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.

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.

Are you focused on the easy numbers (clicks, views, likes) when it comes to Internet marketing?

Rather than focusing on something easy, widely respected marketer, author and speaker, Seth Godin suggests that you ask:

What is it that you hope to accomplish? Not what you hope to measure as a result of this social media strategy/launch, but to actually change, create or build?

Focus on the real goal – where do you want to be at at the end of the day – not on numbers.

An easy but inaccurate measurement will only distract you. It might be easy to calibrate, arbitrary and do-able, but is that the purpose of your work?

I know that there’s a long history of a certain metric being a stand-in for what you really want, but perhaps that metric, even though it’s tried, might not be true. Perhaps those clicks, views, likes and groups are only there because they’re easy, not relevant.

Law firm business development and marketing will always be measured by growth in business.

  • What business have we retained from existing clients?
  • What new business have we realized from existing clients?
  • What business have we realized from new clients?
  • What business have we gleaned from new industries or areas of law we have not worked in before but developed a strategic plan to get after?

These goals can be and are measured by the bottom line, revenue. Lawyers developing business do not have a hard time knowing where their business is coming from.

Rightfully so, law firms and lawyers use blogs and other social media, including Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. These mediums, used effectively, build relationships and build a name, the two linchpins of business development in law.

However, lawyers and law firms take the easy way out in measuring success. They look at analytics – subscribers, web traffic, followers, connections, likes and comments.

Analytics are the golden calf worshipped by marketers and lawyers spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on websites and other Internet marketing. It’s as if their budgets and jobs depend on these numbers.

Every law firm claims to be different, while all focused on the same metrics. From Seth:

“System innovations almost always involve rejecting the standard metrics as a first step in making a difference. When you measure the same metrics, you’re likely to create the same outcomes. But if you can see past the metrics to the results, it’s possible to change the status quo.”

No question there are lawyers and a few law firms measuring the difficult — and the real goal, but sadly too many measure the easy numbers.

Wall Street Journal legal correspondent, Ashby Jones (@jonesashby), announced last week that the WSJ’s “Law Blog” launched in 2006 and after 20,000 posts was shutting its doors effective immediately.

Law Blog’s closure doesn’t signal much when it comes to law firm law blogs. If anything, it suggests law blogs are stronger today.

No question, the WSJ’s jumping on the law blog bandwagon back in 2006 added credibility to the legal blogosphere. Jones is right,

It had a simple name but a novel approach to legal news in the pre-Twitter era: a one-stop place for breaking news, quick and clear analysis and lively takes on the most compelling stories, trends and personalities shaping the profession.

Law Blog was the first of its kind at the WSJ and was an immediate hit, attracting readers from all corners of the legal world. Its success helped usher in a sort of Golden Age for blogs at WSJ and encourage the growth of a wider, legal blogosphere.

Some in the legal community saw the news of shuttering Law Blog as a sign that law blogs were dying. Like we haven’t read the death of blogs headline any number of times over the years.

Looking at what WSJ is doing though is a sign that just the opposite is true. It demonstrates the strength, not the weakness of legal blogging.

WSJ which makes its money by selling subscriptions to content behind paywalls, is moving all legal content penned by Ashby Jones and other legal reporters on the Law Blog onto the main Journal site — and available only if you pay.

Robert Ambrogi (@bobmbrogi), a veteran journalist who headed a couple legal newspapers and now, blogger, responded, elsewhere on Facebook, to the theory that shuttering Law Blog was a sign law blogs were on the decline.

This isn’t about blogs. It’s about a news organization trying to funnel its readership towards specific products. The problem for the WSJ was that these blogs were diverting readers from the main content pages. If anything, that suggests the strength of the blogs, not the weakness of blogging.

A business development head in large law was right with Ambrogi that we’re comparing apples and oranges. The WSJ was restricting access to subscription-only content, while law firms don’t directly derive revenue from their legal blogs.

Lest there be any doubt, the 20k+ blog posts that Ashby Jones said would continue to be available at their original URL’s are already behind a paywall. Even Jones’ post that Law Blog is behind the paywall.

Should a law student blog now? Yes, yes & yes, writes veteran law blogger and successful niche practice solo lawyer, Carolyn Elefant.

In the big picture, something law students may not appreciate today, prosperity and a sense of direction may be the best reasons to blog.

A blog is your precedent; a picture of you as a law student, at a place in time where your profession lies in front of you and where you’re still excited and eager — maybe naive or at least, not yet jaded. Blogs capture the insight and curiosity and passion and yes, stupidity of the soon-to-be-lawyer and serve as a True North that you can look back on and use to re-orient yourself if you ever lose your way as a lawyer.

Elefant also offers five practical reasons to blog, whether you’re looking to hang out your shingle or find employment in a law firm.

  1. Blogging on a regular basis (at least twice a week for the first six months) about almost any law related topic shows commitment to the profession, interest and most of all initiative. Those traits will catapult you to the front of the line when it comes time for interviews or referrals from colleagues.
  2. A blog will open doors by offering an online introduction to lawyers in distant communities where you hope to wind up or to role models whom you’d like to emulate or meet.
  3. Blogging will make you money while in school and on graduation. Law schools don’t necessarily prepare you to get hired as a clerk or on graduation. Instead of waiting passively for your law school to help you find a job, put yourself out there with your blog and you may find lawyers approaching you, asking you to take on short research projects or help them research blog posts.
  4. Blogging improves your analytical and writing skills. Since readers have short attention spans and many RSS readers only pick up the first sentence of what you write, blogs require you to get right to the point with a seductive headline, strong lead and cogent analysis.
  5. A blog can serve as the centerpiece of a broader presence on the web by disciplining you to produce content that you can repurpose in multiple sites. You can include your blog along with other briefs and papers you’ve written in an online portfolio, a concept recently recommended in the New York Times for job seekers.

New York Attorney and Legal Tech Evangelist at MyCase, Nicole Black wholeheartedly agrees with Elefant.

Law students should consider blogging, and more broadly, should also use social media to establish a professional presence during their law school years. Interacting strategically online is a great way to jumpstart your legal career and make connections that can last a lifetime.

Black, who’s been blogging for twelve years, is right there with Elefant on the benefits of blogging as a law student.

  1. Demonstrate your substantive knowledge.
  2. Showcase your writing and analytical skills.
  3. Convince prospective employers that you are on top of changes in your chosen practice areas or career path of choice.

Ignore the naysayers and scare tactics, says Black.

Don’t let the fact that the internet is forever deter you from taking advantage of the opportunities that social media and blogging offer.

These guys offer some advice on where to start blogging as a law student.

From Black:

  1. Determine what your post-law school objectives are. Identify a niche, practice area, or career goal that interests you and make it yours. Learn everything you can about it.
  2. Subscribe to blogs about your chosen focus and identify the influencers in that space, whether it’s a specific area of law practice or another career path in a different field.
  3. Connect with those people online and learn from them. Read their articles, blog posts, and social media posts and interact with them online.

And from Elefant:

  1. To get the most mileage out of your blog in the legal community, you need to blog about legal or law related issues. Sounds obvious, but I have students blog about their life as a law student or other random matterss
  2. I’d avoid blogging about topics obviously aimed at prospective clients – stuff like “Why You Should Incorporate Your Business,” or “Ten Ways to Avoid Liability When You Fire An Employee.” A law student blogger would have to include so many disclaimers as part of these posts that they wouldn’t have much value.

I know Niki and Carolyn as friends and as professionals. They are as passionate as I am, if not more, about helping law students use the Internet for learning, networking and getting a job. Follow their advice over the advice of law school administrators and professors who do not blog and use social media.

Remember, as a law student, Lexblog’s platform is free to you as part of the Law School Blog Network. Take advantage of it.

You don’t publicize the launch of a law blog the way you may announce other law firm news.

Beginning a law blog is akin to beginning to network offline by going out and engaging your target audience to build a name and nurture relationships. You are just doing your networking on the Internet with a blog.

Imagine sending out a press release that a lawyer or group of lawyers in your firm were going to start networking to get work. You know, going to chamber of commerce and industry events.

We’re not sure if they’ll be any good at networking. We’re not sure they’ll continue the effort. But golly, they’re going to give it a whirl. You’d look like a darn fool.

That’s pretty close to what law firms are doing when they send out press releases announcing the launch of a blog.

And if press releases on blogs aren’t bad enough, the press releases often boast of the blog being a “go-to” or definitive resource on a subject.

Like a blog with three or four posts on anything is the definitive resource.

Great law blogs generating significant business are usually not “go-to” resources. Leave that to major publishers whose job it is to publish all the time, a blog is for networking and name recognition.

Emails to select clients are okay, but I’d wait three to six months to send them. Sophisticated clients will wonder if you’ll keep the blog up if you send them in the beginning.

When you announce the blog to these clients, let them know that you’re publishing the blog for them, not for the firm. That we know clients pay a fair amount in fees so we feel we have an obligation to share our insight on matters relevant to them that come across our desk.

Ask for their feedback on the blog. Is it helpful? What could we be doing better? Be real – let them know that you’re not doing the blog to get web traffic, we’re doing it to learn, grow our network and help you.

Don’t assume that because you’ve historically publicized blogs and that other law firms do so, that you should do so.

Ask your marcom and public relationships professionals if they have blogged (not written articles) to build their own name and relationships.

Have they engaged other bloggers, reporters, association leaders, industry leaders, conference coordinators and heads of organizations through blogging? Do they know that you can really turn these folks off by publicizing your blog? That your judgement may be called into question – not good for a business where good judgment means everything.

Blogging is a skill and an art that is picked up in time. Lawyers are not born great bloggers, and it shows when they begin blogging.

Why anyone would want to announce to the world to look at us when we aren’t very good at this, but we’ll get better, is beyond me. Especially in the case of lawyers and a law firm where clients would like to think their lawyers know what they are doing.

Again don’t size up your blogging by what you think looks good – know it’s good, as a blogger. Blog posts are not articles nor legal “memorandum-like.”

Blog posts are usually brief, concise, scannable, engaging via links to third party publications and conversational in tone, among other things. This is an acquired style.

Your blog will get picked up organically in the beginning and there are some good ways to market your blog to help it gain traction that do not include publicizing the blog early on.

I’ll be in San Francisco this Monday through Wednesday attending ALM’s Legalweek West (f/k/a LegalTech Show) and meeting with LexBlog publishers.

Legalweek actually runs only two days, Monday and Tuesday. The show is a smaller version of ALM’s LegalTech Show in New York City. And though legal tech is the focus, there are educational tracks covering diversity, operations and small firm management.

ALM expects to have 1,200 attendees, 100+ speakers and 40+ exhibiters.

Though not the draw of New York’s show, I’ve been attending and covering the show more years than not. It’s a good opportunity to catch up with legal tech entrepreneurs/leaders and to stay abreast of what’s going on at various companies.

I also enjoy meeting some of the folks from ALM. There has been a ton of turnover in recent years, yet ALM remains a leader in legal publishing.

It’s my belief that bloggers and legal mainstream reporters ought to have a good working relationship. Bloggers have niche expertise and certain information reporters do not. I’ve been doing my best to meet ALM’s reporters by sharing their stories on Twitter. I look forward to meeting a few of the reporters in person.

Ideally I’d like to get ALM to recognize the potential in getting legal tech companies to blog. For news, insight and for getting out the message of companies, with public relations not working as well as it used to. Maybe even do a social media/blogging workshop for exhibitors and sponsors.

I’m meeting some LexBlog lawyer and law firm publishers at the show and others at their offices in San Francisco. If you’d like to to get together, let me know. You can reach me via email, Facebook or Twitter.

There’s little question a real legal tech movement is underway world-wide — and one that’s accelerating at much faster clip than ever before.

It’s different than from just a year or two ago. Being in Amsterdam a couple weeks ago for the Lexpo legal tech and innovation conference and a Dutch Legal Tech Meetup the feeling was palpable.

A combination of things appears to be accelerating the movement.

  • Pressure from consumers of legal services (corporations or consumers) who are not going to accept work from unaccountable law firms who are not driven by data and predictions.
  • Legal tech companies with much lower costs of tech development seizing an opportunity.
  • Use of data is being demanded by smart consumers of legal services – don’t tell me what you think, but what you should know based on the data in your hands.
  • Younger professionals (tech, law, business, finance) who abhor inefficiencies and see how humans + machines are better than humans alone.
  • No longer accepting from law firms an attitude (intended or not) that this is the way we do things because we’re a special group exempt from the sound business practices of 2017.
  • The demand for access to legal services/access to justice no longer accepting lawyers, state bar associations and the American Bar Association saying they care and that they are acting when in fact the number of people without access to legal services continues to rise, and are likely protecting their own, the lawyers.

Professor Daniel Katz did a great job at the Dutch Legal Tech Meetup driving a debate about this movment with law students, practicing lawyers, in-house professionals and legal tech entrepreneurs. I told him afterwards it would be great to if we could scale him to drive such debates world-wide.

Seeing his drive and the others driving this legal tech movement, who knows what’s coming.

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.

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.