I am usually one who believes if you need to tell someone you are valuable, you probably aren’t. However, I want to pile on with Heather Morse and others for legal media writers to stop using the term “non-lawyer” when describing legal professionals who work on the operations side of law firms. It’s just plain lazy writing, and you can do better.

Heather’s post, Husch Blackwell’s incoming CEO is a professional, not a “non-lawyer,” lays out the argument that there are lawyers in law firms, and there are professionals who are in the business of running a law firm. The old way of running these law firms usually meant that one or more of the law firm partners also ran operations. However, as firms grew, that method was challenged by a more traditional business structure of having those trained in management and business operations running the administrative structure of the firm, and letting the Partners set the strategic goals of the firm, and get back to the practice of law.

I get it. It’s an easy phrase that simplifies the wall between a licensed attorney who is practicing law, and an administrative professional who is handling the day-to-day operations of the firm. However, as Heather Morse puts it, it “does a disservice to all of the firms that are being run as businesses.” I’ll stress again, it’s also pretty lazy. Just read the title of the article that is invoking Heather and other legal industry professionals to call for a removal of this phrase. Please, read it out loud to yourself:

Husch Blackwell’s Next Leader is a Newly Employed Non-Lawyer

Now take a drink of coffee to wash that taste out of your mouth.

I’ve checked “non-lawyer” usage with other publications, like Bloomberg Law Big Law Business, and noticed that the term is typically only used when it is describing ownership by someone who is not a licensed attorney, or when advice or counsel is coming from someone who is an expert in the field, but not a licensed attorney. It can be done.

My request for all the legal industry writers out there is for you to take the phrase “non-lawyer” and throw it away. Be a little more creative when you announce a new CEO of a law firm who happens to be a business professional with vast experience. Focus on what he or she brings to the firm, rather than if the person can or cannot practice law.

LexisNexis representatives are sending out notices that they are now the exclusive provider of The New York Times content for the legal market. For those of you that are keeping score, this adds to LexisNexis’ exclusive content with Factiva (which includes The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones News Service), and ALM content. It would seem that LexisNexis is doubling-down on the news content area.

Here is the message that went out earlier today.

LexisNexis® is now the exclusive legal information provider of The New York Times® content to the legal market!

This agreement extends LexisNexis’s position as the leading provider of premium news content to the legal market. Highlights of our unmatched collection of news and current awareness sources include:

  • LexisNexis is the exclusive legal information provider of The New York Times content to the legal market.
  • Law360® is exclusive to LexisNexis, providing breaking news and analysis.
  • LexisNexis is the exclusive online third-party provider of ALM® news publications—including titles such as The American Lawyer®, The National Law Journal® and Corporate Counsel®—and the only provider of its publication news archives (more than six months old).
  • LexisNexis is the exclusive provider of Factiva® content to the law firm market, offering access to North American English sources, including The Wall Street Journal® and Dow Jones News Service.
  • LexisNexis provides more than 26,000 News & Business Sources from 4,000+ Publishers, with many exclusives, in over 150 countries and 21 languages.

The New York Times, as well as our other news exclusives such as Factiva, The Wall Street Journal, and ALM, will continue to be available through LexisNexis® Publisher and via our Moreover/Newsdesk product (releasing in Q2). Newsdesk is the only aggregator/monitoring tool that will be able to deliver this content in full text.

Image [cc] travelin’ librarian

I’m going to paraphrase an Archimedes quote – “Give me a big enough database, and I’ll forecast the world.” In a way, that is the ultimate goal for those of us in the Knowledge, Information, and Intelligence profession. We have a deep craving and expectation that if we just had all available information in a database, combined with acquired knowledge of how to interpret that information, plus an advanced algorithm to pull it all together, we could predict what is going to happen next. For those of us in the legal span, we think of it in smaller chunks of “who do we need to hire?” or, “what can we forecast as legal exposure for our clients?” However, we are not the only ones that believe that “if we could just compile all of the data, we could actually predict the future.”

According to an article on the BBC News website, that idea may not be as unobtainable as you might think. The US government, through its Open Source Centre, combined with BBC Monitoring and numerous online news resources may be blazing a trail in finding a way to predict the future through data analysis. Although it is much more complicated than this, here is the basic formula they are feeding into a supercomputer:

x 100 million articles
x automated sentiment
x geocoding            
  Predicting Trouble

The Supercomputer (Nautilus at the University of Tennessee), processed all of these articles (legally obtained through agreements, or available on the open web), added in a factor of “sentiment” (positive or negative tone), and put a geographic location on it and voilà… trouble can be predicted.

Now, at this point, I’ve got two competing ideas jumping around in my head.

  1.  Is this simply a “Monday Morning Quarterback” Issue?
  2. Could this be a huge deal and produce the next “WestlawNext 2.0”?
Let me take the Monday Morning QB issue on first. Does this simply allow us to have an “aha!!” moment by looking back on the data, and then plugging in the additional pieces of information that we didn’t have before the major event happened? Kind of like what we all did when the Enron fiasco happened, and then we all started looking back at the “signs” that something bad was about to happen. In other words, it all looks so clear when you look back on it, because you now know what happened. 
On the other hand, let’s say that this really is something significant, and we finally figured out a way to predict events with about the same accuracy as we predict the weather. If that’s the case, then think of all that information that the big publishers and news outlets like Thomson Reuters, Reed Elsevier, McGraw-Hill, Wolters Kluwer, etc. are sitting on, and just think of the possibilities they could do with the “Predicting trouble” formula. That thought makes me concurrently excited, frightened, and discouraged. I’m excited because there is an amazing potential in helping forecast events, trends, legal issues, etc. I’m frightened because this puts a lot of potential power in the hands of these corporations. I’m disappointed because I know that none of these corporations will actually do anything with it unless they can figure a way to corner the market and profit substantially from their efforts. 
I’m actually leaning toward believing this is all a Monday Morning Quarterback issue. It just seems that without the actual information of what the “event” is, then what you’re left with is an incomplete formula that simply helps you narrow down a guess to an educated guess. As a person that still holds on to that dream that with enough information, and the right tools to process it, we really can predict the future… it would sure be cool to see if we could test this formula out on some massive information databases and test out this hypothesis.

The saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. The same could be said of information/media/current awareness in a law firm. We can lead our lawyers to the content but there is no way to ensure they read …or is there?

We are currently in the process of evaluating media and social media aggregators, some of which include very savvy dashboard platforms and delivery mechanisms. Others of which, include sophisticated social media analysis tools. Some of the products that we or others I have spoken to are considering include:

The evaluation criteria we have mashed-up includes but is not limited to:

  1. Easy to use interface for publishing/editing 
  2. Users (or their proxy) can manage own profiles
  3. Content can be pushed to email, RSS or Microsoft SharePoint
  4. Content is archived and searchable for later use
  5. Aggregators incorporate public info, paid subscriptions, social media and internal commentary
  6. Provides free content or access to content 
  7. Offers a trial 
  8. Price – is it by topic, by firm size, # of curator or another other mechanism 
  9. Provides training 
  10. Has a good industry reputation 
  11. Has other law firm clients 
  12. Provides on going support 

Firm needs will determine the weighting of these criteria but is there anything we’ve left out? Are there other products or issues to consider? And if we provide it, will they read it??

Recently, I had a unique experience of being privy to “insider information” on a hot-topic issue that ran on the front pages of major newspapers across the country. In a way, watching news story after news story come out, it was kind of like being in the middle of a sausage factory, watching it all being made, and being a little disappointed in the process. Without going into any details (my blog is my personal endeavor and I try to keep it that way), I have to say that my eyes were opened at some of the laziness of professional reporting, and my experience has made me think twice about accepting what I read in major news sources simply because they are major news sources.

Here are a few things that I saw that I would have thought were questionable tactics from reputable news sources:

  • The same story getting “repackaged” and “re-titled” over and over again within the same week. I noticed this actually came from the same parent company owning a number of different news titles and needing to fill space. Perhaps one benefit from this was that some of these resources were regional in scope, but most, if not all, were Internet resources, so the story was still accessible to everyone with a web browser. The problem really came from the fact that it looked like the story was presented as being somehow different from the initial story, but when you compared them, it was simply a reprint with a different title and publication date.
  • Reporters quoting other reporters as “facts”. This isn’t new, but it was interesting watching one reporter quoting the story written by another as part of their “fact gathering” process. Most of the cross-quoting was taking pieces of the initial reporter’s conjecture and twisting it into an assumed fact. It was like watching a game of “Telephone” and seeing how it morphed over and over again as the next reporter added another layer of conjecture to the story.
  • Research based completely on what was available on the Internet. I know that the days of Woodward and Bernstein meeting with Deep Throat in a car garage are over, but I at least expected reporters to pick up a phone, or meet with a source in person before writing a story. Instead, what I saw was reporters taking press releases, sending out a “can you give me a quote” email to one or two people, and then writing the story without interviewing a single person. For goodness sake, Above the Law does a better job talking with insiders on a story than some of the most respected newspapers in the country. I watched as reporters chimed in on the comments section of their story saying that they sent an email, but are still waiting on a response. However, I guess in this day of being “first to print,” no one really has time to get out and talk with anyone anymore. After all, if that person does respond, that means a follow-up story can be written and a one-day story can turn into a two-day story.
I guess I expected better out of the corp of professional reporters. I know that they constantly complain about the tactics that the blogosphere takes in running with a story without doing any serious research on the issues, and injecting conjecture into the story in such a way that you can’t really tell what parts are facts versus what parts are conjecture. In this case, however, I watched as a number of professional reporters did the very same actions that they despise from bloggers. 
Ethics and solid professional processes of reporting are two of the most important aspects that hold professionally trained reporters and the sources they work for above the fray of the blogosphere. If professional reporters decide to take short-cuts with those two processes, we all suffer the consequences. I expect better, but I fear that I will just continue to be disappointed.

I received a call on Monday afternoon telling me that a friend of the family had been killed while crossing a busy intersection near my house. I tried to find out what happened through the local media, but all I could find from the reporters was a statement that a woman was struck and killed by a garbage truck and no other information was available pending notification of the family.

After checking back an hour later, I did something that I really didn’t want to do… I checked the “comments” section below the online story. What I found showed the power of web 2.0, and both the good and the bad that comes with that power.

From the comments I learned that she was on a bicycle, in the bicycle lane at a red light. She went straight, while the garbage truck made a wide right-hand turn and didn’t see her in the bike lane. Although the results of the accident were tragic, through the comments, the reported story, and from my own personal knowledge, I now had enough information to piece together what had happened. That was the “good” part of Web 2.0 – people on the scene giving accounts of an awful event.

Then came the “bad” part of Web 2.0.

One of the reasons that I hesitate to read comments on news stories like these is that people with no relationship to the story, hiding behind anonymous screen names, decide that what this story needs is their opinion to be heard. To make it worse, their is almost a competition between commenters of who can get the most “thumbs-up” or “thumbs-down” on their comments from other readers – the more “opinionated” the comment, the more “thumbs-up” or “thumbs-down” they receive.

A “savvy bicyclist” decided that this was a “teachable moment” and explained that what she should have done was put her bike half-way into the car lane instead of staying in the bike lane. This caused a reaction from another commenter to state how they’ve seen a bunch of “local apartment dwellers” on bikes carelessly cross that intersection and they are not surprised that this happened at all.  Quickly followed up by another commenter that said that idiotic pedestrians are crossing against the red light all the time, and this is probably what happened (although they had no idea if that was true.)

So there I was… facing the “good” and the “bad” of news + Web 2.0. I got a better understanding of what happened – and that was good. I also saw the contempt of the community toward something that they had no understanding of, but still held out their opinions as though they did – and that was bad.

None of the commenters knew that if the young mother of two had made it across that intersection that she would have reported for her first day at a new job. None of those commenting knew that it was her son’s birthday. None of those commenting had to come home tonight and tell their children that their friend’s mom died today. None of those commenting had to watch their own children Facebook chat with a grieving friend who said that she’d be out of school for a while until after her mom’s funeral.

In a Web 2.0 world, everyone has the ability to share their comments with the world. Most of the time I would give it a thumbs-up… but I have to admit that I don’t feel as good about it right now.

Seems there are a lot of “First To Market” believers running news aggregators. That became apparent when not one, not two, but three different news aggregators launched “beta” versions of their products to the public this week. I’ve been playing with two of the aggregators – Google News Timeline and NewsSift. The third product, SkyGrid, launched a media blitz (Scobleizer, Washington Post, and TechCrunch) about how they were opening up their product, but in my opinion fell flat on their face when you later learned that it was a private invite only, and apparently I couldn’t get my invite in fast enough. If anyone at SkyGrid wants me to do a review of the aggregator, then send me one of those valuable private invites!!

Let’s look at Google News Timeline:

Visually, this immediately appeals to me. I like the columns set-up, with each column representing a different date. Video and images are build right into the results, and it is pretty easy to see what information you have at your fingertips. The video pops right up on the screen and plays without having to launch to another webpage. I’d like to see the images do the same. Currently, the images are pretty small, and if you click on them, you launch to another page.
Search options seem to be consistent with typical Google News searches. You can search for keywords, phrases, etc. Plus, there are some advance search options that you can select — such as specific news sources, dates, blogs, magazines or media type.
Google News Timeline is a great “start”, but I’d like to see more. The very first thing I’d like is the ability for me to send a search result to someone. Currently, I could not find a way to send a link to a search result (but, if I’m wrong, please let me know.)

NewSift is a product from the folks at FT.com. Right away you can see what they are trying to do with the search tool by breaking down five different categories along with the search term text box. Enter in a term like “Banks”, and you get some suggested categories to either use, or add to your search. I like that it is set up to be “suggestive” and that it doesn’t actually take over my search by putting the additional categories in automatically. I’m hoping as the product matures, there will be more topics available based on the terms you enter. For example, I put in the term “lawyer” and I get no suggestions in Business Topic or Place categories.
The search results are very clean and easy to interpret. The results do not contain video or images like you see in the Google News Timeline, but do give you some pie chart information that breaks down the results by six different categories. The charts then give you an opportunity to narrow the results by clicking on individual categories. This type of post-results filtering reminds me of the way Factiva results work. You can also expand, refine, or remove portions of the search without having to recreate your search from the beginning.
NewsSift also allows you to send a results link by copying and pasting the results URL. So, a researcher can do a search and send it on to the requester pretty easily. There isn’t an RSS option, but I’m hoping that they add that at a later date.
As for SkyGrid:
There’s a section set aside for a review here ______________. (Although, Martha Sperry did a review of the product over on The Advocate’s Studio.
Go out and test them! If you have any other aggregators that you use, please list some of them in the comment section below.

The AP announced yesterday that it was going to take “all actions necessary” to stop ISPs from pirating news content and streaming it across their sites, raising copyright concerns about the terms of “fair use”.

In an attempt to save their tumbling profits, hold off bankruptcies and defend their current business models, the newspapers are going for the big guns/deep pockets.

Its like watching dinosaurs fight with cockroaches.

Did I just say that?

This is the worst kind of defense in the war of survival of the fittest. Don’t these newspapers realize that they are fighting for their existence? Its like the captain of the Titanic trying to use his compass to gain his bearings as his ship sinks down into the deep, icy waters.

The AP is now reversing a decision they made 10 years ago that allowed ISPs to use their content for free. Now AP claims to be developing a rights-managed system that will rival Google and Yahoo’s news channels.

I think it is all too much a little too late.

More than 14,000 journalists have been laid off over the last 2 years. Just where do the newspapers think these journalists went–perhaps online to write news content?

The AP just announced war.

Brave, perhaps, but misguided. Because someone is going offend them and then the AP is going to sue an ISP and waste what precious money they have left paying for lawyers, law firms, discovery, trial time and appeals.

If all those laid off journalists were smart, they’d start their own, independent news source and sell their services to Google and Yahoo. Now there’s using your noggin!

Because you know that this war isn’t going to end well.

Time Inc. has developed a 10-week experiment called Mine that will allow subscribers to pick their content and publish it in the requested format. The magazine is free, but limited to 200,000 online subscribers and 31,000 print subscribers.

Similar to your customized Google page, your pods of information are printed in one publication.

Couldn’t you imagine a daily newspaper like this? Honestly, I never read sports sections, horoscopes or grizzly news. But I always read international, business and lifestyle news. Oh, and the funnies.

If I could get a daily, customized newspaper that had monthly features from my favorite magazines: Wired, InStyle, Entertainment and Harpers, how much would I pay for that???

Hmm. That sounds like a very attractive package to me that I might be willing to lay some serious bucks down for . . .

Online media is replacing print media. It is a fact that PR agencies need to embrace.I hear talk about how PR agencies look to more reputable “papers” before they look to online pubs for the top news stories.But, think about it: where do readers go first when they hear about news while at work?Do they all run en masse to the local news stand 40 floors below them? Do they all run home and turn on their tv? Do they run to their car and turn on the radio?Oh, no, my little grasshopper. . . they go online!It is a fact that was reported by all online mediums. Last week, “Obama Rocked the Web,” according to AdWeek:

On Jan. 20,CNN.com Live served more than 26.9 million live video streams globally and 36.7 million streams overall. According to CNN’s internal data, that figure is more than five times the previous record of 5.3 million live streams set on Election Day last year, which at the time was record shattering.

PR agencies need to wake up and smelled the coffee. Every major paper now has its own blog where they are breaking their own stories.More and more major papers are letting go of their print publications and turning to online media. One of the most well-respected papers in the U.S., the Christian Science Monitor shut down their print publication and are now completely online. Joining the online ranks are the Kansas City Kansan, San Francisco’s AsiaNews and both Detroit newspapers–the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press.Face it, when the advertising dollars flee to online–as they already are–the papers will follow.They already are. The smart news mediums use one to leverage the other. Some are just hanging on to their denial.
Addendum: one of my online friends–thanks UTROUKX!–sent me this 1981 video.