No #opensource at #ABATECHSHOW? No Worries.

January 9, 2012

The session schedule for #ABATECHSHOW 2012 is out, and #opensource didn’t make the cut this year. And you know what? That is perfectly OK.

Just glancing at the schedule, there are clearly bigger fish to fry than open source applications. Mobile security. Advances in cloud computing and security. Social media. Social media and eDiscovery. Technology moves at a fast pace, as you all are no doubt aware. And many of the advances have a direct impact on the solo and small firm cases. Open source? Not so much. Open source applications skill exist, mind you, and there’s nothing preventing you from trying some out or looking at them as alternatives.

Is it a bummer open source isn’t making a return? Yes. Am I that broken up about it? No. I’m more interesting in lawyers learning tips and tricks, and finding tools to use to better sift through the massive amount of data spewed across the Internet. The legal profession is undergoing shifts across the board, and #ABATECHSHOW 2012 schedule illustrates some of those shifts. Not only is the profession becoming more mobile, but its clientele is already mobile. In personal lives, we’re used to posting and commenting and not always aware of potential ramifications.

So #ABATECHSHOW is doing what it does best: educating lawyers on developments, advancements and new technologies. Are you going?

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Some Big News – Small Firm Innovation #blawg100 and Relocation to #Vancouver, BC, CA

December 13, 2011

Well then.

There’s a fair amount of news to share as the year rushes to a close. I just realized a week from Saturday is Christmas Eve and have, um, have a lot of shopping to do. First things first though.

Small Firm Innovation has been chosen by the ABA Journal as one of its #blawg100 in the LPM category. Considering the blog only launched, albeit quietly, in April of this year, it is quite an honor. When I initially agreed to take on the project, the goal was quite simple: first person accounts of small firm success. Nothing more, nothing less.

There are a number of fantastic law blogs out there already, and the small contribution I could help make was in focusing on the business aspect of running a law practice, and the nitty gritty of what has makes a solo or small law firm a success. The best way I could think of doing that while not shoving Contributors into a tight corner was centering each month around a theme. That way, the site would remain cohesive in its message while giving a fair amount of latitude to Contributors. And the theme’s this year have reflected what I’ve gone through myself, and what I’ve noticed as common struggles from talking to many solo and small firm lawyers.

It’s been rather interesting and rewarding to work on this project. And I’m still awed and pleased you have found it helpful, and decided nominated it. A big thanks to you, and the ABA Journal for including it in its #blawg100. In a year filled with either level fields or deep valleys, it is certainly a high point.

Oh. Before I forget, you can still vote for your favorite #blawg100. You’ll be prompted to register, and then shown a list of categories. There are some really excellent blogs in each category. I found some I hadn’t heard before, too. It’s kind of like a treasure trove of legal blogging. Niche. News. Tech. For Fun. Good stuff there, too. Small Firm Innovation is listed under LPM. Good stuff.

And now the second piece of big news.

I am relocating to Vancouver, BC, CA. Clio’s home city.

The decision is not made lightly, nor without a fair amount of agonizing and distress. It’s one thing to move to a different US city, and merely be far away from family but still have the comfort of iTunes, Netflix, unlimited data plans and cable companies of which you are familiar. Not to mention banking and tax laws, measurements and generally all the things we take for granted and don’t think about. It’s been a very long, arduous process that really tests one’s patience. I’ve given some serious thought to starting a blog to better outline the whole process, a checklist of what comes next and generally chronicle this next phase.

Next phase. Yeah. You know that phrase, “Go big or go home”? Seems rather appropriate. Changing cities, changing countries and leaving behind all that is familiar just isn’t enough change for me. Nope. I have to hangup my #freelance spurs and dust off the more “corporate” shoes, too. I’m a bit apprehensive about that. I’m so used to doing everything myself, calling the shots and working wherever whenever, it will not be easy to switch that off. I’m not even sure I can switch it off. Tone it down, perhaps.

I am quite excited about the move though, and the potential 2012 holds. I’m taking the best advice I’ve been given: trust your gut. My gut says head west to Vancouver.


Articles: eDiscovery and Social Media, 10 Tips for Getting Started with Open Source

June 17, 2011

Back in April, I had a couple articles published in two different publications.

Social Media and E-Discovery

Truth be told, I had forgotten about this article. I was reminded of it when I got a phone call from a lawyer in Texas. He had read the article and was looking for help in understanding social media for one of his cases.

Published in the April issue of the Texas Bar Journal, its main point is that lawyers need to understand how social media networks operate as social media will increasingly play a role in eDiscovery. Lawyers don’t need to spend hours tweeting or posting to Facebook, but they do need to understand how to setup an account, how posting to Twitter is different from posting to Facebook, LinkedIN, FourSquare or other networks and how the privacy settings vary from network to network. Knowing what is considered private v. public, and how a user has setup his or her account, is increasingly important. The courts have taken notice, so it is important for lawyers to do the same.

Social media isn’t a fad, and it’s time to start looking at it from a more case-specific perspective than the common marketing perspective.

10 Tips for Getting Starting with Open Source Software

Just in time for #abatechshow, in the March/April issue of Law Practice Magazine, I co-authored this article with Dennis Kennedy. Dennis and I have co-authored open source articles before, and this time, we thought it’d be helpful to provide a guide, or stepping stones, to open source. Take-aways, if you will, to coincide with Dennis and Rodney Dowell’s open source presentation at ABA TECHSHOW (PDF).

There are numerous options for open source software, it can sometimes be hard to figure out where to start. So we offered these tips:

  1. Get Familiar with the Philosophy and the Licenses
  2. Know Thyself
  3. Be Savvy about Support
  4. Make Reasonable Comparisons to Commercial Software
  5. Start Small
  6. Go to SourceForge
  7. Utilize Utilities
  8. Do Your Due Diligence
  9. Stay in Charted Territory
  10. Consider Contributing to the Community

It’s really awesome to see open source gain traction in the legal professional as a useful, practical tool instead of a form of intellectual property. And it’s fun to see lawyers realize they don’t need to fully switch to open source but can pick and choose and find the right combination for their offices. Be interesting to see what ABA TECHSHOW has in store for 2012.


6 months of one, 3 years since the other. Looking like that thing called a career?

May 24, 2011

Historic moments. Something I kept coming back to while in Florida for the Endeavor space shuttle launch. Its final voyage before it ends up in a museum, a piece of “remember when” for future generations.

It’s something I keep coming back to lately. Another “remember when” or, perhaps more appropriately, “remember how” I heard the news of the death of Osama Bin Laden: Twitter.

There are some dates that get etched in our memories, ones we share with many, like 9/11/01 and 5/1/11. Others are more family oriented, like birthdays. Holidays we remember because they’re always on the calendar. Christmas. New Year’s. Thanksgiving. Memorial Day. Fourth of July. Yet other dates are unique to the individual, in my case, 4/30/08. And 10/12/10.

4/30/08

Three years ago and some days now. It was the date I got laid off.

I still remember it. Quite clearly. Stressing out of integrating automated return labels, skipping lunch to try and resolve the problem only to get called into my boss’s office. An HR rep was already there, and I politely knocked and waited. Then the sinking feeling when he motioned me inside and to have a seat. I didn’t need an explanation; I had predicted this moment in January when there had been a definite shift in company mood with a new CFO. I never met the man, but what I heard made me think he sat in an office and looked over spreadsheets with names and numbers. Salary numbers. Sales figures. I wasn’t in sales; I was in corporate communications. I wasn’t responsible for taking, fulfilling or picking up orders.

I wasn’t responsible for ensuring computer systems worked properly or writing code. I was responsible for documenting policies and procedures for those tasks so they would completed the same way throughout the company. I was responsible for creating order. Though it can be quantified, it is not as easy to do as looking at sales figures. In the big scheme of things, at the time, I had no discernible impact on the bottom line and was thus expendable.

I remember the shock, of me and of other employees who found out. None of them thought I’d go, especially not in the first round. I thought I’d go, since my job was not as easy to quantify, but I didn’t think it’d be in the first round. And since I did, that meant the rest of them were just as vulnerable. A few really didn’t know what to make of it and were visibly unnerved.

My boss was as gracious as he could be, and though he didn’t need to say “it’s not you nor a reflection on your performance,” he did anyway. The reason was “corporate restructuring,” and I fully knew that. I’d heard enough grumbling to know there was much restructuring going on, and a whole lot more to come. All those books on business I’d read proved to be quite helpful.

The interceding months…OK…year, or two, is kind of a blur. Getting laid off is hard, whether you expect it or not. It’s incredibly demoralizing, and it takes some time to process. More time than you might think. I’m rather glad I had grad school to keep me company, and that I had gotten laid off so early, well ahead of the tidal wave. I finished my masters, landed what turned out to be a really good contract job and started thinking this whole “consulting”-entrepreneur thing. I seemed to have stumbled onto something with law, and open source. The accidental mixture of social media also seemed key as I landed my first couple of clients through Twitter.

And it is Twitter that brings me to the second date that sticks out.

10/12/10

The day I started working for Clio.

There’s a story here, though, that starts earlier, in August or September. I was biding my time, really, trying to figure out what exactly to do, what direction to take. Shadow Froggy Consulting was kind of languishing, no real direction. People told me I should make it a social media consulting company, but I found (and still find) the idea uninviting. Not to mention there were so many “social media consultants” touting one thing or another. I wasn’t interested. Open source, however, had my attention still. And since the economy tanked, there was a sudden interest in this idea of “free software.” There was something there, and I saw social media as merely a tool to educate. I’d developed a decent following by then, and my hankering of open source adoption in the legal profession was well known. The Texas Bar Journal article was out, as was the first article I co-authored with Dennis Kennedy for Law Practice Today. I just needed to hone the message and build a better website.

Or so I had been thinking until Grainger called, and I moved through the interview process. I was either in the midst of the interview process, or waiting for a final verdict, when I got a DM from Clio. Random.

I knew of Clio. I follow them on Twitter, and I’d seen a demo and met Jack and Rian at ABA TECHSHOW in 2009, and again in 2010. I briefly entertained the idea of approaching them about becoming a Clio Certified Consultant. I couldn’t quite rationalize that idea, and not being a lawyer seemed to be a strike against me. It was hard enough not being a lawyer talking to lawyers about open source, but I possessed knowledge on the topic already and had been published in well-respected legal publications. Two things I found carried some weight. A non-lawyer talking about cloud computing practice management? Struck me as a tougher sell.

That seems a little ridiculous now, no? Maybe. To be perfectly honest, I’m still trying to wrap my head around how I’ve ended up in a position that is too much fun to be work. Granted there are times when it seems like, and if you stop to think about it, it is, an awful lot of work, but it’s fun. And it’s fun because it is what I have been doing already: sharing information about technology and the law, which is why I got a Master of Sciences in IT and Privacy Law in the first place.

I’ve been fairly good at predicting things, but this wasn’t even on the radar.

Not only that, but the fit, the fit! Who knew I’d actually fit well with a company not my own? Message. Mission. Audience. Ideas. Direction. And from the most unconventional hiring process I have experienced.

Unconventional hiring, especially after going through several conventional hiring processes. Job duties that put to good use my education, social media, writing and strategic thinking skills. The pieces are starting to form that thing people often refer to as a career.

Six months. OK. Seven. It was a bit of a surprise when it dawned on me it’s been six months. I usually notice at three months, and some kind of internal clock orients itself as if it knows to start counting down to the point where boredom has been maximized. It says something I only took notice at 6 months, still the find the position fun and challenging, and haven’t gotten bored. Small Firm Innovation has played a role, no doubt, but so has the intersection of technology and the law.

It’s no secret the law moves like molasses, but when it moves, it is fascinating to watch it ripple across the industry.

I seem to have landed on a ripple moving across the industry, and we seem to be moving as one.

Suffice to say, it has been, and looks to remain, rather interesting.


Double down on #opensource? #ingnitelaw #abatechshow

March 17, 2011

So I was rereading my previous post on taking the #ignitelaw plunge, checking out the submissions and it occurred to me: there two talks on open source were submitted.

There is Dennis Kennedy’s “The Freemium Practice of Law” and Sam Glover’s “Bootstapping A New Law Firm With Free Software.” Although, I think it’s “Bootstrapping.” That’s two open source submissions though, from two different, well respected people. Clearly open source is taking root in the legal community. Let’s not forget that Dennis Kennedy is also doing an open source session at #abatechshow. The last day, as a matter of fact, with Rodney Dowell. That is at least two, potentially, open source presentations this year. Up from, well, zero last year.

Granted, it’s possible neither Ignite Law presentation will make it in the end, but somehow I don’t think that will be the case. I think we’ll see the start of a shift, or perhaps more publicity of a shift from strictly proprietary to a combination of proprietary and open source applications in law offices.

Exciting, and interesting times, indeed.


The Job Application Process

September 10, 2010

I’ve decided to start a new venture: documenting the Job Application Process.

Plenty of lip service has been given to creating jobs, but that is only half the battle. Applying for those jobs is the other half, and the job application process needs improvement. Experience has taught me that you can’t improve something until you know how it currently functions, so I’ve decided to blog about my experience with how it currently functions.

Suffice to say, it is tedious and full of repetition. There are a handful of third party vendors that are used, like Taleo, Kronos and BrassRing. Talking with some friends the other day, it occurred to me that I have multiple accounts with all three because every company that uses them requires you to create an account, with the hiring company, before applying. I cannot simply have an account with Taleo, Kronos and BrassRing and apply that way. I have to have an account with UC-Berkeley, BestBuy, Sears, Borders, Barnes and Noble, Disney, Time, DePaul University, University of Chicago, Harvard University, Princeton…the list keeps growing.

The technical writer in me said hey, what’s going on here? There simply has to be a better way.

And Job Application Process is the start of finding a better way, from both sides of the aisle.


.NET open source options

June 30, 2010

Suffice to say, Microsoft still dominates. When it comes to the Web, many business websites and applications are built using its .NET (dot NET) Framework. Doing so often makes it easier to integrate many aspects of a business that runs on Microsoft. People unfamiliar with open source applications, and even more unfamiliar to object-oriented programming that is Microsoft, may decide to hire a Web development company to build a .NET website so that, in the future as the company grows, integration will be seamless…or close to it

There are, however, open source alternatives built on the .NET Framework that are easy to install and customize on your own, or that a .NET programmer can customize for you. One in particular that I have used is called DotNetNuke. I found it while still gainfully employed. My boss at the time, the CTO, agreed an Intranet was needed, but was hesitant as the cost of set up, installation, training and maintenance was more than the company was willing to spend. While searching for an alternative, I found DNN, which was used to build the corporate Intranet. That was more than two years ago now, and DNN has only matured and improved since. It now comes in a Professional Edition, and an Elite Edition, for a small fee, which is still considerably less than what you’d pay for SharePoint.

Another .NET open source option is a blogging platform called BlogEngine.NET. A client of mine, for whom I am writing a technical manual for online time tracking software, introduced me to it. Its website describes it as “a full featured blogging platform that is a breeze to setup, customize, and use.” Such phrases are not often associated with Microsoft, so some skepticism is expected. Judging from its install documentation, though, it really does sound like a breeze to setup, customize and use. And just like any good open source project, it has an active, robust forum.

Forums are good places to find information. I used the DNN forum often when building out the Intranet. More often than not, someone had a similar problem, and someone found a resolution. Over time, those issues get corrected in new releases, which I continue to find helpful. And people are more than happy to share their successes, as well. They like to show off their work, and some of it can be quite stunning.

So if you’re on the fence about jumping ship from Microsoft, rest assured you don’t necessarily have to do that. DNN and BlogEngine.NET are two examples of open source applications built on the Microsoft .NET platform, giving you the benefits of open source while maintaining the familiarity of Microsoft.