The times they are a’changin’

Are blogs vital to a law firm’s online presence?

Posted on March 23, 2010. Filed under: Social Media, The times they are a'changin', Web 2.0 |

Drlogo11

This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Are blogs vital to a law firm’s online presence?”

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

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Are blogs vital to a law firm’s online presence?

One of the most effective ways to establish an online presence and showcase your legal knowledge is to start a blog.

Many who advise lawyers about creating an effective Web presence consider blogs to be the cornerstone of a law firm’s successful online presence, and for good reason. Blogs are an unparalleled tool for educating clients, indulging in intellectual discourse with colleagues, or staying on top of information.

However, in my opinion, if the very idea of maintaining a legal blog makes you groan, then it’s entirely possible that blogging is not compatible with your interests or your personality. That’s perfectly fine — there are, then, other forms of social networking that may be a better fit for you and your law practice.

In the past, when I’ve expressed such an opinion during online discussions, I’ve been met with vehement disagreement. Many assert that a law blog is a law firm’s “home base” and that an online presence is wholly ineffective without it.

I disagree for two reasons. First, there is a glut of law blogs in the online marketplace now that lawyers are finally, and quite belatedly, realizing the potential marketing value of a “successful” blog. The sheer number of new law blogs flooding the Web is overwhelming, and, as Scott Greenfield aptly explains at his very popular law blog, Simple Justice, only the best and most interesting will endure:

Only the fittest will survive, not because the others are awful necessarily, but because we would be deluged with far more than we could absorb if every blawg that came down the pike was a winner. There still would be a natural vetting process, and peo- ple would still read only the few that capture their interest best… There is a saturation point. There are diminishing returns. There is survival of the fittest.

In other words, there’s simply too much competition. New bloggers face an uphill battle for readers, and only those with a true passion for their subject matter will be able to maintain long-term interest in their blog.

Second, the importance of blogs as a firm’s online presence has decreased quite a bit due to the recent explosion of social media and the vast increase in the number of platforms from which attorneys can participate and share their legal work product. The online landscape is changing rapidly, and while blogs are still an important tool, there are others that are just as effective.

Lawyers can connect with other attorneys and potential clients on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other law-specific platforms such as Martindale-Hubbell Connected. Similarly, lawyers now have available many other means through which they can disseminate and share content via social media. Articles, pleadings and newsletters can be uploaded to JDSupra, Avvo or docstoc — all of which are well-traveled platforms that weren’t in existence just a few short years ago.

That same content then can be showcased and connected to social media profiles on LinkedIn and Facebook, as discussed more fully in my soon-to-be-released “Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier,” set to be published by the American Bar Association this spring. (You can view an excerpt of the book here and soon you will be able to pre-order the book here–just enter product code 5110710.)

The bottom line is this: An online presence is vital to success in the 21st century; however, there is no right way to create an effective online presence for a law firm. Instead, determine your goals for online interactions, then determine which platforms best forward those goals, and best fit your personality. You may find that blogging is the ideal platform for your firm. If not, don’t despair. You can create an effective online presence nonetheless.

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How the iPad will change the world

Posted on March 16, 2010. Filed under: The times they are a'changin' | Tags: , , , , , |

Drlogo11This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “How the iPad will change the world.”

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

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How the iPad will change the world.

OK, perhaps I exaggerated just a bit in today’s headline. The iPad won’t change life as we know it, but it will revolutionize the way that we interact with various news and social media. Undoubtedly, we will look back on 2010 as the year the iPad changed the way we obtain and consume information.

How will the iPad affect our day-to-day lives? It’s difficult to say, but I’m certain that it will.
As book, magazine and newspaper publishers and third-party developers get their hands on it — and begin releasing applications made specifically for it — the tide will begin to turn. It will become clear that the iPad, and other touch screen tablets released in its wake, will become the center of our households.

The iPad will be the heart of every home — the digital media consumption hub that connects us to the information highway. The iPad will be the interface of choice for Web browsing and media consumption. Soon, it will be quite common to read books, magazines and newspapers via the iPad interface.

The iPad will be the device users turn to for Web browsing and music and video streaming. In the very near future, recorded television shows and movies will be viewed regularly via live streaming from the Internet, either on the iPad screen itself or by using the iPad as the conduit, with the images appearing on a larger television screen. Although it already is possible to stream content via a computer to a television, it isn’t commonplace. The iPad will be the device that makes it so.
My assertion that the device will usher in a new age of online content consumption is not unique. Many others are suggested it as well: Luke Hayman, for one, at http://www.Pentagram.com predicts the iPad will change the direction of journalism.

What will they be willing to read on their iPad? I predict the return of long-form journalism. At the same time, visual storytelling will take deeper, richer forms. Information design will be more important than ever. Something like New York’s Approval Matrix that we designed back in 2005 with Adam Moss is popular in print but will really come to life in this format. Some people might subscribe to it all by itself.

In short, the iPad is the next stage of online content consumption.

That being said, there are a lot of things the iPad won’t do.

It won’t be a portable work station. Laptops will continue to serve that function far better than the iPad. The iPad will suffice for composing e-mails and short documents but, for most businesses, laptops and desktop computers will remain the interface of choice.
Likewise, the iPad will not replace the iPhone. Smart phones will continue to function as miniature connectors to the information super highway. Their smaller size and GPS functionality make smart phones ideal for certain tasks that the larger, less portable iPad will not be able to duplicate. Applications that rely on geo-location for their functionality — such as the Zillow real estate app or the restaurant location and ratings app Yelp — still will be ideal for use on phones for people on the move. Smart phones will not be supplanted by the iPad, but instead supplemented by it.

The iPad will not fill an already existing niche — it will create a new one. It will be ever-present in our homes, during daily commutes and on airplanes. The iPad will be prevalent where people tend to read books or magazines, but will be far less visible at locations where people mostly work or socialize. It will be our conduit for media consumption and our interface of choice.
The iPad is a game changer of epic proportions — of that I am sure. One year from now, we’ll look back on its release and wonder how we functioned without it.

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Legal research: the good, the bad and the ugly.

Posted on March 3, 2010. Filed under: Practice Management, Productivity, Research, The times they are a'changin', Web 2.0 | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Drlogo11This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Legal research: the good the bad and the ugly.”

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

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Legal research: the good, the bad and the ugly.

There is a grand scale transformation of legal research plat- forms occurring right now, which is a good thing for the legal profession as a whole.

While none of the existing services are necessarily ugly or bad, some of the most prominent platforms — ones with which we lawyers have always had a love/hate relationship — are antiquated and have been in desperate need of a re-haul for years now.
New entrants into the legal research space have caused fierce competition for customers. The increased competition has resulted in a rich variety of legal research options for lawyers. Some services provide more in-depth results than others, some have very user- friendly interfaces and some are inexpensive, or even free.

At LegalTech New York in February, the two largest, most familiar and most costly legal research platforms in the industry rolled out new products as part of an attempt to keep their offerings fresh and current.

Westlaw introduced WestlawNext, the next generation of Westlaw, a platform that had not changed substantially since its last revamp in 1998. An online brochure describes the platform: “Legal research that’s more human gives you an easier way to search, yet delivers all of what you’re looking for. … [Y]ou can apply intelligent tools to help you work smarter and faster with total confidence you have the information you need. All of which makes life easier.”
There has been some criticism expressed in the legal blogos- phere regarding the added “premium” users must pay in order to access the new platform, and some have decried West’s apparent lack of transparency in that regard.

LexisNexis also announced plans to roll out a new version of its platform, tentatively called “Lexis New,” later this year. In the meantime, Lexis introduced Lexis/Microsoft Office inte- gration, also during LegalTech. The company’s Web site states the new product allows lawyers “reviewing a Word document or an Outlook e-mail message … [to] seamlessly access content and resources from LexisNexis, the open Web, or their law firm or corporate files.”
LexisNexis also offers an iPhone app that allows subscribers to check case citations on the fly.

Two cheaper platforms have been around for at least a decade,Fastcase (www.fastcase.com) and LoisLaw (www.loislaw.com). Both offer subscribers the ability to access case law and statutes via user-friendly Web interfaces.
Fastcase, a 10-year-old legal research company, already serves more than 380,000 lawyers nationwide and has 17 state and local bar associations as its clients. One new notable feature from Fastcase is a free iPhone app. I downloaded the app when it was first released and, in my opinion, it’s a must-have for any lawyer who owns an iPhone. It allows users to quickly and easily search Fastcase’s entire case law database using the intuitive iPhone interface. And, you certainly can’t beat the price.
Another free legal research alternative is Google Legal Scholar (http://scholar.google.com/), which debuted at the end of 2009 and offers a free searchable database of U.S. case law from federal and state courts dating back 80 years, as well as U.S. Supreme Court decisions dating back to 1791 and law review articles. Google Legal Scholar is a great resource and, for some lawyers, may offer a good alternative to the traditional legal research platforms.

Finally, a new contender is Bloomberg Law, which will be released later this year The product has been in beta testing for the last year and is offered by the well-established and well known financial news and information services media company, Bloomberg LLC. As described at its Web site, Bloomberg Law will provide an “the all-in-one legal research platform that integrates legal content with proprietary news and business intelligence.”
Many predict that the platform will appeal mostly to larger law firms as a feasible alternative to LexisNexis and Westlaw.

There is no doubt 2010 will be an interesting, and tumultuous, year for legal research providers and the lawyers who use their services. Only time will tell which platforms will win the battle for user loyalty. In the meantime, at least lawyers have far more choices than ever before.

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Don’t fear the cloud

Posted on February 8, 2010. Filed under: Cloud computing, The times they are a'changin', Uncategorized |

Drlogo11This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Don’t fear the cloud.”

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

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Don’t fear the cloud

“People … especially people in positions of power … have invested a tremendous amount of effort and time to get where they are. They really don’t want to hear that we’re on the wrong path, that we’ve got to shift gears and start thinking differently.”

— DAVID SUZUKI

I am a staunch proponent of cloud computing and strongly believe it is the future of computing for the legal profession.

Granted, legal cloud computing platforms and services present a number of thorny ethical and security issues, but legal cloud computing providers are very responsive and receptive to the very valid concerns raised by lawyers in that regard.
In its current form, cloud computing for lawyers is not perfect, but it’s a viable alternative to traditional desktop software for many lawyers, especially solos and small firms. As the technology and products improve, the technology will become a more palatable alternative for large and small firms alike.

Of course, that’s just my opinion — and it’s one that I express often. When I do so, I am generally met with skepticism from most lawyers — a reaction I’ve become quite used to.
When I discuss my vision of cloud computing in the legal field with legal IT personnel, however, the reaction I generally encounter is one that can only be described as downright hostility.

At first, I was puzzled by the phenomenon. Now realize it’s simply a matter of self-preservation for those folks.
They’re wary of emerging cloud computing technologies because of a very real and vested interest in clinging to the status quo, since the mass adoption of cloud computing by law firms threatens the existence of their job functions as they now exist.

As Nicholas Carr explains in “The Big Switch,” the future of in-house IT personnel is questionable as businesses transition to using cloud computing platforms and storing their data in the cloud:

In the long run, the IT department is unlikely to survive, at least not in its familiar form. It will have little left to do once the bulk of business com- puting shifts out of private data centers and into ‘the cloud.’ Business units and even individual employees will be able to control the processing of information directly without the need for legions of technical specialists.

The gradual shift toward cloud computing does not mean IT professionals will be out of work. Rather, it simply means they must be flexible, open minded and willing to adapt to the changing IT landscape. IT jobs are not disappearing, they are merely changing.
For example, while demands for in-house IT personnel continue to decline, demand for virtualization pros skilled in cloud computing has increased by 21 percent from last year, according to recent studies analyzing job hiring data and classified ads.

The bottom line is that the future is not bleak for in-house legal IT personnel — it’s simply different. Cloud computing represents change on a grand scale and while the mass adoption of cloud computing platforms threatens the jobs of some IT staff, it will likely transform the jobs of others and promises to alter the internal structure of law firms.
No doubt, change and uncertainty can be scary, but desperately clinging to the status quo out of fear does a disservice to both the legal and IT professions and, ultimately, will fail.

A better alternative is to embrace change and find new opportunities in the emerging legal technology landscape.

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The legal profession, the Internet and Harry Potter.

Posted on January 4, 2010. Filed under: The times they are a'changin' |

Drlogo11This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “The legal profession, the Internet and Harry Potter..”

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

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The legal profession, the Internet and Harry Potter.

Last week, as we were driving back to my hometown for a holiday party, my children were in the backseat watching “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” on our car’s DVD system.

At first, I didn’t pay much attention to the movie, although I occasionally listened in as I drove.

At one point during the film, however, a speech given to the students at Hogwarts by one of the main antagonists in the film — the cruel, curmudgeonly Dolores Umbridge — stopped me in my tracks.

Now, before I address her speech, a little background information is necessary for those of you who are not fans of Harry Potter: Dolores Umbridge was an arm of the Ministry of Magic, the governmental entity that ruled over the magical community in Britain. The Ministry was very slow to react to the dangers posed by the reemergence of the main antagonist, the dark wizard Lord Voldemort, who represented all that was evil. In fact, up until the very end of the series of books, the Ministry spent more time attempting to quiet those who insisted that Lord Voldemort indeed had returned than actually dealing with the very real threats he presented.

Dolores Umbridge spent much of her time carrying out the Min- istry’s orders and squelching dissent. Her speech to the students at Hogwarts laid out the rationale for such a ridiculous and counterin- tuitive policy. What struck me as I listened to her speech was that it easily could have come from the mouths of some of the leaders of the legal profession regarding to the adoption of technological advance- ments into the practice of law: “The treasure trove of … knowledge amassed by our ancestors must be guarded, replenished and polished by those who have been called to [this] noble profession. … [P]rogress for the sake of progress must be discouraged, for our tried and tested traditions often require no tinkering. Let us … preserv[e] what ought to be preserved [and] prun[e] wherever we find practices that ought to be prohibited.”

In other words, the Ministry insisted on clinging to the past because it was terrified of change. The Ministry’s ineffective and downright pointless efforts to avoid facing reality — that Lord Voldemort had returned — was a disservice to the interests of the very people it was obligated to protect.

Over the past year, the leaders of our profession have engaged in much of the same rhetoric, decrying technological innovation rather than embracing the reality of change.

In Florida, for example, an ethics panel concluded in a November opinion (2009-20) that judges may not “friend” on Facebook attorneys who appear before them. That’s despite the fact that judges lunch and golf with lawyers on a regular basis, a practice no different than connecting with someone on a social network.

In another recent case, a South Carolina ethics panel rendered a decision (Ethics Advisory Opinion 09-10) that effectively discourages lawyers from claiming attorney profiles listed in online lawyer directories. Many lawyers prefer to claim their profiles so that they can control the content of the profile, which will appear online regardless of whether the profile is claimed.

The panel concluded that, once an attorney claims a profile, he or she must ensure all of the information appearing there comply with the rules of professional conduct, regardless whether the attorney has any control over the information or notice of subsequent amendments.

Such decisions are part of a pattern in our profession, whereby lawyers are discouraged from using Internet technologies despite the fact it is evident the Internet only increasingly affects every business, including the business of law.

To me, it is clear: The day of reckoning has come for our profession. The technologies and changes wrought by the Internet are not going away. Our profession’s leaders would be wise to stop resisting reality, and focus their efforts instead toward helping lawyers incorporate emerging technologies into their practices. The future of our profession depends on this attitude shift.

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Is 2010 the year lawyers will enter the 21st century?

Posted on December 21, 2009. Filed under: Cloud computing, Social Media, The times they are a'changin', Uncategorized, Web 2.0 |

Drlogo11This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Is 2010 the year lawyers enter the 21st Century?”

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

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Is 2010 the year lawyers enter the 21st Century?

We’re probably about five years into a 30-year cycle of trans- formation. … But there is simply no doubt that 25 years from now, when people reflect on the seminal changes of the early days of the century we are about to begin, the impact of networked com- puting will stand in relief.

— Lou Gerstner

Many members of the legal profession simply are ignoring Internet technologies and writing them off as a fad. In doing so, they are refusing to acknowledge a fundamental cultural shift has occurred.

Those lawyers, quite simply, are living in another century. Their failure to acknowledge and learn about the radical changes taking place ultimately will lead to their downfall, as more tech-savvy lawyers take advantage of the cost-effective and time-saving opportunities the new medium provides.

Two of the most important Internet technologies affecting the legal profession in 2010 and beyond are social media or, as I like to call it, “intermedia,” and cloud computing. All lawyers with an interest in keeping their businesses afloat in the coming year would be wise to learn about and selectively use those two tech- nologies in their law practice.

In 2009, “social media” became a household term. Social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter saw an explosive growth as more and more businesses realized the connection between networking online and business profits.

Not surprisingly, the legal field was not immune from the phenomenon. A good percentage of lawyers in the past year attempted to engage in intermedia in one form or another for the first time, as evidenced by a recent study of online networking in the profession.

The 2009 Networks for Counsel Study —available online here —was conducted by Leader Networks on behalf of LexisNexis Martindale Hubbell. Some key findings include:

  • Networking remains critical to the legal industry, yet resource constraints make it more difficult than ever.
  • The use of social networking sites has grown significantly over the past year, with three quarters of all counsel now reporting they are members of a social or professional network.
  • While some counsel take a “wait and see” attitude about the strategic value of the networks they’ve already joined, there is general belief online networking will change the business and practice of law over the next five years.

Like online networking, cloud computing —where applications, software and data are hosted by the cloud computing provider, offsite —also is gaining greater acceptance in the legal field. According to the Am Law Tech Survey 2009, 84 percent of responding law firms now use SaaS, a form of cloud computing, in some capacity. Most are using it for e-discovery or ancillary functions such as human resources, with only 7 percent use it to manage confidential client data.

As the concept becomes more familiar, however, more firms will use cloud computing for services such as document management or law practice management. I predict those numbers will increase exponentially over the next few years as cloud computing providers adapt their products to respond to attorneys’ concerns about the confidentiality and security of their data.

The bottom line is this: Intermedia and cloud computing, once emerging technologies, are being accepted slowly by our profession. Lawyers who choose to ignore them, take heed: You do so at your own risk.

The writing is on the wall; the choice is yours. Learn about emerging technologies and adapt, or your profits will slowly, but surely, disappear.

We’re nearing the end of the first decade of the 21st century. Whenever you’re ready, you’re welcome to join the rest of us in this century —the sooner, the better. We’ll be waiting.

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The evolution of intermedia

Posted on December 15, 2009. Filed under: Social Media, The times they are a'changin', Web 2.0 |


Drlogo11

This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “The evolution of intermedia.”

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

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For many lawyers, one of the greatest deterrents to interacting online is a mistaken impression that online networking is a purely “social” endeavor.

After all, as a profession, lawyers tend to take themselves very seriously, and socializing most certainly is a waste of their time —especially since attorneys tend to carefully track and bill each and every moment of the work day.

Our profession’s misapprehension regarding the interactions forming the very basis of Web 2.0 platforms is understandable. After all, online interaction is referred to commonly as “social media,” a name that implies the vast majority of online interaction consists of gossip and inane conversation. That, simply, is an inaccurate characterization. Online interaction runs the gamut, of course, but an increasingly large segment of interaction involves business and professional endeavors.

It is for that reason so many influential people in the online space are increasingly expressing displeasure with the term “social media,” a limiting, simplistic and inaccurate term. Web 2.0 platforms with built-in interactivity such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn are being used more widely to conduct business, in promotional efforts, advertising and networking as well as hiring.

Accordingly, “social media” is much too shallow of a term. It fails to encompass the depth of online professional interaction and the sheer number of business transactions that occur on the “social” Web on a daily basis, as evidenced by recent
statistics regarding the increasing use of “social media” platforms by companies and consumers:

  • Social Media has overtaken porn as the top ranked activity on the Web.
  • 80 percent of companies are using LinkedIn as a primary tool to find employees.
  • 25 percent of search results for the world’s top 20 largest brands are links to user-generated content.
  • More than 1.5 million pieces of content (Web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photos, etc.) are shared on Facebook daily.
  • There are more than 200 million blogs online.
  • 34 percent of bloggers post opinions about products and brands.
  • 78 percent of consumers trust peer recommendations.
  • Only 14 percent of consumers trust advertisements.

Sources for those statistics can be found at the Socialnomics blog.

The statistics support the premise of the following quote, one of my favorites, from a February article published by Business Week “Debunking Six Social Media Myths”:

For companies, resistance to social media is futile. Millions of people are creating content for the social Web. Your competitors are already there. Your customers have been there for a long time. If your business isn’t putting itself out there, it ought to be.

Of course, as I’ve already pointed out, lawyers continue to resist online engagement, in part because the perceived “social” aspect of online interaction seems silly and superfluous. For that reason, I propose that in the future the term “intermedia” be used, instead of “social media.” It is a more serious, palatable term — one that lawyers and other professionals resistant to emerging technologies more likely would accept.

Intermedia also better encompasses the depth and breadth of online interactions. It is another word for “interactive media,” which I view as the next —or, perhaps, current —stage of the Internet. Intermedia is where the world interacts, interconnects, interfaces, interweaves, intervenes and intersects. It is intergenerational, the intermediate, or next step, between what was and what will be. “Inter” means “put to rest” —and intermedia effectively has “put to rest” or
ended old school, one-way broadcast media.

The language used to describe new concepts is important because it shapes our dialogue and perceptions. The terms used to discuss the Internet and online interactions should evolve as quickly as the medium itself. Otherwise, the adoption of emerging technologies will be delayed —especially in fields like the legal profession, which traditionally are skeptical and suspicious of new technologies and therefore are slow to adapt.

The terminology used to discuss the phenomenon of online interaction must change, and quickly. The use of “intermedia” or a similar term in place of “social media” is the first, and most important step, in that evolution.

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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.

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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.

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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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