The times they are a’changin’

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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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.

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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 1

Posted on September 23, 2009. Filed under: Social Media, The times they are a'changin', Web 2.0 |

Drlogo11
This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Creating an effective online presence for lawyers, Part 1.”

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

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I’m going to be speaking about lawyers and social media at a number of conferences over the next few months in Rochester, New York City and Los Angeles.

For that reason, this topic has been on my mind recently. From past speaking engagements, I’ve learned lawyers are becoming increasingly curious about social media, but know very little about it. Most law firms understand the importance of having an online presence, but are wary of “social networking” and, as a result, have only a static Web page for their law firm.

I want to share how a firm can expand its online presence by using free Web directories and networking sites. Next week I plan to tackle how to determine whether it makes sense for a firm’s attorneys to participate in social and professional networking sites and forums, and which ones will help to achieve specific goals.

Lawyers with a static Web site as their online presence are missing out. In just a few hours they could easily increase their reach online by taking advantage of many effective and free online resources, directories and social and professional networks.

The first step is to create profiles for every lawyer in the firm at a number of leading, free online lawyer directories.

The profiles simply are online resumes. By creating online profiles, a firm can piggyback on the larger Web site’s SEO (search engine optimization), and thereby appear higher in search engine results, all at no cost to the firm.

The three most prominent directories are Avvo (http://www.avvo.com), the Justia and Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School legal directory (https://lawyers.justia.com/signup and Findlaw’s attorney directory (http://flcas.find law.com/rpu).

I regularly receive client inquiries as a result of having an attorney profile on those Web sites. It’s free to create a profile and only takes a few minutes to do so. Every lawyer at the firm should be listed at those sites.

Firms also should encourage every lawyer to create and maintain profiles on Facebook and LinkedIn. Facebook is a global social networking site that allows anyone to join. Individual lawyers can connect with people they know, including those with whom they have lost contact. In other words, after creating a simple profile in a matter of minutes, a lawyer can connect with everyone from his or her past, including former classmates, long lost relatives —you name it. The platform also is quite good at locating people whom you might know based on the people with whom you already have a connection.

Why is that a good thing for lawyers? Because they have a long lost network that spans the globe! People who know you but have lost track of you over time now will
know you’re an attorney. You will receive messages from old friends and from relatives seeking legal counsel — either for themselves or on behalf of a friend in your town.

Breathing life into those lost connections is priceless, and Facebook is a unique platform that makes it possible. Do not pass up the opportunity.

All lawyers in the firm also should have a LinkedIn profile, simply an online resume that takes only a few minutes to create. The platform then assists in locating professional contacts

Even if nothing else is done with this platform, a LinkedIn profile is a worthwhile addition to a firm’s online presence. Each attorney’s profile appears near the top of search engine results because of LinkedIn’s excellent SEO.

There are several networking aspects to Facebook, LinkedIn and other online platforms, if that is deemed a worthwhile use of time.

Next week I’ll share how to determine just what types of online participation will be most beneficial to achieving goals set for you and your law firm

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Promote Legal Conferences With Social Media

Posted on September 1, 2009. Filed under: Social Media, The times they are a'changin', Web 2.0 |

Drlogo11

This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Promote Legal Conferences With Social Media.”

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

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Promote Legal Conferences With Social Media

Attendance has been down this year for many legal conferences, in large part due to budget cuts at law firms due to the economic recession.

Legal conference planners need not despair: Individual lawyers can be convinced to cough up their own money to attend upcoming conferences. That can be accomplished by thinking outside of the box, and delivering highly-targeted, effective promotions directly to lawyers through non-traditional media.

Specifically, conference organizers must utilize social media to reach lawyers. Many have started to do so by using their organization’s social media presence.

The strategy is not particularly effective, however, since attorneys who are following an organization likely are already planning to attend the conference. You are preaching to the choir when you disseminate information about the conference to those attorneys.

A more forward-thinking approach that will pay off in the long-run —both for this year’s conference and for future years’ events —is to set aside a small portion of your advertising budget to engage the promotional services of a handful of legal professionals with a strong online presence and following.

Just offering such an influential group a free pass to the conference isn’t enough to convince them to attend.

A few legal organizations have taken that approach over the last year, and met with minimal success.

The vast majority of legal influencers online already have free access to many conferences, either because they’re speaking or are eligible for press passes as a result of their online, and offline, reporting. To ensure this group’s attendance at, and promotion of, your conference, you need to offer to pay for, at the very least, their transportation and hotel expenses.

In return, you can expect them to promote the conference in the weeks preceding it, cover the conference via their blogs and Twitter, and publish articles and blog posts about the conference after it ends.

The benefit of engaging the promotional services of this group of online leaders is priceless: They already have large followings in the legal community because people find them to be interesting and thought-provoking. Many are influencers in the legal field and people read their tweets, blogs, articles and books for the latest, cutting edge assessment of legal issues and trends.

Their followers listen to them, respect them, like them and, most importantly, are receptive to them.

When lawyers with a strong online presence promote and attend a conference, their followers are more likely to attend the same conference and also will help to spread the word about the conference. You should request that the handful of lawyers you’ve retained for this purpose promote the conference in tandem, months ahead of the conference, thereby reaching an even larger audience of potential attendees.

The online buzz that can be created by online legal influencers is unparalleled, especially if you ensure that a few of the people whom you retain have a strong Twitter following in the legal community. (A list of can be found at http://legalbirds.justia.com/birds/all/all/cc/list).

Their tweets about the conference will be re-tweeted multiple times, increasing the likelihood that the conference hashtag will become a trending topic on Twitter.

As any good conference organizer also knows, legal conferences are about more than just learning. Attendees also expect to network with their peers, and have fun.

Lawyers with strong online followings facilitate the social aspect of conferences in ways never possible before social media became popular.

They can create buzz by organizing after-hours events via social media. Such gatherings allow people who have followed the online influencers the opportunity to get to know them better, and to interact with other attendees with similar interests. Such events tend to have large turnouts and continue on well into the evening. Social barriers are overcome quickly due to people’s familiarity with one another through social media, and a good time, always, is had by all.

The bottom line? If you’re able to secure the attendance of a handful of online legal influencers at your conference, you will reap the benefits many times over.

Make your conference the place to be. Be creative, mix things up a little and use social media to your advantage. If you do it correctly, your conference will be the one no one will want to miss.

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Should lawyers be wary of cloud computing and SaaS?

Posted on August 25, 2009. Filed under: Practice Management, Social Media, The times they are a'changin', Web 2.0 |

Drlogo11

This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Should Lawyers Be Wary of Saas?.”

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

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Should Lawyers Be Wary of SaaS?

Online services for lawyers are becoming increasingly common and, for many lawyers, are an attractive alternative to the traditional law practice management software installed and maintained on a local server within a law office.

Online services available to attorneys now include law practice management systems, document management platforms, secure email networks, digital dictation services and billing/timekeeping services.  The online platforms are attractive, economical and viable alternatives for firms of all sizes.

Online e-mail platforms also are increasing in popularity. Yahoo, Hotmail and Gmail now are the top three e-mail service providers in the United States, and are used by lawyers and clients alike.

The one thing these various platforms have in common is that the data created and managed by these services are stored offsite, in the “cloud.”   The offsite data storage issue has resulted in much speculation among lawyers regarding issues of data security and attorney-client confidentiality.

Before addressing those concerns, let’s define the concepts at issue.

“Cloud computing” is a “type of computing that is comparable to grid computing, relies on sharing computing resources rather than having local servers or personal devices to handle applications. The goal of cloud computing is to apply traditional supercomputing power (normally used by military and research facilities) to perform tens of trillions of computations per second.”

Software as a service —or SaaS —is defined at Oracle.com as “[a] software delivery model in which a software firm provides daily technical operation, maintenance, and support for the software provided to their client.”

In my opinion, the data security and confidentiality concerns regarding cloud computing are exaggerated and overblown.

Of course an attorney has an obligation to research how an SaaS provider will handle confidential information, and should determine how securely the data is stored. It is important to ensure the company stores the data on servers that meet current industry standards, performs back-ups regularly, and that you are satisfied
data will not be lost should a catastrophic event occur.

Concerns that third parties could access the data while traveling through the “cloud” are downright silly, in my opinion. Third parties always have had access to confidential client information, including process servers, court employees, document processing companies, external copy centers and legal document delivery services.

Employees of the building in which a law office is located also have had access to confidential files, including the cleaning service and other employees who maintain the premises. What about summer interns, temporary employees and contract attorneys?

The employees who manage and have access to computer servers are no different. In order to practice law effectively, third parties necessarily must have access to certain files. Assurances that the company in question will make reasonable efforts to ensure employees will not access confidential information is all that’s required.

The New York State Bar Association Committee on Professional Ethics reached a similar conclusion in Opinion 820-2/08/08, where it answered: “May a lawyer use an e-mail service provider that scans e-mails by computer for keywords and then sends or displays instantaneously (to the side of the e-mails in question) computer-generated advertisements to users of the service based on the e-mail communications?”

The committee concluded: “Unless the lawyer learns information suggesting that the provider is materially departing from conventional privacy policies or is using the information it obtains by computer-scanning of e-mails for a purpose that,
unlike computer-generated advertising, puts confidentiality at risk, the use of such e-mail services comports with DR 4-101…A lawyer may use an e-mail service provider that conducts computer scans of e-mails to generate computer advertising, where the e-mails are not reviewed by or provided to other individuals.”

In other words, common sense prevails. Lawyers must resist the urge to overreact to emerging technologies.

Common sense dictates that the same confidentiality standards applicable to physical client files likewise apply to computer-generated data. To conclude otherwise would be to prohibit lawyers from using computers in their law practices —an unrealistic and, quite frankly, ridiculous alternative.

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5 responses to technology

Posted on August 12, 2009. Filed under: Social Media, The times they are a'changin', Web 2.0 |

Drlogo11

This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “5 responses to technology.”

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

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5 Responses to Technology

It should come as no surprise to regular readers of my column that I’ve long been dismayed and downright mortified at my profession’s collective refusal to accept and incorporate emerging technologies into the practice of law.

In many ways, the legal profession’s response to technology, and online technologies in particular, can be likened to Kübler- Ross’s five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance.

The legal profession’s reaction to technology follows a similar path: denial, defiance, desperation, deployment, and then, at long last, dedication.

A few trailblazers, mostly solos and small firms, have worked through the process and are now reaping the benefits of technology and all that it has to offer. Unfor- tunately, the vast majority of the profession is currently stuck in the middle of the process.

Denial

Until very recently, the majority of the legal profession was blissfully clueless about Internet technologies, their collective heads buried in the sand. Most attorneys
seemed to think the Internet was a passing trend, and if they ignored it, it would eventually disappear.

By 2003, however, most lawyers gradually, albeit reluctantly, acknowledged the importance of a Web presence and e-mail correspondence, although a vocal minority steadfastly refused to do so.

Defiance (Anger)

Until very recently, all other forms of emerging online technologies, such as blogs, were first ignored, and later despised.

Lawyers expressed derision when faced with repeated media coverage of the business benefits of online interaction and advertising. Rather than embrace technological change, lawyers predictably and defiantly rejected it.

Desperation (Bargaining)

In the last year, some lawyers entered the desperation phase as they began to sense they were missing out on something big.

Opportunities they didn’t quite comprehend were passing them by. With minimal foresight or understanding, they dove into the world of social media, leaving abandoned, self-promoting blogs and Twitter accounts in their wake. Their hastily executed social media campaigns, launched in desperation, were doomed to fail from the start.

Deployment (Depression)

In the next year or so, a good number of large law firms will realize that, at the very least, it is necessary to understand social media. Large law firms will be the first to engage social media consultants, not just for the purposes of using social
media for marketing, but rather to learn how to successfully navigate social media when a potentially embarrassing situation goes viral. In other words, BigLaw will realize it is imperative to learn how to use and execute social media campaigns for damage control purposes.

At the same time, increasing numbers of solo practitioners and boutiques will begin to actively participate in social media by creating blogs, Facebook accounts, Twitter accounts and establishing attorney profiles on sites such as Justia, Avvo, LinkedIn and JDSupra.

Those attorneys quickly will realize the benefits of marketing on a shoestring budget through targeted social media campaigns. Those who narrowly tailor their social media participation to meet their established goals will begin to see a steady flow of new clients as a result of their efforts.

Dedication
(Acceptance)

By the fall of 2011 or so, law firms of all sizes will begin to establish a dedicated social media presence. Mid-sized and large firms, having felt the pinch as solos and small boutique law firms slowly, but surely lured away their client base through the use of successful online marketing plans, will finally succumb to reality.

The legal profession will, at long last, begin the process of accepting that technology and the Internet are here to stay. Lawyers will brush the sand out of their eyes, educate themselves about the future and actively engage potential clients online. The process of working its way through the 5 stages will necessarily be difficult, but the end result will be worth it.5

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Five things lawyers should know about social media

Posted on June 30, 2009. Filed under: Networking, Social Media, The times they are a'changin', Web 2.0 |

Drlogo11

This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Five Things Lawyers Should Know About Social Media.”

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

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“[S]ocial media is a shift in how people discover, read and share news, information and content. It’s a fusion of sociology and technology, transforming monologues (one to many) into dialogues (many to many) and is the democratization of information, transforming people from content readers into publishers. Social media has become extremely popular because it allows people to connect in the online world to form relationships for personal, political and business use. Businesses also refer to social media as user-generated content (UGC) or consumer-generated media (CGM).”

— WIKIPEDIA ENTRY FOR SOCIAL MEDIA

Online interaction is now commonplace. Networking sites, including Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, are becoming mainstream. Opportunities for attorneys to connect and interact with potential clients are endless.

Before jumping on the “social media” bandwagon, however, there are a few important things about social media that lawyers must comprehend. The failure to do so will result in unsuccessful and disappointing forays into the online marketplace.

Social media is useless without goals

Come up with a plan, then interact online.

Is your goal to appear higher in search engine results, showcase a particular area of expertise, or interact with other attorneys in the same practice area? Would you like to target local or national clientele?

The answers to those questions necessarily affect your overall social media strategy.

Learn about social media. Figure out how it works and how it can work for you. Then, implement a social media strategy that promotes your goals. Be patient. Results don’t occur overnight.

Different social media sites serve different purposes

An entire firm does not need to actively participate in social media, but a few lawyers should be familiar with emerging Web 2.0 technologies and the ways in which those technologies can help and harm a firm’s bottom line.

At the very least, all members of a firm should have online profiles which include their areas of practice posted at LinkedIn, Justia and Avvo. It’s free to create profiles at those sites, and doing so allows you to piggyback on the SEO (search
engine optimization) of large, established sites.

Facebook is another site to consider. It allows lawyers to re-connect with people they’ve lost touch with, opening up an entire network of potential client and referrers.

If a lawyer enjoys writing and is passionate about a particular area of the law, blogging is the perfect way to showcase the lawyer’s expertise and writing skills,
while simultaneously increasing SEO (due to the unique characteristics of blogs) and humanizing the attorney.

Twitter is ideal for lawyers seeking to expand their national network, increase their exposure and connect with influential people in all major industries.

Lawyers don’t have to participate in every form of online interaction, but one way or another, participate and ensure the chosen forums promote the firm’s overall goals.

‘Social media’ is a misnomer

Some lawyers discount the potential of “social media” due to the incorrect assumption that it’s got nothing to do with business and is all about socializing. This is a serious mistake.

All online interactions, whether they are with other lawyers, old friends, or people you’ve just met and with whom you share a similar interest have the potential to benefit your career.

Social and professional networking necessarily overlap. A person’s interests are not limited to their profession unless, of course, the person is an unbelievably one dimensional and boring human being.

People are more than their careers. Lawyers are more than their law firms. Which brings me to my next point:

People want to hire other people, not businesses

While it is important to have a static website for your business, it is equally important for lawyers to cultivate a uniquely individual online presence as well.

The best way to do this it to take off your “lawyer hat”. Talk to people, not at them. Interact, don’t advertise. And, most importantly, share a little bit about yourself and your interests.

It is the overlap between the social and the professional that makes a lawyer more likeable, more approachable and more human.

People want to pick up the phone and call a specific person —not an intimidating, faceless entity —when they have a problem. Large businesses hire law firms; people hire other people.

Lawyers cannot afford to be left out of the loop

Attorneys who successfully leverage social media tools to communicate, collaborate and network have a distinct advantage over those who don’t.

Stand out from the crowd. Use online resources to your advantage. Take advantage of the opportunity to interact with potential clients and referral sources.

Be patient, persistent and positive. Use social media wisely and narrowly tailor your online activities toward the pursuit of specific goals.

Take my advice and you will see results. I guarantee it.

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Are You Considering Twittering? Ways to Cut through the Noise

Posted on June 16, 2009. Filed under: Social Media, The times they are a'changin', Web 2.0 |

checkmarkMy recent article about lawyers and Twitter, published in the ABA’s Law Practice Management magazine, can be found here and is set forth in full below:

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Are You Considering Twittering? Ways to Cut Through the Noise

If you haven’t tried Twitter, here’s why you should, with a look at new resources that add value to Twitter for lawyers.

BY NICOLE BLACK (@nikiblack on Twitter)
Not that long ago, social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn were thought of as novel. Today, they are considered relatively commonplace forms of networking on the Web. What has everyone abuzz now is Twitter. But a lot of lawyers are wondering what the conversation has to do with them.

As you may have noticed, the popular press is downright atwitter about Twitter. It is the social media site du jour. It seems you can’t read a newspaper or turn on the TV without hearing something about the microblogging site, whether it’s a news item breaking in the Twitter community, a mistrial being declared because of jurors using Twitter, or celebrities like Ashton Kutcher, Oprah Winfrey and Shaquille O’Neal growing their Twitter followings.

As a result of all the attention, Twitter’s user base continues to grow exponentially. While the data varies, estimates are that the number of unique visitors per month has now climbed to above 14 million or beyond.

In case you’ve been living in a cave, Twitter is a free Web-based platform for quickly sharing information through text-based posts (“tweets”) of up to 140 characters in length. And a growing number of lawyers and law firms are using it to expand their networks and increase their online presence.

Others, though, remain doubtful of the value. Let’s look at why they should get past that—which includes the fact that there are many new resources that add value to Twitter for lawyers.

Notes for the Reluctant

With Twitter, you can connect on both personal and professional levels with potential clients and referral sources, share news and substantive updates relevant to your area of practice, and connect with other lawyers as well as non-lawyers with whom you share similar interests. And it can all be done locally, nationally or globally, according to your needs.

Yet despite the benefits, it’s understandable why many lawyers are reluctant to participate. One reason is the knowledge that existing and potential clients are all over Twitter and “listening” to what you have to say. Add to that the fact that conversations on Twitter are permanently archived and accessible through Internet search engines. So there is a natural worry about the risk of making a painfully public error. But the same risk is inherent in other forms of online communication, and the answer to this worry about Twitter is the same, too.

You need to ensure that any posts you make reflect well on both you and your law practice. So the best course of action is to think before you post. Still, everyone occasionally makes mistakes, so should you innocently write something that you later regret, you simply apologize for the error. Historically, admitting and correcting mistakes quickly and with minimal fanfare serves to head off long-term damage. Again, though, the smartest thing to do is pause and think twice before posting any comments.

Another factor that discourages lawyers from participating on Twitter is the sheer volume of the Twitter universe. With all the millions of people who are twittering already, many wonder how it is possible to cut through the “noise” and locate relevant people to connect with or “follow,” as

well as how to find threads of tweets of value to their practice areas. This concern, however, is increasingly easy to address. The answer lies in a growing range of resources that categorize users by industry or business areas and filter content by type of subject matter. Let’s look at some of the main resources of interest to lawyers now.

Finding People and Law-Related Content

There are a number of ways to locate people you would like to connect with on Twitter. One option is to refer to online directories such as Twellow (www.twellow.com), Just Tweet It (www.justtweetit.com) and We Follow (www.wefollow.com). These directories conveniently categorize Twitter users in a wide spectrum of areas, from aerospace and accounting, to small business and emerging market, to nonprofit, real estate, technology and beyond. You can review the directories to seek out people with whom you’d like to connect based on their type of business.

There are also a number of specific ways to locate legal professionals on Twitter as well as to track their conversations. One is through the JD Scoop blog on JD Supra (http://scoop.jdsupra.com). There you will find what began as a list of “145 Lawyers (and Legal Professionals) to Follow on Twitter”—a list that has rapidly expanded to over 700 lawyers, as this writing. You will also find a list of subject-based legal news feeds that are on Twitter. The listed accounts stream legal news and documents posted by lawyers, law firms and other legal professionals.

In addition, there are two relatively new online directories of legal professionals who are on Twitter, both of which aggregate the Twitter streams of those included in the directories: Justia’s LegalBirds (www.legalbirds.com) and LexBlog’s LexTweet (www.lextweet.com).

Another way to find law-related conversations is via the Legal Tweets blog (www.legaltweets.com), which tracks legal topics currently being discussed on Twitter. The conversations are filtered to include trending issues and are edited to highlight the most salient points being discussed. (Disclosure: Legal Tweets is moderated by the author of this article.)

And yet another Twitter resource specifically for legal professionals is TweetLaw (http://tweetlaw.com), a new entrant in the field. Here, users complete a profile page and choose from among 30 categories to describe their practices. This site provides streams of law tweets and enables users to connect with other TweetLaw users in their field.

More Ways to Keep Up with the Stream

In addition to using the preceding sites, there are other ways to help ensure you hit the mark in where you spend your time on Twitter. Importantly, you can track conversations using hashtags. Hashtags are simply codes that consist of a hash mark (#) followed by a word or phrase—for example, “#lawyers” or “#probatelaw.” They are added at the end of Twitter posts to indicate that the tweet relates to a specific subject matter or event. Hashtags create a context for the tweet and allow other users to quickly search for tweets regarding certain topics using Twitter’s built-in search tool (http://search.twitter.com).

You can look up the meaning of particular hashtags by using Tagalus (http://tagal.us), one of the newest searchable glossaries of hashtags.

Another valuable way to organize the constant stream of new tweets is by using a desktop client program such as Tweetdeck (www.tweetdeck.com) or Twhirl (www.twhirl.com), or a Web application like Tweetree (http://tweetree.com). These programs make the Twitter interface more user-friendly, in part by making replies from other users easier to locate. The Tweetdeck platform is particularly popular because it allows you to organize your followers into groups, while simultaneously keeping track of your conversations on Twitter.

You can also use Twitter applications on your smart phone to keep up with the conversation stream. Two popular iPhone Twitter applications are Tweetie (www.tweetie.com) and Twitterific (www.twitterific.com).

Arguably, the most popular BlackBerry application is Twitterberry (www.twitterberry.com). Other Black-Berry applications to consider are Twibble (www.twibble.com) and Tiny Tweeter (www.tinytweeter.com).

As you can see, there are a number of tools to help lawyers make the most of their tweet time. Remember, too, that it only takes a short amount of time to set up a Twitter account and familiarize yourself with the site and the applications that increase its functionality. Granted, there is a small learning curve, but once you’ve learned to navigate Twitter, you may find that it is a very effective way to extend your online presence.

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Nicole Black is of counsel to Fiandach & Fiandach in Rochester, NY. She coauthors the West-Thomson treatise Criminal Law in New York and writes a weekly column for the Daily Record. She also provides legal technology consulting through www.lawtechtalk.com.

WEB 2.0 The term Web 2.0 was coined to reflect the interactive nature of the modern Web, where new tools have emerged to allow everyone—including lawyers—to contribute commentary, collaborate instantly and work digitally in formerly unimaginable ways. In this column, we invite savvy legal technology experts to write about tools and tactics that lawyers can use to leverage the power of the Web 2.0 (r)evolution.

Editor, Steve Matthews, is principal of Stem Legal Web Enterprises and a member of Law Practice ’s Editorial Board. If you have ideas to share or topics to suggest, contact him at steve@stemlegal.com. Steve blogs at www.stemlegal.com/strategyblog.

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Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Posted on April 21, 2009. Filed under: The times they are a'changin', Web 2.0 |

Drlogo11

This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Actions Speak Louder Than Words.”

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

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Actions Speak Louder Than Words

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Technological change is occurring at an unprecedented rate and is indisputably changing the way that the business world functions.

Nevertheless, well-established, mammoth institutions move forward blindly, attempting to conduct business as usual despite the uncomfortable knowledge that the building blocks upon which their businesses are based are crumbling at their very foundations.

Just last week, two seemingly unrelated and well- established institutions, cable television and the legal profession, reluctantly gave an inch to the winds of change.

Not surprisingly,  however, after acknowledging that some form of adaptation was required, both continued to cling unsuccessfully to the formulas that always worked for them in the past.

First, Time Warner Cable backed off plans to use Rochester as a test market for a consumption-based billing trial for Internet customers. Earlier, it caused an uproar when it announced its intent to implement the plan in September.

As a direct result of the public backlash, on April 16, Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt announced that the company would cancel consumption-based billing trial:

It is clear from the public response over the last two weeks that there is a great deal of misunderstanding about our plans to roll out additional tests on consumption based billing. As a result, we will not proceed with implementation of additional tests until further consultation with our customers and other interested parties, ensuring that community needs are being met.

Time Warner, however, stubbornly resisted the tide of change and refused to rule out a consumption-based plan in the future.

Similarly last week, law firm giant Wombyle Carlyle, when announcing layoffs and salary reductions of associates and staff, issued an internal memorandum with language that could have been copied directly from the book that I discussed last week, Richard Susskind’s “The End of Lawyers?”:

The world of law firms … has changed forever. Clients are increasingly focused on managing the costs of all legal matters. … In many instances, price will control the decision of which of several competing law firms will be hired. Successful firms will be those who continu- ously strive to improve efficiencies and find ways to minimize costs without reducing the overall quality of the services they provide. That of course means that firms will need fewer, but more highly skilled and trained personnel at all levels. Simply stated, like the business world in general, law firms must be able to do more with less.

That language indicates that Wombyle Carlyle perceives the enormous changes occurring in the legal industry and is attempting to adapt its practices accordingly, but the decision to reduce costs by eliminating the very positions that constitute the foundation of the firm belie their commitment to the forward thinking concepts embodied in the memo.

Like Time Warner, Wombyle Carlyle seemingly understands that change is inevitable while refusing to take advantage of the opportunity presented by that very knowledge. Rather than using that knowledge to proceed innovatively, both institutions desperately are seeking ways to maintain the framework in which they
always functioned.

Time Warner must comprehend that, in just a few years, most non-commercial Internet users will be completely mobile rather than home-based, and will want access to the Internet no matter where they are.

Instead of clinging to and preserving a dying industry —cable television —Time Warner would be wise to offer consumers new, more flexible ways to use their services.

Wombyle Carlyle similarly would be wise to revise the firm’s infrastructure from the ground up. Creating a less hierarchical and more collaborative, cooperative environment would strengthen the firm, making it more adaptable.

Lopping off the support positions at the bottom of the hierarchy makes no sense, and leaves equity partners teetering at the top of a rigid and failing system.

Forward-thinking words are a start, but only when such words are followed by forward-thinking actions do they indicate true progress.

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Domino’s has momentum-It’s not all bad.

Posted on April 18, 2009. Filed under: Social Media, The times they are a'changin', Web 2.0 |

Just watched Gary Vaynerchuk’s video about the Domino’s fiasco and agree with him 100%. Here’s my 2 cents as to what Domino’s should do next:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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