To start the year off, I wrote an article for the Texas Bar Journal on open source applications for lawyers, Open Source Software Helps Lawyers Cut Costs, Increase Productivity (PDF). The opportunity presented itself through Twitter, naturally. John Sirman contacted me via Twitter, asking if I’d be willing to write an article on open source for lawyers. Nothing too fancy, nothing too technical, but he thought it a good idea to weave more open source info into the Texas Bar Journal.
Nothing too fancy. Nothing too technical. Perfect. I’m not a big fan of fancy or technical. Too many bells and whistles and the substance gets lost. All flash and no substance, as they say. So of course I jumped at the chance.
To be perfectly honest, I was a wee bit nervous. Aside from this blog, my undergraduate thesis (if you can find it), a couple of short stories (if you can find those) and postings on my JDSupra profile (which are mostly decisions), nothing out there has my name on it. Content I write for websites does not appear with my name. Though, now that I think about it, there are probably some press releases with my name on them from 2005ish.
So, for all intents and purposes, this would be my first “real” article. My name as the byline instead of my name mentioned as part of the subject matter.
Nothing fancy. Nothing too technical.
Past experience taught me that lawyers can be fast learners, and tend to remember things, so there was no sense in beating a dead horse by describing what “open source” means and the legalese behind the licensing. Nothing fancy. Nothing technical. And a new element: practicality. Lawyers have become more interested in how to apply technology than the nitty gritty licensing mumbo jumbo. They just want applications that help them accomplish tasks. Law has enough barriers as it is, so when they get the chance to “get it done,” they get excited and jump on it.
So I offered three open source applications most can probably use right now: OpenOffice, WordPress and a CMS (Joomla! or Drupal or DNN or any number of others). OpenOffice as an alternative to MS Office, not only because it’s free but also because you can open WordPerfect files with it, not to mention .doc and .docx files. I’m a fan of Writer’s Tools myself, too. As well as WordPress. I used Blogger for awhile, then experimented with WordPress and haven’t looked back since. With the CMS, well, I merely presented some options. There simply wasn’t enough room to go into detail, That’s what this blog is for! I also think it’s best for firms to do some due diligence to figure out what they need from a CMS, and I’m happy to help as it can be daunting.
The response has been positive. I’ve gotten a couple “thank you” emails, of saying he’s been using open source software in his practice for six years and wanted to touch base, and another who choose OpenOffice and saved himself $100. He even pointed out that OpenOffice allows him to use/open WordPerfect files!
Ah yes. And then there is Twitter. On the advice from @JDTwitt, I uploaded the article to my JDSupra profile, and found it being retweeted often. I’ll tell ya, it’s one thing to watch a random thought or insight of mine get retweeted, but it is something else entirely to watch an article I have written get retweeted. Both are exciting events, but the article retweets seem to lend more credibility.
Not a bad way to start the year, eh?