In the last week I’ve had exchanges with a couple law schools that made me wonder how serious law schools take professional development of their students.

I’m basing this on my belief that a law student’s understanding of how to blog and use social media to build a name and network is serious stuff. As they used to say, “as serious as a heart attack.”

In one case, a law school was appproached a year ago by one of the their law students suggesting the school hold a social media bootcamp for law students. The student who had good success using the net for learning, networking and building a name wanted to learn more — and wanted to help his fellow students.

The student, who would organize it, was told that things were awfully busy at the school and maybe it could be discussed in the spring. Nothing happened.

I approached the school earlier this year, was told the idea sounded good. When I heard nothing, I emailed back and like the student last year, was told things were awfully busy this fall, let’s look at the spring.

I can take the hint that we don’t value helping our students, professionally. Or, just as bad, we don’t take seriously learning how we can better help our students, professionally — we’re going to do what we have always done.

The second exchange, and actually much more positive, came when it was explained to me that the law school is pushing social media but is meeting resistence with students who question its value.

The problem may come when you begin by pairing up students and asking each student to look at the problems that may be presented by their follow students Internet identity. The focus rather than what’s great and what can be done is “let’s look at where you can get in trouble.” I can imagine skiing lessons starting with how you are likely to tear your ACL.

Rather than look at trouble, why not begin with the positives and tell students that there probably isn’t a lawyer a year, out of the million of them, who gets into trouble, professionally through the use of social media and blogging. And that there are lawyers coast to coast who are building careers and practices from social media.

Tell law students where they can go by using social media now. Tell them of Pat Ellis, three years out of law school, who is now reporting to the General Motors GC — because of blogging and using Twitter while in law school.

Every student has a networking machine in their pocket. Introvert or extrovert, I bet 99% of your incoming 1L’s use Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook for networking with friends and relatives. They just need a little guidance as to using this machine for learning, networking and building a name.

If you, as a law school, don’t know how it’s done, you just have to care enough to find out how — and to find out today. Otherwise what are you going to tell your students struggling to get a job, we’ll start trying to help you next Spring or the Spring after.

People today communicate via social media. It’s where they get their news, information and damn near everything else. It’s where people build relationships – over two billion people use Facebook.

At least as much time, if not more, should be put into teaching students how to use the net to build a name and to network than into getting firms into the law school for interviews, clerking opportunities and postings for postitions students are supposed to send off a resume. Knowing how to use the Internet is much more likely to help students — and unquestionably, more students.

The second exchange was much more positive as I am headed out to that law school next week. ;) Like with other law schools, I’m getting calls from out the blue to visit and talk with the students. I’m no savior, the schools need to have programs teaching the stuff and I’ll only vist a dozen schools a year.

I’m just afraid there are many law schools who are not taking professional development seriously.

With the advent of the Internet, and with it the expansion of open publishing, it’s not reasonable to expect law reviews to continue in their current form.

Law professors looking to publish should be provided their own “printing press” operated and supported by the law school. With WordPress the defacto content management system of record for digital publishing, WordPress should serve as the law school’s printing press.

Law reviews have been published in the States for almost 200 years, with the first being the University of Pennsylvania Law Review in 1852. Today, we have Law Reviews published by most every major law school, covering either general topics with the law review in the law school’s name or a partcular area of the law, such as environmental law.

Until the Internet, printed law reviews made a lot of sense. How else could the insight of law professors, judges and practicing lawyers be disseminated? How else could such commentary be cited by the courts?

But, as University of Kentucky College of Law Professor Brian Frye writes this week, as information costs drop ever closer to zero, it becomes increasingly difficult to justify law reviews in their current printed form.

Law reviews today, rather than disseminate legal commentary per Frye, limit the distribution of valuable ideas.

The inefficiency of the law review editorial process is legendary. While peer-reviewed journals may take even longer to publish articles, law reviews are still inexcusably slow. Many (most?) law professors post drafts of their papers to repositories like SSRN, Bepress, or the new Lawarxiv. Typically, articles do not appear in “print” until long after they are publicly available, often a year or more. By that time, most of the intended audience for the article has already seen and read (or ignored) it. Much of the delay is caused by the pointless convention that law review articles appear in printed “volumes” and “issues.” Nobody wants a printed law review, especially a smorgasbord generalist one. It is a huge waste of time, money, and effort to produce print law reviews that inevitably go straight to the landfill, along with the law porn that accompanies them. There is no longer any reason for law reviews to publish anywhere other than online. If authors actually want printed copies of their articles, they can order them print on demand.

Worse than distribution, says Frye, is the incoherent and arbitrary way student run law reviews choose what to publish, and from whom. A lot of good ideas and insight from legal professionals never sees the light of day.

A lot of good scholarship gets ignored, especially on subjects law students don’t understand, and a lot of flashy dross gets published. It is an article of faith among law professors that law review editors prefer constitutional law to any other subject, and the odds of placing an article are proportional to the number of editors who have taken the relevant class. Law students also reward articles with lots of carefully bluebooked citations, a metric that seems largely uncorrelated with good scholarship. And under the wildly inefficient and depressing “expedite” tradition, most “prestige” law reviews don’t even consider or bother reading articles until one of their “prestige competitors” has accepted it for publication.

University of New Hampshire Law Professor, Ann Bartow, hit on the idea of law professors having their own printing press at the law school in a 2008 blog post, cited by Brye.

What if faculty members published their articles exclusively in their “home” journals? That would eliminate the focus on the “placement” of a piece, hopefully with increased attention to actual content as a result, and motivate both students and faculty to do more high quality work, I’d suspect. Bias against scholarly subject areas would be reduced, and generalized bias against faculty at lower tier law schools would no longer affect the “sorting function” that placements have on junior faculty writers. Law faculties that produced good, relevant scholarship would see their home journals get numerous citations. Law faculties that did not would see the impact of their home journals and the reputation of their law schools suffer, and deservedly so.

Ten years ago it would not have been as easy to set up, or license, a WordPress publishing platform. Most law professors were, and still are, publishing blogs on TypePad, outdated and little used publishing software, originally produced by Six Apart.

Today, WordPress is running almost 70 percent of the content management systems in the world. WordPress is regualrly updated and enables a multi-user platform with multiple individual sites, all of which would be needed by a law school’s “printing press.”

Many law reviews publish online-only content in addition to their print publications, with some law journals abandoning print entirely, publishing solely to the Internet.

Why not go with the inevitable and enable the “home journals” referenced by Bartow and Frye with the open source technology we have at our disposal today, WordPress.

The latest Global Digital Statshot from We Are Social and Hootsuite reveals that the number of people using social media around the world has just passed the three billion mark.

That’s with a B — and represents forty percent of the world’s population.

Social media use

Growth shows no sign of letting up with the number of social media users growing by one million a day over the last quarter.

Note that the growth in Internet users did not slow over the last quarter, the issuers of the report did have any major updates to their Internet user numbers. The growth in social media use suggests though that Internet use is rising at a similar rate.

Facebook exceeded two billion active users in the last month, and unquestionably is the 800 pound gorilla when it comes to social platforms.

Other social platforms being used by a good number of lawyers are growing in active users as well.

YouTube has 1.5 billion active users, Twitter, 328 million aactive users and LinkedIn, 109 million active users. Instagram, used more socially by many lawyers, has 700 million active users.

The takeaway for lawyers has to be if you want to connect and engage with people, you need to be using social media.

Whether it’s leading law firms or associatons, nurturing relationships with clients, prospective clients and referral sources or looking to make legal services and justice more accessible to the public, social media is how people communicate.

You may review and download a complete copy of the report here.

With the democratization of publishing brought about by the Internet, and now WordPress, there’s a legitimate question as to how long publishers of academic and research information can retain their business model.

A business model that enables such publishers to obtain research and scholarship at little cost and then sell subscription access to the research to the very institutions whose scholars performed the research and authored the resulting papers.

The recent acquisitions of SSRN by LexisNexis in May and bpress by Elsevier last week are disconcerting to some U.S. law librarians because of, among others, open access. I shared librarians response to the bpress acquisition.

Both SSRN and bpress have served as repositories, generally open access, of legal papers and scholarship. However, RELX Group, the parent of both acquiring companies, as opposed to mostly open access, sells subscriptions to legal, scientific, medical and other scholarship. Add to that, Law Librarians don’t seem to trust either LexisNexis or Elsevier.

Open access is particularly coming to a head in Germany where a consortium of German universities, research institutes and public libraries are demanding from Elsevier fair pricing and open access to all papers authored by researchers at German institutions. After over eight months, the two sides remain at an impasse.

Chemistry World’s Ned Stafford reports that more than 70 universities and institutions have cancelled contracts with Elsevier to ‘improve their negotiating power.’

Tim Gowers, a mathematician at the University of Cambridge and an open access supporter who led a boycott against Elsevier in 2012, tells Stafford:

I am very impressed that the German negotiators have had the courage and vision to stand up to the bullying tactics of Elsevier, and that they have had the necessary support from researchers who use the journals.

Lead negotiator Horst Hippler tells Stafford that the negotiation team is in close contact with the U.S. and other European countries.

We are receiving a lot of positive feedback and recognition, especially regarding our negotiating goals for transformation to open access and for a fair and sustainable price model.

David Matthews, for Times Higher Education, reports that some in the German negotiating group are willing to “pull the plug” on Elsevier and get access to articles from other sources, like university repositories and academic social networks.

Elsevier takes an old school bullying approach to ‘no deal.’ Without access, Elsevier tells Matthews that “German university rankings and their ability to attract talented academics could suffer.”

Elsevier may also be feeling pretty good, with Matthews reporting that their profits were up 3 per cent last year as the company released another 64 journals. Matthews also added that the publisher’s profit margin at 37 per cent “remains high enough to make many academics wince.”

Things can change fast though. Just ask the folks who were at Martindale-Hubbell, also a RELX Group company, when its profit margins exceeded those of Elsevier’s. A failure to adapt effectively to the Internet resulted in a company worth a billion dollars being sold in close to an asset sale a few years later.

I am not suggesting that Elsevier is going to be sold for assets, but I am suggesting that universities and institutions should be publishing open access on open source technology so that they control their intellectual capital. This intellectual capital can then be reviewed and shared freely across the Internet.

Advances in science, law, medicine and the like will move faster as will the ability to build a name for yourself in these fields.

Rather than hold on to the past, Elsevier could look to enable the inevitable, open access, and build business models around it.

WP Tavern’s Sarah Gooding reports that publishers are moving back to WordPress after short experiments with Medium, a free online publishing platform.

Medium’s original business model was two-fold, to serve as a platform for subscription based publications which would put up articles behind a paywall and to run native advertising (advertorials) in a publisher’s content.

In January of this year, the CEO and co-founder of Medium, Ev Williams announced that the company’s business model wasn’t working and laid off one third of the company. Though Medium remains live and provides a nice publishing interface, it’s yet to come up with a viable buisiness model.

Medium’s business model was never a good fit for publishing professionals, ala lawyers. Lawyers’ publications were hugely important to them in building name and relationships, but subscription and ad revenue was not what they were after.

What lawyers and legal professionals should make note of here is the risk publishers, including lawyers, run when not controlling their own publishing and publication. Publishing for free on something that feels good to start with can have problems down the road.

Gooding shared what Film School Rejects (FSR) founder Neil Miller had to say.

“What we were sold when we joined their platform is very different from what they’re offering as a way forward,” Miller told Poynter. “It’s almost as if Ev Williams wasn’t concerned that he was pulling out the rug from underneath publishers who had placed their trust in his vision for the future of journalism.”

After moving FSR back to WordPress, Miller said the partnership with Medium was great until the company changed course to become a different type of platform.

“As time went on, it became clear that Medium’s priorities had shifted from being a platform for independent publishers to being itself a publisher of premium, subscription-based content,” he said. “As we learned more about their future plans for the now-existent Medium ‘Members Only’ program, it became clear that our site wouldn’t be able to continue to operate the way we always had.”

Miller said the process of trying a new platform and returning to WordPress made him realize that he “missed some of the customizable features of WordPress,” which led his team to work on some new features they will be launching in the future. The site has reinstated its banner advertising on pages.

And, via Poynter, that Judd Legum, founder of ThinkProgres, one of the largest publications to make the move to Medium, believes Medium is no longer even being developed with publishers in mind.

“I’m certainly not eager to have a bunch of ads on the site — and we’re not going to,” Legum said. “I’d love to have none. And if it were possible, I’d be interested in figuring out a model where we don’t have to have any. But if it’s connected to a platform that’s not going to be developed with publishers in mind, it doesn’t really make sense to think through that as a platform. That sealed it for me.”

ThinkProgress is taking its 8 to 10 million unique pageviews per month back into the independent publishing space. It is the latest of several other publishers leaving Medium after having been persuaded in 2016 to jump into Ev Williams’ experiment with initial promises of free hosting, more traffic, and advertising money.

Not all of the larger sites Gooding found exiting Medium went to WordPress. One went to Vox Media and another is publishing as part of Wired.

Medium’s new subscription model with users paying five dollars a month to help out and receive some “premium content” is still in beta. But as Gooding concludes, “…[P]ublishers moving away from Medium are not willing to stay on for the the startup’s experiment at the expense of their writers and staff.”

As I have said before, I am not one to bet against Ev Williams, the co-founder of Blogger and Twitter. He’s done some great stuff in publishing.

But if you are a lawyer or other professional, you just need to control your own publishing platform. And when working with third parties, as you must to some extent, make sure their business model is alignment with your business model.

Elsevier, a Dutch publisher and one of the world’s major providers of scientific, technical, and medical information, announced this week the acquisition of bepress, formerly the Berkeley Electronic Press, an academic repository and software firm founded by academics in 1999.

Elsevier is part of Reed Elsevier, the parent of LexisNexis. Much of the publishing Elsevier sells is authored by professionals and submitted for peer review.

As I understand it, the research and information then published is only available by subscription, including as to any authority who would want to access their own submissions.

Elsevier has been subject to criticism of late from academic institutions worldwide, and even governmental agencies, for their having to fund research/scholarly writing, give it to Elsevier for free and then pay millions to Elsevier to get access to the research and writing.

In the case of government funded schools and research centers, the taxpayers pay twice. To fund research that goes to Elsevier, then to pay Elsevier for access to the reasearch their colleges, healthcare centers and government agencies require.

Bepress, on the other hand, has open access tools under its “Digital Commons” that allows institutions, including law schools, to showcase and preserve their scholarly output. Law review articles and other legal scholarship is available for free through bepress’ Law Commons, part of the larger Digital Commons network encompassing other academic areas.

Bepress’ acquisition comes on the heals of LexisNexis’ acquisition of SSRN, another repository of scholarly output, including that from law professors. Some librarians are looking with some suspicion at whether LexisNexis will retain open access and freely allow legal scholars to use their work freely across the net.

How did librarians and knowledge management professionals recact to the bpress acquisition? Not well, looking through the “Top” tweets on a Twitter search of bpress in the hours after the acqusition announcement.

Elsevier announced the acquisition at 8 AM PT on Wednesday.

With the news announcement, via ZDNet, coming at the same time.

Following a few minutes later was a personal tweet of the “exciting news” from Elsevier’s Global Head of Corporate Relations.

Then came big question marks of Elsevier’s motives and ensuing problems for the academic community, beginning with a tweet from a digital projects coordinator and librarian at a major university.

Followed by the the library director at Macalester College.

Then more from the library community.

Then a college librarian who made her feelings clear.

An associate librarian for public services and scholarly communication had much to say (and did below), but feared “repository-sabotaging retribution.”

Bepress replied that it’s hard to hear all of this.

Within an hour of Elsevier’s announcement, professionals were looking for an alternative to Elsevier’s bpress, beginnning with a librarian at Georgetown Law.

The Associate University Librarian for Publishing / Director of University of Michigan Press continued the alternative solution discussion by questioning commercial platforms altogether.

And the alternative discussion, and what it would take, continued.

From this library director, it’s clear Elsevier was the issue, and why an alternative repository was needed.

Elsevier and its practices being an issue was made more than clear by this college librarian and director of communications.

A librarian and open access advocate shared a summary of tweets from his colleague, who earlier feared retribution, on why bpress selling to Elsevier was such a problem.

And the displeasure only continued four hours after the acquisition announcement with the Scholarly Communication Librarian at Cornell finding the acquisition troubling.

By mid-afternoon an engineer with an information services company wondered why bepress would expect any other reaction.

The above represents a good sampling of top tweets on the acquisition. Although I saw people comment on bepress being a good organization, historically, with good people to work with, I did not find any library professional who looked with favor on the acquisition.

Attorney and legal tech blogger, Bob Ambrogi, reporting on the acquisition noted that the announcement said nothing about the future of the bepress’ Digital Commons. Ambrogi said “we’ll have to wait and see what impact this has on scholarly publishing in law.”

It doesn’t appear many in the library community are going to wait and see. Librarians find Elsevier’s purchase of bpress troubling, at best.

This morning, Team LexBlog (everyone) begins its move to the WeWork – Holyoke Building here in downtown Seattle. We’ll move, in stages, over the next month from our current offices a few blocks away.

While many may view WeWork as co-working space for startups and companies with a distributed workforce, I see WeWork as something much different.

Like software as a service, WeWork offers space as a service. Health insurance, legal services and a slew of discounted services from international providers are included in a growing list of benefits.

Rather than worry about phones, Internet, copiers, conference rooms, huge display monitors, event centers, receptionists and more, WeWork has it all. Plus free coffee, cold brew and beer — all I found pretty important to the team when we viewed WeWork as a group a couple weeks ago.

Perhaps the greatest value in WeWork is the networking. Networking for team member learning. Networking for product development. Networking for hiring. And who knows, perhaps networking for business development.

The Holyoke Building, one of four (soon to be five) Seattle WeWork locations is impressive. WeWork occupies all six floors of the building first constructed after the Seattle fire in 1889. It has historic charm galore – exposed brick and stone walls, high ceilings, and tall rounded windows – with polished contemporary Northwest interiors.

The separate offices, of which we’ll occupy four or five, hold two to ten people, all include modern furnishings. There are also plenty of common areas to work from including areas akin to a small coffee shop on each floor. Downstairs there’s a huge area to hangout or hold events — it’s akin to what you’d find in an historic four or five star hotel.

WeWork isn’t just for startups. Alaska Airlines, Airbnb, Lululemon and Perkins Coie were just a few of the establish companies we ran across in touring WeWork. It’s also not just for distributed workforces (people working remote), as LexBlog and other companies have their entire company located in WeWork offices.

No question we’ll use some of the other WeWork locations – 203 office locations in 50 cities around the world. I am already looking at Chicago for an event next month.

Stay tuned, this is all an experiment and we could be back in traditional offices such as the one for which we were about to sign a lease.

Recode’s Peter Kafka (@pkafka) reports that Facebook wants to help major publishers sell subscriptions while not participating in revenue nor harvesting any data in the process.

The tool to launch later this year would enable users to view 10 articles from a publisher for free. Users would then be prompted to go to the publisher’s site to sign up for a subscription.

Facebook isn’t operating a subscription service ala Apple, which takes up to 30 percent of monthly subscription revenue, it’s merely creating a paywall associated with its Instant Articles feature.

News veteran, Campbell Brown, which Facebook hired earlier this year to Lead new partnerships makes a pretty strong statement on behalf of news publishers.

Quality journalism costs money to produce, and we want to make sure it can thrive on Facebook. As part of our test to allow publishers in Instant Articles to implement a paywall, they will link to their own websites to process subscriptions and keep 100% of the revenue.

As lawyers and law firms you aren’t selling subscription based publications, Facebook’s new tool does not apply to you.

But you are publishing legal news, insight and commentary to raise your stature and nurture relations. The message you should take is that your publishing can and should be openly and freely distributed for reading and consumption across the net.

Holding onto your publishing and wanting everyone to come to your website to read your publishing makes no sense. Get it out there and make it easy to consume where people are.

Your audience isn’t spending their time mingling around your website anymore than all of the potential readers of the New York Times, Washington Post or Wall Street Journal are spending their time hanging around their websites.

These publications know many, if not most, readers are out on social networks. That’s why they’ll get their get their publishing out on the social networks for viewing — and just as importantly, for social sharing.

Sure, create your core publications on their own sites, but look to deliver your publishing, preferably at no cost to you, to other outlets and networks online.

As reported by the ABA Journal’s Debra Cassens Weiss, another large law firm is laying off a number of administrative staffers as it changes its staffing model.

Apparently this is nothing new as a survey (PDF) by law firm consultant, Altman Weil found that forty-eight percent of law firm leaders are cutting staff to increase profits.

Taking the firms at their word, layoffs are often coming from increased efficiencies and modernization. I’m sure in other cases staff layoffs are coming for exactly the opposite reason – a lack of efficiency, tech advancements and innovation.

In any case, I wonder what companies selling services and products are doing to help law firms on the cost front.

After all, these companies should have declining costs with innovation and efficiencies, in large part driven by their own technology. As a result, their costs of production and their own staff needs may be declining.

By turning the design and development into a “software” driven system (SAAS), we have been able to decrease production time on “sites” to about twenty percent of what many of them used to be. This also reduces staff time that used to be tied up in more project management.

As a result, we have reduced costs significantly, and in turn prices. We are now working on some things to further automate what we do, not to reduce the quality of what we deliver, but to deliver better solutions to customers in ways that they expect it and want it.

It’s not always easy to “right size” pricing when it means decreasing prices, but it’s not only the right thing to do, it’s also sound business. It turns out that many customers want levels of “concierge” service that command higher pricing.

For law firms, I’d be looking at how innovate your service and solution providers are. What are they doing with technology to bring innovation and efficiencies? Is the technology they are using today and the people working on it likely to drive greater value, while at the same time lower prices — or at least right sized pricing for what you want and need?

Times are a changing dramatically. Technology and innovation doesn’t wait for anyone. Law firms are going to see continued cuts because of multiple factors — some driven internally by innovation and some driven externally by their clients and the way people use lawyers.

Service and solution providers should feel the same pressure as law firms – the answer is innovation to bring better services and solutions at reduced costs.

WordPress’ domination of the web, particularly in regard to websites with a content management system (CMS), continues.

Here are stats I pulled from a piece in Torque Magazine by German entrepreneur and marketer, Nick Schäferhoff and a web technology survey from Q-Success.

  • WordPress is used by 28.4% of all the websites, that is more than a billion sites.
  • WordPress is used by 59.2% of all the websites with a CMS. Its closest competitor, Joomla is used by only 6.3 percent.
  • WordPress sites around the world publish over 24 posts per second. This is measured by sites that are part of the WordPress network (meaning sites hosted either on WordPress.com or externally-hosted WordPress sites that have the Jetpack plugin installed).
  • WordPress sites receive 22.17 billion monthly page views (just within WordPress network). That’s three times as many as people on Earth.
  • There are 2.7 million global monthly Google searches for “WordPress.” This does not take into account people looking for “WordPress templates,” “WordPress plugins,” and other WordPress-centric information or under the abbreviation WP. Google Trends sees WordPress 5.5 times more popular than Joomla and almost nine times more in demand than Drupal.
  • WordPress 4.6, its latest version as of the end of 2016, has been downloaded 21.7 million times.
  • There are 72 translations of WordPress. In 2014, non-English downloads already surpassed English downloads. You can set your WordPress dashboard to (almost) any language you like.
  • There are more than 47,000 WordPress plugins. One of the main reasons WordPress is ahead of many other web platforms is its extendability. Plugins are available for all means and purposes.
  • The WordPress development community is steadily growing. There were 89 WordCamps, locally organized events for developers and users, in 34 countries with more than 21,000 participants in 2015.
  • WordPress is most popular with businesses versus news sites. Among the top one million websites in the world, the lion’s share of those powered by WordPress are related to business.

We’re closing in on one big giant when it comes to websites and CMS’s, something law firms and legal marketers will want to consider in their long term planning.