Archive for November, 2009

Print media must evolve

Posted on November 30, 2009. Filed under: New Media 101, Portability, The times they are a'changin' |

Drlogo11

This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Print Media Must Evolve.”

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Print Media Must Evolve

One of my favorite social media gurus is Gary Vaynerchuk. He really knows his stuff, and presents information in a format —video —that is universally appealing. Vaynerchuk has a personality that is larger than life and his enthusiasm for his passions —wine and social media —is downright contagious.

I’ve been a hard-core fan since I discovered his vlog —video blog —a little over a year ago. In my opinion, the man is brilliant. I was thrilled when he released his first book, “Crush It,” now a New York Times best seller, and had every intention of buying it. I truly wanted to buy it, but I held off because I knew I would never actually read it.

Not because I didn’t want to read it, but because lately I’ve had a difficult time reading “paper” books.

Before you shake your head in befuddlement and begin to mutter about the negative effects of technology, allow me to explain. When the Amazon Kindle was first released in November 2007, the idea of reading a book on some sort of newfangled electronic device seemed unappealing and unnatural. I dismissed the Kindle as some sort of fad that never would catch on.

Then, I bought an iPhone. My life has never been the same. I kid you not: The iPhone changed the way I look at, and interact with, the world. It’s hard to remember how I functioned without my iPhone tucked snugly in my purse, within arm’s reach at all times.

About six months ago, I discovered the Kindle app on my iPhone. I downloaded it, along with my first eBook. It wasn’t the ideal platform for reading a book —an iPhone screen is substantially smaller than a Kindle screen —but it wasn’t as horrible as I’d thought it would be. In fact, it grew on me.

After a while I preferred the format over that of a regular book. It was portable, easily navigable and the electronic books were cheaper than the paper versions.

Fast forward to two weeks ago, when I discovered Vaynerchuk’s book, “Crush It,” in the iPhone app store in “vook” format. (A “vook” is a book that integrates video clips into the text, and can be viewed either on an iPhone or computer Web
browser.)

I purchased and downloaded his vook and began reading. It was fabulous! As I read each chapter on my iPhone, I intermittently viewed supplemental videos. Vaynerchuk was right there with me, explaining his vision and thought processes as no one else could. A few days later I downloaded a cookbook, “The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen,” by Eric Gower, and watched the author prepare the recipes included in the vook. I was a vook convert.

A week after discovering Vaynerchuk’s vook, I sat down for a cup of coffee and absently reached for a magazine. As I did so, I found myself wishing it was in the vook format.

Suddenly, it all clicked.

The future for print magazines is offering readers an ad-free, subscription-based magazine in a digitally-accessible format that uses video and interactivity. In other words, provide a variation of a vook, accessible online, on mobile devices and on ebook readers such as the Kindle and Nook.

The magazine’s Web site could be ad-supported with articles and video clips, but the vook version would be a seamless interface, easily navigable with supplemental videos. So, for example, a travel magazine would include videos of various locales; a
beauty magazine, videos showing how to apply make up; a cooking magazine, videos of the food being prepared; and a technology magazine, videos of various devices being tested.

A few days after I conceived the concept, I learned Condé Nast had just announced it was in the process of creating a workable concept for digital magazines, and that “Wired” would be the first to appear in that format. The digital format would be for use on Apple’s yet-to-be-announced, and long-awaited, Tablet and possibly mobile devices, using Adobe technology. Videos were not mentioned as part of the interactive digital format.

I think the format will become mainstream within two years if magazine publishers ensure the digital versions include video, are ad-free and are accessible on e-book platforms and mobile devices. Like books, people want to take their magazines with them in an easily portable format, rather than be tied to a computer.

Some may balk at first, but eventually will embrace the technology. Rest assured, portable digital media is the next wave in the evolution of the dissemination of information. Magazines and newspapers will evolve into a digitally-accessible format or cease to exist.  There’s simply no other option.

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Change is good

Posted on November 24, 2009. Filed under: Cloud computing, Collaboration, Portability, Practice Management, Social Media, The times they are a'changin', Web 2.0 |

Drlogo11This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Is cloud computing really less secure than the status quo?”

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

*****

Change is good

Last week I attended on a press pass the Canadian Bar Association’s “Law Firm Leadership Conference.”

The conference’s theme was “Change Management” and, accordingly, the focus was on ways in which law firms can innovate, and thereby alter, the course of theprofession.

One of my all-time favorite legal scholars, Richard Susskind, spoke at the conference, one of the main reasons I chose to attend it. I’m very glad that I did. All in all it was an enjoyable and educational conference, and I left Toronto with a number of thought provoking issues to ponder.

First, should the leaders in our field be benevolent custodians or jealous guardians of the profession? When phrased that way, the answer seems obvious: Of course we want to be benevolent custodians with only the best intentions, carefully making choices that will improve our profession for the generations that inherit it.

The reality, however, is just the opposite. Lawyers tend to carefully guard the profession and are reluctant make changes that might alter the way things have always been done. We revere precedent and distrust change. As a result, we cling to the past, making decisions about technological changes and innovation that ultimately harm our profession in the long run.

That is a mistake since, as Susskind aptly noted, any lawyer who takes the time to research emerging technologies would wholeheartedly agree that these new platforms fundamentally change the practice of law. Attorneys who deny that fact are reacting emotionally, rather than intellectually.

New technologies have the potential to radically alter the ways in which legal services are delivered to consumers. Forward thinking attorneys are embracing virtual law offices, law practice management cloud computing platforms, social media and collaboration tools. Innovative practitioners understand the importance of using knowledge management to alter the consumer experience first, and the law firm’s systems second.

There has been much talk in recent years about pricing legal services differently, including the death of the billable hour and the increase of flat fee services. As Susskind stressed, however, the key to change is to deliver legal services effectively and efficiently. Ultimately, it boils down to delivering value to legal consumers by working differently, rather than through pricing services differently.

The key to working differently is the use of emerging technologies. To do so, the legal profession as a whole must embrace technological change. Attorneys must make it a priority to learn about and understand new technologies, then incorporate them into their practices.

As another conference speaker, Patrick Lamb, noted, law firms must change their culture. That’s not simply a matter of using one or two new technologies, but a matter of changing attitudes. He emphasized that law firms’ youngest members are the key to accomplishing the attitude makeover required.

Generation Y attorneys are less attached to the status quo. They are part of the connected generation and grew up with the Internet. For them, it’s not business as usual: They understand how to use the new technologies and are not averse to change. These attorneys are the future and the inheritors of the profession. Law firms should be generous benefactors and give their younger attorneys the opportunity to lead the charge to change.

Because, as we all must understand —change is good.

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Is cloud computing really less secure than the status quo?

Posted on November 16, 2009. Filed under: Cloud computing, Practice Management, The times they are a'changin', Uncategorized |

Drlogo11This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Is cloud computing really less secure than the status quo?”

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

*****

Is cloud computing really less secure than the status quo?Cloud computing, defined at Webopedia.com as the “sharing [of] computing resources rather than having local servers or personal devices to handle applications,” is a buzzword that has many lawyers up in arms.

For an even better description of cloud computing, watch this Common Craft video online at http://www.commoncraft.com/cloud-computing-video.

Examples of cloud computing used by many lawyers and their clients on a regular basis include Gmail and other Web-based e-mail services. Many platforms and services available to attorneys for use in their law practice that are cloud computing-based include practice management and document management software.

Cloud computing critics decry the trend of using cloud computing services in law practices. One of the main criticisms is that cloud computing may result in the loss or disclosure of confidential client data. Such concerns certainly are valid, and most certainly there are a number of issues that need to be addressed.

I would argue the security risks posed by cloud computing platforms are far less than the systems currently in place in most U.S. law offices. If the majority of law offices began using cloud computing services in their practice, client data would be far more secure than it is now.

Despite coverage in the mainstream media suggesting otherwise, the vast majority of lawyers are solo practitioners.  According to a 2006 report issued by the New York State Commission to Examine Solo and Small Firm Practice, more than 83 percent of New York attorneys are solo practitioners; 14.7 percent work in offices of between two and nine attorneys, and only 1.8 percent of attorneys work in large firms with 10 or more attorneys (See http://www.nycourts.gov/ip/solosmallfirmpractice/index.shtml.)

In other words, nearly 95 percent of New York lawyers work in very small law offices. The vast majority of those small firms don’t have IT support on staff, and most lawyers in those firms don’t know the first thing about computers.

Undoubtedly those attorneys continue to use systems and software from the late 1990s —at least, that’s the case in many law offices I’ve visited. Their anti-virus software is antiquated and their practice management software, if they even have it, has never been updated because most attorneys are too busy practicing law to bother with that “computer stuff.” Many don’t understand the importance of updating software and the security issues created when security patches are not installed.

For the vast majority lawyers, as long as their computers are basically functional, it’s business as usual because, as we all know, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

I would argue these law offices —like the vast majority throughout the country —are walking security hazards. Anyone with minimal computer skills and a passing interest in hacking into a law office’s computer system could do so in a heartbeat.

Cloud computing providers are newcomers to the legal software market. Their products aren’t perfect, but they are responding quickly to concerns raised regarding security and other issues. The cloud computing providers that offer software services host the software and data at extremely secure facilities with high levels of bank-grade encryption and update their programs automatically. The attorneys using the services no longer need to worry about these issues and are, in my opinion, in far better shape security-wise than they were before they began using cloud computing services.

Discounting the technologies by using scare tactics and rhetoric is short-sighted and harms the profession in the long run. Cloud computing technology providers are receptive to feedback and continuously adapt their products to meet critics’ legitimate concerns. While the technologies may not be perfect, they are improving rapidly and are a much better alternative to the current computing status quo at most law offices.

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Does cloud computing compromise clients?

Posted on November 9, 2009. Filed under: Cloud computing, Practice Management, The times they are a'changin' |

Drlogo11This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Does cloud computing compromise clients?”

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Does cloud computing compromise clients?

I predict that within about two to three years, lawyers in most jurisdictions will communicate and collaborate with clients using some type of an encrypted network.

A number of states, including Massachusetts and Nevada, already have passed laws or regulations requiring certain types of confidential data to be sent electronically only via encrypted communications. More laws of that nature most certainly will follow, both at the state and federal level.

In my opinion, such laws —most of which apply primarily to financial institutions —ultimately will incorporate some of the types of client information contained in attorney-client communications, in large part because of rising concerns due to recent large-scale data disclosures.

In fact, that type of data breach is one of the primary reservations expressed by lawyers when considering whether to implement cloud computing platforms in their law practice.

A recent federal court decision fanned the fire, causing many attorneys to decry the use of cloud computing and assert that doing so violated the very basic obligation to protect confidential client communications and data.

In a decision issued last week by the U.S. District Court for District of Oregon, in In re U.S., Nos. 08-9131-MC, 08-9147- MC, the government argued successfully that it need not notify the account holder regarding a warrant served on the ISP holder of the e-mail account. In reaching its decision, the court gave lip service to the concept that e-mails are entitled to Fourth Amendment protections, but then stated:

Much of the reluctance to apply traditional notions of third-party disclosure to the e-mail context seems to stem from a fundamental misunderstanding of the lack of privacy we all have in our e-mails. Some people seem to think that they are as private as letters, phone calls, or journal entries. The blunt fact is, they are not.

In comparison, however, see footnote 7 from the October Memorandum and Order issued by the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, inU.S. v. Cioffi:

One preliminary matter is not in question: The government does not dispute that Tannin has a reasonable expectation of privacy in the contents of his personal e-mail account.” See U.S. v. Zavala, 541 F3d 562,577 (Fifth Circuit 2008) (‘[C]ell phones contain a wealth of private information, including emails, text messages, call histories, address books, and subscriber numbers. [The defendant] had a reasonable expectation of privacy regarding this information.’); U.S. v. Forrester, 512 F3d 500, 511 (Ninth Circuit 2008) (‘E-mail, like physical mail, has an outside address ‘visible’ to the third-party carriers that transmit it to its intended location, and also a package of content that the sender presumes will be read only by the intended recipient. The privacy interests in these two forms of communication are identical. The contents may deserve Fourth Amendment protection, but the address and size of the package do not.’).

Accordingly, despite the fact the dicta in the Oregon decision flies in the face of binding precedent, online commentators repeatedly raised concerns regarding the decision, asserting it was further evidence that the use of cloud computing in law practices is ill-advised.

I would assert to the contrary the Oregon dicta is further evidence that the incorporation of encrypted client communications in cloud computing may well be the primary factor that convinces attorneys to accept cloud computing services as a legitimate law practice management alternative to traditional software packages.

A number of well-established cloud computing providers already incorporate encrypted communications in their platforms. For example, VLOTech, Clio and NetDocuments allow for varying types of encrypted communication with clients. Another online legal platform, NKrypt, is devoted to providing a secure, encrypted e-mail network.

Cloud computing providers are adapting quickly to and responding to the concerns raised by lawyers. As a result, lawyers are becoming increasingly comfortable with the concept of cloud computing. In fact, according to the 2009 Am Law Tech Survey, 84 percent of responding law firms already use SaaS (Software as a Service), a form of cloud computing, in some capacity.

As cloud computing becomes more prevalent in the legal field, more lawyers will understand the importance of carefully negotiating their contracts with the services providers to ensure that, for example, they are notified if a warrant relating to their data is served.

Mark my words: Cloud computing is the wave of the future, and encrypted communication is one of the keys to  putting attorney’s minds at ease regarding an emerging technology. Astute providers will incorporate encrypted communication into their platforms, and smart lawyers will learn about and use the emerging technology in their practice.

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Tricks for efficient online interaction

Posted on November 2, 2009. Filed under: Internet 101, Productivity, Social Media, Web 2.0 |

Drlogo11

This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Tricks for efficient online interaction”

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Tricks for efficient online interaction

Many lawyers understand the importance of networking, but let’s face it — running a law practice takes time and no one ever seems to have enough of it. In fact, the lack of time is one of the main reasons lawyers offer as an excuse to avoid online networking.

If you use the right timesaving tools, however, you will be able to streamline your online networking experience, so that the time you spend online will be more effective and efficient.

The first thing you need to do is use Firefox as your default Web browser. The tools you can add to the browser bar will make your life online much simpler.

My first add-on recommendation? Ditch Google Reader as the RSS feed reader and switch to Feedly (www.feedly.com). Feedly pulls the feeds you subscribe to using Google Reader and presents them to you in a far more user-friendly interface. Feeds appear in a magazine-like view that is much easier on the eyes and sorting through new items is simple and intuitive.

Feedly doesn’t stop there, however. It also allows blogs posts and articles appearing in your feed to be shared quickly and easily. Choose the appropriate button in the tool bar appearing at the top of each item in your feed and, with the click of a button, you can share content on Twitter or Facebook. Feedly automatically creates the body of the post and shortens the link for you. E-mail the content to a client or colleague to whom it might be of interest, add it to your delicious bookmarks or clip it to Evernote.
Feedly also has a new experiment called “Karma,” which allows tracking of the links you’ve shared on Twitter. You can see which links are most popular, how many times people have re-tweeted your links and how many times people clicked through to the content.

Finally, Feedly allows content to be shared quickly via e-mail or Twitter as pages are viewed on the Web via a mini-tool bar appearing at the very bottom left corner of each Web page.
Another favorite tool is Shareaholic (www.shareaholic.com),also a Firefox browser toolbar add-on. Like Feedly, Shareaholic automatically generates the body of each post and shortens links, allowing you to quickly share content on different Web platforms. One of the benefits of Shareaholic is the breadth of networking sites it supports, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Friendfeed, Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Evernote, delicious, Diigo and Twine.

Should you decide to test the waters and begin interacting on Twitter, a number of platforms and tools are available to make your Twitter experience far more pleasant.
Three very popular desktop Twitter platforms are Tweetdeck(www.tweetdeck.com), Seesmic (www.seesmic.com) and Tweetie (www.ate bits.com/tweetie-mac). The platforms offer different features that simplify your Twitter user experience. Tweetree (www.tweet ree.com) and Tweetvisor (www.tweet visor.com) are two online Web interfaces that accomplish the same goal.

Another really useful Firefox add-on is Mr. Tweet (https://addons.mozilla.org/enUS/firefox/addon/12647), which once installed automatically provides useful information about your followers on Twitter, in turn allowing you to efficiently sort through and maintain your relationships there.
Microsoft Outlook users should be aware of Twinbox (www.techhit.com/TwInbox/twitter_plugin_outlook.html), an add-in that seamlessly integrates Twitter and Outlook, making it easy for you to manage a Twitter account directly from Outlook.

Twitter applications can be used on your smartphone to keep up with the conversation stream. Popular iPhone Twitter applications include Tweetie (www.tweetie.com), Tweetdeck (www.tweetdeck.com) and Twitterific (www.twitterific.com).
Arguably, the most popular BlackBerry applicationis Twitterberry (www.twitter berry.com). Other Black-Berry applications to consider are Twibble (www.twibble.com) and Tiny Tweeter (www.tinytweeter.com). If the Palm Pre is your smart phone of choice, Tweed (http://tweed.pivotallabs.com/) is a good Twitter application to consider.

Finally, Social Mention (www.socialmention.com) is a great, free resource that allows real-time searches of online social networking sites for mentions of you, your business, your competitors, key words relevant to an area of practice or other topics. Search results can be filtered to locate mentions from certain types of sites, such as Twitter, blogs, or video sites such as YouTube. Search results also provide interesting data about the results, including whether the sentiment expressed is positive or  negative.
Online networking does not need to be an overwhelming experience. With the proper tools, online interactions can be made more efficient, and more streamlined than you ever dreamed possible. Put these tools to use and make online networking work for your law practice.

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