If there’s one thing that legal information professionals such as myself love, it’s a nicely curated newsletter of relevant information. There are a couple of new newsletters out there right now that I think the readers of the blog would be interested in subscribing. These are both very well curated newsletters which point out current awareness for legal information, and they are both free. That’s a win-win in my book.

The first one is something that all American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) members have been getting for months now, but is now available to non-members. The KnowItAALL newsletter is maintained by the staff at AALL and identifies current articles of interest to law librarians, and pretty much any others in the legal industry who are wanting to keep up on current events in legal information.

I am a little biased, but I really like this newsletter and find it to be very relevant to my current awareness needs. The other thing that I really like about it is the fact that it identifies articles written by members, or the article features an AALL member. It’s amazing the number of articles out there where law librarians and legal information professionals are involved in one way or another.

The other newsletter is from law professor and overall legal innovation guru, Gabe Teninbaum. Teninbaum has created the Lawtomatic Newsletter which covers article that he finds interesting and thought provoking. The newsletter has four issues as of today and is sent out sporadically, as the right type of content is uncovered. Believe me, if Gabe finds the articles thought provoking, then they are worth a read.

Both the KnowItAALL and Lawtomatic Newsletters are free to subscribe, and contain very relevant information for the legal information professional, and pretty much anyone in the legal industry. I highly recommend signing up for both.

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Without exception, whenever I have seen a General Counsel (GC) asked about law firm email newsletters, I have witnessed the exact same response: Immediate Anger. I witnessed this recently at the COLPM Futures Conference. When the email newsletter subject came up with a panel of GCs, the angry responses ran the gamut of:

  • Delete, delete, delete.
  • These are on subjects I don’t care about.
  • I receive a flood of them whenever my company gets sued. Nice try.
  • The subject lines are meaningless to me. Why would I open these?

So these newsletters are not worthless. Calling them worthless would be too kind. Instead they are relationship poison. So why do firms send them?

In defense of legal marketers, I believe this is not their doing. Having been in that role in the past, I know that partners insist on the current approach. To highlight the frustration – partners insist on subject lines that violate every reasonable marketing standard. Subject lines are 50% of the reason someone opens an email. They need to be short, relevant and attention-getting. A lengthy and technically accurate sentence in a subject line is therefore plainly a bad idea. But partners insist on this approach because they think clients will be impressed with their legal acumen and command of the English language.

The message is clear from clients: Stop sending these. Yes, they would find short, targeted (as in sent to the right type of client and lawyer), actionable, valuable legal updates from their firms to be useful. However, the current crop of quasi-law review emails they get have negative value.

Lawyers: You hired marketing professionals – let them do their jobs. Your clients will obviously appreciate it.

One of my favorite news aggregation resources is InfoNgen (pronounced: “Info-Engine”). I’ve been using it now for almost two years, and have found it to be an extremely useful tool in tracking current news on companies, topics, industries, and more. Recently, InfoNgen added a couple of features that improve the resulting newsletters as well as making access to existing newsletters and alerts easier for the end users. I don’t want to say that I deserve all the credit for these additions, but I will say that I did suggest they add these features a while back. Regardless of who deserves the credit (me)… it really makes it a better product.

Meta-Tags In Your Newsletter

The reason I asked that meta-tags be added to the newsletters was so that the reader could get more information about the story before he or she clicked any further. For many of the readers, it might be that they are looking for information on a specific company/client and finding that information listed as part of the synopsis of the story would influence their decision to click through and go to the actual story. The folks at InfoNgen added the feature to include selecting all or none of the meta-tags available, ranging from internal meta-tags that you’ve set up, to the basic company, industries, regions, countries, and states tags.

This is a nice feature that allows for additional information to come through the newsletters without any additional manual effort on my part, and at the same time, it doesn’t clutter up the newsletter. The end results are clean and effective.

Self Sign-Up

The next feature added to InfoNgen lately is the self sign-up option for anyone in your network to add or remove themselves from existing Alerts and Newsletters that you’ve set up to share. They call it the Self-Service Portal, or SSP. So, anyone with your company or firm’s email address can register with InfoNgen and set up an end-user account. They will then see a list of all the Newsletters and Alerts that you’ve made available (you select which ones they can see, and which ones they cannot see), and they can sign themselves up for the alert or newsletter. For the alerts, they can even set their own times for the alerts to be delivered. For the newsletter, it adds them to the regular distribution time.

This is another nice feature to add to the product for a couple of reasons. First, it gives the end-user more flexibility in what types of alerts or newsletters they are receiving. Second, it helps promote the service that the library or marketing departments are offering in setting up current information awareness resources. To further this goal, I suggest that when you notify the end users that they can sign themselves up for newsletters or alerts, also let them know that if there is a topic that they do not see on the newsletter or alerts page, that one could be set up for them.

InfoNgen is a subscription based product, and we’ve talked about them and their competitors before. Whether you call them news aggregators, discovery engines, or listening platforms, these resources are extremely helpful in pushing current awareness information in front of your end users. Many law firms are evaluating these products and finding unique ways of setting up results ranging from broad topics down to individually specialized results, librarians and marketing teams are leveraging these tools to push current, relevant information to others within their firms or companies.

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I have to say that I’ve never been a big fan of the Client Alerts and traditional newsletters that law firms package up and send out to clients. Not because they don’t have relevant information, but because they tend to be poorly managed, and clients view them more as SPAM because they tend to be inundated with the same information from multiple law firms… usually all at the same time. I’ve even joked with General Counsels about the number of Client Alerts they get when the US Supreme Court comes down with a major decision. Unfortunately, it seems that firms love creating the client alerts and the practice group newsletters that go out to hundreds (thousands?) of clients each month, week, or day. So, since we seem to be stuck with them, is there a way to make them more relevant, or at least stand out in the crowd? I’ve looked over a “tips” list from Bloomberg’s Speed Desk and have attempted to modify them to fit the client alert/newsletter functionality we use in the law firm environment.

Tip 1: Don’t Send on Heavy News Days
Your “news” will have to compete with all the other news that is out there. Do a little research before sending and determine what are the busy news cycles for the industry your clients are in, and determine what times are lighter news times than others. Here’s an even better tip: If you know it is really important for specific clients to be informed on news that will affect their industry… pick up the phone and call them.

Tip 2: Don’t Send on the :00, :15, :30, and :45’s
Everyone sets up those news feeds to email out on the typical quarter hour increments. Be original, send them on the :07’s or other off-peak times.

Tip 3: Keep it Short and To The Point
You’re competing for the attention of someone very busy. Don’t waste their time. In fact, the Bloomberg tip was to keep it shorter than 65 characters (that’s half a Tweet!!)

Tip 4: Put Your Firm Name Up Front
Let the client know who you are. The idea that Bloomberg uses, that might apply to these client alerts, is that you want the reader to place your firm’s name in relationship to the topic.

Tip 5: No “Cute” Headlines
Keep your headlines to the point without attempting to “bait” clients into clicking on something only to find out it doesn’t really fit the content of the alert. Being cute may trick them the first time, but it will probably end up with them not trusting you, and sending all your other newsletters and alerts straight to the trash folder.

Tip 6: Place Good Contact Information on the Alerts
Know when you are sending out the alerts, have good contact information on those alerts, and be prepared to answer the phone calls or emails if the client responds to your alerts.

Tip 7: Man the Phones
The whole idea behind these alerts and newsletters is to drive business. If you send out an alert at Noon and then you take off for lunch, then you better have put your cell phone number on the alert.

(Note: if you just shook your head at these last two suggestion because you have never had a client respond to a newsletter or alert, then you have bigger problems than any of these seven tips can help you with. If that is the case, then I have only one tip for you: Stop Sending Out Client Alerts and think of better ways to spend your time in order to get your clients’ attention.)