Machines today are presenting lawyers with law they should see without the lawyers even searching or looking for the law.

When I practiced, when I wanted the see the law I needed to search for it, and not via a computer but in books, lots of them. The closest I came to machines and AI was an annotation to a code section or a case which told me there was an American Law Review article on point.

Today legal tech and legal research companies deploying AI (machine learning) are white hot and so is investment in them ($200 million invested in legal tech in the last couple months, mostly in AI).

My friend and colleague, Bob Ambrogi, wrote this week about the World Economic Forum recognizing 61 early-stage companies as tecnology pioneers for their design, development and deployment of potentially world-changing innovations and technologies.

Only one was a legal tech company, Casetext, which has been a key player in pioneering the use of artificial intelligence to enhance legal research.

From Economic Forum on Casetext:

Casetext provides free, unlimited access to the law and charges for access to premium technologies that attorneys can use to make their research more thorough and more efficient. It is the novel application of artificial intelligence (AI) to the law that allows attorneys to use the context of what they are working on to jumpstart their research.

I may be off a touch, but Casetext technology enables lawyers to share with a machine what they are working on, ie a brief of their’s or the other side’s and AI will indentify for the lawyer cases they should look at.

Imagine casting that across everything a lawyer is working on. Transactional documents, pleadings, memorandums, correspondence, you name it.

You key or talk somnething in and AI tells you, without a search, that you should look at this or that. Better knowleldge and at a small fraction of the cost of lawyers searching. Pretty neat.

Neat enough that the Economic Forum recognized AI in the law in the same context with previous companies recognized, the likes oif which included Airbnb, Google, Kickstarter, Mozilla, Scribd, Spotify, Twitter and Wikimedia.

But there’s a gap in the law which AI is presenting lawyers. Secondary law. The insight and commentary of lawyers with expertise in niche areas of the law.

Secondary law should not be discounted. It’s regularly cited for persuasion at the trial and appellate court level. Secondary law is used by lawyers to guide them in transactional and litigation matters.

And secondary law is better than it’s ever been. Historically the province of legal academia, much commentary came from lawyers who never practiced. With the democratization of publishing with blogs and the Internet, the number of niches and the amount of content is greater than ever.

Beyond just reading the secondary insight, you’ll be able to reach out to the lawyer immediately, subscribe to their RSS feeds in your reader or engage them via Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

The key will be aggregating blogs – nation and world-wide – and deploying the curated insight via AI. This way lawyers will discover information and sources they never knew they were looking for.

Aggregation is beginning, the AI part is probably coming faster than we think.

LexBlog is launching a new aggregation and syndication platform this month that will power the LexBlog site.

Earlier this year, LexBlog’s new editor-in-chief and publisher, Bob Ambrogi set forth the future of LexBlog and challenged our team in stating:

We want to make the LexBlog network valuable for both publishers and readers of legal blogs. For publishers, we want to help them extend their reach to a global audience. For readers, we want to offer as wide a range of content as possible, but curated to make it useful a reader’s specific interests.”

LexBlog’s mission was now to aggregate all legal blogs, worldwide, and syndicate them a way in which the blogs and bloggers could be discovered and read. The technology that ran LexBlog was not equipped to aggregate and syndicate, thus the build of the new platform.

As with any platform, it’s impossible to know where we’ll end up going with new features, new technology and new products that will emanate from the platform. 

Core to the platform’s evolution though will be publishing. How to shine a light on the authors? How do we provide a good experience for the authors (one they don’t pay for)? And most importantly, how do we provide a good experience for readers?

When LexBlog, then known as LXBN for the “LexBlog Network” was developed seven or eight years all of the blog posts were merely excerpts. When you clicked on a brief excerpt of the post, not enough to even get the gist of post, readers were taken to the blog site to read the post.

I am not sure we could have done it any other way. Law firms would have freaked had we displayed their content in entirety on LXBN, to be read there.

Today’s a new age. Users need to have a simple, eloquent and fast reading experience – particularly on mobile.

For that reason, like any publication, LexBog will have the full posts for easy reading. And unlike eight years ago, law firms and lawyers are not freaked out about it. They like the exposure and influence LexBlog can give them. Syndicating content, just as a TV show is syndicated makes good sense.

Law firms, large and small, are signing up to have their blogs in LexBlog – at no cost – in large numbers.

We’re not going to index their content on Google, their blogs and posts on their blogs will  be indexed. We want the bloggers and the blogs to get featured on search. 

But for a good reader experience and ease of syndication, both benefiting the the authors, we’ll have the full post for reading on LexBlog.

Make sense?

Whether it’s a bar association website, a monthly lawyer magazine or a blog, they are all publishing — and today, digital publishing running on software.

There are fifty state bar associations and, I assume, about fifty or seventy metro/county bar associations with websites and other digital publishing. Maybe more.

Strange thing is that as I look around the net and talk to bar professionals, I find that the bars are mostly operating on different publishing platforms. The core software, for example, WordPress, may be the same, but custom development, custom design, custom hosting architecture and custom support rules the day..

Why wouldn’t bar associations use the same website software for their digital publishing? Better yet, a SaaS based solution so that the bar staff or people/companies on behalf of the bar could run the design, set up and changes, as often as they wanted and to the extent they wanted.

Designs and lay out would be different, but the core software, development, hosting architecture and regular upgrades and feature enhancements would be the same across the board. Better, faster and cheaper would be the outcome.

When do bar associations receive regularly upgrades and feature enhancements at no cost now? They wait years until a new site or publication is done — most often with budget problems. The result is an insecure and underperforming platform for years on end.

In addition to cost savings, readers get a better experience. Last year I saw that many state bars were publishing their monthly magazine on a “pdf-like’ interface which gave instructions on how to use the interface for reading when you opened it up. That’s embarrassing and has to make lawyers wonder about their bar’s tech aptitude..

I’ve been told that using a common publishing solution is totally doable. The problem is committee politics and member requirements for specific items.

Nice. Committee members, mostly lawyers, who are unskilled in web development, software and usability making uniformed decisions.

As far we need to have this and we need to have this because we saw it some place, that’s absolutely crazy. Makes as much sense as asking for a custom designed car as you don’t like the ones that are available. Or a custom designed and custom developed practice management platform because the major players don’t provide every single feature you want.

Invariably, the dedicated bar association staff and lawyers feel resource constrained when it comes to web publishing development and site maintenance. They don’t get what they want to start with as they are spending for custom work that’s not needed. Necessary upgrades and feature enhancements do not get made.

More than one savvy bar professional have shared with me that the publishing software is only part of the web development challenge – and maybe the smaller part of it. Association membership, e-commerce and other software platforms play a big part — and drive custom work.

Maybe I am dumb, but the publishing software and other software could be integrated without developing custom solutions. It’s getting data going back and forth – not trivial, but something that need not require custom platform development.

It can be tough to all come together on something, but I’m just talking web publishing, with the focus on presenting information, articles and other content.

What do you think?

Unlike LinkedIn, where I accept requests to connect from people with similar interests and a common professional background, on Facebook I accept friend requests from people who regularly share items of value to me. 

If they’re not regularly sharing items of value to me, I’ll delete their friend request. How else can I receive information/news from someone I trust or get to know someone better?

Value could be posts of a personal or news/professional nature. For example, personal items are of great value in getting to know people I want to get know better. Relationships grow by seeing a family’s vacation or a collegue’s speaking engagement across the world.

News items could come from people who follow niche subjects and share items with their commentary or stories from main stream reporters and bloggers who are Facebook friends.

Facebook relationships/connections blossom based on what is shared. On LinkedIn, though people share from time to time,  connections are largely based on each other’s “rolodex.”

So when looking to be-friend people on Facebook, you probably should be sharing regularly – personal or professional/news items.

People are not necessarily looking to befriend people on Facebook just because they know them already when will not get to know them any better or see items of value posted by them.

Facebook is all about relationships, relatonships grown through sharing and engagement.

Good couple days last week with Jennifer Brand,  Josh Lynch and Conner O’Keefe from the LexBlog team introducing the State Bar of Texas Website Platform powered by LexBlog to Texas lawyers at their Annual Meeting in Houston.

The platform is presently being offered by the State Bar exclusively to attendee’s of the Bar’s Annual Meeting. This way LexBlog receives  a sample group of lawyers using the platform before the State Bar launches it to all members. This will give our products team data to improve and tailor the platform as needed — primarily focused on ease oif use.

It felt good to hear comments such as “Wow, this is a great offering from the bar,” and “I just need a professional presence at a fair price and this is it.”

I got the real sense that lawyers trusted the State Bar to bring them a sound offering like the bar does with heatlh insurance, retirement plans and legal research.

A lot of small firm lawyers don’t seem to trust the traditional legal website companies, especially the larger ones. At least in Texas, there is a sense that the State Bar does right by me, as a lawyer, and solving the problem of who to trust and what to pay for a website is now being solved by the State Bar.

I wasn’t gung-ho to do a website solution on our publishing platform, but serving lawyers and the State Bar combined with the competitive feeling that comes with a new challenge had me pretty fired up by day two. Josh doing a heck of a job leading the development and launch of this offering didn’t hurt either. It was also Josh who also felt strongly that we should help lawyers where we can.

Our COO, Garry Vander Voort, was also right that getting the team to work on something outside our normal process driven regiment would be good for us. I cannot say there hasn’t been some stress, and I am sure there will more ahead, but it’s making for better relationships across the team and is giving us the assurance we can handle new challenges and opportunities ahead.

When Conner joined LexBlog he wanted a job where he could best help the company and have the most impact. He’s been working withe the success team for the last year plus but has now jumped over to sales. 

With a little coaching from Jen, who has the strong marketing, communications and relationships background/experience, Conner did a heck of a job. Reaching out and talking to lawyers he picked up the vast majority of the lawyers who will be moving forward on using the platform. Maybe he’s picked up the salesperson blood from my Dad.

LexBlog exists on relationships, blogging, social media and will, so we tend to be a rag group when someone asks us to “display” at a conference, something we rarely do.

Having Jen on board to help in Houston was invaluable. Beyond being a pro in all she does and giving us counsel at every turn (with a soft touch), she just makes people feel good – lawyers, State Bar staff and us. Made for better work on our part and more lawyers trusting us. Jen also left us with a nice list of things where we’re not perfect yet. ;) 

I look forward to continuing work on the State Bar website platform offering and after the launch to the entire bar offering the solution to lawyers in other states through their bar associations.

Turns out that doctors blog for the same reasons as lawyers blog – to share expertise, build relationships, make connections with patients (clients with lawyers) and correct the misinformation online.

From a piece in The Medical Bag, an online resource for health care professionals:

Blogging has become a powerful tool for physicians to share their expertise, build better relationships with their patients, and make connections online. Many also turn to blogging as a way to combat the deluge of online medical misinformation.

With the Internet having turned into a giant billboard of professionals attempting to grab attention and web traffic, it’s refreshing to see doctors looking to make connections with people in a real and authentic fashion. Better yet, to help people where they are today — online.

As with the law, there’s a boat load of medical misinformation online. Comes from people shooting from the hip across social networks as well as web and SEO marketing companies, who with no medical expertise, kick out marginal content, like legal marketers, to get attention and web traffic.

Doctors need to blog to fight off the misinformation,  per Linda Girgis,  a board-certified family physician in South River, New  Jersey and a professor at Rutgers University Medical School, who blogs at Dr. Linda.

There’s so much health and medical information being written these days, and much of it is not being written by medical experts. It’s important that more doctors start blogging and sharing information so we can combat all the fake news and pseudoscience out there.

Like lawyers, blogging gets doctors outside their comfort zone. May be as simple as getting comfortable networking with people online or picking up new skills associated with blogging — assuming a doctor wants to get into the tech side of things.

From Patricia Salber, MD, a board-certified internist and emergency physician, who has been blogging at The Doctor Weighs since 2005:

I have had to gain many skills completely separate from medicine and medical writing in order to grow the business, [such as] HTML, WordPress, search engine optimization…and more. I am now doing technical things on the site that I never dreamed would be part of my day-to-day life, including troubleshooting complex technical issues and trying to learn a bit of web design. I have learned the joy of continuing to challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone and learn new skills far different from the ones acquired in medical training.

Medical blogging is not without its challenges, per Girgis. Time management and calendaring for blogging is one. And there are the trolls, that are better left ignored.

I write about many controversial topics and welcome debate and disagreement. But I have been shocked many times when people just come out hurling insults because they don’t like what I say. While it is tempting to reply back, often it is best just to ignore them and move on.

I am sure it’s a small minority of doctors who blog. The connections, relationships, helping people, sharing expertise, and making a difference are all there, but most doctors simply won’t feel comfortable giving of themselves online. Others won’t put in the time it takes.

It’s the same with lawyers.

From 28-year-old journalist, Mickey Djuric, last week on launching the community news site, Daily Jaw, in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan last week:

I’m part of the generation that made Google popular. We made Twitter a news platform. We are the reason Facebook is succesful. So I feel confident in my ability to publish online.

As reported by CBC News, Djuric was a Moose Jaw Times Herald reporter who resigned in 2015 over the paper’s refusal to publish a video she had shot. The video showed a Saskatchewan MP using what she thought was vulgar language in describing a political candidate.

But Djuric felt an affinity for Moose Jaw and a desire to return “home,” especially with the closing of  the Moose Jaw Times-Herald which closed down after 128 years.

I have always felt a sense of responsibility toward this city to do good journalism, and that’s really what inspired me to come back.

Djuric sees small communities “under-served and under-reported” by journalism.

I’m hoping to change that. I’m hoping to bring more clarity when it comes to news, and what’s fact and what’s not.

Boy, Djuric sounds a lot like many young lawyers.

  • Grew up with the Internet and been part of the rise of social media while in college and law school.
  • A desire to return home.
  • A senses of responsibility to serve others.
  • A desire to escape the traditional.

One big way to serve others as a young lawyer is to start a niche focused law blog. Maybe it’s a focus on an area of the law with a community. Maybe it’s a more focused niche with a state or national focus.

Long time legal journalist and now editor=in-chief of LexBlog, Bob Ambrogi, regularly talks about the decline of legal reporting with coverage being but a fraction of what it was. Ambrogi sees law blogs as being the most vibrant form of legal reporting and commentary.

As I discussed yesrday with Greg Lambert, Chief Knowledge Services Officer for Jackson Walker, there are so many locales and subjects going unserved with regard to legal news and information. Places there is no blog on any number of areas of law.

Want to serve, fill a void and make difference? Find your passion and local and get after it blogging.

Unlike Djuric, as a lawyer you don’t have to worry about funding your jpournalism. Niche law blogging builds a name and relationships, the linchpins of developing business for good lawyers.

Like Djuric, put immediate return (in her case it’s advertising) on the backburner to focus on building a brand.

I think it’s important for me first to develop who we are as a brand and that we will stand for good journalism, that our journalism will be straight-up honest and it will not be fluffy,

You’ll not be a journalist reporting daily, but you will be making the law more accessible to people by posting to your blog two to four times a month.

Djuric believes we’re going to see more independent journalism models popping up in Canada. I believe we’re going to see a lot of niche law blogs popping up across Canada and the U.S. – my guess is Ambrogi would agree.

I saw in my feeds yesterday that Arizona Attorney, Jill Wiley, had been named the new chair of the board of Meritas, a global alliance of independent law firms.

Word of Wiley’s appointment came from an Asian business publication, which by being an influential publication has its stories syndicated by Google News.

I subscribe to the word “Meritas” to see news about Meritas. Why?  Meritas is a network of almost 8,000 lawyers in 200 law firms in 90 countries and 245 markets. When you’re a publishing company like LexBlog, Meritas leaders and members are the folks with whom you’re looking to build relationships.

Seeing the announcment I wanted to give a “kudos” about Wiley’s appointment to Meritas, Wiley and her law firm, Waterfall, Economidis, Caldwell, Hanshaw & Villamana.

It’s easy to do via Twitter by including the Twitter handle of Wiley, her firm and Meritas in my Twitter shoutout. They’d each get an email and notice on Twitter about my tweet, it’s like a virtual handshake.

Problem was that neither Wiley nor her firm use Twitter. Forget failing to use an information and news medium that lawyers and their clients use, what a lost opportunity for leveraging Wiley’s role with Meritas.

  • Leaders in associatons need to stay relevant to membership. By sharing info helpful to law firm leaders as well as Meritas news, Wiley could establish trust and a growing relavence of Meritas across its membership.
  • Create a Twitter list of Meritas law firms and its lawyers usng Twitter. Mertias and its leaders could re-tweet the things these folks are proud of.
  • Create easy to use feeds monitoring the firm members’ names. Again, shout-out news about them.
  • Wiley and her firm’s clients see all this interaction with lawyers and law firms around the world. Members of other legal networks see the news and information shared, the interaction and the relationships built between Meritas lawyer/law firm members. Wow.

These ideas are just off the top of my head. I am sure there are other ways to use Twitter for busness relationships and growing network membership.

No time? Too complicated? Ethical issues? You’re really saying I am not going to move forward with innovation nor am I going to go out where the people are, where they communicate.

This stuff is pretty easy and takes minutes.

It’s not my point to dump on Wiley, her firm or Meritas. My point applies to any network or association leader.

By and large, such folks are absent from Twitter and are trying to grow membership and remain relevant to the members they have with the same methods used thirty years ago.

So many opportunities for leaders with Twitter.

Are you a law blogger in Houston? Or a Texas law blogger who will be in Houston for the bar’s annual meeting. It would be my honor to tell your story.

I’ll be in Houston from Wednesday evening through late Friday afternoon. I’d welcome meeting for coffee or a pint for a Facebook Live Interview.

Nothing daunting. Nothing to prepare for. I’m just interesting in how you got started blogging, how it has gone for you, what blogging has meant to you and what you’ve learned along the way. Maybe learn a little about you and what you do as a lawyer.

I find the stories inspiring and so do other lawyers out there blogging or considering blogging.

Text/call my cell phone (206-321-3627) or email me.

Thanks and please spread the word, Houstonian – and Texans.

We are seeking someone with passion to become our Communications and Marketing Lead.

Working with company leadership, team members and external resources, you will develop, lead and execute all internal and external communications and marketing, reaching people and organizations, worldwide.

This is not a position for someone seeking the monotony of a larger organization. You will be challenged to work outside your comfort zone in order to grow professionally and personally. We will support you and provide opportunities for growth because we believe in helping our team members realize their potential and dreams.

Responsibilities include:

  • Live and communicate LexBlog’s values, internally and externally. Our values enable team members to act with “Integrity in the Moment of Choice” and our audience to know us.
  • Own and present the LexBlog brand, internally and externally.
  • Develop and lead an authentic social media plan, calling on the talent, energy and personal involvement of the entire LexBlog team.
  • Develop and execute your own personal brand via social media, conferences and business relationships.
  • Develop, recommend, and lead company communications and marketing plans.
  • Increase recognition of the company and our products.
  • Work closely with our sales team so that they may help you, and you them.

You will own this role if:

  • You like having fun
  • You like growing
  • You like working with company leadership on a regular basis
  • Have a ton of energy
  • Have a passion for social media, no matter the form
  • You are organized and systematic to a fault
  • You like people and enjoy meeting new people
  • You are a good writer
  • You know done is better than perfect
  • You do what it takes

About LexBlog

Founded in 2004 to empower lawyers to increase their visibility and accelerate their business relationships through blogging, LexBlog is the hub that brings together many of the best legal minds on the web. Its publishing platform, offered as software as a service (SaaS), powers more than 15,000 legal bloggers and over half of the nearly 1,500 blogs published by the 200 largest U.S. law firms. By expanding LexBlog to blogs not published on its platform, LexBlog is building the largest and most comprehensive legal news and information network in the world.

Look forward to talking with you. Drop an email to kevin@lexblog.com or  jobs@lexblog.com.

PS - LexBlog believes in hiring PhD’s* (poor, hungry and driven).

* “We’re not talking about people being poor economically. We’re talking about being poor in terms of knowledge, about people who are constantly searching to learn more, to find more wisdom. And hungry in this context refers to those with a tremendous desire to succeed, people who won't ever be satisfied with an ordinary level of accomplishment. And driven people are the ones who set ambitious goals and then pursue them with real ferocity.” - Mario Gabelli