12/31/09

2010 – The Year of Understanding AFAs

For Alternative Fee Arrangements (AFAs) 2009 was a year of awareness. Although there are some clients and firms more involved in utilizing AFAs, the vast majority of lawyers are just getting their toes wet on this issue. All of the talk and debate has been over whether firms should use AFAs. At 3 Geeks we believe a general consensus is being reached on the fact that AFAs are here to stay and will only increase in use and application. Which brings us to 2010. Now that we’ve all agreed that AFAs have value, we need to understand where and how they fit into the business of law. Specifically we need to figure out: 1) Which types of AFAs are best applied to varies types of matters and cases, and 2) How do we re-structure and re-staff to make these engagements efficient (for the client) and profitable (for the law firm). For instance, at the beginning of a litigation there are numerous unknown variables. Fixed fees don’t make sense for a client or a firm in this situation. All of these unknowns create high risk. For clients there is a risk of paying too much. For firms, the risk is not charging enough. So clients and law firms will need to sit down and find or create AFAs that fit a given situation. It will be these conversations that bring understanding to the table. 2010 will be the year the legal industry does the heavy lifting on AFAs. We can move past the debate and get to work on developing pricing models that make sense for both sides. This will be the year we begin to understand AFAs and make them useful tools for clients and law firms.

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12/30/09

Foursquare and 7 Days Ago: A Business Proposition

I played with Foursquare over the long Christmas weekend and will continue to do so through out this week. I am determined to unlock its B-2-B potential. For the uninitiated, Foursquare was started by five New Yorkers who wanted to keep tabs on their bar-hopping friends. It combines friend-finding and gaming capabilities. Launched in February on Friday 13th at SXSW, Foursquare is a way to track friends and rack up points for moving from venue to venue. By checking in through Foursquare, the site tracks your movement throughout the day. Foursquare can report this info not only to Foursquare friends but also to Twitter and Facebook. For each new venue you add to Foursquare you get points. Each time you check in at a venue you get points. When you make consecutive visits you get points, with the possibility of becoming "mayor". I happen to be the proud mayor of 2 locales--I am on my way to an Houston monopoly. When you post on consecutive days you get points. Plus you unlock badges for accruing points--a "newbie" badge, an "adventurer" badge. You get the point (HA! I made a pun :) ). Now I can see why a retailer or consumer business would want to make sure that they were listed on Foursquare. Popularity translates into sales. Unlocked badges could lead to coupons. It makes sense for venues to make sure that their businesses are listed and its employees are engaged. But for B2B, I don't think businesses want other businesses to know who has been visiting them. Especially in light of corporate intelligence and espionage. Law firms would be even more adverse to displaying this sort of information. Now what could be interesting is to have an internal version of this technology available within the firm, showing where staff and attorneys are at any given time. But then it all begins to get a bit "big brother"-ish. But, then, this app is that way anyways. I am beginning to think that these "kids" have no sense of what privacy means. Of course, these are the kids that grew up with "Girls Gone Wild" and "Facebook". What was I thinking?

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12/29/09

Mobile Sites Save Lives

After reading Don Crowther's blog, It's Nearly 2010, Why is the Mobile Web So Frustrating?, I just had to chime in with my own thoughts. In fact, I was just railing about this very matter at lunch with Toby, a/k/a @gnawledge. This week-end, I wanted to buy a pecan pie for my sister's dinner party. Knowing that Goode Co.'s pecan pie is the best one on the planet, I wanted to find the most convenient restaurant to my trans-Houston commute to Clear Lake. So, doing what I do, I pull out my blackberry and do a Google's voice search for "Goode Company". Note: if you don't know what I mean by voice search, go immediately to Google Mobile. Now. Your searching life will be changed for ever. Anyway, I find the Goode Company web site on my blackberry and open the site. Now I am trying to navigate on their web site to find a phone number--any phone number. I know enough to hit my blackberry's menu button to dial the number. Except what drives me bananas is that if the web site, in an attempt to be memorable, uses letters instead of numbers, I am screwed. Not only will my blackberry not read the telephone number, I can't manually dial it because the number pad does not show the corresponding letters and I have to remember that A=2, 7 has 4 letters and o does not equal 0. Once I have placed my call, the restaurant manager gives me the phone number to the store that I want. Now I have to memorize the number so I can punch in the number once I hang up phone. I dial the number to the restaurant I really want and he gives me directions. Which I have to memorize. Its a good thing I know my way around Houston because if I needed to punch in the address into Google Maps, I would be dead by now from a car wreck. Yes, I was texting and driving. Sue me. Its not illegal in Texas. Yet. ---- Note: 19 states have banned texting while driving: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois (eff. 1/10), Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire (eff. 1/10), New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon (eff. 1/10), Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia

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12/16/09

Law Firm Libraries & Marketing - Working Together

I just finished reading a piece (PDF available here) by one of my favorite law firm Competitive Intelligence gurus, Shannon Kay Sankstone. Shannon and her co-worker Charlotte Graesser Henderson from Quarles & Brady explained the need for the Library/Research staff within a law firm to work in tandem with the Marketing department. I like how Shannon and Charlotte broke the issue down into four areas and identified what the library and marketing each brings to the table.
  1. Collaboration: Understand Marketing Team Pressures Law firm Marketing departments have probably never been under as much pressure to find new potential clients, respond to as many RFP's, and identify cross-selling opportunities as they are right now. Collaboration between the library and marketing teams is extremely important in order to get the best information in front of the right people, at the most critical time.
  2. Workflow: Anatomy of a Research Request For many firms, the Marketing department tends to be the "point-person" on questions being asked and the information that needs to be produced. However, the resources and expertise on how to answer the questions tends to be housed in the library. Just as with collaboration, there also needs to be communication between the researchers and the marketers. On top of that, the "deliverables" needed are very "marketing" focused, and are different than what library researchers are used to producing.
  3. Efficiency: The Real Definition There is a number of specific requests that the Marketing department may ask of the library. The key is to develop simple approaches, such as standard templates, that can get the best available information back to Marketing in a way that doesn't involve numerous back and forth emails. Once both Marketing and the Library have an understanding of what is expected from each department, the process becomes much more efficient.
  4. Moolah: The Budget Reality Check Both Marketing and the Library need to realize that the "business development" portion of what the firm does, is almost always considered "overhead". In many cases, though, the cost of the business development research charges gets passed along to the Library department. So, everyone needs to be aware of the true cost that the firm is paying for the business development project. The closer that the Marketers and the Librarians work together, the easier it is to understand what it will costs to deliver a final product. Librarians can point to alternative (lower-cost) research tools, and the Marketing team can determine when it is necessary to spend money versus when it isn't necessary.
Almost all of these issues are "communications" issues -- but then, when you think about it, almost all problems are "communication" problems. Take a look at the full PDF article as Shannon and Charlotte go into much better detail on how the two departments become an efficient and effective tandem.

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12/15/09

Wait, Don't Bury Them... These Blogs are Still Breathing!

Last week, I poked a little at some BigLaw blogs that had seemingly died from neglect. The posting got some attention around the Blogosphere, and over the next couple of days I got some phone calls and emails from some of the firms I listed as having "dead" or "dying" blogs. The general consensus from those that contacted me was "Crap!" and "Geez, Greg... you should see them scrambling around here to bring these blogs back to life!" So, I thought that after a week or so, I'd go back through the list to see which ones hit their blogs with the "defibrillator paddles" and brought them back to life. And -- viola -- there were a couple!!
As it turns out, neither of these blogs were from the people that contacted me right after the initial list came out. Hopefully, this means that there will be more that will come back from the grave.
Some other updates
  • Nixon Peabody's Financial Recovery Blog is now a password protected site. Maybe they decided that it could only live if placed behind the protection of a firewall??
  • Saul Ewing's Climate Change blog now points to one of those generic "we're sitting on your URL name, but will sell it to you for enough money if you want it back" sites. It was also removed from their list of publications from their website.

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12/11/09

Social Media is Nothing New

I have been doing social media for a very long time.

I and my fellow 3Geeks, @gnawledge and @glambert, were talking about this after our Twitterview with @AlinWagnerLahmy. We all three realized that we had been engaging in social networking for nearly 20 years.

In fact, I distinctly remember back in 1992 spending an entire law school spring break on Prodigy.

Social networking isn't new. I t has been around since the very first introduction to the internet. Just like Alexander Graham Bell, the first sign of life on the internet was an communication between UCLA and Stanford computers in 1969. And that certainly was social--the internet was built in response to the threat of USSR dropping bombs onto the US. Not exactly friendly but certainly social.

Through the internet, I have met people from all around the world. As I like to say on my job, I have traveled "virtually" everywhere.

Currently, I have a core group of online friends that I have known via my personal blog for a number of years. Their demographic range is wide and their perspectives are unique. About the only thing we have in common is our love for reading, writing and learning.

And that, I think, is the key to a wonderful online relationships: a love for witticisms, repartee, the written word.

It was funny when Toby, Greg and I were in our twitterview with Alin. We each had our own laptops and were each responding to the questions she peppered on us. We are all three very fast typists. So I think, too, that is a necessary element.

I have a passion for social media. To folks that don't get it, I often say, "its like having pen pals."

But I think a better description is that each of my online relationships is a little window into another part of the world. I often wonder, while I am sitting here typing whether my friend @pretentiousgit is walking the London rain or @gibslong is hanging out at his favorite St. Louis coffee shop or whether Simona has settled on her Masters program at Berkley.

So don't have the mistaken idea that social media is going away. It has been here a lot longer than you may have realized. And you don't have to play on it. But if you want to fully engage in the legal profession's marketplace it is as important a channel as direct mail or mobile phones.

A whole generation has been raised with this stuff.

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SLA Name Remains - Comments From Texas Members

Back in October, I wrote a post about the Special Libraries Association vote seeking to change the name from SLA to Association of Strategic Information Professionals. The vote came in yesterday, and the members rejected the name change. The debate surrounding the name change was very 'spirited' to say the least. It seemed that there were three factions that popped-up as soon as the name was announced, those for, those against, and those who were ambivalent. If you followed the discussion on Twitter, you'll see that the "for's" and the "against's" had very strong opinions on the name change.

When I saw the news yesterday morning, I asked the members of the Texas Chapter of SLA (I happen to be the President of this chapter until the end of this month) to discuss how they thought the process of the name change was handled. Below are the comments, and they are very telling. The majority of the comments tended to focus on the fact that this process was too much "top down", not enough debate was given to the SLA membership on the name change before it came up for a vote, and the "ASKPro" acronym was a fatal mistake.

While it may look like I'm beating a dead horse here, what I'm actually trying to do is what I've heard called an "Autopsy Without Blame". It is time for the leadership of SLA (which I am a part of) to review the comments from the membership and determine what we could have done better, and what we'll need to do in order to move on with an Alignment Project that is still in full swing. This has to be done in a way that is absent blame, and devoid of personal feelings. There's still a lot to do, and if we can't take away a lesson from this part of the project, we may find it very difficult to succeed in the next phases of the alignment project.

Perhaps the best thing to remember while reading these comments is the feeling in the very last comment - I'm glad [this part of the alignment project] is over"!


Here are the comments. The "Header" was created by me as a quick synopsis:

Acronym Show SLA HQ Put “Horse Before the Cart”

I think the two biggest challenges that our Association created for themselves was using the acronym when initially selling the name as ASKPRO is said aloud and fast can lead to much less desired outcomes or thoughts. The other issue is something that seems to be problematic yet has been an issue with Headquarters since I have been in SLA, and that is they tend to put the cart before the horse.

Even though I know if you paid attention you knew this name change initiative was moving behind the scenes, there really was not that much in your face marketing to the overall association until after the mailing saying we were voting. Then and only then did you see the blitz of communications explaining the reasoning and development of how we got to this place. Totally backwards. I think if they had included more people other than the few emails I am sure I saw at some point or been more open in the discussions I believe there would have been a better chance.

The same issue existed in 2003 over the last name change process, they brought that up at the closing meeting of the annual conference when most people had already left.

HQ Did Fine - Now Focus Should be on Helping Members Strengthen Their ‘Value’

I don't have any problem with the way the organization handled the name change issue but I hope we don't have to go through this again for the next few years. The most important issues for the organization are helping our members strengthen their value, effectively communicating the value of our members to the outside world, and watching out for legislation that undermines our ability to do our jobs.

The Vote Was Rushed - More Time Was Needed to Discuss Drastic Name Change

Upon hearing about the SLA name change results, I immediately thought about the time and effort put into this name change proposal and the voting in records numbers. Personally, I think there must have been some type of "gap" in the process leading to the findings of the Alignment Project. Why do I say this; the bulk of the SLA people I spoke to were against the "drastic" name change. Probably SLA should have paid more attention to findings / fact discovery within SLA members. I must admit that I am not totally aware of the process, but I truly hope this was not the case. Thus, we can take these proposal results as lessons learned for future developments.

Name Change was Poorly Handled - Leadership Came Across as ‘Snarky’

I thought they handled it poorly. A lot of the posts by [the SLA leadership] appeared to be a bit too snarky for my tastes. It was as though dissension was not to be tolerated. I had a personal one from [one leader], after I forwarded a post to our listserv, maligning the fellow who's email I had forwarded.

Too Much Time Was Spent on this Issue

I'm very disappointed that so much time was spent on this issue. I am not sure if there was a popular vote on whether the name should be changed at all? Speaking for myself, I would like to see materials / handouts / seminars - maybe? promoting the value of Special Library services available for dissemination by SLA. I think it would add weight to arguments in favor of keeping / supporting Special Librarians.

Midcourse Correction on ASKPro Showed Poor Planning

I didn't read every communication about the name change, but I had the impression that SLA started out calling it Askpro, and changed mid course. SLA's communications should have been better planned. It probably wouldn't have made a difference in the vote results, though.

Name Change Should Have Been Better Vetted by Members

I am a long-time business researcher who had a career diversion and recently returned to the fold. I read many thoughtful comments about the name change. It's very interesting to read about the C-level surveys and perceptions. My primary comment is that the proposed name failed because it did not come from the membership and was not fully vetted within the membership before the name was introduced.

Augment Current Name with “Knowledge Professionals”

My idea is that we do what other organizations have done, be just SLA and have it mean nothing. Many organizations (e.g.NAACP) are moving away from words to just the letters. We could add a hyphen— and be SLA- knowledge professionals. This would be a compromise and have meaning.

A Slate of Options Should Have Been Offered

I voted for AskPro simply because SLA is problematic in our business world. SLA means Service License Agreement. Anything with Library is a negative for our management. We dumped our collections 6-7 years ago because of a dispersed employees and real estate costs. I’m not excited about AskPro – it sounds too much like Ass-Pro. It would have been better to have a slate of 4-5 options with a ranking option.

Time to Put the Name Change Behind and Move on to Important Issues

I must say that I think that the issue of the name change was a challenge for the organization, one of which I am hopeful it can recover. Within the past few months the name change and other decisions made on behalf of the members (some without member consultation) have, in my opinion, and I am sure the opinion of others, wasted time and created unnecessary division between members and the organization.

To that end, I think that the method of information dissemination this morning was most unimpressive. Everyone who was eligible to vote on the name change should have received your e-mail on the name change from SLA.

Those who voted, and even those who did not, should be thanked for their participation. Had you not graciously forwarded it, I would have not known the results right away.

In addition, for as much time the organization dedicated to the "selling"

of the name change on the SLA website (site real estate space included), I am disappointed to see the announcement at the very bottom left of the screen this morning.

Also, I realize that this effort to change the name was important to some, and with no disrespect given to those who participated in sparking this endeavor, I think that when an announcement is sent out about a vote, the word "fail" should not be used when first describing the results. As far as I am concerned, either way, the vote was a success. SLA has the opinion from 50 percent of its eligible voter that we would prefer for the name and integrity of the organization to remain the same.

Let us now focus as an organization on those things that are truly important in these times such as networking, continued education opportunities and maintaining the rich and known profession of "Librarianship".

Process Was Too “Top-Down”

Being fairly new to SLA, I was able to view the process more as a detached observer than an impassioned member. What I was amazed at was it seemed to come out as a very top-down, “here is what we decided” statement. At first I thought this meant SLA was run by the main office and the members would just approve it. This was very quickly disproved! After that, it really seemed more adversarial, an us/them mentality.

Assuming that the main office knew that the membership was not going to rubber stamp the proposal, I think they did an extremely poor job of presenting the new name and “selling” it. Once they blew the initial announcement, I think it was all over. There was nothing they could do to convince people otherwise. If they had done a clearer job of presenting the new name, explaining all the reasoning, not used the acronym, and cajoled people kindly, the vote may have been different.

I voted against it for two reasons:. I personally didn’t like it, and I didn’t sense that most members did either. If I had gotten the feeling that the majority of the members were for it, and it was truly for the good of the organization, I would have voted for it regardless of my personal feelings since I am such a new and tangential member.

It seems that the name change is a crutch (no one will respect us as long as we have our current name). Now that it has been defeated, the alignment project will have to move on with more concrete, actual plans for improvement. This is a good thing.

Leadership Was Not Prepared for Name Change ‘Firestorm’

I voted against it because I didn't like the name choice, not to mention how it was handled. I think they should have put it to an earlier vote with members, using something like SurveyMonkey. I don't think they realized the firestorm they were creating.

I am, at the end of the day, a dealer in information. Information builds knowledge management systems. So I felt pretty strongly that information needed to be a key element of the name, not strategic knowledge.

And I've never had a problem explaining what a special library is. It's always been a great segue way into what it is that I do.

The Term ‘Libraries’ Turns on the Light Bulb - ‘Strategic Knowledge’ Does Not

My take on the Name Change rejection remains the same as my comments below indicate prior to the vote. Yes, I'm in an academic setting, but a specialized academic medical setting. [My type of] libraries are always in danger of being eliminated, esp. on the corporate level (an SLA realm) as those we assist don't understand that a Library isn't just books. They also don't have a clue what 'strategic knowledge' or 'information specialists' would do to help them other than with technology, i.e. computers. We currently have to explain what SLA means and when we get to 'Libraries' the light bulb goes on and the questions are asked.

So my questions remains 'what now?' What do we have from Align 09 that will help us promote our service definitions to the administrative, human resources, and general populations of our employers?

‘Regular Members’ Were Not Advised on Name

I hated that proposed name; also felt not enough of the 'regular members' were advised of all the proposed name choices!

Name Change Is Needed - But ‘Process’ Poorly Handled

Let me say at the outset that I fully support the alignment process and agree that the SLA moniker is outdated and should probably be changed. At the same time, however, I must admit that I have lost a little faith in the SLA board/leadership over the name change.

First of all, "ASKpro" was chosen ass-backward. It was patently obvious that the acronym drove the name selection and not the other way around. Somebody thought ASKpro was clever, and I can only surmise that group-think convinced everyone else that it was clever too. So, it was disingenuous at best for the leadership to come back later and tell us that "it's the name not the acronym" that we were voting on."

Such a suggestion not only insulted my intelligence, but also felt like a ploy to ram a badly-handled process down my throat (i.e., when it started to look like the name change might fail over the acronym alone). It seemed like leadership egos (and "sunk costs") rather than membership best interests started to influence communication about the name change.

And what the heck is a "strategic knowledge professional"?

This name made me very sad. It revealed to me just how much we don't get it and how much of an inferiority complex we must have in our profession. Talk about trendy, buzzword soup. Notwithstanding the fact that the phrase "strategic knowledge professional" is a jumble of meaningless nonsense, as an organizational name, it would have become outdated much faster than SLA ever did. It makes me think that if we had gone through this process in the mid-nineties, we would have been voting on a name that included "total quality" or "kaizen" in the title. Ridiculous.

In addition, "strategic knowledge professional" says all the wrong things about us. Engineers, lawyers, doctors, computer programmers, corporate executives, etc. are all "knowledge professionals," but you don't see them calling themselves that. They are proud of their professions and don't seek to cloak them in ambiguous-sounding nonsense. Lawyers are lawyers. Business schools are business schools.

In contrast, "strategic knowledge professional" makes it sound like we are embarrassed by what we REALLY do and feel the need to make ourselves sound important because deep down we don't think we are important. It smacks of euphemisms like "sanitation engineer," if you know what I mean. Maybe we are not all "librarians" anymore, but "strategic knowledge professionals" is not an acceptable alternative.

If I were to ask a stranger what he did for a living, and he were to say "strategic knowledge professional," first, I would laugh, and then I would write him off as not to be taken seriously. How this simple heuristic did not dawn on the board/leadership of SLA is beyond me.

ASKPro Killed the Name Change

Even though SLA said we weren’t voting on the acronym, once it’s out in the ether you can’t take it back.

Leadership’s Message Smelled of ‘Groupthink’

I don’t think that either the leadership or the consultants got input from the membership. And I think there could have been much better names to choose from. I’m with my [colleague’s] suggestion – SLA Knowledge Professionals.

There was also a whiff of message control and groupthink coming from the leadership that did not sit well.

I’m glad it’s over with.


With that... time to review, digest, adjust and then move on to the next steps!

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12/10/09

"Lessons From the Courtroom" (2009) Frank Jones, Esq.

In the interest of full disclosure, the author of Lessons from the Courtroom is retired Fulbright partner, Frank Jones. That said, Lessons from the Courtroom articulates a clear-eyed view from the defense bar. Writing from over 30 years of experience at Fulbright & Jaworki, Jones demonstrates why he was a successful litigator, weaving stories and examples into a clear outline of the litigation process. Covering discovery, witness preparation, voire dire and the trial itself, it made me wish that I had read such a clear cut book during my early career--it would have saved me a lot of head aches and late nights. What I didn't expect from this book is a historical perspective of the development of the litigation process that Jones witnessed during his career. From the oral theatrics from famed Texas cowboy litigator Joe Jamail to the myriad of e-discovery issues, Jones cuts across these issues with the simplicity that explains his success as a litigator. Jones teaches, in his quiet, patient, simple tones, where to stand in the court room, how to defuse a difficult witness and how to prepare your closing argument. A deceptively easy read, I would highly recommend this for all law students who are interested in becoming a litigator. You may purchase Lessons from the Courtroom at Amazon.com.

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12/9/09

List of 73 "Dead" or "Dying" BigLaw Blogs

[Note: Sometimes... they come back!!] Last year about this time, I pushed out a list of blogs that were written by attorneys or others within BigLaw firms. Out of curiosity, and somewhat of a response to Jim Beck and Mark Herrmann at Drug & Device Law, I thought I'd review the list that both I put out and the great list that Kevin O'Keefe put out on BigLaw Blogs and see which ones no longer exist.
After going through the two lists, and reviewing 200+ blogs, I found 73 that were either flat out dead, or were dying through the lack of recent posts. I defined "dying" as the lack of any blog post for at least a month. Perhaps labeling a blog as "dying" just because there hasn't been a posts in over a month may be harsh, but that's my guideline and I'm sticking to it!
There are a few on here that are dead for good reason (e.g., the firm no longer exists.) There are a few on here where the attorney moved on to other jobs and left BigLaw behind. And, there are a few that were clearly "short-term" blogs designed for a specific purpose.
One of the things that I was very impressed with when reviewing the 200+ blogs was the fact that most of these blogs were very active. In fact, many of the active blogs had posts that were put up this morning. And almost all of them had at least one post in the month of December. Although here is a list of BigLaw blogs that are dead or dying... there are still plenty more out there to enjoy.
Law Firm Blog Name Date of Last Post
Alston & Bird Securities Litigation Blog 9/15/2009
Arent Fox AdvertisingLaw.com No Longer Available
Baker & Daniels Climate News Live 10/21/2008
Blackwell Sanders Fair Use Blog 11/2/2009
Blank Rome Maryland Intellectual Property Law Blog 8/25/2009
Bracewell & Giuliani Financial Industry Task Force Blog 6/16/2009
Bradley Arant Mississippi Law Blog No Longer Available
Davis Wright Tremaine Corporate Finance Law Blog 8/18/2009
Davis Wright Tremaine Digital Media Law Blog No Longer Available
Davis Wright Tremaine Telecom Law Blog No Longer Available
Davis Wright Tremaine Washington Construction Law Blog 8/18/2009
Epstein Becker Greene Executive Women's Networking Blog 10/27/2009
Fox Rothschild Employee Free Choice Act Blog No Longer Available
Fox Rothschild Tax Litigation No Longer Available
Frost Brown Todd Ask the Legal Pro No Longer Available
Frost Brown Todd Employer Notes Empty
Goodwin Procter KM Space 3/4/2009 (End of Blog)
Goodwin Procter Real Estate Space 2/23/2009 (End of Blog)
Holland & Hart Climate Change Law Blog 9/23/2009
Holland & Hart NASD, SEC and Regulatory Defense Blog No Longer Available
Hughes Hubbard & Reed White Collar Crime Blog 5/21/2009
Hunton & Williams Reasonable Basis No Longer Available
Ice Miller Agribusiness Blog 2/8/2008
Ice Miller Daily Dose of IP 4/30/2009
Ice Miller Indiana CEO Survey 10/9/2008
Ice Miller Indiana Trailblasers Blog 11/26/2008
Ice Miller Japan Trade Mission 9/12/2007
Ice Miller Life Sciences Blog - Harry Gonso 2/24/2009
Jeffer Mangels *Started on firm* "Avanzado Law Firm" Entertainment Litigation Blog 8/18/2009
K&L Gates Texas Non-Compete Law Blog 5/16/2009
Kilpatrick Stockton EFCA Updates No Longer Available
McGuireWoods Suits in the Workplace 9/23/2009
McKenna Long RFID Law Blog 10/15/2009
Michael Best & Friedrich From Russia With Law 5/4/2008
Morris Manning & Martin Open Source Law Blog No Longer Available
Nixon Peabody Financial Recovery Blog 4/8/2009
Perkins Coie More Soft Money Hard Law 8/21/2009
Quarles & Brady Summer Associate Blog 7/6/2009
Reinhart Deliberations - Law, news, and thoughts on juries and jury trials Announced End of Blog on 11/23/09
Saul Ewing Climate Change 8/17/2009
Saul Ewing New Jersey Zoning Watch No Longer Available
Sedgwick, Detert, Moran & Arnold Legal Technology Blog 8/28/2009
Sheppard Mullin Advertising & Promotions Law Blog 9/15/2009
Sheppard Mullin Bankruptcy & Restructuring Blog 10/16/2009
Sheppard Mullin Covering Your Ads 9/15/2009
Sheppard Mullin ESOP Law Blog 4/7/2008
Sheppard Mullin Fashion and Apparel Law Blog 10/29/2009
Sills Cummis & Gross Redevelop NJ 10/14/2009
Sonnenschein Health Care Privacy Law Blog 8/3/2009
Sonnenschein ICDP Blog 10/30/2009
Stinson Morrison Hecker TechKnowledgy 10/23/2009
Thelen Reid Climate Law Update No Longer Available
Thelen Reid Daily News Blog No Longer Available
Waller Landsen Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (EESA) Forum 6/23/2009
Waller Landsen Executive Compensation 10/15/2009
Waller Landsen Healthcare 6/17/2009
Waller Landsen Investment Scams 6/12/2008
Waller Landsen Payment Systems 6/12/2008
WilmerHale Anne McLaughlin's Blog No Longer Available
WilmerHale Julie Smolinski's Blog No Longer Available
WilmerHale Kevin Chambers' Blog No Longer Available
WilmerHale Ross Firsenbaum's Blog No Longer Available
Wilson Sonsini Semiconductor Law Blog 10/18/2009
Wilson Sonsini Silicon Valley Media Law Blog 4/8/2009
Wilson Sonsini Startup Company Lawyer Blog 7/20/2009
Womble Carlyle China Practice Blog 10/9/2009
Womble Carlyle Commlaw - Mass Media 4/10/2007
Womble Carlyle Commlaw Source 5/15/2008
Womble Carlyle Community Development and Affordable Housing Blog 2/18/2009
Womble Carlyle Construction Industry Blog 7/20/2009
Womble Carlyle Fair Labor Standards Act 9/19/2009
Womble Carlyle Non-Compete and Restrictive Covenants Blog 10/27/2009
Womble Carlyle South Carolina Appellate Law Blog 12/13/2008

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12/8/09

Making Copy: 5 Simple Rules for Becoming a Better Copywriter

I am back on my writing bandwagon: lawyers should leave copywriting to copywriters. I will never forget the first law firm invitation that I made for a lawyer. We went through at least 20 versions and agonized as to whether to use the words "invite" or "cordially invite." An invitation. An invitation that would be read once. An invitation that would be read once and then thrown away. Of course, I am the exceptional lawyer who can write good copy. ;) Why? Because I was trained as a journalist and as a writer long before I ever went to law school. Because of that very experience, I did not do very well in my legal writing class—a badge of honor in my book. Here are my 5 basic rules for writing good copy:
  1. Do not write a sentence that is longer than two lines.
  2. Drop all adverbs. Any word with “-ly” is superfluous. If you can not write well enough to invoke descriptions without using adverbs then you need to practice more.
  3. Use an active voice. What does this mean? Instead of saying, “The Firm was given The Best Law Firm in the World award by the Two PR Professionals and a Dime Organization,” say “The Two PR Professionals and a Dime Organization gave the firm the The Best Law Firm in the World award.”
  4. Do not use legalese, unnecessary capitalization or Latin. Enough said. If you don’t know what I mean, then you really do not need to be writing your own copy.
  5. Do not use exclamation points. Okay, lawyers never use exclamation points. But marketers love to use them. Exclamation points are too cutesy, too redundant and too lazy. If you want to excite a reader, write exciting copy. An exclamation point does not transmit excitement, even if you are Yahoo! (maybe that should be especially if you are Yahoo!).
These are just a few of my rules for writing. If you want to read an excellent book on how to become a good writer, I would suggest Stephen King’s On Writing—a splendid how-to book on the craft. And be patient with yourself. It takes a very long time to write a good, short sentence. As the famed journalist A.J. Liebling said, "I can write better than anyone who can write faster, and I can write faster than anyone who can write better."

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12/7/09

Google Scholar & Legal Research - Focus Remains on "Scholar"

Last Friday I had a chance to talk with Google Scholar Chief Engineer Anurag Acharya. The 90 minute talk (recast available via The Law Librarian TalkBlogRadio) answered a lot of technical questions about Google Scholar Legal and Online Journals (SLOJ), but it was some of the unanswered questions that I found interesting. First of all, let me address the questions that I'm sure a lot of you have been asking:
"Can Google Scholar Legal and Online Journal replace my Westlaw or Lexis content?"
My answer: "Absolutely Not!"
In fact, the people at Google would tell you the same thing. It is just not what they are planning to do with this product. Now that I got that out of the way, let me explain what I learned in the interview and you'll see why I'm not confident in SLOJ competing with Westlaw, Lexis, or even the upcoming Bloomberg Law (which I'll call "Wexisberg").
Not Enough People on Project
First of all, Google Scholar has three people. Not just on the legal portion of Google Scholar, there are three people total on the entire project. Maybe you're saying to yourself that since Google is a search engine, maybe three people are sufficient on a project like this. In my opinion, three of the smartest legal database people in the world, combined with the power of Google might make a great resource tool for legal research, but not a competitor to the existing Wexisberg products.
No Legal Research Experience
This brings me to the second reason that this project won't compete with Wexisberg. None of the three people that Google Scholar has on this project have a legal research background, and at most are only familiar with some of the basic principles of how legal research is conducted. They are super-smart, highly educated folks with out of this world mad skills on creating great ways of searching and retrieving vasts amounts of information using the simplest of searches. But, they are not legal researchers, nor do they claim to be legal researchers. This project is focused on the way "Scholarly" research is conducted, not how "Legal" research is conducted. Again, Google SLOJ is not claiming they are... but, I know a lot of people who wish they would!!
Focus is on Improving Search Not on expanding Content
Throughout almost the entire interview, Anurag Acharya talks about how they are focused on making the search results better. The content found in Google SLOJ was either purchased or leased from third party vendors. Google specifically said that they would not disclose who they got the cases from, but Anurag did say that this vendor would also update the cases as new decisions were released. However, there are no immediate plans to expand into areas such as statutes or regulations because of the dynamic nature of such publications. Google SLOJ is sticking to the cases, and the legal scholarly work (law journals, etc.) only because these are viewed as static documents that do not change once they are published.
No API Will Be Offered
The fact that Google does not have an API to interface with Google SLOJ, nor does it plan to develop an API, is not surprising. My guess (and that's all it is... a guess), is that the agreements between Google and the third-party providers prohibit Google from using an API to distribute any of the documents it indexes. Now, if some ingenious Geek somewhere were to develop a pseudo-API that would allow you to tap into Google SLOJ through another product.... well, that's another story for another time....
Google SLOJ - Enjoy It for what It Is
We've all become used to using Google to do 'quick and dirty' research. Google SLOJ is another piece of the total Google search universe. It is there to get you something quick... something free... and sometimes will be exactly what you need to answer a research question. However, it is not a Westlaw or Lexis replacement. If you try to view it as such, you're going to be sorely disappointed. That doesn't mean that it can't get better. In fact, one of the best things I came away from the interview with was an email contact that librarians can used to submit suggestions on how to make Google Scholar better. If you see something that needs work, or have a comment or suggestion on how something could be better, shoot an email to scholar-library@google.com. Maybe, if your suggestions are good enough, you could be that fourth person on the Google Scholar team!!

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12/3/09

Fishing the Social Media Ocean

Yesterday, the 3 Geeks all got together for a Twitter-style interview hosted by MH Connected's Alin Wagner-Lahmy. Although it is hard to get a serious answer out of Toby, Lisa or me, there was something that Alin asked that made me think of how I monitor the enormous amount of information that comes in via "social media" sites. Alin wondered how we find the time to monitor all of the information coming at us via social media sites. My response was that I simply stand beside the river of information with the hopes of catching something good as it swims past. Although, I specifically called it the "river of Twitter" it could actually stand for anything that is Social Media related.
I'm actually pretty lucky in that as a law librarian, my job is to "fish" the river of information at my disposal and pluck the right piece out of that river and turn it over to the appropriate person at the right time. Sometimes, through the addition of analysis, I get to clean and fry the information I caught and serve it as a meal. This isn't anything new for librarians or research analysts. We've been doing this for a long, long time now. The thing that is new is the format of the information, and the vast quantities of raw information that is available.
At one time, the information was limited to the stream in our back yard -- books we owned in our library. We would stock this stream ourselves with a few select breeds based on what we absolutely needed to feed ourselves. Occasionally, we'd fish in our neighbors' streams when we desired something that we hadn't stocked in our own.
When the information went "electronic", we decided that the stream in our back yard just wasn't enough. We needed to fish in the big lake that was stocked by others and we'd buy the rights to pull certain types of information as much as we wanted. We'd also be able to fish for other types of information, but we'd pay a substantial price for it. While we were still stocking our local stream, over time we began reducing the diversity of the information, relying more and more on what we could pull from the big lakes we paid to fish in. It was expensive to fish for information this way, but it was stable, dependable, and we understood where we needed to fish in order to get certain breeds.
Lately, there is an ocean of social media information that we've started fishing in. That ocean is stocked for free by millions and millions of people, and very little of it is something we need to catch. However, there are isolated areas in that ocean that contain some of the information we truly desire. Tasty bits of exotic information that you'd pay a premium for in the lake, or even types of information that aren't even available to stock in those lakes and streams you've been fishing for years. The problem is finding the tasty pieces of information in an ocean that is mostly stocked with the inedible type. This is where your experienced information fisherman are most valuable.
Just as you would hire a local guide when you travel to an unfamiliar river, pulling information out of the social media ocean takes experience, patience, and the ability to know what can and what cannot be pulled from that ocean. One of the key things to remember is that this ocean is not a replacement for your local stream or lake. Instead, it is just another place to fish for information. An experienced information fisherman will understand when to fish in the local stream versus going out to the ocean; when it is better to pay a fee at the lake to quickly find the right type of information versus gambling on catching fresh or exotic information that may be found for free in that ocean.
The information stocked in the ocean of social media is diverse and plentiful. But, that doesn't mean that everything is edible... actually, far from it. So, be wary of those standing beside the ocean that say everything you want is found in the ocean, because it's not. Also, beware the salesman beside the lake that say he can stock whatever you need in the lake, because he cannot. Nor should you attempt to live only on what you've stocked in your local stream. You'll find that catching the same breed of information over and over again can become stagnating.
There is value in each of these fishing locations, none of which completely replaces the other. The key is in expanding your information resources without forgetting what is stocked in each.

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12/1/09

AFAs: Inputs vs Outcomes

I thoroughly enjoyed Steve Levy’s ITLA web seminar this Monday on Legal Project Management. Of course the subject of Alternative Fee Arrangements (AFAs) came up and the inter-connection between them and legal project management was discussed. A noteworthy point from Steve was the need to focus on outcomes. He highly recommends that any legal project developed a thoughtful ‘done’ statement which clearly describes what it means for the project to be … done. By doing this you focus your resources (inputs) on getting things ‘done.’ To illustrate the point Steve shared a classic economics story about how the Soviet Union measured success by the amount of inputs being used and not by the outcomes. Factories were rewarded for using materials (inputs) instead of supplying needed products (outcomes). His point is that trying to change outcomes by tinkering with inputs is not a good approach. If you want a different outcome, start by re-defining that, not by fiddling with the inputs. To their misfortune, law firms reward inputs. And you get what you reward – in this case billable hours. Although clients are rightly upset with this situation, they are equally culpable as they focus their attention primarily on hourly discounts and lower billing rates as a means for changing the outcomes. If clients truly want to change this situation, they should follow Steve’s advice and shift their attention to outcomes. Tinkering with rates and hours may save a little money in the short run. But if they truly want to change things, lower their costs and drive value, clients will need to sit down with law firms and redefine their outcomes. Happily there are some exceptions and good examples for clients who get this. But the vast majority are currently content to ask for discounts and rate freezes. Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” Clients and law firms would do well to heed the advice of Steve Levy to focus on outcomes and in the process avoid the insanity described by Mr. Einstein.

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