fees - what clients really want is efficient law firms. They call it "value" but this effectively means that firms are doing more for less. Of all the discussions about how things are changing, this point may be the most critical. By shifting the dialogue, the metrics of a partnership will become more about profit and less about revenue. Revenue is what firms have focused on for years. Being able to continually increase billing rates which drove revenue faster than costs has meant firms have enjoyed growing partner incomes. But no longer. Rates are flat while costs are still increasing. So now we start to talk about profits. Initially firms have focused on cost reductions. This approach is a short-term tactic for driving overall profitability of a firm. The next layer of analysis becomes the profitability of types of work, matters, clients and even industries (a.k.a. markets). At this level, law firm profits become a value driver. If firms are measuring and reacting to profitability at the matter level, they shift their attention to being efficient. Now we have client and law firm interests aligned! A major reason law firms have avoided measuring profit at this level is its potential for divisiveness among partners. If you know your partner’s profitability and her compensation and the two don’t match then we have a problem. But I would argue that problem already exists. Firms have had the luxury of avoiding it - but no more. I predict the shift of focus away from Revenue and towards Profit will ultimately be a healthy thing; both for firms and clients. This shift will be a major factor in addressing the concerns clients are raising and will bring healthy business practices to law firms. However in the short run, change will come at a cost.

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7/16/09

The Psychology of Online Privacy

After reading Acquisti and Grossklags’ brilliant paper, “What can Behavioral Economics Teach Us About Privacy?”, I started thinking about how we, as users, engage in protecting our own privacy. Basically, it all comes down to value: how much do I value my privacy? And frankly, my privacy may be more valuable than your privacy. I mean, honestly, if your credit is in the tank or you’ve declared bankruptcy, you may be begging for someone to steal your identity. So the value of privacy is relative. Furthermore, how much we value privacy at any given moment may change, based upon the situation. If that fellow on Match.com who says he’s from Nigeria is asking for my bank account number, I’m telling him “hell, no.” But if that handsome tennis player on Match.com, posing next to a Jag doesn’t ask for my phone number soon, I may send it to him anyways (not really, Mom; it’s just an example!) So value is subjective. We are also more likely to divulge information to sites that give the appearance of security. So if there is a Verisign badge on the site, along with a professional-looking design and a secured log indicated by a an “https”, we don’t mind turning over our social security number. So value is based upon appearances. And then there is what I will call the “Price is Right” effect: given a choice between Door Number 1, which has a free, all-expense paid trip to Maui, or the unknown prize behind Door Number 2, most of us will pick Door Number 1. So, in other words, I am more likely to give my data to a known entity than an unknown entity. So value is based upon experience. Lastly, in what I call the “Garage Sale” phenomenon, consider the price of protecting my privacy versus the value I place on my privacy when someone wants it. Call it the meeting of the minds amongst Ebenezer Scrooge, Jed Clampett and Donald Trump--that's scary. So value is based upon positioning. To wrap this all up, I have only one question: so just how are we going to standardize all of this?

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7/15/09

Competitive Intelligence in a Web 2.0 World - Part 1: Finding Company Employees on Twitter

I got the idea for this multi-part post because Melissa Sachs has taken on the project of trying to find as many people as she can that work in AmLaw law firms that have Twitter accounts (#AMLAWTweeple). It's a great work in progress, and you should go check out the list (and contribute if you know of anyone.)

Scenario: Boss comes in and says (in a voice that sounds a lot like Tommy Lee Jones in the Fugitive) - "I want to know everyone from 'X' law firm that is on Twitter, FaceBook, MySpace, Flikr, YouTube, Bloghouse, Roadhouse, Doghouse, and Outhouse." Okay, that last part probably didn't happen in this scenario, but I got all into the Tommy Lee Jones theme.

In “Part 1” we’re going to focus on finding employees within a law firm that have Twitter accounts.

There are a few 'tricks' I've learned on how to identify people on the Social Web (social media, web 2.0, etc.) that I wanted to share with you. Some are basic, and some require you to have a Law Degree and a Masters in Library Science in order to truly understand them (Hey! Let me justify my dual degree!!). The steps are also generic enough that you can probably alter the scenario to fit any type of company. Just for fun, let's start off big and for our scenario, "X" = "Skadden Arps".

Step 1: Steal what others have already compiled. (In academia I think they call this "research")

Take a leap of faith here with me and trust me when I say that some of this work has already been compiled by others. For starters, I already told you that Ms. Sachs has a list of people from AmLaw firms on Twitter, so let's start there.

Also don’t forget to search Twitter’s “Find People” option for the name of the firm. Most firms missed the boat when it came to reserving their Twitter names, but it doesn’t hurt to look. In this case, we found that there is a @SkaddenArps account (with zero tweets, but with 175 followers that might come in handy later.)

Step 2: Keyword Search Twellow for the firm’s name in the Twitter Bio

Although I’m pretty sure that Melissa has already done this step, I’m going to double-check the Twitter Profiles using Twellow by searching for the word “Skadden” in the Twitter profile, or for the a link to Skadden’s website. This does give me two new names, but when I read their profiles, I see that they are former Skadden employees (I still keep them on my list because they might prove worthwhile later.)

Step 3: Find Twitter Through LinkedIn, FaceBook and MySpace

This step is the one that has worked best for me in finding additional Twitter accounts. We all know that LinkedIn is one of the most used social networking sites by attorneys. But, what you didn’t know is that you can extract information out of LinkedIn (using a search engine like Google) to find things you may not have thought about. The search is pretty simple:

site:linkedin.com Skadden Twitter

I suggest searching this same string in Google, Bing, and Yahoo (just to be safe.) Then redo the search using FaceBook and MySpace (and any other social media site you think would be useful. In this case, the LinkedIn and FaceBook searches uncovered some additional Skadden Alumni, and the MySpace search disclosed two Skadden employees - one secretary and one legal assistant.

Step 4: Search the Twitter Accounts You Found Using TweepSearch.

TweepSearch allows you to enter the Twitter name of someone and then index the bios all of the users they are following or are following them. Once you have them indexed, you can do a keyword search (I tend to use ‘attorney OR lawyer OR “law firm”). Scan the resulting list to see if any of the bios lead you to additional members of the firm.

Step 5: [If You Can] Ask!

Getting on Twitter and sending a Tweet to the names you found asking them if there are others in their firm that are on Twitter can be an extremely easy way of finding additional people. Of course, if you’re doing this confidentially, then this step doesn’t apply.

Following these steps, I found a couple of non-attorney accounts, and about 5 or 6 alumni accounts for Skadden. All of this took about 15 minutes or so to conduct. If I were to really dive into the project and had a few hours to spend, I’m sure I could come up with a few more. At least now I have something to present back to Tommy Lee Jones (er.. my Boss, that is), and you now know a few tricks on how to find people on the Social Web. If you have any additional tips and tricks, let me know.

I’ll start working on “Part 2” where I’ll begin looking at finding people on LinkedIn.

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7/13/09

Legal Research Metrics & Ethics: $499 a Year Or $825 an Hour?

My boss has been prepping for an ITLA presentation on "Reducing Costs of Legal Research: Best Practices Onshore and Offshore" where she's discussing the pros and cons of online vs. print legal research. This is not a new issue, in fact, it has been discussed seriously since about 1994, and I had the privilege of being on the AALL Committee on the Future of Law Libraries in the Digital Age in 2000-2001 where we discussed this very topic. Generally, the discussion has tended to lean toward the idea that online research will trump print research due to the convenience of the format and how the upcoming generation will prefer online over print media.
Then along comes a recession and all of a sudden it becomes apparent that online research is "expensive" and for some forms of research - specifically treatise research - online research doesn't work very well. Take a poll at one of the practice group meetings you attend and ask the attorneys point blank: "When researching in treatises, do you find you are more efficient using the print version of a treatise, or the online version of a treatise?" I'd almost give you 2 to 1 odds that the print version will be the preferred method.
Speaking of treatises, I could probably write a treatise on why we've eliminated print subscriptions over the past 15 years. Issues ranging from duplication, ease of use, user preference, space concerns, and cost of updating have all been reasons used to reduce print and increase online. The implied pledge behind this move has been that once we go from print to online, the firm is committed to the online version. But, I think there are some that are suddenly realizing that the decision to go online only for some types of research tools, such as treatises, was not the best decision in the long run. On top of this, I'm also wondering if there is an ethical line that we've crossed along the way by charging the client back for the online version of the treatise when we would not charge for researching the print version.
Thus, this is where I came up with the title of this post. First of all, is it fair for an online provider to charge a standard rate of $825.00 an hour for an online treatise that you can purchase for $499.00 a year for the full print version? Secondly, is it fair for firms to pass the cost of these online charges (granted, some have deep discounts, so it could only be $100.00 an hour) on to the client when they would not pass along the same charges for using the print version?
To the first question, you could argue both sides of the issue and probably come to a draw. Yes, it is fair to charge the higher rate because you have the benefit of full-text searching, automatic links out to secondary sources, and the convenience of multiple researchers using the same product at the same time. The counter argument is that if the online version isn't easy to navigate, and you end up spending more time using the online version than you would have the print because of the inefficiencies of the online version, then the mark-up in price is not worth it.
Note: When I say inefficiency, I don't mean "training" issues. One of the biggest complaints that I hear when it comes to doing secondary research using items like treatises online, it is not an easy process. The most common complaint is that when researchers use print treatises, they tend to flip back and forth from the index to the place in the book. Although you can "click" back and forth using online, it tends not to be as easy a process, and tends to take much longer to do.
For the issue of passing along the cost to the client, that would probably be on a case-by-case basis for the researcher to decide. On the surface it would seem unfair to charge a client for the online version when you would not do so for the print. My good friend and co-blogger Toby always tells me that "ethical" issues regarding advertising "online" versus "print" can be summed up this way: "If it is ethical in print, it is probably ethical online." I think this can be reworked to fit the idea of charging clients for print research and online research. If you charge for the print, you can charge for the online. If you don't charge for the print, then you probably shouldn't charge for the online version either.

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