A “forest for the trees” moment

March 28, 2011

By now you’ve heard of the speakers for Ignite Law 2011. And no, I’m not one of them, which is perfectly OK. And thanks for the votes, “good luck” and “aww” when the speakers were announced. Quite reminiscent of ABATechShow’s open source presentation. Again, I’m touched.

The experience presents a “forest for the trees” moment, of which I seem to be having quite a few lately. I don’t refer to myself as an expert, in anything, as I think whatever you do is a learning process. You learn your strengths and weaknesses, what you like and what you don’t, what kind of personalities you get along with and what kinds you tend to clash. And you learn how other people view you, which is not always how you view yourself.

When Dennis Kennedy suggested I submit a talk about Twitter, I initially balked. It struck me as kind of absurd. OK. Not “kind of” but totally absurd. The “forest for the trees” metaphor popped into my head shortly after when a member of the Clio Support team suggested I create a introductory video about how to use Twitter. A few people have suggested that, now that I think of it. I was dismissive of the idea (we’ll see how long that lasts).

And then my brother Skype’s me and asks for help on how to integrate his blog with his Facebook page and Twitter account, and explain exactly what to do with Twitter. Friends of his suddenly follow and contact me via Twitter, also asking for advice. What is it, exactly, that I do that makes my use of Twitter successful…to other people. I say “to other people” because they clearly view myself and my Twitter use quite differently than I do. And that, mind you, is a good thing.

These requests, and submitting an Ignite Law talk, forced me to step “out of the forest” and look at the trees that make up the forest. To look at my network that I have inadvertently built. I can’t help but feel a sense of pride. I’ve cultivated a network of value. A network which I value, and that also values me in return. I hadn’t noticed that before; Twitter just seemed a natural thing to me, I just saw “forest for the trees.”

And then there’s that opposite problem, seeing the trees for the forest, or what is more commonly called “taking your eyes off your goal.” And what do you see? Obstacles. That, however, is for another post.

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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.


Latham & Watkins looking for Social Media Specialist

March 16, 2011

Imagine my shock when a job post for a Social Media Specialist appeared in my Twitter stream.

The shocking aspect was the company name, ahem, law firm name, attached to the opening: Latham & Watkins. Talk about prestige! And they want to hire a Social Media Specialist? Just one Social Media Specialist? My curiosity got the better of me so I opened the link on my Android. As I said, my curiosity got the better of me, and no, I was not driving at the time.

What immediately struck me was that the description did not start with the responsibilities of the position, but rather the position’s compensation. After all, if you are going to hire the best and the brightest, you wouldn’t want them to assume you’re hiring them for free.

Granted, that may just be their job opening template, and will certainly cater to people who are involved in social media simply to make money. All snarkiness aside, though, it is interesting that a BigLaw firm is actively looking for a Social Media Specialist. I imagine there was some debate about calling the position “specialist.” However, being able to formulate “a comprehensive social media approach that is integrated with the firm’s public relations and marketing endeavors, as well as supporting the development of the firm’s social media policies and governance” no doubt requires such specialist skills. And this is a respected law firm we’re talking about, so reputation management will no doubt be paramount. More so, I’d suspect, in light of Aflac and Chrysler. Social media backfiring, indeed.

The job description implies they’ve given some thought to the Social Media Specialist position. It doesn’t read quite like many other job descriptions for that or similar positions. It also implies they’re currently active in social media, which is up for debate. They have a Facebook Page, which is currently the firm’s Wikipedia entry. There are a couple others that are empty community pages. They have a Twitter handle, but 0 tweets. As of this posting, anyway. A search of “Latham Wakins” turns up attorneys there who tweet. Given the number of disgruntled attorneys in this economy, and the attorneys (disgruntled and otherwise) on social media, you kind of have to wonder who they will ultimately hire. The job description says nothing about having a legal background. They’re looking for what you’d expect: PR/Communications. Kind of wonder, though, what chances a lawyer-turned-pr-communications pro would have.

Take a few minutes and read the Social Media Specialist job description yourself. If nothing else, it offers a glimpse into what the future may hold for non-legal jobs. To some, that may mean “career transition.”


Took the #ignitelaw plunge

March 16, 2011

After some prodding, friendly prodding, I submitted a talk to #ignitelaw: 50,000 Tweets and Counting: Twitter Lessons You Need to Know.

Yes, I opted to take the Ignite Law plunge this year. Voting just opened, so I wanted to take a moment and let you know that, well, voting has opened.

There are a number of really good submissions this year. I confess that, last year, I found out about Ignite Law just before it happened (yay for Twitter!) so I didn’t have the opportunity to read through, let alone vote, for submissions. I did, however, have a ton of fun tweeting from the event. And it’s exciting to see some familiar as well as new faces with submissions this year. So check’em out and, of course, vote!

And you can bet, whether or not I’m selected, I’ll be tweeting away. Huh. Be quite a challenge to present and tweet at the same time! Well, maybe my Twitter lessons will remain a secret and I’ll just share everyone else’s. I really have no idea.

Good luck to all!

Now, really, stop reading this and go vote!


Rumors are true: #ignitelaw returns to #abatechshow

February 28, 2011

I took the few tweets about #ignitelaw in the #abatechshow stream with a grain of salt. I was excited, to be sure, but information tends to travel faster on Twitter, and the Internet in general, before anyone takes a moment to verify. With such big news, I prefer validation from a couple trusted sources.

And validation has arrived. Ignite Law returns! Sunday, April 10, 2011. Tickets are available.

It was a new thing at TechShow last year, and was a nifty way to kick off TechShow. Decidedly not as straight laced as you might expect TechShow presentations to be, and they didn’t hold back the funny. In fact, it provided a good mix of humor, intelligence and wit. No one presentation was the same and there was something to be learned from them all. It was a nice change of pace, actually, so I’m pretty excited…ahem…totally stoked Ignite Law is back!

Quite fitting, actually. Ignite Law opens TechShow while an #opensource session closes.

If you missed Ignite Law last year, take a few minutes and check out the videos of the presentations.


Needles in the #ediscovery haystack at #ltny: @TextFlow, @TrialPad, @RealPractice and @MyCaseInc

February 9, 2011

There is probably a reason why LegalTech New York is called LegalTech and not the eDiscovery Showcase, and the logical explanation seems to be consistency. This year’s big vendor push may not be the same next year, though I’m inclined to think eDiscovery will be just as big next year but we’ll have to wait until next year.

There were some needles hidden in the eDiscovery haystack, though, which managed to make themselves known through the cluttered Twitter feed. I admit, it’s rather cool when they send you a tweet and ask you to stop by, but I couldn’t help being a bit skeptical, too. Everyone always has something to show off at a trade show, that’s the point.

Of the ones I browsed, four stick out:

TextFlow

As a freelancer, I spend an awful lot of time emailing or uploading documents with all kinds of edits. Articles, drafts of books and blog posts, comment letters, you name it. While Google Docs is helpful, not everyone uses it. Same with ZoHo, so I often have to resort to using OpenOffice or Microsoft Word, which creates the step of re-saving and attaching the document to an email. You see where this is going…

So I was downright excited when I was approached by the people at Nordic River while waiting for the Kroll On Track session, who proceeded to give me a demo of TextFlow. The premise is incredibly simple. Mind-bogglingly simple. You upload the original document, and an edited version or two, and TextFlow shows you each change, line-by-line. Line-by-line! In an incredibly user-friendly interface which, quite frankly, puts Track Changes to shame, not to mention the total lack of anything useful like that in Google Docs.

They do offer a free trial, and the cost posted on their website is $4.99/user/month. Not bad. Do some due diligence and number crunching though to see if it’ll work for you.

TrialPad

There was a fair amount of buzz before #ltny about TrialPad, with some lawyers already raving about its use in the field, also called the court room. Being a new iPad owner (though not a lawyer), I was intrigued. After TextFlow, it also struck me how mind-bogglingly simple TrialPad is by also focusing on one specific area or addressing one specific issue. That whole “do one thing and do it well” mantra at work again. And guess what? It works with Dropbox! *ca-ching*

The lawyers already using TrialPad were right on the money. It’s quite intuitive and easy to use. Nothing super fancy, nothing you don’t need. It makes good use of the iPad, from what I can tell, and rotating between documents and presentations, not to mention folders, is a fairly smooth process. Its annotation ability was pretty nifty. I can see law schools finding the app quite useful, too.

I imagine their inboxes are overflowing with feature suggestions, and it will be interesting to see if it gets adapted to other platforms, like Android.

RealPractice and MyCase, Inc.

In the interest of full disclosure, and so you don’t all yell at me, I do work for Clio as its Community Manager. That isn’t a secret. However, I attended #ltny as me, the Founder & Chief Consultant of Shadow Froggy Consulting. And if you follow me on Twitter, or read this blog, you know I’m an incredibly curious individual always looking to learn new things or engage in discussions. Both RealPractice and MyCase, Inc. did not fall short of engaging discussion. And neither did Nordic River or TrialPad, for that matter. There’s some downright awesome stuff happening in the legal field, and it’s fascinating to see it from so many different viewpoints and being able to share them on this blog.

So. RealPractice and MyCase, Inc. Both are entrants into the online practice management realm, but with a twist.

RealPractice integrates website and marketing efforts with its practice management system, simplifying the process of collecting leads and inputting them for future follow-up and/or reference. It was more seamless than I expected, and the websites are professional-looking, which is not always the case when trying to integrate separate systems. It does a fairly good job of merging the business-side of law with the actual practice/case management of law, which you don’t often see.

The website and marketing functions stick in my mind more so than its practice management system, though, as website and marketing are two areas ripe for growth, still, in the legal industry. Their demo made me think of something my dad often repeated when I first started my consulting company: build simple websites for small firms and doctors offices. They don’t have a clue, they need it and you’ll have repeat business. RealPractice is doing just that.

MyCase, Inc. had me intrigued with its “social practice management” tag line. What the heck does that mean? Turns out, it means integrating social media aspects into an online practice management application. A “social media layer,” as they say. Their website defines it as “the idea that a law firm should have a secure and accessible social network between themselves and their clients. It is the idea that clients should have this constant connection to their attorneys without having to be on the phone or in person with them.” It made me think of my open v. closed network part of an MHConnected presentation last year.

It uses a similar message/update function like Facebook, an Activity Stream, and a notice function like health care companies. You know, those emails you get about an update to an EOB or response to a message, but there’s nothing in the email notice except a link to log into the site to read the message. I personally find those annoying, that extra step just to get information, but I understand the reasoning behind it. We had a really interesting conversation about improved communication, the far too early demise of Google Wave and how document management is still annoying, not to mention there is still not such thing as “paperless.” Even Michael Rogers, the Practical Futurist, still uses paper. He was holding paper notes during his presentation!

Parting Thoughts

With the continued proliferation of mobile devices, there will be dramatic change to eDiscovery in the coming years. Vendors I talked to expressed optimism that mobile platforms, like now trusty desktops, would become more standardized so data dumps will become just as routine. There is just as much activity going on outside of eDiscovery, though, that it should not be ignored.

The thing that is clear, and was mentioned more than once at #ltny, is that technology is shifting the legal landscape. Not in small areas or minor ones, but in big tectonic shifts. Like the dealing with the recession, we’re reaching the point where action is required. It will be interesting to see what happens as the year progresses.


A different take on #ltny ignoring social media

February 7, 2011

In case you didn’t know, LegalTech New York (#ltny) was last week.

Let’s first dispense with the elephant in the room: social media. There was some grumbling about few sessions, one for sure and one from Kroll on Track that was billed as “Trends in Social Media and Cloud Computing” but turned out to be just a primer on cloud computing. How disappointing.

Tim Baran let it be known that the lack of social media adoption might be due to the fact that LegalTech New York is vendor driven. That is an understatement. Social media, at least Twitter, was in heavy use MAINLY BY VENDORS tweeting about their booth and give aways. It often seemed as if us attendees were incapable of reading signs or a map of the trade show. Needless to say, ALM has its work cut out for it in sifting through the #ltny Twitter feed. I have to wonder if they think it’s even worth the effort to find those useful nuggets from attendees that have since been swallowed by vendor tweets. Gone are the days when a conference got kudos merely for having a hash tag, it seems, or even simply allowing the use of social networks like Twitter.

All was not lost, however.

Though Kroll on Track incorrectly labeled its session on social media and cloud computing, it did offer one nugget that continues to be ignored by most, though not by eDiscovery vendors.

The nugget? Social media is a boon to eDiscovery. And it behooves lawyers to view it less through the continuous “marketing” pitch and more through the “underutilized utility” lens. Lawyers would be wise to start participating in social media, if they haven’t already, more to gain an understanding of how the various platforms work so when it comes time to present information at trial, they can better educate the courts and the public on the kinds of repercussions, and benefits, all this sharing can have.

There was a case brought up at the tail end of the Kroll session, Crispin I believe, that made a point of listing the judge as asking about the privacy settings of a Facebook page in order to ascertain exactly what expectation was set for the viewing of information. Yes. A judge. A judge wanted to know about Facebook privacy settings in order to better understand an expectation of privacy.

And this is where ALM and LegalTech New York can really shine since it is more like an eDiscovery Showcase. Social media can be viewed as yet another treasure trove of information, information lawyers want to protect their clients. They get that information from eDiscovery vendors, and from their clients, but if they don’t have an understanding of how Facebook operates v. Twitter v. LinkedIN or any of the other sites, they are not going to be able to protect their clients. Or they aren’t going to be able to find the information necessary to win their case.

LegalTech New York could do wonders of getting lawyers and other legal professionals off the “social media as marketing tool” bandwagon and onto the next level: eDiscovery, understanding and preparation to win cases.