Will I see you in Amsterdam or Paris over the next couple weeks? We’re headed to Amsterdam today and then on to Paris the end of next week.

I have the pleasure of speaking at Lexpo, a legal innovation conference in Amsterdam running next Monday and Tuesday. Lexpo is focusing on four themes this year. Legal market development, legal artificial intelligence, nurturing internal innovation and legal marketing & business development.

Legaltech veteran, Rob Ameerun, who spearheads Lexpo, has pulled together some impressive speakers, including:

  • Katie Atkinson. Professor of Computer Science and Head of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Liverpool.
  • David Wilkins Vice Dean for Global Initiatives on the Legal Profession at Harvard Law School.
  • Jordan Furlong, a leading analyst of the global legal market and forecaster of its future.
  • Lisa Hart Shepherd, CEO of Acritas, who in working on projects with many of the world’s largest law firms has devised research programmes to help develop strategy, achieve service excellence, brand strength and global growth.
  • Ron Friedmann, who has spent over two decades improving law practice and legal business operations with technology, knowledge management, and alternative resourcing.
  • Daniel Katz, a scientist, technologist and law professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law who applies an innovative polytechnic approach to teaching law.
  • Rohit Talwar, a global futurist, strategist and award winning speaker noted for his humour, inspirational style and provocative content.
  • Matt Homann, a former lawyer, now an accomplished facilitator who consults with legal professionals around the world.
  • Adam Billing, a partner of the Møller Professional Services Firms Group at Churchill College, Cambridge ). specialising in innovation culture, user-centered design, creativity and cross-boundary collaboration.

Rob must have had a weak moment when he invited me.

I’ve been in touch, through Twitter and LinkedIn, with legal tech companies and organizations in Amsterdam and Paris, where we’ll head the end of next week. After Lexpo, this  trip is as much vacation as work, but I really enjoy meeting entrepreneurs who see the opportunity of leveraging innovation and technology to improve our profession.

So if you want to get together, just holler.

It was reported by The Telegraphs’s James Titcomb on Monday that Facebook is on the verge of 2 billion members.

The social network is even defying expectations by continuing to grow despite its size, with growth actually accelerating in recent quarters.

Facebook is expected to report report revenues of $7.8 billion and profits of $3.3 billion when it unveils first quarter results this week. Yes, that’s only for a quarter.

In reading a piece in Adweek that social media is the new television by Kurt Abrahamsom, the CEO of ShareThis, I couldn’t help but think of lawyers holding onto the past when it comes to Facebook.

With the rise of television in the 1950s, marketers gained access to a new medium that was growing rapidly popular. With all eyes on the only screen in the house, brands benefited from its wide reach to engage consumers at an unprecedented scale.

However, the audience’s attention is increasingly turning away from television and moving toward mobile devices and social media.

This represents a huge opportunity for brands, per Abrahamson. Brands can connect with people on social media channels in a personalized way. “Brands looking to strengthen their customer relationships should start with the personalization of social…”

Yet the vast majority lawyers, who need to have a brand, ignore Facebook when it comes to building a name, establishing trust and growing a network for business.

Most law firms not only tacitly go along with the lawyers, but establish a marketing culture where Facebook is viewed as below their lawyers for business development purposes. “If Facebook is to be used, it’s only for personal purposes.”

Some firms won’t even allow their lawyers to log in to Facebook on company machines. Crazy, but true.

I ran across a panel discussion among legal marketing “experts” discussing web marketing best practices for the American Bar Association’s Law Practice Today.

Admittedly the panel’s focus was websites, but the implication was clear. Drawing traffic and getting attention is the name of the game for business development success when it comes to the Internet.

One of the experts said “Blog frequently on your firm’s website (not somewhere else). Postings that address frequently asked questions (FAQs) are a great way to start.”

Lost on him, as he hasn’t networked online to build a name and relationships, is that blogging is all about leaving your website and going out and engaging others – listening to the conversation off your website being the most important concept.

Facebook, with virtually every American using it, represents a town hall discussion, with the people involved and the topics discussed framed by who you engage and what you share. Facebook’s algorithms will surface relevant discussion and people for you.

Lawyers and law firms need to let go of viewing the Internet as an opportunity to broadcast. Like televison, the opportunity to reach people at an unprecedented scale is addicting. But people have moved on to social networks, primarily Facebook, to communicate and engage with each other.

Lawyers have become accustomed to email and cell phones as a means of communicating for business development. Facebook is arguably just as essential for business developmet today.

Are individual lawyers relying too much on their law firm’s marketing professionals, as opposed to taking charge of their own marketing?

Building a book of business as a lawyer has always been about building a name for yourself and building a network of relationships. So marketing departments in law firms can help, but they cannot turn a lawyer into one with a good book of business. This takes initiative on a lawyer’s part. Marketing professionals would probably agree.

But today with many law firms struggling, AI/software soon to be doing the work some lawyers are doing and corporations (LegalZoom, Rocket Lawyer, Avvo and others) picking up a good junks of the transactional legal services market, it sure seems that lawyers would be foolish not to be scrambling to build a name for themselves.

Large and medium size law firm leaders, and the lawyers employed in these firms, who think they’ll withstand the changes taking place sound a lot like the newspaper publishers and media players of 10 years ago. Or maybe like Macy’s, the nation’s largest traditional retailer, who is closing stores as people turn to the net for shopping.

A senior lawyer in a 400 lawyer firm told me a couple months ago that he doesn’t expect his firm to survive, at least in its present form. “In-house counsel may get fired for not using Cravath, but not for failing to use his firm,” he explained in making the point that rates are going down, in-house counsel are bringing efficiencies with technology and corporations are bringing more work in-house.

The Internet is a fabulous place for a lawyer to build a name and relationships. But it’s not going to happen with a group blog lacking passion (especially one inside of a website), profiles of lawyers and driving traffic to websites and content.

The Internet works best for lawyers when they learn how to engage influencers, prospective clients, clients and referral sources in a real and authentic way. Personal law blogging and the use of Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, not for attention, SEO and traffic, but to establish yourself as a trusted authority in a niche and build relationships is the key.

What had to be the pinnacle of employment in sports media, ESPN just laid off over 100. Many were household names. I am sure the sportswriters and announcers who worked their tail off to get to ESPN never envisioned ESPN running into trouble as a result of the Internet overnight changing the way sports is broadcast and delivered.

Turns out that companies like Comcast, DirecTV and Dish are losing subscribers. People are turning to the net, mobile apps more than anything, for sports.

Change can happen — and fast. Chasing partnership track at a medium or large law firm can sound great as a young lawyer. What happens though when things start to soften and then dramatically change all around you? It’s not as if you just slide over to the other ESPN (large law firm).

Sure, you can work in larger law, but while there, use the firm as a platform to build a name and relationships via the Internet, personally. It’s in your mutual interest and you’ll be in a position to more than support yourself in the future.

Our Law School Blog Network is coming alive with a good number of blogs by law professors and law students.

Here’s ten points to mind for a more successful blog for law students yet to go live or not even started with their blog.

  1. Focus on a niche. Blogs are very much “if you build it, they will come,” so long as you focus on a niche. For example, tax law is way too broad. Tax law for income property owners in your state rocks. You’ll get noticed, you’ll have people cite you as a resource and you’ll be pumped about blogging. Broad topic blogs get little love and attention, thus make blogging a chore – so much so you’ll quit and lose an opportunity to build a name and realize your dreams.
  2. Blog on a substantive legal subject, industry or social issue. Don’t blog about yourself and your situation. You don’t want to blog about your life (lifestyle blogger), unless you are big time championing an issue such as discrimination against women or people of color in the law.
  3. No long articles attempting to cover a lot of ground. This is blogging. You blog as you would talk in a conversation. 350 to 400 words, or even shorter is great. One point and you’re done.
  4. At least one image in every post. People read blogs on mobile devices and on social networks. Pictures are attractive in these settings and are expected by users.
  5. Cite other people (and their stories/blog posts) with whom you want to connect to in your niche. They’ll see you, you’ll get to know them and grow influence as a result of others “seeing” you hang out with the leaders.
  6. Make sure you use social networks. Blogging is a all about listening and engagement. It’s the same with social networks. Even when you’re not blogging, you’re still a blogger.
  7. Learn how to use the news aggregator, Feedly. Your blogging will remain focused by who and what you follow and you’ll grow your network by engaging those you read from Feedly.
  8. Don’t be clever with titles. A title should briefly and clearly describe your blog post. Titles are how people find content on Google and social media.
  9. Share your posts on social media, but make sure you’ve established a little “social media equity” by sharing others’ posts and articles first. No one likes people who share only their content all the time.
  10. Post a couple times a month to start with and work it up to once a week. A good blog post can take as little as twenty or thirty minutes. It’ll take a little longer to start, but as you get the hang of it and begin to get recognized blogging will be easy and fun.

Blogging is an art and a skill that is acquired over time. People’s styles differ. One thing to know when you start is that you can blog bad, but for only so long.

If you’re a law student and want to blog on a great platform, check out LexBlog’s Law School Blog Network. All free and a great way to build a name for yourself.

What’s better, ALM’s collective legal periodicals or the collective work of lawyers and other legal professionals who are blogging? Can ALM (f/k/a American Lawyer Media) survive the rising phenomenon of lawyers and law students blogging on an open WordPress platform to build a name and build a business?

Fifteen years ago no sane person would have raised this question. But a lot has changed since then.

I picked up a subscription to ALM’s aggregated Law.com feed for my news aggregator this year.

A few reasons for buying the subscription. One, there were ALM stories I would see in my feeds on Feedly that were behind the ALM paywall. I wanted to read the stories and share relevant ones with my followers on Twitter and Facebook.

Two, I wanted to build relationships with ALM reporters and editors. With the high ALM turnover, I didn’t know as many people there. What better way to get to know them than to share their stories on Twitter.

Three, ALM reporters were reporting on interesting subjects I wanted to learn more about.

And four, by tweeting and blogging about the subjects of their stories I could build relationships with the people and companies being covered.

Though there are items on ALM not reported elsewhere, usually on the business of law, I was struck by the brevity of many stories and, often, the shallowness of the analysis and reporting.

Made me wonder if law blogging was not on the verge of replacing ALM and other publications as the source of legal news and analysis. LexBlog platform bloggers already publish upwards of 200 posts a day — and there’s some good stuff.

Lawyers have deep subject matter expertise and those who blog well have an unmatched passion for what they cover.

Blogging lawyers are often active on social media, including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Social media establishes trust and sources.

Social media, person to person, moves news and commentary today. Unlike reporters at the New York Times and even a few at the ABA Journal, I am not seeing many ALM reporters actively me and others on Facebook and other social media.

Legal moves slow. Lawyers hold on to what they’ve had in the past. Legal PR often looks for “earned media” versus more the more influential commentary that moves across blogs and social media. All pluses for ALM.

The value of editors will of course be the rebuttal of some. But Facebook is the leading source of news for a growing number of people in the country, including the majority of millennials.

News is what other people report and share. News is not defined by who is reporting.

Blogs haven’t nailed curation yet. That’s coming though.

Today, ALM may have “a winning hand” with have all the stuff in one place. But technology curating WordPress published legal news and information with AI components could relegate ALM to the slow lane in the next few years.

WordPress is by far and away the most popular and, arguably, the most powerful publishing and content management system that exists. Its world-wide community of open-source developers is delivering improvements and feature enhancements (including curation) at a far far faster clip than developers working on a proprietary platform, such as the one ALM is likely using.

I remain a subscriber to ALM’s Law.com feed, I like some of the stuff. I am sure they have a large subscriber base.

I just wonder if ALM represents the future of legal publishing with the growing popularity of blogging by passionate lawyers and law students with deeep expertise using publishing software that is more advanced.

Yesterday, leading blogger, tech evangelist and speaker, Robert Scoble shared on Facebook eight ways to get him to “Delete Request” when you request his friendship on Facebook.

I thought Robert’s points were pretty good and mirrored some of my thinking when I get friend requests.

  1. Don’t have any public posts in past month. Automatically gets me to click “delete request.
  2. Don’t list your job title on your Intro/Profile/About.
  3. Don’t post anything interesting about the tech industry in your past 20 posts.
  4. Don’t have at least 20 mutual friends (I have more than 4,000, it shouldn’t be that hard). Even a few is better than zero. Particularly useful to figure out if someone is a real member of the mixed reality community.
  5. Don’t have a real photo of yourself anywhere.
  6. Don’t make it possible to follow you so I can dip my toe in the water.
  7. Post only selfies.
  8. Only post quotes or those stupid posts with the color background.

I’m not near as popular as Robert, I don’t get the requests he gets and I don’t have the number of Facebook friends he does.

But I am cognoscent of a number things when considering friend requests.

  • Facebook caps the number of friends at 5,000. I am only North of 1,500 friends now, but things have a way of growing on the net.
  • Whether people regularly post things of interest to me. I often receive Facebook requests from people who have posted little more than profile pictures over the last year.
  • Complete profile listings – job title, contact into etc. I am not likely to friend people who are looking to be private on Facebook.
  • Diverse interests and offerings. In addition to Facebook friends in the legal industry, my friends include journalists, corporate executives, authors, artists, college professors, financiers and others — in addition to personal friends. The more interesting and diverse my friends, the more value I’ll receive from my Newsfeed and the more interesting the people I get to know.
  • Mutual friends. When I reach out to request friendship I look for people with whom I have at least 20 to 30 mutual friends. Common friends is something I also consider with requests.
  • Sharing of both personal and professional items. It’s a combination of both that lets me get to know people.
  • Post only their own articles and blog posts. Too many lawyers use Facebook as a distribution channel, as opposed to an engagement channel.

So it’s not that I don’t like you, that I don’t wnat to get to know you or don’t want to do business with you. If I delete your friend request on Facebook, it’s because of the things Scoble or I may consider.

Technologist and inventor of the blog, Dave Winer, defined a blog as “the unedited voice of a person.”

In 2003, when I was beginning my stint as a fellow at Berkman Center [at Harvard Law School] , since I was going to be doing stuff with blogs, I felt it necessary to start by explaining what makes a blog a blog, and I concluded it wasn’t so much the form, although most blogs seem to follow a similar form, nor was it the content, rather it was the voice.

If it was one voice, unedited, not determined by group-think — then it was a blog, no matter what form it took. If it was the result of group-think, with lots of ass-covering and offense avoiding, then it’s not. Things like spelling and grammatic errors were okay, in fact they helped convince one that it was unedited. (Dogma 2000 expressed this very concisely.)

I’m pretty much with Winer so it pains me to see what blogs have become in the legal industry — and across the corporate communications field for that matter.

I get that law firms are going to have group blogs with multiple contributors. Makes sense. There are some good ones.

But group blogs, and any blog, can be the unedited voice of a lawyer when lawyers cover and comment on items they’re most passionate about.

Most law blog subjects cast a broad net so letting lawyers each blog on what they are individually seeing and reading so as to engage in thought leadership in a real and authentic way works big time. Readers feel it — and so do the law bloggers.

Posts do not, and should not be approved by an editor. Doing so in any significant way throws water on the fire of good law bloggers. It’s hard enough blogging sometimes, let alone blogging and wondering what my editor is going to think.

I met a young lawyer in the Midwest who had a great idea for a blog. A real strategic commercial construction niche opportunity in which, among other things, he was going to engage and build relationships with overseas financiers and developers investing in his metropolitan area.

But every one of his blog posts needed to be edited by the chair of his practice group. The blog posts “sat on the desk” of the chair for a week or more. The young lawyer threw in the towel, no more blogging. The blog was “taken down.”

The lawyer and the firm was deprived of an opportunity to grow. I’m sure the associate has received various kinds of pressure to grow a book business otherwise. What a shame.

The best law blogs are not marketing, per se. Sure, a lawyer is going to build a name and business through blogging. But law blogging is part of legal dialogue, scholarship, commentary and information. It’s the stuff lawyers did long before legal marketing was approved ethically forty years ago this June.

Lawyers pen emails, letters, briefs and more. Lawyers go to networking events and conferences in areas the law they’re passionate about and openly discuss things.

Marketing can empower lawyers to blog and help facilitate blog publishing, but it makes little sense for marketing to be involved in blogging.

Blogging platforms themselves are as easy to use as email and writing on Word. Asking or accepting that lawyers “blog” on Word so others can copy and paste to the blog platform makes no sense. Lawyers will also never feel the sensation of blogging.

Hey, I get the spelling and grammar thing for lawyers. Do know though that I have better relationship with my readers as a result of them correcting my typos from time to time. Run a spell check, but focus on engaging in a conversation just as you would at a networking event, not the form.

Don’t get me started with others writing a lawyer’s blogs, as some marketers are selling. That’s nuts, unethical and certainly not the unedited voice of a person. Doesn’t even merit discussion.

We’re starved in this country for the real and authentic voice of a lawyer engaging with real people – corporate employees or consumers.

Blogs are the perfect vehicle for expressing the voice of a lawyer.

But make it the unedited voice of a person.

One of the most rewarding things I have the honor of doing is visiting law schools.

I get to go into large law school classes or open sessions and tap into the existing passion these young people have. It’s incredible.

When I talk about the Internet providing each and every student the ability to make their dreams come alive, eyes open. You can see the fire.

When I share the story of Pat Ellis going from an average student at Michigan State Law School to Honigman in Detroit to inhouse counsel and business planner for the General Counsel and EVP of Public Policy at General Motors, all in a couple years, on the back of a blog, Twitter, drive and a dream, you can see students thinking, “That’s me.”

Students come down and engage me afterwards. They tell me where they’re from and where they want to go.

Some students have niches they’re passionate about. My being there got them to realize they really could do the type of work they dream of and for the type of clients they want to serve.

Other students almost apologize that they haven’t figured out their niche. I tell them that’s absolutely okay, most lawyers never figure out what fuels their passion. “Just figure out what would be fun to learn and who’d like to meet in the field. Now make it happen with the effective use of blogging and social media.”

What’s sad is that career services in many schools isn’t prepared to help their law students realize their dreams.

People communicate and connect on the Internet today. A working understanding of how to use the Internet for professional development and getting a job is critical for law students.

Yet career services is often led and staffed by people who have never used the Internet to build professional relationships nor to build a name for themselves. Their knowledge of using the net professionally often comes from misguided peers.

Facebook is the most widely used communication and connection medium in the world. Smart business professionals, including most of the legal industry leaders I know, use Facebook to engage and share on personal and professional matters.

Yet I recently heard that one career services professional advised law students not to engage professionally on Facebook, and if they do to keep two separate Facebook accounts. That’s nuts. Made me wonder what other bum advice they may have shared with students.

Blogging, Twitter and networking on LinkedIn are powerful tools. Those law students who use them strategically and effectively for learning, networking and building a name are going to have opportunities to do the things they dream of when they graduate.

But who’s teaching law students how to use social media? Where are the role models and mentors in their law school when it comes to blogging? Who is career services reaching out to for help, being vulnerable by acknowledging they don’t understand it all?

Law students are paying $150,000 or more to their school, many going into debt, and all forgoing income for three years.

The students are told to use career services. “We’re here to help you.”

But are you? Can you fuel the passion of your law students? Or might you drown it out?

There are exceptions, career services teaching and empowering law students to use social media to build a name for themselves. But I fear they are the exception.

Just a week after I read that the Florida Bar Association wants to place greater restrictions on the use of Avvo, I’m sitting in a class at Indiana University Law School where the use of Avvo is being taught to first year law students.

Maybe the law student who said she’d eliminate “old white guys” in looking for a lawyer on Avvo said it all. It’s a new world, damn those clinging to the past.

Professor Bill Henderson’s Avvo exercise was more about teaching students how consumers select lawyers than teaching law students how they should be prepared to use Avvo as a lawyer. As Henderson told his class, you, personally, may not use Avvo to find a lawyer, but Avvo can guide you in the way you present yourself as a lawyer – online, offline, on Avvo or not.

The Avvo assignment?

[O]ne of your team members has a serious legal problem. For the purposes of this assignment, they are a close friend who you care about, not your fellow LP team member. Also for the purposes of this assignment, you never went to a four-year college, much less law school. But you did graduate from high school. Not surprisingly, you are living paycheck to paycheck. You are not well read and your personal networks (unlike now) are not filled with well-educated, sophisticated people who can guide you to safety.

Your job is to assist your hapless team member find the best lawyer to solve his or her legal problem. Because you are an ordinary working class person (as opposed to the type of person who enrolls in a fancy law school), you head to the website Avvo (www.avvo.com) to help your friend find a high-quality lawyer. To make this exercise more interesting, limit your search to your hometown or somewhere nearby (alternately, you can use your hapless team member’s hometown). We will assume that all of your collective hometowns are adjacent to your team member’s hometown and that your friend is willing to travel the additional 30-minute drive for the right attorney.

Based on the information available to you on Avvo, locate and recommend a lawyer that your hapless friend should call. Areas of practice are likely to be useful, and Avvo can help you with that. Exclude attorneys you personally know unless they are under 35 and you have known them since childhood.

The legal problems students faced ranged from deportation, being arrested as a meth dealer, having their house foreclosed on, needing to file bankruptcy as a cancer survivor and more. Henderson’s good.

Students each presented in front of the class the lawyer they selected and why — based on a review of relevant Avvo lawyers.

IMG_0897

Totally ignored in the students’ selections of lawyers on Avvo were law school attendance, grades and law review. All the stuff law students focus on as important when in school. Henderson told them that’s not a surprise, many fine lawyers and legal tech entrepreneurs were very average students.

What did the students look at on Avvo? Here’s Henderson’s chalkboard with the checks indicating the most cited.

IMG_0923

  • Reviews of the lawyers by previous clients topped the list. People trust people similarly situated, even if they have never met them.
  • Looks like a good and caring person. Pictures were important and needed to be professional, lacking any semblance of scales of justice and court houses.
  • Experience in the area.
  • Ratings were considered as important and dismissed by an equal number of students. Stars were no way to select a lawyer, per a number of students.
  • Endorsements by lawyers.
  • Good “about section,” personalizing the lawyer as caring and knowledgeable.
  • Pricing, including free consultations were important for some students, while others wouldn’t select a lawyer because of low prices – they needed someone who’d been around the corner.

Two or three of students went “off track” and volunteered that they would not select any of the lawyers on Avvo. They would turn to someone they trust for the name of a lawyer.

A former real estate professional, now law student, indicated relationships and word of mouth within the industry would guide him in selecting a lawyer for a commercial real estate project.

Henderson’s class was not a scientific sample of how people select lawyers and use Avvo. I am sure Avvo has done some good work of their own on that front.

But Henderson’s Avvo exercise is a wake up call for students as to how lawyers are  perceived by consumers of legal services.

Law students also came to appreciate that innovate legal startups such as Avvo are doing more to make legal information and legal services available than traditional channels are.

As I sat back in Henderson’s class, I couldn’t help but think it was less than a decade ago that Avvo CEO and Founder, Mark Britton (@Mark_Britton) said nothing would come between Avvo and consumers. Now I am sitting in a law school studying the use of Avvo. And in the Midwest, where all the down to earth thinking and good stuff comes from.

I don’t know how you feel about Avvo being taught in law schools. I feel great about it. While law professors and career services professionals down the hall may be appalled. Henderson’s students were being prepared for their future — and as a 1 L’s. They’ll graduate more enlightened than those clinging to the past.

It’s not a matter of whether law firms will need to market their knowledge and use of AI (artificial intelligence), it’s a matter of when. The smart law firms are going to start now.

I walked out of last week’s Legal Marketing Association Annual Meeting (LMA) seeing the single biggest marketing opportunity for law firms as demonstrating a keen knowledge of AI and how AI is going to change the delivery of legal services.

I’ve been to LMA meetings for almost twenty years and have never even heard AI mentioned. AI and machine learning may have been discussed in relation to e-discovery, but this year there were multiple sessions with legal technology and software executives and entrepreneurs presenting on AI and its implications for law firms.

Why now? Because the tools that consumers of legal services expect law firms to use will bring fundamental change to the traditional business model of law firms, that being to charge solely by the hour.

Businesses and consumers are not going to tolerate law firms charging for hours spent on tasks and projects which can be automated by software and AI.

The age of AI may not fully be upon law firms, but the consensus at LMA was pretty close to what Richard Susskind, author, speaker and advisor on the future of legal services, had to say at this year’s British Legal Technology Forum:

People are probably over-estimating what AI can do in the near term, but unfortunately [they] are underestimating what its impact is going to be long term in the industry.

AI is close enough along, that speaking at LMA, Mark Greene, a 30 year veteran in the development and deployment of business and marketing strategies, warned new associates that they should become knowledgeable on new tools and AI so as to remain valuable to a their law firm. Going the traditional partner track is going to be much riskier, per Greene.

Former big law attorney, now Professor of law and Director of LegalRND at Michigan State University, Daniel Linna commented for this post on Facebook about the growing efficiencies that software and tools are already bringing to the law, saying it’s a mistake to ignore expert systems (or some might call them bots–think Turbo Tax for law).

The legal industry across the board could significantly increase productivity (double?) and also quality with better knowledge management and expert systems. Look at what Illinois Legal Aid Online and Michigan Help Online can do with expert systems and document automation.

Many law firms are building expert systems, like Foley FCPA, Akerman data breach navigator, Denton’s for European financial regulations, NetApp & ThinkSmart NDA automation. Lots of low hanging fruit.

AI folks say lots in legal cannot be automated because legal work is unstructured. Well, let’s start structuring it. We need more best practices and standards. Why do lawyers, even in the same firm, do the same task 10 different ways?

One way for law firms to market their knowledge of AI is to use AI — or at least tools and software appproaching AI.

In addition to the firms mentioned by Linna, Seyfarth Shaw, in connection with its subsidiary SeyfarthLean Consulting, announced in February an agreement with Blue Prism to deploy robotic process automation (RPA) software to the firm, marking the first adoption of Blue Prism’s technology for the legal industry.

Blue Prism’s software robots are implemented as digital labor to eliminate low-return, high-risk, administrative and processing work to improve organizational efficiency and effectiveness while reducing operating costs.

Seyfarth’s chair emeritus Stephen Poor sends a message we’re going to hear the likes of more frequently.

We’re excited about the opportunity this creates to free our lawyers from some of the more mundane legal tasks so they can focus on helping our clients solve their most complex business issues. In testing various use cases, we’ve already seen how Blue Prism’s RPA software can help us create exponential gains in productivity, and we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of possibilities.

CARA, an automated research assistant from Casetext, uses AI and natural-language technologies to automate legal research tasks, allowing firms to spend time on higher-value, billable work—and not miss key precedents or decisions.

Quinn Emanuel quickly got the word out, as part of Casetext’s recent funding announcement, that they’re on board with Cara. From partner, David Eiseman:

CARA is an invaluable, innovative research tool. We can upload a brief and within seconds receive additional case law suggestions and relevant information on how cases have been used in the past, all in a user-friendly interface. This feature is unique to CARA, and a major step forward in how legal research is done.

“Important for law firms to understand,” per Greene “is that they’ll not be driving this change in legal services and business models with regard to AI, their clients will. The best thing firms can do is to be informed.”

Being informed alone won’t be enough. Lawyers and law firms will need to demonstrate that they are informed and have a working knowledge of AI.

Sure, writing and speaking about AI in the traditional fashion, is a start. But networking through the Internet via blogging and social media offers lawyers so much more – the ability to become a leader in the area — quickly.

Listen to the influential sources and key subjects (including terms, companies and products) on AI via Feedly. Share what you’re reading about AI via Twitter, engage the sources and what they’re saying in your blog.

Doing so will get you cited by the influencers, demonstrate you’re keeping abreast of developments in AI and build an enviable network of those in the know on AI.

Doing a quick look around, I did not see lawyers out blogging on AI in a way that sperates them from the pack. The opportunity is still there.

AI may even be the perfect place for law students and associates to start doing some online networking and blogging. Look at what Greene had to say about demonstrating your value — knowledge of AI.

Hey, I am am far from an expert when it comes to AI. But I do see a big marketing opportunity here for law firms. Firms are probably even acting at their peril in not marketing their knowledge and use of AI – large corporate consumers of legal services will be watching.

If law firms have jumped on cannabis, privacy, food safety, and consumer finance regulations to make a name for themselves, firms can do it with AI — via the use of AI, or at least demonstrating a working knowledge of AI.