Web 2.0

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.

*****

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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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.

******

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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Watch the latest lawtechTalk episode for free!

Posted on January 26, 2010. Filed under: Cloud computing, Collaboration, Practice Management, Web 2.0 |

This screencast features, and is sponsored by, the following legal technology products:

  • Firmexprovides secure, virtual data rooms, which
    can be used in a legal corporate environment to manage online due diligence,
    exchange closing drafts, create digital record books, share litigation
    documents and secure client access to important files.
  • Mavenlink–provides an online collaborative workspace that allows lawyers to manage a client's case from start to finish, including uploading and collaborating on documents with clients and communicating with clients about their case in a secure, easily viewable environment.

In this episode of lawtechTalk, like the last episode, I'm experimenting with a new format. During each screencast and demo, I'll be interviewing a representative
from each company. Hopefully this interactivity will make the
screencast even more interesting for you, the viewer.

There are 3 parts to this episode, which you can access by scrolling through and clicking on each segment below:

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My favorite websites and online tools

Posted on January 25, 2010. Filed under: New Resources, Web 2.0 |

Drlogo11This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “My favorite websites and online tools.”

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

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My favorite websites and online tools

As you can probably imagine, I spend a lot of time online. Throughout my day, I find myself returning to the same Web sites over and over again. And, similarly, there are certain online tools that I use repeatedly.

It occurred to me that sharing my favorite Web sites and online tools might be useful to my readers. Although not all of these tools will be relevant to you, you may find a gem or two that will make your online life much simpler and more fulfilling.
Every morning I turn to three Web sites for information and news. First, I review the most popular news of the day at Yahoo News (http://news.yahoo.com/most- popular). The popular news is categorized in three ways: the “most e-mailed news,” the “most viewed news” and the “most recommended news.” Skimming over the news stories and headlines in each section gives me a good sense of what’s happening in the world and the interest level of certain events to other Internet users.

I then read through my RSS feeds using my RSS feed reader of choice, Feedly (www.feedly.com). Feedly pulls the feeds to blogs and other news sources that 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.
Another benefit of Feedly is that it allows content to be shared quickly via e-mail, Twitter or on other social networking sites. Next, I hit Trendalicious (www.glozer.net/ trendy/), a Web site that offers a real-time ranking of the 100 most popular Web pages as reflected by the top pages trending on three Web sites that sort online content based upon user input: Delicious, digg and reddit. Trendalicious is a great way to get a feel for the topics and new technology products that the online community is focusing on at any given time.

As I peruse the blogs posts, news stories and Web sites that I discover using the above sources, I bookmark those that I find particularly interesting using Diigo (www.diigo.com), a Web- based bookmarking site. I prefer Web-based bookmarking sites to using the bookmark function of my browser because it is more streamlined and I can access my bookmarks from any computer.

Diigo is my preferred web-based bookmarking site for a number of reasons. First, Diigo automatically backs up any site that you bookmark to your “delicious” (www.delicious.com) account. Delicious is one of the most popular Web-based bookmarking services, and backing up your bookmarks to that database as well ensures that your information will not be lost on the off-chance that Diigo or Delicious should fail and lose all of your data.
Diigo also allows you to annotate web pages that interest you. You simply highlight the Web pages or add “sticky notes” using Diigo’s interface and save them to Diigo. The annotations will subsequently appear on the Web sites anytime you visit thereafter.

I also frequently use the “SimilarWeb” Firefox browser add-on (www.similar web.com/) whenever I land on a Web site that interests me. This add-on provides me with links to: (1) similar Web sites; (2) related articles from news sites and blogs; and (3) the latest social media buzz about the Web site. It’s an invaluable tool that is a real time saver.
Finally, once I’ve caught up with the news of the day, I update my daily to-do list by visiting TeuxDeux (http://teuxdeux.com), a simple, intuitive, Web-based to-do application. I recently started using TeuxDeux and it is now my to-do list application of choice.

My next step is to get to work tackling the items on my to-do list. As I do so, I find myself constantly revisiting the Web sites and tools mentioned above throughout my day. Hopefully you’ll find that a few of these resources will become as invaluable to you as they are to me.

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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.

******

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.

******

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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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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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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Real-time Web a Game Changer

Posted on October 27, 2009. Filed under: Internet 101, The times they are a'changin', Web 2.0 |

Drlogo11This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Real-time Web a Game Changer.”

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

******

Real-time Web a Game Changer

You’ll have to forgive me for having online technologies, including social media, on my mind a lot lately.  I’ve been speaking about social media for lawyers quite a bit in recent months and am now enmeshed in the process of writing a book with Carolyn Elefant about social media for lawyers, which will be published by the American Bar Association.

As a result, I’ve spent a good deal of time mulling over how the rapidly changing world of online technology will affect the legal profession. The technologies are evolving at a rapid pace and changing the world around us on a global scale.

Rest assured, our profession is not immune to the paradigm shift. Social media, cloud computing, mobile computing, real-time Web and real-time search are some of the core areas predicted to be game changers over the coming year.

Lawyers cannot afford to ignore the trends and should, at the very least, make an effort to learn and understand the concepts.

Two major developments were announced last week that will make one of the predicted game changing trends —real-time Web and real-time search —a more viable reality. Twitter announced agreements with Bing (Microsoft’s search engine) and Google to allow both engines full access to its data, as produced in real time.

Microsoft also negotiated an agreement with Facebook that will allow Bing access to some of Facebook’s data.

Of course, some of you are probably wondering: What is the real-time Web, and why should I care? Good question.

In July, Wikipedia described the real-time Web as:

[T]he concept of searching for and finding information online as it is produced. Advancements in web search technology coupled with growing use of social media enable online activities to be queried as they occur. A traditional web search crawls and indexes web pages periodically, returning results based on relevance to the search query. The real time web delivers the most popular topics recently discussed or posted by users. The content is often “soft” in that it is based on the social web —people’s opinions, attitudes, thoughts and interests —as opposed to hard news or facts.

Now in its infancy, the real-time Web soon will be commonplace, and will allow instantaneous access to information on any topic or event, as soon as that information becomes available, and as the event is occurring.

At first glance, that may not seem to be an earth-shattering concept, but it is a paradigm shift worthy of note. Lawyers should sit up and take notice.

User-generated content, the fundamental building block of the “social Web,” now is more influential, and instantaneously is given more credence as aresult of appearing in search engine results as soon as it is created.

Criticisms of legal employers or law schools appearing on Twitter have become infinitely more powerful.

Small businesses, including law firms, that use Twitter or Facebook as part of their marketing efforts online can strategically tweak their marketing approach on those platforms to mirror trends and topics affecting their business, and thereby appear higher in search engine results.

Astute lawyers likewise will use real-time search to locate issues and trends that may affect their areas of practice, then tailor their marketing and litigation efforts accordingly. Class action attorneys, for instance, can search for real-time complaints about a particular drug or product and predict when or where a class of injured people may exist long before their technologically deficient colleagues get wind of it.

Make no mistake about it —real-time search finally is here, and it’s going to alter the way that business is done. It’s a game changer, folks.

At the very least, learn about it and understand its ramifications. If you’re feeling especially daring, put it to work for your law practice. It can never hurt to stay ahead of the curve, especially when most of your competitors don’t even realize the curve exists.

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Creating an effective online presence for lawyers, Part 2

Posted on September 29, 2009. Filed under: Networking, Social Media, Web 2.0 |

Drlogo11

This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Creating an effective online presence for lawyers, Part 2.”

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

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Creating an effective online presence for lawyers, Part 2

Last week I spoke at an Incisive Media conference in New York City, “Social Media Risks and Rewards.”

It was an extremely interesting conference, attended primarily by general counsel of large corporations. The topics discussed varied, but focused on the use of social media to promote brand names and products, and the legal issues encountered when doing so.

As I listened to the speakers discuss large-scale social media campaigns, it occurred to me that using social media to promote a law practice is fundamentally different from promoting goods, online products or Web sites.

Lawyers seek to promote their professional services and increase the strength of their online presence whereas the underlying goal for most product promotions is to gain a large scale following of evangelists who will spread the word organically about your product. Lawyers, accordingly, need to approach social media with specific goals in mind.

The first step to creating an effective presence online is to set up profiles at online directories and social media platforms, as I explained in last week’s column.

The next step is to determine your goals, so that you may participate in social media in a targeted, efficient manner.

Blogs are one of the best ways to target your efforts, as long as you enjoy the process of writing. Blogs can showcase an attorney’s expertise and increase his or her rankings in search engine results.

Search engines seek out and rank higher Web pages that provide relevant content and are  linked frequently to by other Web sites, and updated regularly. Blogs satisfy all of those requirements.

Naturally the writer would use relevant key words when focusing on subjects relevant to his or her areas of practice, recent events, news items and posts from other blogs or cases. When the blog is linked to other bloggers’ content, those bloggers likely will return the favor.

A blog can be set up rather easily through the use of services such as Typepad.com or WordPress.com, but assistance from a company that sets up and designs legal blogs, such as G2webmedia.com or Lexblog.com, also can be sought. Blog posts
can be publicized on the attorney’s other social media platforms, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Those who aren’t comfortable with the idea of blogging can still participate in social media by using online legal forums to expand a professional network and/or obtain information relevant to specific areas of practice. A large variety of practice area groups are active on both Facebook and LinkedIn.

Another option is to join online networking sites devoted to the legal field, such as Lawlink (lawlink.com), Martindale-Hubbell’s “Connected”(martindale.com/connected) and the American Bar Association’s legal network, “Legally Minded” (legallyminded.com).

An online presence can be expanded by distributing content and showcasing work product by uploading documents to JDSupra.com. Filings, decisions, articles, newsletters, blog entries, presentations and media coverage all can be uploaded.

After that, JDSupra makes it easy to distribute the content to any profiles you’ve already set up on LinkedIn, Facebook and, if applicable, Twitter.

Twitter can be a useful social media platform for some attorneys, depending on their goals. For those with a national client base, Twitter is ideal. If your potential client base is local and you live in a large metropolitan area, Twitter also may work for you.

Twitter is a great place to increase a professional network and obtain cutting-edge information relevant to a law practice or other areas of interest. Attorneys on Twitter can interact with other attorneys worldwide, CEOs of major companies, innovators and thought leaders in all professions, as well as editors and journalists for major publications.

The key to Twitter success —or success with any other social media platform —is to set aside a small block of time each day to participate. When you do interact, be genuine, honest, kind and generous. Don’t be afraid to share your personal interests, such as sports, food and wine or any other hobbies. Doing so makes you more personable and approachable.

It’s not difficult to create an effective online presence for a law practice. Although an attorney’s strategies may differ from those used to promote national brands or products, targeted social media interaction can be a very effective way to network and promote a practice.

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