Every company talks about being real, open and authentic and nobody does it it, my company, LexBlog included.

Being real, open and authentic requires a a company letting the outside world know what makes the company tick, what they’re working on, what they’re learning, what they’re struggling with and so much more.

This message, communication and engagement obviously has to come from the company’s team members – its employees. It sure can’t come from marketing, communications and PR – that would be lipstick in this situation.

With technology, enabling open and authentic dialogue is a snap. A blog and Facebook come to mind.

A blog works best as it enables a company to capture this historical “team diary,” enables indexing on Google for shared research, easy subscription via RSS and email and social sharing by the team and the public across Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

So a blog it is for LexBlog – donuts.lexblog.com. Everyone of my teammates will have the capability of openly sharing what they’re working on. Tech, editorial, products, sales, support/success, operations and accounting, all are in.

No one is going to question each other for sharing too much. God knows, I am open as all get out about what LexBlog is working, what I’m excited about and where we’re challenged – on the road and, when I make the time, online. Let “being smart” be your guide.

The inspiration for donuts comes from blogging – as it was and still is – a conversation. Robert Scoble (@scobleizer) and Shel Israel (@shelisrael) authored the book, Naked Conversations: How Blogs Are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers, eleven years ago.

The book is about how blogs, bloggers and the blogosphere is changing how businesses communicate with their consumers and other stakeholders. Rather than marketing speak, have an open dialogue with the outside world – or at least those who listen in.

And enabling the world to listen in is what being an open and authentic organization is all about.

Thirteen years ago, Scoble and three fellow Microsoft employees created Channel 9 for their company.

Microsoft was viewed as the evil empire. With Channel 9, Microsoft customers could listen in just as passengers on United Airlines could listen in on an unfiltered conversation in the cockpit via its audio Channel 9.

Channel 9 enabled Microsoft employees to share thoughts and work via blog-like posting and other media. Channel 9 enabled a conversation between Microsoft employees and its audience of customers, developers and the media – bloggers and traditional.

Rather than public relations, marketing and its chairman, Bill Gates, Microsoft could have a real voice through its employees and listen to people as real people themselves.

Customers/developers could nurture relationships with Microsoft employees, share input and feedback with Microsoft developers and ultimately, shape future product development.

When it came time to buy, customers (often technology companies and their developers) were buying products they knew were coming, that they helped shape, and from people they trusted and from a company with whom they had a real relationship.

Microsoft employees learned through this dialogue. First they shaped their thinking through writing and by attracting people with similar interests they grew a “learning network.”

The “Channel 9 Doctrine” is inspiring and can guide our efforts at “donuts.”

  1. Channel 9 is all about the conversation. Channel 9 should inspire Microsoft and our customers to talk in an honest and human voice. Channel 9 is not a marketing tool, not a PR tool, not a lead generation tool.
  2. Be a human being. Channel 9 is a place for us to be ourselves, to share who we are, and for us to learn who our customers are
  3. Learn by listening. When our customers speak, learn from them. Don’t get defensive, don’t argue for the sake of argument. Listen and take what benefits you to heart.
  4. Be smart. Think before you speak, there are some conversations which have no benefit other than to reinforce stereotypes or create negative situations.
  5. Marketing has no place on Channel 9. When we spend money on Channel 9 the goal is to surprise and delight, not to promote or preach.
  6. Don’t shock the system. Lasting change only happens in baby steps.
  7. Know when to turn the mic off. There are some topics which will only result in problems when you discuss them. This has nothing to do with censorship, but with working within the reality of the system that exists in our world today. You will not change anything by taking on legal or financial issues, you will only shock the system, spook the passengers, and create a negative situation.
  8. Don’t be a jerk. Nobody likes mean people.
  9. Commit to the conversation. Don’t stop listening just because you are busy. Don’t stop participating because you don’t agree with someone. Relationships are not built in a day, be in it for the long haul and we will all reap the benefits as an industry.

Hey, donuts is just starting. One post from Garry Vander Voort, our COO is all we’ve got so far. But I am optimistic, I’ve got a heck of a talented, caring and passionate team. I can’t wait to turn their thinking loose on you – and your thinking loose on us. .

Why “donuts?” It seemed obvious, with all our products named after doughnut types from a Seattle donut chain. Maybe Josh Lynch, our CTO, can chime in with why donuts for product names.

I am a big believer that content is nothing more than the currency of relationships.

I’m not dismissing the value of content, any more than I would dismiss the value of words at an offline networking event. Without words how could you engage others and get to know them?

But I’m not going to measure the success of my words or my content, like others do, by whether I used the right words (the ones that ranked) and how much traffic my words got. There has to be something more.

When I read a good post or article, whether from a blogger, reporter, columnist or business person (lawyers included), I look to meet the person. Online and maybe later, offline.

If someone can add value to my life with what they’ve had to say online, maybe there’s something more to be gained through getting to know them.

What do I do?

  • Share their piece on Twitter, giving the person the appropriate attribute by including their Twitter handle at the end of my tweet. This lets them know I appreciate their thoughts and that I wanted the world to know it was their piece, not mine. The person then gets both an email and a notice on letting them know that I shared their piece. (Another good reason you need to use your Twitter in your name if you write.)
  • I look them up on other social networks and look for ways to connect. This morning I came across a piece by Gretchen Reynolds, “Phys Ed” columnist at the New York Times, about a study which found that running has a positive impact on brain neurons and can delay the onset of dementia. I run every day and my father died Alzheimer’s, I liked that Reynolds regularly writes on running. I looked her up on Facebook and was disappointed that she did not use Facebook as a way to engage her readers. Facebook enables me to get to know people, professionally and personally, in a real and authentic way. Facebook, through its algorithms and my Fabian friends is also a wonderful way to get news and information that’s valuable to my life.
  • With some people I’ll ask to connect with them on LinkedIn. I use LinkedIn in my travels to look up people I may want to meet.

Everyone wants to post content. Some, so much so that they’ll have others write it for them. But that content is only valuable if it leads to building a name and relationships.

Take advantage of this and get out and engage and network with those content producers — especially those you’d live to meet.

Why is baseball the greatest sport? Because just when you think you’ve seen it all, you witness what the Cubs did in their playoff win over the Nationals last night.

With two outs in the top of the fifth inning the Cubs saw four consecutive batters reach: one by an intentional walk, one on a passed-ball strikeout, one on catcher’s interference, and the fourth on a hit-by-pitch.

Those four events have never happened before in the same half-inning, at least not in the more than 2.73 million half innings in Baseball Reference’s database.

Only 22 half innings have had 3. Only 5 games had all 4.

The Cubs somehow pulled that off, to the chagrin of Nats’ manager Dusty Baker who was dying watching it, seemingly for the first time in the history of the sport.

In case you’re wondering how many ways there are to get to first base. Six. Add a fielder’s choice and a fielder’s error, the later of which would arguably include the pass ball on a third strike. I’m not counting going on as a pinch runner.

So, the Cubs did cover each of the ways to get to first without an out — all in a half inning and in consecutive batters.

May never happen again. Pretty neat.

Despite all the money law firms spend on Internet marketing, more people choose a lawyer by a referral from a friend, relative or another lawyer than any other method. By far.

This from the 2017 Legal Trends Report, just released by Clio, a leading practice management solution provider.

When it comes to looking for a lawyer, consumers indicated that they sought referrals from friends/family (62%) and from other lawyers (31%). Online search (37%) and directory listings (28%) trailed. TV ads (13%), online ads (13%), radio ads (7%), and billboard ads (6%) had a much lower influence among respondents.

How do consumer find a lawyer?

Clio releases its annual Legal Trends Report to help lawyers make smart decisions about the future of their practice. Using anonymized data from 60,000 users, supplemented by large-scale surveys, Clio was able to make numerous findings, including where lawyers spend their time and where their concerns lie.

Business development, for lawyers, is the near the top of the list on both fronts. 33% of lawyers’ non-billable time is spent on business development. 41% of lawyers said they would spend even more time, if they had it, getting clients.

While data has become the world’s most valuable commodity, lawyers make their decisions in the dark. Lawyers go with what they think versus what they should know, based on data. Often it’s just “do what other lawyers do.”

Client procurement fits that mold perfectly. Survey results showed that 54% of law firms actively advertise to acquire new clients, yet 91% of firms can’t calculate a return on their advertising investments, and 94% don’t know how much it costs them to acquire a new client.

The data also shows that advertising is not the best use of a lawyers money – whether the ad is online or offline. Putting time and money into generating referrals is what the data shows lawyers should be doing.

Fortunately for lawyers, the Internet enhances a lawyer’s ability to get referrals from friends, family, business associates and fellow lawyers. Referrals are all about relationships and having a strong reputation. The Internet accelerates relationships and the building of a name.

Lawyers have the time for business development. 33% of their non-billable time is going into getting clients. The problem lies in spending their time doing the right thing.

Lawyers need to move away from promoting themselves on the Internet. That’s advertising.

Lawyers need to put their time into networking online. Think listening to the online discussion/writing of their target audience, including influencers and engaging that audience where they gather.

This comes from using a news aggregator or Twitter for listening, a blog for engaging in the “conversation,” and the use of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter for further engagement and networking.

Sure, it takes time to learn how to blog and use social media, effectively. It takes even more time to do it.

But it’s time lawyers actually have, according to the Legal Trends Report. A third of a lawyers non-billable time is going into client procurement.

It’s data that’s been lacking. Lawyers put their time and money into things that don’t work and have no idea how much time it cost them to acquire a new client.

No more. With the Legal Trends Report, lawyers know that their time is best spent in activities that generate referals.

With the Internet, that means building relationships and a name through blogging and social media.

I’m headed back to the Midwest this week to speak to another law school class. I have to tell you, nothing gets me more jazzed than speaking to law students about the opportunities they have to use the net to learn, network and build a name.

Little question that some law school students are using social media and blogging to build a name for themselves. I shared the stories of a few law grads a couple weeks ago.

But how many law students are blogging and using social media for learning? How many law professors and law schools are promoting its use for learning?

Sadly, not many — and that’s a loss for the students and possible malfeasance on a law school’s part for failing to do so.

ZDNet’s Dion Hinchcliffe recently reported that though technology has long been used to improve how we learn, today’s digital advances, particularly with social media, have taken learning in a powerful new direction.

[The digitization of learning] allows learning — for better or worse, depending on the critic — to be far more situational, on-demand, self-directed, infinitely customized, even outright enjoyable, depending on the user experience, all of which leads to more profound engagement of learners.

In addition, the rise of social networking technology has allowed people with similar learning interests to come together as a group to share knowledge on a subject — and perhaps even more significantly — to express their passion for an area of learning. This can create deeper, more intense, and more immersive educational experiences within a community of like-minded learners.

“Social learning” is more than theory, the use of digital platforms and social networks to bring together communities has proven to work.

The early numbers from social learning make interesting reading. Initial studies have shown that there’s as much as a 75:1 return-on-investment (ROI) ratio for the approach compared to traditional Web-based education. As a result of such insights, this year fully 73% of organizations are planning on increasing their investments in social learning.

How would social learning work in law schools? What media would be used?

  • First recognizing that social will not be for everyone. People learn and teach in different ways.
  • Get students and professors using, for learning, the social media that are readily available and already being used, en masse, by the public.
  • Create a first year class on the use of social media and blogging, just as legal writing and research are taught. Social media, in addition to building a name, enables students to learn from a nationwide network of students, law professors and practicing lawyers. Make sure the professor or teacher — maybe they come from tech or the law library — are credible users of social media and have had personal success in social learning.
  • Teach Feedly as a news aggregator for following sources and subjects, blogging on WordPress (already used by 70% of content management systems), Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Most law students, law professors, law school administrators and lawyers using these media have not a clue what they are doing and have a poor experience as a result.
  • Cover the big picture of what blogging and social media are all about — listening, engaging, relationships, sharing insight, building a network — not search rankings, self promotion, noise, and followers.
  • Review the concept of algorithms and influence. The more you use social media the more valuable it becomes as a network’s algorithms surface information and people who will add value to your life — advertisements and junk are eliminated.
  • Have a social media “resource desk” where students and professors can get ongoing information and questions answered. Maybe it’s part of the library reference desk.
  • Get the faculty and law school leadership using blogs and social media for dissemination of information and engagement with students.

These are my thoughts. Law schools will know more about the ins and outs of what can work for teaching and on-boarding a social learning program. Schools will differ in what will work best for them.

After speaking with authorities, Hinchcliffe suggests organizations lay a foundation for social learning. In the case of law schools, a foundation means creating a positive environment for social media and blogging.

Do professors and the dean use social media? Are they demonstrating, by example, that social is important for learning and networking.

In many cases not only are these folks not using social, they’re scaring students from using social. “Writing unedited content is danergous. Blogging is not professional. Everything you put on the net will remain there forever. Divide your personal lives from your professional lives as a lawyer doesn’t let people know them personally.”

If the law school’s dean and influential professors aren’t on board, forget it. And if they’re not, you have to ask yourself whether they’re fit for the job.

No one is expecting every dean and professor to start rampant blogging and social networking. But an acknowledgement that the stuff is legit and represents a learning opportunity for students is key. Better yet, they should learn social themselves through a little trial and error.

In 2012, the CEO of Mayo Clinic, calling social media not an option but a requirement, launched the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media to coordinate and focus the Clinic’s various social media initiatives for among, other things, the education of patients, students and employees (doctors and in-house counsel included).

The healthcare industry, which was facing a world of problems, and the clinics employees were skeptical — to say the least. The doctors and lawyers at Mayo Clinic weren’t social media users, let alone users for professional purposes.

Mayo now dominates social in medicine. Their patients, students and employees are learning more and are more engaged — through their personal and professional use of social media.

Change takes time, but law schools and law school deans need to say, “Yes. Social learning is important. Social is something we need to learn and something we need to teach.”

Students — and professors are owed it.

The much-anticipated Clio Cloud Conference kicks off on Monday in New Orleans. As an official media partner, LexBlog used the week leading up to the conference to shine a light on some of the speakers for the event. We were even fortunate enough to feature guest posts from Clio employees who offered unique insights on the company, and the Clio Cloud Conference. Below you’ll find links to all these features, as well as links to connect with each of the speakers.

An interview with Haben Girma, a disability rights advocate and the first deafblind graduate of Harvard Law School. She’ll be giving the opening keynote speech on Tuesday morning, and can follow her on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

An interview with Doug Edmonds, the Assistant Dean of IT for University of North Carolina School of Law. He will be speaking on Tuesday with Andrea Stevenson, Mirriam Seddiq, and Chris Heslinga on “Access to Justice: Technology and the Justice Gap.” You can follow him on Twitter @doug_edmonds and on Linkedin.

A guest post from Erin Hall, a Customer Support Specialist at Clio. Erin will be speaking on Monday from 3:30-4:50 in Bolden 1, on “Staying Sane and Keeping your Firm on Track.” You can find her on Twitter @eriinh and on Linkedin.

An interview with Nicole Abboud, the founder of the Generation Why Lawyer podcast and Abboud Media. Abboud will be speaking on Monday from 11-11:30 in Empire Ballroom D on “Millenials: Understanding Your New Clients and Colleagues for Law Firm Growth.” You can follow her on Twitter @nicoleabboud and on Linkedin.

A guest post from Andrew Gay, Clio’s Manager of Strategic Partnerships. He’ll be running a workshop from 1:50-3:30 on Monday in Bolden 6, for Clio Certified Consultants. You can find him on Twitter @ahlgay and Linkedin.

An interview with Andrea Evans, an attorney who runs her own intellectual property law practice. She will be speaking on Monday from 3-3:30 in Empire Ballroom A & B, on “The ‘Refrigerator’ Social Media Method: Cool, Modern & Connected.” You can contact Andrea through her website, or on Facebook or Twitter.

A guest post from Joshua Lenon, Clio’s Lawyer in Residence. He will be speaking with Joshua Browder on Monday in Empire Ballroom D on “Innovation in Legal Tech: The Chatbot Revolution.” You can follow him on Twitter @JoshuaLenon or connect with him on Linkedin.

 

I am headed to New Orleans Sunday, accompanied by LexBlog’s CTO Josh Lynch and head of business development, David Cuthbert, for Clio’s Annual Cloud Conference, running next Monday and Tuesday.

Clio has asked us to cover Clio Con and we’re honored to do so. Not only will be we covering the conference from New Orleans, via Facebook Live, but we’ll have people in Seattle conducting interviews (some are up on the LexBlog Network) and “Storifies” of keynotes, presentations and events.

Storify is a social network service that enables us to create stories or timelines using social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as source.

Tweet and tag. As you always do at Clio Con, Tweet and use other social media like crazy reporting on what speakers are saying and what you’re observing. Take pictures and shoot videos. Share them on social media – especially Twitter, using the hashtag #ClioCloud9.

We’ll pick up the Tweets, including pics and videos at LexBlog Seattle and include them in our Storify coverage with an attribute to you.

Blog. Looking for more coverage of your blog posts about Clio Con? LexBlog’s got you covered. Send your posts (or a link to your post) to tips@lexblog.com. We’ll publish your posts to The LexBlog Network, giving you the attribute and indicate the original url for the post so that there is no duplicite content issue and share word of your post via our social networks.

Be on Facebook Live. I am going to be interviewing speakers and exhibitors and probably doing some roundtable conversations with my friend, Bob Ambrogi. I’d like to catch attendees as well, so stop LexBlog’s media table, catch me walking around, ping me on social or drop tips an email.

Don’t forget to catch my presentation on content marketing/blogging/social media on Monday too. I’ll do my best not to make Clio look bad in inviting me.

Kidding aside, it’s privilege to speak at Clio Con. If it’s not the best, it’s one of the best conferences I go to each year.

Wonderful speakers (far beyond the legal realm) that expand our horizons, always new products from Clio (espcially this year), top notch social events, cammeraderie among attendees and incredible passion from team Clio, which runs a conference with now over 1,000 people all on their own.

Twenty years ago, I terminated my firm’s Westlaw subscription and outsourced our legal research. How so? Law clerks attending law school whom I met on AOL message boards.

A clerk did the research, using free Westlaw, drafted a motion, memorandum or brief, forwarded it to my assistant to be put on a case caption and reviewed by my associate.

In a contingency fee case, a big savings of time for us. My associate could work on more valuable things. On hourly work, clients got a bill for a clerk’s time at $40 an hour while we paid them $15 an hour. Clients loved the savings and the innovation.

Without the Internet and a willingness to be different, none of that would have been possible.

Now I hear that a friend of mine, Attorney Steve Embry is doing a little bit of the same — except on a much larger scale that is likely to have a lasting effect on large law.

For years, law firms have defended mass torts the same way. Put an experienced mass torts lawyer on the case to lead strategy and execution and have legions of younger lawyers and in house staff do most of the work.

By leveraging the hourly rate, the defense of mass torts became wildly profitable for law firms, while terribly expensive for clients.

I should have known that Embry was onto something different when I first met him hanging out at legal tech and innovation conferences, even conferences dedicated to small law. You don’t see guys from large law (Frost Brown Todd) who have been defending mass tort cases for years at these conferences.

Embry was in fact out noodling on ways to be innovative in the defense of mass tort claims.

The problem with how mass torts have historically been defended is that, while the client can get great value and a great defense where there is an experienced lawyer engaged in what he or she does best, that is such things as strategy, handling and creating joint defenses, negotiations and even trial, most of the underlying work has been done by those who frankly are over qualified for what they are doing. There are better and cheaper ways to get most of the work required by mass tort cases done.

The answer, talking to Embry, is unbundling services. Unbundling legal services can be a dirty word to some bar associations and regulators, who would like to require a lawyer do all the work from beginning to end – and perhaps maintain the lawyer mononopoly while limiting services.

But Embry believes that the work in a mass tort case can be “unbundled” so that much of the commodity type work is done by alternative legal service providers at flat fees. The more creative work is best done by a seasoned lawyer.

To make this work — and get over any unbundling issue, Embry says that the lawyer must remain in charge of and responsible for all the work and that there needs to be a partnership between the lawyer and any service providers.

The lawyer and the insurance provider have to trust each other, work together and have each other’s back. This can only be done on if there is a long term relationship between the two.

Embry is now walking the talk, something most lawyers would be scared to death to do. He reached out to Elevate, an alternative legal service provider employing lawyers, engineers, technology and medical professionals to study the idea. If viable, Embry wants them to help propose it to insurance carriers.

Elevate suggested getting my friend (small world) Dan Linna, a law professor and director of LegalRnD at Michigan State University College of Law, involved. Elevate had worked with Linna and LegalRnD on other projects over the past few years and Embry was familiar with Linna through legal tech events.

Linna likes the idea – and sees it as a bit of self preservation for large law.

Law firms need to proactively work with clients to disaggregate legal matters. Why wait for clients to disaggregate matters and tell you, the law firm, what’s left for you—if they keep you around? Law firms need to demonstrate how they can provide greater value to clients. Greater value goes well beyond efficiency and lower costs. By creating a culture of innovation and continuous improvement, improving processes, getting the right people doing the right tasks, becoming data driven, and embracing technology, law firms can improve work quality and obtain better substantive outcomes.

Linna’s a bit like author, speaker and adviser, Richard Susskind, who finds it hard to convince a room full of people making a million dollars a year that they have a problem that needs correcting.

Most law firms cannot get beyond short-term thinking. They’re get stuck on the idea that improving legal-service delivery likely means less revenue in the short term. But they’re missing opportunities to become more profitable while at the same time generating greater value for clients. Going down this path strengthens relationships with existing clients and creates opportunities for law firms to differentiate themselves. It positions them to land more work and develop new ways in which to provide value for clients.

The team has already secured the agreement of one of Embry’s insurance carrier clients. The carrier is intrigued by Embry’s approach and is looking to be a case study that Linna will do so that differences in results and costs can be measured.

As he should be, Embry’s optimistic.

I think we will find that the case could be handled just as well if not better and the transactional cost less using this model.

The group recently spent a day at Frost Brown with lawyers, paralegals and other professionals to map out getting work to the right people, improving processes, using data, and implementing technology. Linna tells me that rather than being defensive and territorial about the work, as I have personally seen in large tort claims with multiple parties, the group realized the benefits of collaborating to identify opportunities to improve the value provided to clients.

Embry was concerned his firm would see this approach as a threat, the firm acknowledges it as the new reality.

The practice of law is changing. While clients don’t mind paying for bespoke work, they are no longer willing to pay top dollar for commodity work that can be done cheaper someplace else. If we don’t accept that reality and try to meet our client’s needs, we risk losing the whole ball of wax.

Embry’s firm may have less work in the short run. But Embry believes that clients will see the benefit of the model and engage him and Frost Brown for future work.

Now we just need to have Embry out blogging what he’s learning and doing along the way — soon.

When Amazon built a digital department store, then competitor, Toys “R” Us licensed Amazon’s technology for the online sales of its goods. Toys “R” Us could not compete on software.

When Amazon had surplus cloud hosting capacity, Amazon created AWS for the licensing of its cloud hosting services to third parties. AWS now represents over a third of Amazon’s revenue.

When Amazon founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post, the Post, at the encouragement of Bezos to follow the AWS model, built a digital publishing platform the Post could license to third parties.

Arc Publishing, the name of the Post’s publishing platform, is now licensed to news publishers as large as Tronc, the owner of the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Orlando Sentinel and Baltimore Sun. Ironically, Tronc had claimed that its technology prowess would allow it to succeed whether other news publishers failed.

It’s a nice model, develop the software platform you need to succeed and license your technology to third parties whose services exceed the scope of yours. The Washington Post does not cover Chicago and LA news. Amazon does not provide near as many services as are being delivered by companies using its AWS cloud service.

Reading Jack Marshall’s Wall Street Journal story on Tronc’s licensing Arc, I was struck by how LexBlog’s model mirrors the Post’s — obviously on a smaller scale.

For years, LexBlog ran a design and development factory shop much like other web developers and marketing agencies. Graphic designers rendered designs, which when approved by clients were reduced to PSD’s (photoshop design files), which were then developed on our platform by web developers.

Time consuming, fraught with points where mistakes could be made and it didn’t scale – the more “successful” we were in selling, the greater the problem we had in maintaining, hosting and upgrading ‘sites.’

The answer for LexBlog was to develop the publishing platform we needed to succeed – the Apple Fritter design and publishing platform.

Apple Fritter, built on WordPress core and customized WordPress software, allowed our art director to design in software on a ‘live’ site. Customers could look in if they wanted to. No developers needed. Developers work on AF upgrades (including quarterly WordPress upgrades) and new features.

Arc isn’t bare bone publishing software, it offers publishers a suite of tools. Per Marshall:

The Arc technology suite includes a range of tools designed to help publishers produce, manage, publish, host and monetize their websites and apps, in addition to offering other analytics and optimization tools.

Tronc CEO, Justin Dearborn sees Arc giving its newspapers everything they need on the software front.

This partnership will provide us with the capabilities that our reporters need to deliver award-winning journalism across all platforms and new tools that allow our marketing partners to connect with our growing digital audience.

I’ve been in DC and Chicago the last couple weeks introducing large client publishers to Apple Fritter and the ability to license our Apple Fritter as a self service design and publishing platform for their blogs, mini-sites, magazines and networks.

Apple Fritter, with its tools and features, provides client publishers all they need to publish, distribute and track their posts, articles and stories. Custom designs for various types of publications will have already been loaded by LexBlog.

As with the Post’s Arc being available to all news publishers, large and small, Apple Fritter will be available to all publishers – law firms, law schools, bar associations, legal tech companies, web development agencies, marketing companies and other organizations. Not only for publications, but also for websites.

As context, all of LexBlog’s products and add-ons are named after products at Top Pot “Hand Forged” Doughnuts, a large doughnut chain here in Seattle, that boasts of being the official doughnut of the Seattle Seahawks. Thus Apple Fritter.

We’re all familiar with Michigan State University’s athletic prowess. As a Notre Dame graduate, I’ve seen on TV any number of football losses at East Lansing. Basketball Coach Tom Izzo has kept the Spartans near the top nationally for what seems like twenty years.

Michigan State’s Law School though, which I am sure has received national recognition in the past, has not been discussed historically with the likes of Harvard, Yale, Stanford and Michigan.

No longer. The Spartans are getting known, and known in a big way for their law graduates who have harnessed the power of the Internet to learn, to network and to build a name for themselves.

Law firms and other organizations are seeking out Michigan State grads because of what they have learned on the innovation and technology front – and in a good number of cases seeking out particular law students and offering them jobs.

You got it. Students and law grads being offered jobs by companies and firms seeking them out. Not students and grads applying for jobs as is the customary way students are taught it’s done.

What happened?

The law school recognized what the rest of the country knew. The Internet was a powerful tool for learning and networking – and that everyone and their brother was using it. Why not a law school’s students?

First there was ReInvent Law (video channel in absence of site) launched by then Michigan State Law professors, Dan Katz and Renee Knake. When you put on conferences featuring legal innovators in Chicago, Palo Alto, New York City and London, folks take notice. Especially when you’re selling out large venues packed with practicing lawyers, legal tech executives, law students and law professors.

Then Dan Linna left nine years of large law practice to become Assistant Dean for Career Development and a professor at MSU Law, along with serving as an adjunct professor at the University of Michigan Law School.

Without putting words in Linna’s mouth, he saw what was bubbling up at MSU Law. An opportunity to expand the curriculum to include the business of law in ways not taught before – the use of technology, innovation, project management and lean business processes to change the way legal services are delivered by major law firms.

You add guys such as Ken Grady as an adjunct professor and now a full time professor, and you have a real force. Grady, who’s known internationally, in large part through blogging and social media, for transformation in legal and has worked as general counsel, large law partner and CEO of SeyfarthLean.

About this time MSU Law students started using the Internet. Blogging, Twitter, LinkedIn, About.me and Facebook, all on professional matters. These kids were bringing it.

So much so that MSU Law students starting citing my blog and sharing items I posted to Twitter. As a result, I heard them and got to know them – from 2,000 miles away. I started spreading the word, online and offline. Other influencers did the same.

These students invited me back to East Lansing to share my thoughts on blogging and social media – as well as to judge a social media contest the law school was conducting for students.

I went. What an incredible afternoon, I was welcomed and introduced by then Dean, Joan Howarth.

I discovered that social media and blogging was not only taught at the law school, but that students needed to use what they learned over a semester or more. The contest was an opportunity to share the results – not just a beauty contest with followers, but in internships gained and invitations to speak in San Francisco.

I asked Dean Howarth, “Why? How?” She said what else was she to do, stand by and watch what was happening to law grads and law students. Howarth, who had yet develop her Facebook prowess (came with her attending a day long MSU Law social media bootcamp), empowered change and the use of social media – as a gift to the law school and its students – whether she knew it or not.

I was at a legal technology meetup earlier this year when a lawyer heard me talking about Michigan State’s tech, innovation and social media bent. He said that his firm, a large one, looks for Michigan State grads because of exactly that.

More powerful than MSU Law’s reputation, or maybe the cause of its reputation, is its students’ use of social media itself.

Pat Ellis, who graduated two or three years ago, landed a job on graduation at the second largest law firm in Detroit, in part because of his blogging and social media use.

Ellis left within two years to accept another opportunity. Someone suggested to him on Twitter that he apply for a position with the general counsel’s office at General Motors. He got the job.

I met Ellis on Twitter, as then, @spartylegal, and via his blogging. I had the pleasure of joining him in a presentation to MSU Law students, with Dean Howarth and faculty attending.

Ellis advised students that what they thought was important no longer was. A tier one law school, top grades and law review were no longer what separated you from others. The Internet enabled students to blog, with posts seen in a day by a law professor across the country, versus never for a law review article. Social media democratized things for the little guy. Opportunities awaited, per Ellis.

Ellis is not alone.

Irene Mo, a recent MSU Law graduate took innovation classes, participated in blogging and social media bootcamps at the school and served as an innovation assistant for the school’s LegalRnD program.

She’s now an ABA Innovation Fellow developing tools to reduce privacy and data security risks for low-income people. An associate position at a leading Chicago privacy and security law firm awaits – this based on MO’s Twitter exchanges with the managing partner.

Samir Patel came to MSU Law planning to be a sports agent – and why not, with the Spartan’s athletic prowess. But he attended a MSU Law social media bootcamp.

One thing led to another and Patel was clerking for a leading blockchain law firm in London because of identifying a niche he could get after with Twitter and blogging – the use of blockchain in professional athletes’ contracts. Patel didn’t ask for the clerkship, the firm asked him on Twitter.

Then, it turned out that someone Patel was interacting with on Twitter was a practice group lead at Holland & Knight. Patel, who just graduated, is joining Holland & Knight in Miami as a result.

Linna has brought real structure to it all launching, two years ago, LegalRnD, MSU Law’s Center for Legal Services Innovation.

LegalRnD is dedicated to improving legal-service delivery and access across the legal industry. It accomplishes this through research and development of efficient, high-quality legal-service delivery tools and systems — heavily relying on the net and social media/blogging for learning and networking.

LegalRnD brings together professionals from a broad range of disciplines. Students are trained in established business concepts and study them with partners, including: legal aid organizations, solo practitioners, corporate legal departments, law firms, courts, and entire justice systems.

Its curriculam, harnessing the powers of networking through the net via blogging and social media, covers:

  • Artificial intelligence & law
  • Delivering legal services, the new landscape
  • Quantitative analysis for lawyers
  • Information privacy and security
  • Litigation data and process
  • Entrepreneurial lawyering

Young people choose law schools for a whole lot of reasons. Usually based on the school’s name and rank.

If I am looking to understand what’s possible, achieve extraordinary things and have employers ask me if I want to work for them in areas of interest to me — all because I’ve learned to used the Internet to learn, network and build a name I’m looking for a law school which can deliver on that front.

MSU Law ranks number one in that poll.