Leave it to legal tech innovator and law professor, Bill Henderson to be part of a new nonprofit, the Institute for the Future of Law Practice, that will coordinate the entry level law school market around an updated and modernized curriculum.

Traditional legal service models are breaking down. Law students are graduating from law school unprepared for the demands of the consumers of legal services, assuming even law firms are.

Law schools, like many law firms, are debating the need for change without taking the action needed. They’re often paralyzed by traditional bureaucracy.

A core group of lawyers, legal educators, allied professionals and corporate legal leaders (Shell, Cisco, Archer Daniels Midland)  — many of whom I know well via common beliefs on innovation and tech —  believe that the best way forward is to create an independent organization that can coordinate the interests of law students, law schools, law firms, corporate legal departments, NewLaw service providers, and legal technology companies.

The Institute will provide both training programs for law students and a talent pipeline for the legal industry’s most advanced and sophisticated legal employers.

Through internships companies get the unique opportunity to access a pre-screened pool of specially trained candidates. Students get real-world experience, while learning from professionals in leading organizations.

The Institute has already made good progress in its pilot.

  • The Institute has worked with over 80 students. Students completed an academic program and worked at leading companies.
  • The Institute is working with 20 leading companies that offer students real-world experience.
  • For the 2018 application cycle, the Institute is partnering with the law schools at Colorado, Indiana, Northwestern, and Osgoode Hall (Toronto).

Boot Camps

Clients have for years been complaining about their lawyers’ inability to understand the business climate in which they operate, to manage processes, projects and risks, and to cost and price effectively and in a manner that equates price and value.

I am not sure that an editorial calendar is helpful for a law blog. In many cases an editorial calendar can even be counterproductive

Many medium and large firms are using using editorial calendars for law blogs with multiple contributors, often with blogs published by a practice or industry group. More and more I am hearing speakers and “blogging experts” suggest that firms use editorial calendars, especially firms new to blogging.

The idea behind an editorial calendar is to get lawyers to blog regularly, to make sure that a law blog doesn’t go dark, for lack of a blog post. Many hands makes light work appears to be philosophy. “How could we ever lack for blog posts with ten contributors sharing the load?’

Editorial calendars are also used to make sure various subjects are covered. By assigning particular lawyers to subjects “needed” to be covered, there’s the necessary coverage and no overlap.

With law blogs published by one lawyer, an editorial calendar is not an issue. The lawyer blogs or they don’t, though some lawyers schedule particular days and times for blogging.

Editorial calendars sound good in concept, but how much fun is it for the “editorial calendar coordinator” to chase down lawyers  for their posts?  How much fun is it to get chased down on Friday for a blog post do on Monday?

Here’s some points to consider before enacting blog calendars.

  • Blogging works when it’s fun. Blogging may not be fun for everyone. Let those who enjoy blogging run with it. If they publish five posts to everyone else’s, that’s fine. Editorial calendars and committees can take the fun out of blogging before you even get started.
  • Blogging is about passion. Blogging lawyers should cover subjects they’re passionate about, not subjects assigned to them. Read passion to mean areas of law or subjects lawyer is excited to learn, excited to network in and excited to be known in. Passion is evident to readers, who will become followers — and passion begets more posts.
  • Readers don’t generally “come” to a blog looking for content or content covering the lay of the land on a subject. That’s for a book, the definitive resource on a subject, which your blog is not. Blog posts can “come out” when they’re published, whatever day or time that may be. Blog posts can cover those things bloggers are interested in, without having to cover everything. “Hot” subjects will naturally draw lawyers’ attention and their blog posts.
  • Blogging can be best viewed as a form of networking, versus writing content alone. Follow what your target audience of bloggers, reporters, association leaders, business colleagues and even clients and prospective clients are saying or writing. Share and reference what they are saying or writing and let readers know why you shared it or what your take is. Firms struggle to get their blog and bloggers known when the best way to market a blog is to blog about what others are saying or writing.
  • Listening via a news aggregator like Feedly, Twitter or another source for news or legal updates is important for blogging. By nature we all listen to various subjects. We’ll naturally want to blog about what we read or listen to. Let it happen.
  • Effective blogging and social media are acquired skills for individual lawyers, and even a firm. I advise many firms that a major success is at the end of one year having one or two lawyers who know how to blog and use social media for successful business development. Empowering individual bloggers to blog with passion and to become a little bit of a star in the their own right as a result generates blog champions, viral positives for the firm’s effort to get other lawyers blogging and using social media successfully.

Sure, have a blog leader or editor. Let them make it fun through lunches, dinners or drinks out for the blogging team. Share what you’re discovering in your blogging, not just by subjects covered but as far as successful blogging and social media use. What’s working? Who’s citing you? Who are you meeting? How are you using social media?

Maybe that blog leader or editor arises naturally. Maybe they’re the one to whom blogging comes naturally. Maybe they’re the own who’s generating business. Maybe they’re the youngest lawyer in the group who is becoming a rising star for the firm.

English writer, Gilbert Chesterton said “I’ve searched all the parks in all the cities and found no statues of committees.” I guess I feel the same way about a blog committee with an editorial calendar.

However long it takes to say what you have to say. No more. No less.

Everywhere I talk these days I am asked what’s the proper length for a law blog post. I give this answer everytime.

I fear the question arises out of a lot misinformation on law blogging flying around.

This afternoon I read Good2bSocial’s Joe Balestrino’s post on how to generate leads (I’d call it business) from your law blog in which he called out the importance of long form blog posts.

Does the number of words matter? Yes, it does, especially if you want to see your post on the first page of search engines. During the infancy of blogging, it was enough to create a 300-word post and you could expect it to rank high on search engines. But those days are gone because of today’s tight competition.

Thousands of blogs are created each day and that means marketers need to be a little more creative in producing content for their business’s blog. High-quality, long-form content with more than 1,000 words tends to rank higher in search engines compared to posts with fewer words.

Generating business, or even attention, is not dependent on the length a law blog.

The best way to build visibility and a reputation through blogging is blogging on a niche and referencing the existing discussion taking place in that niche.

You can pen 1,500 word blog posts and never get heard, never get cited, never build a name band and never generate any work. Now identify the influencers in your niche and start to talk in your blog about what they are discussing, giving them the appropriate attribute and you’ll get seen, get cited and grow a reputation.

Blogging is a conversation, it’s not about content. Listen first to the influencers and engage in that conversation. That’s why law blogging is often referred to as networking through the Internet – as opposed to writting content.

Think of a room where all the leading bloggers, reporters and other leaders in your niche are gathered discussing matters, offering their take and sharing insight. You’re across the street with lengthy wonderful content hoping someone sees you. It’s not going to happen. You need to get in that room and listen, engage and provide your take.

Get in that room and no matter the length of what you share and the insight you offer, you’ll get seen, grow a reputation and grow relationships. You’ll generate work.

Get focused on a real tight niche and you’ll become an intelligent agent, a must have have publication. Rather than AI in genreral, how about AI and the law in pharmaceuticals or AI and the law in race cars.

There are lawyers in this country who have done quick blog summaries on cases they have cherry picked from a federal circuit court or district court on a particular niche. They got known and generated work — and still do.

If it takes 1,000 words to share and express yourself in a blog post, have at it. If it takes 300 words, that’s okay to.

The magic to generating business from law blogging does not lie in the length of your blog posts.

Legal librarian and tech leader, Sarah Glassmeyer shared that she logged into Twitter last week to find another legal tech conference with all male panels.

Glassmeyer presumably was referring to ALM’s Legalweek Show, long known as Legaltech show. The first session I sat in, a pretty good one on AI, was six men, no women

I then noticed the keynote speakers being advertised on large screens. I shared on Twitter that of the sixteen keynote speakers only three were women.

ALM’s response to my tweet and another discussing the lack of diversity was to point out there were “several women speakers” throughout their show, drawing over 10,000 people. I have to believe they were saying that there were several women speakers throughout each of the separate tracks, as opposed to throughout the conference.

No matter ALM’s Legalweek Show, there’s a problem. Per Glassmeyer.

We have either one of two problems here.  Either the conference organizers didn’t do due diligence in finding diverse panels to speak at their conference OR there simply aren’t diverse people making legal tech.  The former is bad, but the latter is devastating.

Rather than complain, Glassmeyer is taking action.

I’m crowdsourcing a list of legal tech and innovation people from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds.   As of this writing, there’s about 50 people listed.  Feel free to add yourself.  If you’re planning a conference, please consult it and diversify your speaker line up.  If you’re hiring, reach out to the people on the list and ask them to apply or distribute the job ad to their networks.

Glassmeyer suggests (and I am with her):

  1. Refuse to speak on non-diverse panels.
  2. Offer to give up your slot to a diverse individual.  Have suggestions ready (Another way this list might come in handy.)
  3. Insist that any conference you speak at or attend has a code of conduct.  Here’s a great starting point for one. And yes, your conference needs one.
  4. Speak out about the need for diversity.  This can’t be a battle only fought by underrepresented populations.  Some CIS het White men need to take up the banner. I know some of you just rolled your eyes at the phrase “CIS Het White Men.”  Get over it.

I’ll add another, when you see panels and programs lacking diversity, take some pictures and share them on Twitter. Let the conference host respond.

Five or six years ago I was asked by the Practicing Law Institute to put together two all day programs on social media and blogging. The first thing I was handed were the diversity requirements for reach panel and the entire program. It’s obvious other conferences are not following PLI’s lead — or at least not enforcing any diversity policies they may have.

I speak a fair amount and I don’t recall the diversity of all the legal tech programs and, if I was on a panel, the diversity of each of the panels. The best I recall is that the programs and panels were mostly white men.

We may be bringing tech and innovation to the law, but some things are not changing, as Will Hornsby commented to a picture I shared tweet from a future of law conference in London in November.

Glassmeyer’s right, time to stop complaining and time to start demanding diversity in legal tech conference speakers.

Facebook Live is coming to the American courtroom.

More than 40 years after the Florida Supreme Court (@flcourts) welcomed cameras to its courtroom the court will become one of the first in the world to use social media media for official live video.

In a Tuesday press release, the Court announced that Thursday’s 3:30 p.m. event will showcase, on Facebook Live, the annual Florida Bar Pro Bono Awards honoring lawyers who donate services to people in need. Afterward, Facebook Live will be used permanently for all oral arguments, starting with February’s.

Chief Justice Jorge Labareleasrga nails it.

In the 1970s, Florida became the first state to allow broadcasts of its court cases at a time when every other court in the nation refused it. This Court’s experiment with transparency showed everyone a better way to balance First Amendment rights against the rights of people involved in a trial or appeal. Social media will be our next step in moving this highly successful model of openness into the Twenty-First Century.

The court staff believes that Facebook Live – with access to the world’s 2 billion Facebook users – will, in time, eclipse the reach of other broadcast methods now being used. More than two-thirds of American adults already use Facebook.

With a smartphone in their pocket or purse, a desktop computer or digital streaming to the family room TV, people can easily watch the Supreme Court live. Just follow or scroll over to the Court’s Facebook page. You can watch as you browse other items in your News Feed.

I expect Facebook will archive the videos just as it does with my own Facebook Live videos. This will enable the court to share the video on Twitter and on its site or blog.

The Florida Bar has a reputation nationwide for limiting lawyer’s engagement of the public via the web and social media. Not so with the Court.

Justice Labarga and his fellow justices approved a sweeping court communication plan in 2015. The communication plan, called “Delivering Our Message,” was approved and forwarded to the Court by the Judicial Management Council, a court advisory body that includes judges, lawyers and non-lawyers

While emphasizing the importance of time-proven principles of effective communication, the plan called on Florida’s courts to embrace recent advances in technology and communications, including social media and podcasting.

The Court and the council saw the opportunity to maintain transparency as technology evolves – to go where the people are. Relationships of trust with the press and the public would be built and maintained as a result.

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook knows that Facebook will serves as the epicenter for public discourse in the years ahead – in the United States and world-wide. In the States that means real connections of the three branches of government with the people. The Florida Supreme Court is showing other government bodies the way forward.

The Court is also showing lawyers, law firms and many bar associations who are afraid of their shadow when it comes to Facebook to get over it. Facebook is where you go if you care about communicating with people.

Facebook’s News Feed changes, as announced in a Facebook post, by its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, ten days ago, are good for lawyers and bad for law firms.

Legal bloggers should take note as your blog posts lead to engagement, relationships and a stronger reputation when they “move” socially across Facebook and you have built a stronger reputation by networking on Facebook.

Per Zuckerberg:

…[R]ecently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content — posts from businesses, brands and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.

The change, already being implemented:

I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.

We started making changes in this direction last year, but it will take months for this new focus to make its way through all our products. The first changes you’ll see will be in News Feed, where you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups.

What can you expect in your News Feed? Again from Zuckerberg:

…[L]ess public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard — it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.

The Facebook pages run by law firms, most of which are not getting seen anyway, will be seen even less. Articles and announcements from such law firm Facebook pages are unlikely to even get seen in the News Feed of people who have “liked” the law firm’s Facebook page.

The change is good for lawyers who are Facebook friends and engage with industry leaders, business colleagues, clients, referral sources, bloggers and reporters, in addition to family and personal friends.

Why? Because Zuckerberg expects the time you spend on Facebook to be more valuable and more meaningful when there is more engagement with your personal Facebook connections.

At its best, Facebook has always been about personal connections. By focusing on bringing people closer together — whether it’s with family and friends, or around important moments in the world — we can help make sure that Facebook is time well spent.

This evening, I skimmed through the first twenty items in my Facebook News Feed. All, but one, were from business colleagues – mostly lawyers, one personal friend and one New York Times reporter with whom I am a Facebook friend. Though some of these Facebook friends were sharing personal items, most were sharing business or legal commentary.

Facebook will no longer be an option for lawyers. Privacy and ethical hang-ups are not legitimate concerns. They merely reflect ignorance or an unwillingness to adapt to the change in which people network.

The Facebook posts in my News Feed tonight included posts from one of the leading media/First Amendment lawyers in the country, a former large state bar president and a leading privacy and data security lawyer. My Facebook friends who are lawyers offer value to me and others, they’re not promoting themselves nor chasing down clients.

Business development for lawyers, offline or on the Internet, is all about networking to build relationships and to build a name. Facebook, at its best, is all about such social interaction, making it perfect business development.

Perfect though for individual lawyers doing the networking, not so much for law firms trying to promote the firm and its lawyers.

Twitter is seeing big growth as a result of its move last September from a 140 character cap to a 280 character cap. Growth both as to more engaged users and its market value.

BuzzFeed News reports, via SocialFlow findings, that tweets longer than the old 140-character limit are generating much more engagement than tweets that are under 140 characters.

While the number of clicks on a link in Twitter were comparable before and after the change, retweets and likes were nearly double for tweets over 140 characters,

The findings mirrored Twitter’s own test results. From a Twitter blog post announcing the increase:

In addition to more Tweeting, people who had more room to Tweet received more engagement (Likes, Retweets, @mentions), got more followers, and spent more time on Twitter. People in the experiment told us that a higher character limit made them feel more satisfied with how they expressed themselves on Twitter, their ability to find good content, and Twitter overall.

In addition to increased engagement, Twitter’s stock price is up about 40% since the change to 280 characters.

Twitter stock price

Though Twitter’s ad business has not grown significantly, Motley Fool reports Twitter’s licensing of data, an alternative means monetization, is growing extremely well. And bottom line, increased engagement is the starting point for increased revenues — and the market may reflect this.

I am enjoying the 280 characters. Allows me to “micro-blog” if you will, greater showcase influencers and strategic partners and has significantly jumped engagement on my tweets. Looks like I am not alone.

For legal professionals, Twitter is going to grow in importance. Especially so for legal bloggers – to build a name in a niche, build relationships and grow a following to amplify your blog posts.

A business colleague emailed Friday asking what equipment I used for the Facebook Live interviews I’ve been doing at legal and tech conferences over the last year plus.

Video, and Facebook Live in particular, is perfect for a blogger. Publishers are using video more and more. Video is no longer the sole province of television stations and video crews. Video is engaging and a perfect way to shine a light on influencers in your niche.

Facebook Live is also good because of Facebook’s giving greater weight to video, especially live video. Like Google showcases influencers in search, Facebook showcases influencers in users’ News Feeds. Doing Facebook Live increases your personal influence.

So what do you need? First, it’s what you don’t need.

Don’t buy expensive and fancy equipment. To me, it’s a waste of money. It’s a headache to haul around. You’ll need another person or two to operate the trappings. Perhaps most important, you’ll loose some of the informality that makes Facebook Live video engaging for those being covered as well as viewers.

I did a fair amount of research before buying equipment. So though I am far from an expert I’d suggest going with the below. It’s what I reccomended to my friend on Friday.

In addition to Amazon, B & H Photo Video (everything listed) and MeFOTO (tripods) are good suppliers.

Like blogging, developing your own style on Facebook Live takes a little trial and error. Fortunately, it’s not expensive and the medium is perfect for that.

Why don’t more small legal tech companies use bank loans to fund their companies? Most are chasing angel and venture capital when funding may be down the street.

I was over to LexBlog’s bank this afternoon for what feels like an annual checkup. I am happy to report, all good, the bank was impressed with the bottom line from last year. I asked that they come over and tell Mrs. RL.

We do a line of credit with our bank that was turned into a term loan a few years ago that’s renewed annually. We pay interest monthly and make regular principal payments throughout the year to reduce the balance.

I have always liked banks. Straight talking and down to earth people who are in business to make loans to business people. Today, the home loans are gone to the large aggregators of home loan lenders it seems.

Small banks matter. I sat down with the CEO, in addition to our loan officer, today. Our bank is a $100 million bank, not a $900 billion one, like Wells Fargo.

Why small bank loans for legal tech companies?

  • Keeps you focused on business (producing and selling), not raising capital.
  • Keeps you lean and mean. You’ll not spend money on things you don’t need – you won’t have the money.
  • Keeps you focused on developing cash flow. Banks need to see you can cash flow payments on a loan. They cannot lend on collateral or a guaranty alone. Until you get cash flow, or least a forecast of cash flow based on a history of revenue, ie growing subscription revenue, scrape buy. Don’t quit your job. Or as one lawyer I know did, work in large law for a number of years and save what you can. He has accumulated enough savings to survive for two to three years in his new venture.
  • You learn to build a small business. Venture capital companies may call it a “lifestyle company,” but a small company doing millions a year and feeding twenty to thirty families is something to be proud of. It’s the stuff that this country is made of.
  • You have a ready source of capital for hiring or small acquisitions.
  • It’s cheap. You’ll pay as little as three to four percent interest.
  • You build a real relationship with real people in the banking industry. You are going to want those relationships over your business lifetime.
  • Many lawyers have a history of working with small banks for working capital or the funding of cases. Borrowing from banks is in your comfort zone.

You’ll need to collateralize the loan. For most people, that’s a second mortgage on the house or condo. That can eliminate folks without real estate. You may need turn to a guarantor.

The amount you are borrowing needn’t be a large sum, it probably should not be. It could be $50,000 to $200,000. In today’s world, with open source solutions, cheap hosting, people working on contract and the like, such sums can go a long way.

I get to a fair number of legal tech conferences. Good people with decent ideas sound like they are in the HBO show, Silicon Valley, rather than in real life when it comes to funding companies. Rather than talking like you are in the funny papers of tech startups, why not just build a business with funding down the street?

Necessity is the mother of invention, and it will certainly be on display in New Orleans this week at the Legal Aid Technology Conference.

The annual conference, sponsored by the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is the nation’s largest gathering of professionals dedicated to using technology to address the civil legal needs of low-income Americans.

The conference, billed this year as Innovations in Tech, brings together technologists, legal aid advocates, court personnel, academics, and other professionals to showcase technology projects and tools being implemented across the country and internationally. I am glad I was able to get in as the conference, expecting record attendance, is sold out.

For me, I’m looking for inspiration from some of the most dedicated professionals in legal tech.

I last attended the conference fifteen years ago, I was starting a legal tech non-profit to help individuals and small business people. I was blown away by the energy, passion and ideas of the legal services technology professionals in attendance.

While there are other good conferences focused on consumer electronics, marketing and technology, it feels right to be headed to New Orleans – to learn, to be inspired and get focused on ways LexBlog and I can contribute to the legal services’ cause.

LSC President, Jim Sandman, who invited LexBlog’s editor-in-chief and publisher, Bob Ambrogi, to give the plenary address, knows how important technology is in the delivery of legal services.

Technology plays an important role in making legal information widely accessible. This conference stimulates collaboration, creativity, and communication. It promotes new initiatives that will help make justice more accessible for Americans who cannot afford to pay for legal assistance.

Ambrogi, in his plenary on Wednesday morning, will explore the impediments to the broader use of technology and what can be done to overcome them.

Few would dispute that technology is one of the keys to addressing the justice gap—the difference between the need for civil legal services among low-income Americans and the resources available to meet those needs. Yet at a time when technological innovation abounds, the justice gap seems to grow only wider. The problem is not technology—it is the failure to fully employ it.

Highlights of the three day conference, ending Friday, include:

  • Incubating Innovation in the Aloha and Midnight Sun States: Updates on the Justice Portal Initiative
  • Emerging Technologies: Harnessing the Exponential Power of Digital Technology to Transform Legal Systems
  • Rapid Fire Tech: A Show and Tell of Technology Projects and Ideas

Over 125 speakers from around the country are scheduled to present on all sorts of challenges, technology, solutions and the programs they’re spearheading to bring legal services to lower income Americans.

LexBlog is blessed to be able to cover the conference by curating the social media coverage from conference attendees, Facebook Live interviews, blog posts and my tweets from the conference. We’ll see what Isabelle Minasian, LexBlog’s social media and editorial coordinator can cook up.

Look me up if you’re going to be there. I’d welcome meeting, and maybe cover what you’re working on.

The conference Twitter hashtag is #LSCITCon.