A television lawyer groupie like I was during the OJ Simpson trial has to be pretty pumped to see ABC News’ Chief Legal Affairs Anchor Dan Abrams keynoting Avvo’s Lawyernomic’s 2018, which kicks off Tuesday morning in Las Vegas.

Abrahams covered the Simpson trial for Court TV, one of the channels I flipped through, with Gerry Spence on CNN and CNBC and Greta Van Susteren also on CNN. I learned more from these lawyers than I learned in law school and CLE’s. I also learned a lot about working with the media as a lawyer – something extremely helpful as a trial lawyer.

Serving as a legal analyst for the media for twenty five years, Abrams will provide insights into the pulse of consumer legal news today.

He’ll also discuss how independent publishing by lawyers (blogging and content marketing) can be a powerful tool in breaking down complex legal issues and connecting current and prospective clients with accessible legal solutions.

With a career in public service spanning three decades and a background in practicing law, Wendy Davis will share her passion for advocacy and her insights into the socially conscious consumer.

Davis is a former Texas state senator, a candidate for governor of Texas and the founder of Deeds Not Words, an advocacy initiative that empowers women and champions equal rights, education, and social justice for minority and LGBTQ communities.

Avvo founder and it former CEO, Mark Britton, will speak on the current and future state of the legal industry, and building connections between consumers and lawyers.

As the consumer market becomes increasingly segmented – by social behaviors, media consumption, device usage, and so on – it’s more important than ever that lawyers understand the needs of legal consumers. By building connections with industry experts and peers, lawyers can stay ahead of these changing demands and better serve their clients.

Beyond keynotes, Lawyernomics has a heck of lineup presenting educational sessions on client relations, reputation management, content marketing, blogging, social media, practice management, SEO and legal technology as well as interactive demonstrations of the latest Avvo products for lawyers in an onsite Avvo Lab.

Picking up on what other smart conferences have done, Lawyernomics is offering attendees expanded learning and networking discussions with presenters and thought leaders – I should have brought a LexBlog t-shirt to wear to lead a thought leader discussion.

With Internet Brands acquisition of Avvo, it’s to hard to know if Lawyernomics will continue. With few, if any conferences focused exclusively on marketing for consumer and small business, the opportunity is there. An announcment of next year’s conference would put the question to rest.

In the brief time I was at Martindale-Hubbell (then owner of lawyers.com), I pitched doing conferences for lawyers as a business development opportunity for us. They declined. Perhaps one of the reasons that Britton and Avvo wiped them out.

Looking forward to a couple nice days of seeing business friends and staying abreast of business development actives in individual and small business focused law.

Law is too important to be left to the lawyers.

This from Richard Granat, a true champion when it comes to harnessing innovation and technology to improve American’s access to legal services.

Granat shared this in a Facebook comment in reference to society’s leaving it to lawyers and lawyer controlled bar associations to decide how legal services are delivered in this country.

By and large, it’s bar associations that decide what innovation and legal technology gets used in the delivery of legal services. Not a great situation for the public when bar associations exist to represent the interests of lawyers who earn by time, not efficiency.

Granat is not alone.

Gillian Hadfield, a leading proponent of the reform and redesign of legal systems and a Professor at USC Law School, commented this week on bar associations limiting access to legal services in, of all places, the American Bar Association’s Law Technology Today magazine.

A week ago, Mary Juetten, co-founder of Evolve Law and founder and CEO of Traklight, a self-guided IP strategy platform, wrote about bar associations driving small legal tech companies out of business on the pretense that legal tech business models violate the unauthorized practice of law rules.

Juetten questioned what the bar associations were actually protecting.

I have some great friends working with and for bar associations. LexBlog has the honor of working with any number of bar associations.

But should bar associations be deciding what is and what is not legal services that require a lawyer? Are bar associations, by restricting what they describe as legal services to being administered by lawyers, just making lawyers more and more irrelevant to individuals and small businesses?

Is it possible that bar associations by looking to protect lawyers are actually hurting lawyers? With less people looking for legal services administered the way they are, there is less and less work for lawyers. We’re already seeing less lawyers.

While the American Bar Association and state bar associations look to be the hub of discussion on access to legal services, and even innovation and legal technology, there is a growing sentiment that bars may be the reason for the increasing chasm we have in access to legal services.

Robert Ambrogi, LexBlog’s editor-chief and publisher and former editor of the National Law Journal, explained a couple months ago to a Chicago gathering of legal professionals discussing an effort to bring access to legal services, that the American Bar Association and many bar associations could not lead the effort because of their role as a trade organization.

Juetten may well be right that it’s not an “either or” situation, as she tweeted immediately after I published my post. In the absence of another body, bar associations could include non lawyers and private companies on their governing boards.

I don’t have all the answers, but I’m with Granat. “Law is too important to be left to the lawyers.

Syndication as we’ve come to known it is akin to the TV show Seinfeld. When the show ended in 1998, folks like me saw it for the first time in reruns on various stations other than NBC, where it originally ran.

In a nice piece on content syndication and blogs, Brendan Barron explains the basics, basics largely applied by LexBlog as we build a legal news and information network by curating/syndicating legal blogs world-wide.

[S]omeone makes a copy of content that was originally published elsewhere and then uses it on their own WordPress website. So, for your purposes, content syndication could mean that you import someone else’s content into your site (which is probably what most of you will do). It also means that you could loan out your own content to others.

When Seinfeld gives Seattle’s Channel 11 permission to run his shows in syndication, there’s no copyright infringement. Same for blogs.

When someone willingly grants permission for others to use their blog posts in syndication, and proper attribution is provided to the original author and source, there shouldn’t be any problems with violating copyright law.

For bloggers, Barron says content syndication is greatly beneficial.

  • Their content now has the opportunity to be introduced to a new audience.
  • They’re receiving free promotion of content on another platform that requires zero work on their part.
  • They receive a a new backlink to to their blog from a highly influential source, growing the influence of their blog and improving its seach performance. [last point on search added by me]

In the case of LexBlog, add delivering the blog posts to legal research services such as Fastcase and further syndicating posts via email newsletters and social media.

What about duplicate content confusing the search engines and possibly causing your blog to rank lower than the syndication source?

No question syndicated content is duplicate content, it’s content indentical to something that already exists online and is already indexed by the search engines.

There’s a good reason search engines hate duplicate content, per Barron,

To put it plainly, it’s because duplicate content is usually a sign of unwarranted use of someone else’s work (i.e. plagiarism). In this case, however, that clearly is not your intention as you’re publishing content with a direct attribution back to the original writer and source. That said, Google’s bots aren’t smart enough to know that an arrangement was made.

What’s the answer?

[Y]ou need to somehow communicate to search engines that the duplicate content is not to be indexed or ranked (since that privilege belongs to the source). After all, you don’t need to rank for this page.

As Barron explains, you can communicate this to search engines in a couple different ways.

  1. Add a Canonical Tag. A canonical tag is one you place in the header of the syndicated content page. It tells search bots, “Hey, I don’t deserve any of this praise. Can you guys please just give it all to this person over here?”
  2. Update the robots.txt. If you simply want to keep the search engines away from this page, you can instead use the robots.txt file in the root directory.

LexBlog will use the canonical approach. Our goal is to shine a light on bloggers and their commentary. Let people world-wide discover them and their insight – but always to recognize the power of a citizen journalist having their own publication.

Key for law bloggers, I’d think, is that the syndication be done through a credible publisher, that the content be open and free to readers, that as the original publisher you need not have to pay for syndication, that there be links back to the original content and authors and that there be continuing attribution in the form of blog and blogger profiles.

Who knew? Law blogs and Seinfeld.

LexBlog’s Bob Ambrogi reports that North Carolina is close to mandating technology training for lawyers.

The North Carolina State Bar Council has approved a proposed amendment to lawyers’ annual CLE requirements that would mandate that one hour of the required 12 hours of CLE training annually be devoted to technology training.

The council adopted the proposed amendment on April 20. The proposed amendment now goes to the North Carolina Supreme Court for approval.

North Carolina, Ambrogi reports, is only the second state to mandate technology aptitude.

In 2016, Florida became the first state to mandate technology training for lawyers, when it adopted a rule requiring lawyers to complete three hours of CLE every three years “in approved technology programs.”

I couldn’t help but feel the irony of it all when reading Ambrogi’s report.

It was just a couple days ago I was reading a piece by Richard Granat, a champion on the use of technology for greater access to justice, on North Carolina legislation (pdf) restricting the use of technology to provide access to legal services.

Under the guise of consumer protection, North Carolina has passed new legislation, at the direction of the North Carolina Bar, that imposes restrictions on distributing self-help legal software over the Internet.  Rather than protecting consumers, this legislation is a frightened response by the North Carolina Bar to protect their lawyer’s incomes from the impact of advances in Internet technology that provide new ways for people to solve their legal problems at low cost.

The restrictions are so severe that the result is to deprive North Carolina’s citizens of low cost solutions to solving many legal problems, inhibits innovation in developing legal solutions by an emerging self-help legal software industry, stifles competition  from self-help legal software publishers, and will eliminate any possibility of private investment in self-help legal software development.

Then yesterday I read a piece from Mary Juetten, co-founder of Evolve Law and founder and CEO of Traklight, a self-guided IP strategy platform, on state bar associations driving small legal tech companies out of business on the pretense that legal tech business models violate the unauthorized practice of law rules.

One of them attempting do so recently, per Juetten – Florida, in the face of the Department of Justice.

Late last year, TIKD [app that enables indiduals to easily contest tickets] sued The Florida Bar (Bar) and The Ticket Clinic for colluding to put TIKD out of business. The Bar claims it can violate federal antitrust law with impunity because it is an “arm of the state.” In its Statement of Interest, the DOJ seems to understand the link to access to affordable legal services:

“To be sure, new and innovative mobile device apps can be disruptive. Business models entrenched for decades have witnessed new competition from mobile platforms that can profoundly change an industry. But almost invariably, the winners from the process of innovation and competition are consumers. …”

Anyone else see the irony of bar associations mandating legal technology training for their lawyers while outlawing the use of technology that brings access to legal services to the eighty or ninety percent of Americans for whom legal services are absolutely irrelevant?

Imagine if the FAA said airlines could not use technology for selling tickets to passengers. Passengers would need to contact a travel agency or the airline directly to get their ticket mailed out.

Yes, it will mean higher prices and and a gross inconvenience, but as a result of rules consumers cannot understand and a desire to protect jobs, that’s just the way it is with airlines and its governing body.

But do know that the FAA is requiring of all pilots, flight attendants, ticket agents, gate agents, airport attendants and airline office employees mandatory technology training. They’ll be magic with iPads, PDFs, word processing, form submissions to agencies and so much more.

Isn’t it the same here? Bar associations outlawing what consumers need, the effective delivery of legal services realized through legal technology.

Do consumers of legal services, individuals or businesses, cry out for the need for mandatory technology training for lawyers? Something that bar associations will be very, very hard pressed to demonstrate its nexus with greater access to legal services?

I get that lawyers should be using technology to practice law effectively, mandatory training or not.

The cynical side of me says though when you make it manadatory you may be doing so to mask your real bias against legal technology.

Knowing first hand, and via the success of law grads and young lawyers, how powerful the Internet is for networking — for learning, for building relationships, for getting a dream job and growing a book a business, it’s demoralizing to read the advice of a career services officer at a good law school.

For those law grads still without a job, Nicholas Alexiou, Associate Director of Career Services at Vanderbilt University Law School advises, first, networking, in a piece in Above the Law.

First, network.  Yes, I know this is starting to sound repetitive, and no, I do not have a bet going as to how many consecutive weeks I can mention networking.  The reason I keep harping on networking in these e-pages is that it truly can be the one action that lands you a job.  Early on in your law school career, it is perfectly acceptable to engage in what might be called passive networking, i.e., sending out some emails and striking up an infrequent conversation.  But, if you are about to graduate and need a permanent position ASAP, try active networking.  Set up coffee meetings.  Find attorneys who will meet you in their office.  Go to every legal networking event you can attend.  In fact, even events that are not necessarily branded as networking, but might have a number of attorneys in attendance (e.g., CLE programming), are worth your time, just in case it leads to a connection.  Not surprisingly, this active networking is easier to do if you are residing in the geographic area where you want to practice.  If you lack any sort of geographic preference for where you want to start your career, gravitate to those markets which have the highest concentration of alumni from your law school.  Also, if you are worried about the potential outcome of the bar exam, you might want to consider states whose exam has a high passage rate.

All good stuff, and well intentioned, but a not word on networking through the Internet. Identifying a niche, if you didn’t two or three years ago, and getting out and building a name and meeting the people you want to meet at the places you want to work via Facebook, Twitter, a blog and LinkedIn.

Everyone a law student or law grad is ever going to meet has a computer in their pocket or purse. The same is true for anyone who is going to turn them on to opportunities. The number one thing all these people use that pocket computer for is networking – hours a day.

Engaging a lawyer on something meaningful who you have in your tailored Twitter list is a heck of a lot easier — and a lot more likely to happen than via emailing and calling for coffee.

Heck, get the lawyer to ask you to meet for coffee because you are a heck of a lot more intriguing by demonstrating your passion by networking via the Internet than doing what every other student is doing. People hire the exceptional, especially if you didn’t clerk for a federal judge last summer or serve as editor of the law review.

To be fair to Alexiou and Vanderbilt, which is building a reputation for innovation, the school may have any number of student programs on using the Internet for professional development and role model administrators and professors effectively using the net – blogging, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn – for learning and professional development.

In addition to the law schools themselves, most students have no interest in using the Internet for networking, building a name and getting a job. Seriously.

Prowess using the Internet is not an item on the fast track for getting the high paying law job in a name firm, whether a large firm in a big city or a small/medium size firm of stature in a smaller city.

Law students see the fast track as being get in a good college, get high grades, get in a good law school, get high grades, get on law review, get on moot court, clerk for a judge and do every other traditional thing to pad that resume. Yes, a resume that’s fine tuned many times over down at the career services office.

The law students I have met in my cross country touring are scared to death to do anything different. Many, like their law schools, see using the Internet for networking as only having downside.

So even if the law school puts together programs on the use of the net to help students, most students won’t pay any attention.

All a little sad.

I shared on Twitter last month that six of the top ten largest bar associations lack RSS feeds on their publications.

I get it. These bar associations may not care, or for that matter know what a RSS feed is. Or maybe the folks who built their websites or blogs didn’t know or care.

RSS (or Really Simple Syndication) is a web feed which allows users to access updates to online content in a standardized, computer-readable format. Rather than returning to a website, blog or news site to see if their have been updates, RSS feeds deliver constant updates to a recipient’s news aggregator.

Users subscribe by clicking on the universal RSS icon, the orange which appears to be spending out a radio signal and copying that url into their news aggregator. Many news aggregators will have a search that enables users to search for titles of publications.

Who gets their updates in a news aggregator via RSS? Some of the busiest people in the country. The people who don’t have the time, or even the memory, to return to news sites or blogs for news and information.

As one senior lawyer and blogger at Bryan Cave screamed out to a conference room full of the firm’s lawyers and marketing professionals, “The money people use RSS — people like the general counsel I work with.”

One news aggregator alone, perhaps the most popular, Feedly, has 14 million users getting daily feeds of news and information via RSS.

Newspapers, as news sites all have RSS feeds. Look at the list of individual RSS feeds at The New York Times and Washington Post for sections of their papers.

Law firm blogs all have RSS feeds – or at least they should.

RSS is included by default in the largest website content management system (CMS) in the world, that being WordPress. WordPress is running 70% of the websites using a CMS in the world. RSS is not expensive to have on your website, it’s possible that a site owner would even be charged for work to deactivate RSS feeds.

You have to almost have to go out of your way not be kicking out an RSS feed from your publication.

Why should a bar association care?

  •  Ease of use for readers. Yes, they may subscribe by email, but millions of people prefer the use of a news aggregator on their desktop, tablet or smartphone. You go where your audience is, even if that’s more than one place.
  • Influencers. Those regularly blogging, reporting and using social media are likely to be using news aggregators. They share news and information, with commentary, onto Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn directly from their news aggregator. Bloggers and reporters reference and cite stories they picked up in their news aggregator. Lack RSS and these influencers don’t deliver your news and information.
  • Look behind the curve from a technology and innovation standpoint. Bar associations are under plenty of pressure to be relevant to their members. Bar associations are preaching technology and innovation as a means of arguing their relevance. Having your employees spend time publishing stories or your pr professionals sending out news releases when some of your members and your influencers cannot see them, because you are not using something as simple as RSS, can scream luddite to some folks.
  • Build relationships with influencers. Bar associations need all the love and support they can get. Getting this love from people with strong online presences is good stuff. Your bar association team will meet, online, and later face to face, the people using news aggregators to share your news and information on social media.

I have a folder in my news aggregator, Feedly, for news feeds from bar associations. When I am not traveling I see my feeds a couple times a day. This afternoon I tweeted a couple bar association news items in my RSS feeds. One, a CLE program and another regarding a legal services program in their state. I’d have seen neither without an RSS feed on the bar sites.

I did this, one, as a courtesy to the bar associations as I have a fair amount of Twitter followers and two, I want to strengthen the relationship I have with those bars.

RSS, as its middle initial reads, is simple. It’s not expensive. And it’s common sense for publishers like bar associations.

Vanderbilt Law School’s Program on Law and Innovation hosts the Summit on Law and Innovation (SoLI) on Monday in Nashville.

Assuming you’ll not be there, you may register for a Livecast at a cost of $100. As a blogger, you may be comped livecast attendance by the hosts. Having gotten to know the organizers and many of the speakers, I expect it’ll be an excellent event,

SoLI sees legal education, legal practice, and legal technology developing independently of one another, intersecting at times but often following their own distinct paths.

We believe that now is the time to fully integrate and innovate the academy, practice, and technology facets of the legal profession, collaboratively creating new connections and breaking down silos that have kept them apart for too long.

SoLI’s theme of “Breaking Down Silos + Building Connections” brings together top thought and action leaders from legal academia, practicing attorneys, and technologists, to share knowledge, present alternative perspectives, and cross-pollinate ideas. SoLI’s ambitious plenary agenda includes keynote addresses, TED-style talks, dialogues between thought leaders and Summit participants, and a dynamic design thinking bootcamp inviting active collaboration among all attendees.

The co-organizers and driving forces of SoLI are Cat Moon, Adjumct Professor, Program on Law and Innovation.  Vanderbilt Law School and Larry Bridgesmith, Director and Adjunct Professor, Program on Law and Innovation at Vanderbilt Law.

Presenters include a talented cross section of legal tech and innovation.

  • Dean Chris Guthrie, Vanderbilt Law School
  • Alyson Carrel, Northwestern Law School
  • Casey Kuhlman, Monax
  • Rita Khanna, LexisNexis
  • Elizabeth Renieris, Ouroboros LLP + Evernym
  • Lawton Penn, Davis Wright Tremaine
  • JB Ruhl, Vanderbilt Law School
  • Joe Green, ThomsonReuters
  • Andy Daws, Kim Technologies
  • Ann Pruitt, Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services
  • Kathleen Pearson, Pillsbury
  • Camille Reynolds, Fenwick & West
  • Teresa Walker, Waller
  • Brian Kuhn, IBM Watson Legal
  • Katrina Lee, Ohio State University Law School
  • Mary Juetten, Evolve Law
  • Patrick Palace, Palace Law
  • Marie Bernard, Nextlaw Labs
  • Alix Devendra, Start Here HQ
  • Nicole Braddick, Theory and Principle
  • Jose Torres, Universidad Sergio Arboleda

I don’t know that you can knock down the silos and bring about collaboration between legal companies, practicing lawyers and academia in a conference. That’s more likely to take place via discussion and debate on the Internet by the folks here and many others. But conferences like this are good start.

In the future, I’d suggest conferences not charge for Livecasts. Breaking down the silos requires open and free discussion — and your conference’s cause, mission and discussion is carried much further when spread beyond the conference hall’s four walls.

We’re not addicted to smartphones, we’re addicted to social interaction. And this is a good thing.

Those are the findings of a McGill University study recently summarized in Neuroscience News.

We all know people who, seemingly incapable of living without the bright screen of their phone for more than a few minutes, are constantly texting and checking out what friends are up to on social media.

These are examples of what many consider to be the antisocial behaviour brought on by smartphone addiction, a phenomenon that has garnered media attention in the past few months and led investors and consumers to demand that tech giants address this problem.

Multiple students in a Indiana University Law School class I attended last week challenged other students to be more present. To engage others socially, versus being tied to their cellphones.

I wondered if the students appreciated the value of their smartphones for social interaction for learning, networking and building a name.

Did the students understand the tremendous value in social interaction on a smartphone? If they were like most legal professionals, they had no idea.

The study’s findings confirmed my feelings.

…[W]hat if we were looking at things the wrong way? Could smartphone addiction be hyper-social, not anti-social?

Professor Samuel Veissière, a cognitive anthropologist who studies the evolution of cognition and culture, explains that the desire to watch and monitor others, but also to be seen and monitored by others, runs deep in our evolutionary past. Humans evolved to be a uniquely social species and require constant input from others to seek a guide for culturally appropriate behaviour. This is also a way for them to find meaning, goals, and a sense of identity.

In a forthcoming study published in Frontiers in Psychology, Samuel Veissière and Moriah Stendel, researchers in McGill’s Department of Psychiatry, reviewed current literature on dysfunctional use of smart technology through an evolutionary lens, and found that the most addictive smartphone functions all shared a common theme: they tap into the human desire to connect with other people. (Emphasis added)

Professor Veissière is spot on, “There is a lot of panic surrounding this topic.”

We should be looking at the news here, says Veissière. Any addiction arises out of our desire for human interaction, and there are simple solutions to deal with that, ie, turn off notificactions or your phone at certain times.

Focus on the value of a smartphone, says Veissière.

Rather than start regulating the tech companies or the use of these devices, we need to start having a conversation about the appropriate way to use smartphones. Parents and teachers need to be made aware of how important this is.

Ignorance runs rampant here. Lawyers, law school professors and law firms see being addicted to smartphones as a bad thing. Even using a smartphone for social interaction is seen by these folks as having nominal value. Most boast of not using Facebook and Twitter, as if that’s for people below them.

These folks need to be made aware of how important social networking via a smartphone is.

  • Following focused news and information on a news aggegrator or Twitter
  • Sharing this news on social networks with your comments
  • Engaging other legal professionals who comment on and like what you have shared
  • Further network with these individuals, business people, legal professionals and influencers – bloggers, reporters, association leaders, conference coordinators
  • Leverage your growing network and relationships for business, speaking engagements and the like
  • Lerverage the name you’ll have built by social networking

Can you really do all this with a smart phone? Absolutely.

The computer in your pocket or purse is probably the single most powerful – and certainly the most accessible – device you have for learning and networking.

And a big reason for this is so many other people being addicted to social interaction on their smartphone – and knowing how to do so in a valuable way.

Nellie Bowles penned a wonderful piece in the The New York Times this week on ‘Report for America,’ a non-profit organization, modeled after AmeriCorps, aiming to install 1,000 journalists in understaffed newsrooms by 2022.

Molly Born, one of the first selected for the program who covers the coal fields for West Virginia Public Broadcasting, told Bowles,

I felt like I needed to give something back to a place that has given a lot to me, and journalism is the way for me to do that.

It’s important to have reporters based in parts of America where some people feel misunderstood. It just helps us get a greater understanding of who we are and who our neighbors are.

Bowles report on the plight of journalists sounds earily similar to the plight of small law in communities across our country – even blogging lawyers.

Historically, reporters would start their careers at small publications and move on to progressively larger ones. These days, young journalists tend to find work right out of college — but the jobs they end up with often don’t require them to take time talking to story subjects face to face or learning about different communities.

“Maybe they have done that Brooklyn thing, where you spend a year or two in a cubicle working for a blog,” Charles Sennott [co-founder of Report for America, who covered wars and insurgencies in more than a dozen countries as the Jerusalem-based Middle East bureau chief for The Boston Globe], 55, said. “But that’s not the same as being on the ground doing the real work, knocking on a door and walking into someone’s kitchen.”

In 1990, daily and weekly newspaper publishers employed about 455,000 people, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By January 2016, that number had fallen to 173,000.

How many lawyers are getting first hand experience, eye to eye, with a client? Many lawyers feel trapped doing work for other lawyers, never having having client interaction.

Other lawyers know no better than kicking out or buying content as a way to “market” themsleves. These lawyers have no clue what blogging really is nor how blogging works to build trust, a name and a book of business.

Law blogs penned by small firm lawyers addressing the needs of individuals and small businesses could be much the same as Report America.

Less than 20% of the people in this country have meaningful access to the law. Crushing student loans drive law grads to large law, less demand for small town law, tech driven efficiencies driving down prices and alternative online legal services are only making matters worse – for both people needing a lawyer and for lawyers who’d like to help them.

Leading legal ethics lawyer, Will Hornsby, and himself a champion for access to legal services wrote almost 20 years ago about personal plight areas of the law. By personal plight, Hornsby meant areas of the law in which an individual or small business person needed a lawyer right now.

Personal plight includes bankruptcy, workers compensation, divorce, employment, criminal, real estate, personal injury, immigration, disability, social security, estate planning and more.

Blog (law) for America in the form of blogging lawyers covering personal plight areas of law for two or three hundred communities could be quite a force.

Blogs by local lawyers not only provide meaningful information, but establish trust – something lawyers sorely lack when it comes to individuals and small businesses.

Unlike corp members in Report America, lawyers don’t need a stipend or grant of  $40,000 for two years. Lawyers have a revenue model – it’s called getting paid for the legal services you render.  Law blogs generate work.

In addition to generating revenue, law grads get first hand experience talking with clients face to face – across the kitchen table, if you will.

Blog (law) for America is a win-win. Individuals and small business people get access to localized law from a local attorney who cares about their city or town and who knows the nuances of the law being applied locally. These folks learn to trust a local lawyer who enjoys what they do and whom earns an okay living.

Lawyers who want to, do real law, person to person, and earn a living doing so.

What if law schools were charged with never letting a student fail on their dreams?

In this story by Brendan O’Shaughnessy in Notre Dame Magazine, I’m reminded of Emil T Hofman, a chemistry prof at Notre Dame for four decades and Dean of the Freshman Year of Studies for about three decades, who felt 18-year-olds were too young to know what they wanted, much less to fail on their dreams.

Farther Ted Hesburgh, then president of the university and Emil T (as he was both affectionately and hatedly called on campus) did as much as anyone other than my parents shaping my belief that anything you can dream is possible.

Emil T figured that If Notre Dame accepts the best students they should be treated right. That meant giving them a flexible academic program with time to decide on a major, and helping them to succeed and like the University.

I remember to this day sitting in Emil T’s office, which almost on top of the Grotto telling him I was failing, that I totally blew it by going for an engineering degree and drawing a four credit F in advanced calculus and a D in Fortran for about a 1.3 gpa (it was the B- in Emil’s class that saved me). Another semester on probation and I’d be kicked out of the University.

He told me he and the University wouldn’t let me fail. He, and later the assistant dean of business school, who worked with me later on, didn’t let me fail. I graduated with my dream intact.

From the Notre Dame Magazine story,

Ray Sepeta ’75Ph.D., a counselor who worked under Hofman for nearly 15 years, says the dean had clear expectations of his team. He never gave up on a kid, Sepeta says, and held the counselors responsible for failures. Sepeta remembers a moment revealing that Hofman lived his beliefs.

Sepeta was advising an impoverished student from the West Coast who was struggling on many fronts at Notre Dame. Hofman joined one conversation and learned that the woman wanted to go home to see her family on break but couldn’t afford it.

“I watched Emil pick up the phone and pull out his own credit card and pay for her ticket home,” Sepeta says. “I’m not sure if she realized how unusual this was. He had a belief that our kids will succeed at any cost.”

The vast majority of twenty-sum year old law students are too young to know what they want and are certainly too young to fail on their dreams.

Is it too much to ask law school deans, professors and administrators to believe that their kids will succeed at any cost?

It’s in the law school’s interest. Notre Dame, which still follows Emil T’s philosophy, fails less than 1% of students and has among the highest percentage of contributing grads of all universities.