All lawyers and law firms use the Internet for marketing and business development.

Websites, SEO (search engine optimization), directories, ratings, content marketing, email newsletters and more. Lawyers spend a lot of money and, in most cases, a lot of time, here.

But do lawyers know how these forms of Internet marketing work? Do they know if these forms of Internet marketing work at all for lawyers like them?

Most lawyers marketing on the Internet focus on the easy to measure (traffic, clicks, views, likes and subscribers).

Rather than measuring the easy, widely respected author, speaker and blogger, Seth Godin suggests a different focus.

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

Focus on the real goal – where do you want to be at the end of the day.

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

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

Good lawyers have always generated their best work by word of mouth and relationships. That’s what good lawyers value, that’s what they measure — and of course, the business and revenue generated thereby.

Nothing has changed with the Internet. A lawyer’s word of mouth reputation and relationships remain the lynchpins of business development.

What has changed is how lawyers build relationships and their word of mouth reputation. What took decades before the Internet can be accomplished in a fraction of the time by networking through the Internet.

As you would offline, focus on an area of the law, industry or locale.

You cannot network with an audience that’s comprised of everyone. You can only network with people with similar topical interests – clients, prospective clients, referral sources, association leaders, bloggers and the mainstream media.

Now, just like you would offline, listen.

You would never walk into a room and start reading off content through a bullhorn, push articles at people or announce where you went to law school, what you do and why you’re good at it.

It would be viewed as rude. Same with the Internet – if not by lawyers, at least by the people lawyers are trying to reach.

Listening on the Internet requires tools, none of which are complicated to use.

The first is a news aggregator, of which the most widely used is Feedly. Feedly, available for free for desktop and mobile devices, enables you to subscribe to sources (news sites, digital publications, blogs) and subjects (terms of art, case names, companies etc).

Imagine estate planning on a statewide basis is the niche you are looking to grow. You would subscribe to leading estate planning blogs written by lawyers and financial planners around the country and terms and phrases such as estate planning, types of trusts, tax provisions and the like.

The articles you’ll see represent the conversation in the room in which you will network. Rather than talking first, by publishing content and hoping the right people see it or putting up a website and hoping people look at it after you pay for SEO, you listen.

Next, you engage in the conversation. Reference what others are saying, so that they hear you, and offer your take – your insight.

How so? By blogging and using Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Blogging is not just about content, blogging is about engaging in a conversation.

Reference a blog post by another estate planning lawyer by linking to their post in your blog, include a block quote or two from their blog post and share your take, with your intent throughout to offer valuable information to the people of your state or city.

The lawyer you referenced, no matter where they are in the country, will see you what you blogged. They’ll be intrigued that you cited something they wrote. They’re apt to follow your blog and reference what you write on their blog and social media.

The same happens when you reference the writings of associations of estate planning lawyers, financial planners and reporters (state, national, trade) writing on financial planning and estate planning matters.

Blogging in this fashion raises your influence, builds your reputation and grows relationships.

Your referral sources will grow, people who search your name on Google will view you as a trusted and reliable authority in your field (as someone who stays up to speed in their field and who is cited nationally), you’ll be invited to speak and your blog posts will rank high on Google searches because the posts are viewed as important by Google because of the incoming links to your blog posts from citations and social shares..

Twitter can be used to engage your target audience by sharing items you read from Feedly.

“Tweet” the title or an excerpt of what you read. Include the Twitter handle of the author and/or the subject of the piece. This way the author of the piece and the subject will see that you shared their story or a story in which they were referenced.

By engaging the sources and subjects like this you are building relationships in no less an effective way than reaching out to shake their hand.

Overtime, you will be viewed as an intelligence agent in your area of the law, someone others on Twitter should follow if they wish to stay abreast of relevant news and information.

It is one small step from being seen as a trusted source of information to being seen as a trusted and reliable authority in your field.

Twitter is also used for “listening” by following leading authorities and influencers – bloggers, reporters and associations. By sharing and commenting on their tweets in your “retweets,” they will see you and in turn like and share items that you share on Twitter.

Linkedin and Facebook can be used much the same way as blogging – as a means of engagement, networking, building a name and nurturing relationships.

On LinkedIn, share your blog posts with enough of an excerpt so that people can get the gist of your post. LinkedIn’s algorithms will surface the post in the LinkedIn feeds of those who have a relevant interest.

You will be notified on LinkedIn when people like or comment on your post. Connect with them and, as appropriate, drop them a note through LinkedIn – perhaps suggesting that “we should catch up some time.”

You may share others’ articles and blog posts on LinkedIn as well, though they don’t often draw as much engagement as a blog post of yours.

Many lawyers are opposed to using Facebook, others will only use it personally. Such a position is untenable if you want to engage and network with your target audience.

70% of American adults are Facebook users with three-quarters of those users accessing Facebook on a daily basis. Facebook demographics favor lawyers, with users being college educated, affluent and older.

As on Facebook, share your blog posts and articles from others. Not to worry about your personal Facebook friends being bothered by your professional sharing. Facebook algorithms work to put items people want to see in their Facebook News Feed.

Look for opportunities to become a “Facebook friend” with referral sources and influencers of your target audience – bloggers, reporters, community leaders, association leaders and conference coordinators.

Engaging these Facebook friends, even as to personal events as simple as a family vacation, a youth sporting event or a local charitable event breeds trust and relationships.

Relationships and a word of reputation may not be easy to measure, but they are what you hope to accomplish from business development as a lawyer.

Web stats, analytics, followers and subscribers are an easy, but inaccurate measurement that will only distract you. They may be easy to calibrate and achievable, but are they the purpose of your business development as a good lawyer.

Originally written for the Wyoming State Bar Association. 

You may want to exercise more care when opening social media accounts, selecting social media account names and managing your accounts as you move from position to position in your career.

Caitlin Bird of Charleston’s Post and Courier reports that former South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley, lost 1.67 million Twitter followers when she left her position as United Nations Ambassador at the end of the year and had to leave a previous personal Twitter account behind.

Haley had been using the Twitter handle, @AmbNikkiHaley during her time as Ambassador, her last tweet being on New Years Eve.

Haley shared as much in personal news and pictures as professional items, if not more. The below personal and professional tweets and retweets represent how adept Haley is at drawing an engaged following through real and authentic sharing. 

https://twitter.com/ambnikkihaley/status/1068990237072859137?s=21

But as Haley reported on News Years Day, when she left office she lost that Twitter account, including all the history, pictures and content. 

As Bird reports, the social media cleanup and swap became mandatory during the Obama administration. The rules are intended to keep political appointees from exploiting their social media accounts for personal use after they leave an administration for the private sector.

Haley didn’t lose her Twitter account and all that come with it because she started a new Twitter account for her time as Ambassador. Haley brought an existing Twitter account, @NikkiHaley, chock-full of followers and content, with her.

Haley created this account in 2009 when she was a member of the South Carolina Legislature and continued to use it while Governor and all the way through New Years Eve as Ambassador. An advanced search of the now archived account, by Bird shows tweets dating all the back.

Haley did change the account name to @AmbNikkiHaley when she became Ambassador. All of her followers and content stayed in place. Nothing wrong with this, it’s something we have done with LexBlog accounts.

Haley procured the name for a second account, @NikkiHaley, just last month, presumably when she found out she could not rename her original, @NikkiHaley n/k/a @AmbNikkiHaley, back to @NikkiHaley and keep all of her followers and content.

I get that most legal professionals are not going to find themselves appointed as senior officials in the federal government.

But losing what you’ve started with social media, particularly Twitter, and all of your followers and history is not so far fetched when leaving a position in an organization.

When I shared word of Haley’s story on Twitter, Karen Hasse, a Nebraska Attorney representing public schools and related entities, replied that she saw this as an issue for school employees as well. 

I regularly see lawyers, legal professionals and legal journalists using Twitter account names combining their employer organization or publication name with their own name.

Whether done by changing an original Twitter name when coming into employmenyt like Haley (highly unlikely) or beginning a new Twitter account, the practice makes little, if any sense. It also looks a little amateurish. 

Social media, if you want to increase its efffectiveness, is personal, real and authentic. It’s tough to engage a person who wears the company suit all the time and does not network  in their personal name.

In addition, your name, influence, reputation and following grows over time. They’re yours personally, just like “your name.”

You don’t want to leave any doubt that your account is yours should you leave your organization, anymore than there being a question of who owns your name should you leave. 

Not to worry about Haley recapturing a following. She is asking her new Twitter followers to spread the word of her new Twitter account.

https://twitter.com/NikkiHaley/status/1080553910857842688?s=20

By Thursday evening day, Haley’s revamped Twitter account had amassed more than 300,000 followers, growing by nearly 100,000 followers a day.


At the end of each year Bill Gates takes stock of his life and his work.

This year, Gates shared his thoughts with us on his blog, Gates Notes.

Every Christmas when I was a kid, my parents would send out a card with an update on what the family was up to. Dad’s law firm is growing, Mom’s volunteer work is going strong, the girls are doing well in school, Bill is a handful.

Some people think it is corny, but I like the tradition. These days, at the end of each year, I still enjoy taking stock of my work and personal life. What was I excited about? What could I have done better?

I thought I would share a few of these thoughts as 2018 concludes.

One thing that occurs to me is that the questions I am asking myself at age 63 are very different from the ones I would have asked when I was in my 20s.

Back then, an end-of-year assessment would amount to just one question: Is Microsoft software making the personal-computing dream come true?

Today of course I still assess the quality of my work. But I also ask myself a whole other set of questions about my life. Did I devote enough time to my family? Did I learn enough new things? Did I develop new friendships and deepen old ones? These would have been laughable to me when I was 25, but as I get older, they are much more meaningful.

Melinda has helped broaden my thinking on this point. So has Warren Buffett, who says his measure of success is, “Do the people you care about love you back?” I think that is about as good a metric as you will find.

Gates goes on to discuss his work on Alzheimer’s disease, polio, energy, gene editing and more.

But what struck me is what he asked in his twenties when he was building Microsoft with Paul Allen and Steve Balmer.

Is Microsoft software making the personal-computing dream come true?

Not whether their software was better than others, whether they had met their development goals, not whether their sales exceeded last year’s or were they providing professional growth opportunities for their employees. 

Simply, is our product, the fruits of our work, making the personal-computing dream come true for people? A dream that only Gates and and a few others could even see.

As my team members and I formulate goals for this year, I wonder if we shouldn’t be Gates-esque. “Is LexBlog’s blogging solution, all we do, making the blogging dream come true?

Goals of new customers, new partnerships, new products and new development seem to be making the “dream” come true.

Sure we offer publishing software beyond that used for blogging, but helping people achieve the blogging dream is what gets you up in the morning and the stuff that gives you goose bumps. 

Most importantly, there’s no cop out. Are we or aren’t we making the legal blogging dream come true? 

Start asking this and you start thinking of all the things LexBlog could do better, what my group at LexBlog could do better, and what I could personally do better to help the blogging dream come true for legal professionals – and the people they serve.

Far fetched? Maybe not. While practicing as a trial lawyer we measured success by the number of people we helped. And I went around asking my team could it ever get any better than working some place where our success is measured by helping people.

In another 360 days maybe we should be asking how did our product, our work product make the legal blogging dream come true. 

There’s going to come a day when there will be a need to police the speech of legal bloggers. Not across the Internet in entirety, but by a company or organization hosting or syndicating legal blogs. Could be LexBlog.

Censorship of legal bloggers has not been a big topic of concern among the legal blogosphere. Sadly, most legal bloggers are afraid to offend anyone, though we have seen a few get bounced off Twitter for a bit, I suspect out of machines doing automatic takedowns. 

With legal commentary, most of which will come from blogs, being so critical to the advancement of the law, “in person” moderation will be much preferable to machines. 

The highly successful membership platform, Patreon, that enables publishers to charge subscriptions and bring in as much as six or seven figures a month, provides a nice example of human censorship.

The New York Times’ Nellie Bowles reporting on hate speech censorship by Patreon, details their approach.

Patreon takes a highly personal approach to policing speech. While Google and Facebook use algorithms as a first line of defense for questionable content, Patreon has human moderators. They give warnings and reach out to talk to offenders, presenting options for “education” and “reform.” Some activists hope this will become a model for a better and kinder internet.

There are no automated takedowns,” [founder Jack] Conte said. “As a creator myself dealing with these big tech platforms and getting an automated takedown notice, there’s no appeals process. You can’t talk to a human. And I never want to do that.”

Jaqueline Hart, Patreon’s head of trust and safety, said her team watches for and will investigate complaints about any content posted on Patreon and on other sites like YouTube and Facebook that violates what it defines as hate speech. That includes “serious attacks, or even negative generalizations, of people based on their race [and] sexual orientation,” she has said.

If someone has breached Patreon’s policy, the company contacts the offender with a specific plan, which usually involves asking for the content to be removed and for a public apology.

As I understand the law, there is no right to free speech for publishers on third party owned platforms. The only right is that the platform owner is within its right under the First Amendment to decide who and what gets published. 

Just as “offensive” matters and “speech” are the subject of adjudication in our courts and the subject of discussion in legal reporting and commentary, platforms powering publishers in the law will need to take a liberal approach to what is allowed – and hopefully do so by hand. 

Platforms such as Twitter or Facebook represent a fire hose of constant worldwide content. Machine policing is a necessity.

Legal blogs represent no where near the volume. Some blogs may not make it onto an aggregation or hosting platform such as LexBlog. For those that do, a personal approach, aided by machines, to policing seems very doable.

I asked each of my teammates what they wanted for Christmas. Across the board they wanted to brag. To brag about they and their team members did and built in 2018.

And what better way to spread their word on what they bragged about to me, in their own words, than on my blog. 

Merry Christmas to you and yours and a Happy New Year. 

Publishing

One of the publishing goals this year was to launch the first phase of a global news and commentary website built on content drawn from legal bloggers worldwide. In September, we pulled the trigger on the first phase of that project. LexBlog.com became the epicenter of an aggregated and curated network of blog content from some 20,000 bloggers, with more joining every day.

LexBlog opened its network to the global community of legal bloggers. Any legal blogger is welcome to add a blog to the network, and any reader is free to access the network, with no subscription or payment required. This is a first-of-its-kind network.

Operations

After years in our own office, we finished our first full year at the WeWork Holyoke Building location in Seattle. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed working in a space filled with other motivated entrepreneurs and their companies.

Another source of excitement this year came as we welcomed some new team members that make every day at LexBlog even more innovative – Welcome, Melissa, Caroline, Jaime, and Chris.

Product

One of the great triumphs of our Product Team in 2018 was a relaunched LexBlog.com with new custom-built aggregation and syndication engine, allowing our platform to aggregate blog content from any source, regardless of whether the blog is hosted by LexBlog’s WordPress-based blogging platform, or externally on any other platform.

Back in November, our lead developer, Scott Fennell, had the opportunity to speak at WordCamp in Portland, Maine on managing third-party solution relationships. You can read more about Scott’s experience at WordCamp Maine 2018 in his Donuts blog post.

Marketing

In promotion of the opening of the LexBlog network to a global community of legal bloggers, our Marketing Team launched a national campaign to provide greater access to legal services at the Clio Cloud Conference in October. Showcasing the gap in trust between consumers and lawyers, we utilized this campaign to show how blogging is instrumental to changing that precedent, encouraging legal bloggers to join our network.

The Marketing Team collaborated with Publishing to create Legal Tech Founders, an online publication focused on legal technology entrepreneurs and the lessons they have learned as they build their startups. We organized over 25 on-site interviews at three of the largest legal technology conferences in the world over the past five months.

Design

The Design Team collaborated with the Product and Marketing teams to revamp any outdated branding, implementing a uniform, updated LexBlog brand across our platform and online presence.

Another goal we accomplished this year made significant UX/UI improvements to the LexBlog platform, enabling for easier site customization for our users. We launched a beta with a state bar, utilizing the new customization features to create websites as a member benefit for lawyers.

Sales

One of the products we worked to develop over the past year was our microsites. Our team brought an addition of ten sites by six different firms over the last few months. You can find an example of one that our Design Team created for Winstead Business Divorce.

Another project we enjoyed this year was creating LexBlog’s first website built for a client specifically for event marketing with BakerHostetler. You can check out the site for the Genesis Blockchain Summit in October 2018.

Customer Success

Our team is happy to report that we helped retire our outdated legacy MT3/MT4 platforms and upgraded our clients to modern, responsive websites. One example of this can be found on the Food Safety News publication – check it out on desktop or mobile. 

We’ve also had a lot of satisfied customers this year – our monthly customer satisfaction rate fluctuated between 94-100%. We’re excited to make it even better in 2019.

Me

I am just grateful for the incredible honor and privilege of getting to work with and to lead a team with people as talented, passionate and caring as these folks – and to have the opportunity of making a small dent in making the legal profession a better place for lawyers, the many other legal professionals and the people they all serve.

Announcing that you’ve quit Facebook is almost like a badge of honor for folks these days. Many try to recruit others to follow them.

I get people leaving Facebook out of “philosophical” concerns, though I think they’ll miss out on a lot by doing so. I don’t understand people quitting Facebook because they found their Facebook News Feed so awful.

Afterall, your News Feed is created by your Facebook friends and your engagement with those friends. You choose your friends on Facebook, you share what you want to share and you comment and like at your own pleasure.

It’s your friends and your engagement – sharing, likes and comments that drive Facebook algorithms – the algorithms that dictate what you see in your News Feed. 

My friend (not on Facebook as he quit) and the founder of Rocket Matter, Larry Port, asked people to join him in quitting Facebook. He quit, in part, because of his News Feed.

I found the toxic politics and the pointless arguments very distressing. I’m ashamed to admit that I was part of the problem: I damaged a few relationships (that I know of at least) because of overheated political discussions that did nothing to help anyone.

Also, my news feed was no fun anymore.  It only featured the same twenty or so people even though I had hundreds of friends.  Maybe I muted too many people, or maybe Facebook’s algorithms were tuned to show me too many ads.

Ronald Langeveld, a freelance web developer, shared over the weekend how to quit Facebook and get a download of all your friends and photos before your account is deleted. He was sick of his News Feed.

People still share things way too much and every time you go on Facebook there’s like a whole plague of negativity that’s trying to give me cancer. Just no. It’s not cool. It really is no longer the cool thing it was back in 2008.

Complaining about what your Facebook friends are saying, the friends you chose, doesn’t make a lot of sense. Nor does complaining about the discussion, what you see and what you hear, when you have chosen all of this.

It’s like complaining about the conversation and what you see in a bar you keep going into that’s filled with the friends you chose to be there talking about things you asked them to talk about. Rather than be more selective about the friends you choose, where you go and what you say, you complain about the bar.

I’ve worked to make sure that my Facebook experience is a valuable one. I followed my friend, Robert Scoble’s advice to befriend on Facebook the people who will add value to my life. Facebook friends, whether I know them in person or not.

So when I opened my News Feed just now I saw posts from:

  • Personal friend
  • Law firm CMO
  • Law firm management consultant 
  • Seattle lawyer
  • One of the leading advertising and First Amendment lawyers in the country
  • Iranian-Canadian blogger who was imprisoned in Tehran for six years
  • Leading class action and mass torts appellate lawyer
  • Seattle software engineer who has built a number of successful companies
  • New York Times reporter
  • Local hometown newspaper in Wisconsin
  • My cousin
  • Robert Scoble, a tech evangelist and author
  • A leading technologist who gave rise to blogging by his invention of RSS
  • VP of research for a major publisher 
  • Speech writer of a former US President, now at the Wall Street Journal
  • Associated Press with piece on Chinese internment camps
  • Managing partner of major law firm
  • CEO of a company delivering virtual and augmented reality solutions
  • Former managing editor of Wall Street Journal, now heading content for new digital site
  • Co-founder of Findlaw
  • Author and Associate Director of Yale University
  • International correspondent with the New York Times

I don’t share this list to impress you – and it’s a total mix of personal items, news and other commentary. I share the list to impress upon you that these are not the type of folks that bring a “plague of negativity” or “toxic politics and pointless arguments.”

These folks bring value to my life, personally and professionally.

I work to improve my News Feed, just like you would work to bring the type of entertainment, news and information to your life by choosing what you considered appropriate magazines, newspapers, television news and shows and local events.

I look at the “People You May Know” feature opening up the pages of people with whom I have thirty or more mutual Facebook friends. For every twenty or thirty of them, I find someone interesting who is sharing items I would find of value. I send them a friend request and they accept.

Though I am interested in politics, I don’t connect with people who regularly share and discuss political news and views. Doing so would cause Facebook to drive heated political discussion into my News Feed. I also don’t like or comment on political news my friends share on Facebook. Again the algorithms would bring it on.

Right or wrong, because of what the algorithms will bring, I’m conscious of the the things I like and the people whose posts I like. I understand the impact of engagement with certain people and talking about certain things. 

There was no rule book I followed. Insight I read from people smarter than I and common sense guided me.

As a result I have a virtual newspaper of things I find of value accompanied by personal items I enjoy learning of from people I already cared for or have come to care for. The news I receive is from people I trust. 

And I don’t see any ads that I know of – I use my iPhone or iPad for Facebook.

Quit Facebook for philosophical reasons, if you’d like, at your own loss. But don’t tell folks that Facebook is a waste because of your News Feed. That’s your own fault.

WordPress launched its version 5.0, including a total overhaul of its editorial interface via Gutenberg, just ten days. 

Since then, WordPress released version 5.0.1 as a security release, as reported by WordPress Tavern’s Sarah Gooding, “with fixes for seven vulnerabilities that were privately disclosed.”

First updates in a week, and the second to come six days afterwards. 

WordPress 5.0.2 will be the first planned followup release to 5.0 and is now scheduled to be released December 19, 2018. Gary Pendergast posted a summary of this week’s dev chat that includes the schedule and scope for the upcoming release. It will include Gutenberg 4.7, Twenty Nineteen bug fixes, and a few PHP 7.3 compatibility fixes.

No matter how large a company, the talent of their developers or the quality off their testing, when you put software out to a huge number of users using various operating systems and machines, you’re going to find bugs.

With open source you pick up a a huge number of developers working on the software, finding bugs and working to repair them and making improvements for performance, speed and security. Those developers are getting feedback instantaneously from users around the world. 

An example is improving the speed of Gutenberg, as shared by Gooding.

Slow performance as compared to the classic editor has been a commonly-reported issue with Gutenberg. The project has a label for it on GitHub with 26 open issues. 140 performance-related issues have already been closed so the team is making progress on speeding it up. 5.0.2 will bring major performance improvements to the editor, particularly for content that includes hundreds of blocks

For posts with a large number of blocks, a component of publishing in Gutenberg, the speed can be up to 300% faster.

Major upgrades and feature enghancements will come in WordPress 5.1, to be led by WordPress co-founder, Matt Mullenweg, in February – just 60 days after 5.0 and Gutenberg’s launch. 

Law firms using proprietary software for websites and content management (think blogs, microsites et al) do not see anywhere near this rate of improvement in their software. 

Couple that with upgrading software only happening when “doing” a new website, usually three for fears after your last website and you’re running on software three or four years old (not including when your developer/web agency last updated their software).

Software that old poses performance, security, speed and usability problems. It’ll also lack features your peers are already using. 

In time, law firms, law schools and other organizations in legal will come to see the advantages of running open source software and using a managed host for it.

That way publishing and websites will run on a near SaaS (software as a service) solution by them or for them by a web agency or a managed WordProcess host such as LexBlog’s publishing solution. Sorry to tout us. ; ) 

Talk about shooting yourself in the foot when your legal publishing company is already struggling in the eyes of a lot of folks.

ALM is attempting to stop a couple young legal tech entrepreneurs, one a lawyer and one a technologist, in Sheffield, England from using the term or phrase “LegalTech” in the title of their small legal tech conference, LegalTech Conference North, which was held for the first time last month. 

As reported by Dan Bindman of Legal Futures, conference coordinators, Matthew Pennington and Harvey Harding received a “cease and desist” letter from ALM telling them that their use of “LegalTech” in their conference name was in violation of ALM’s trademark. 

From Bindman:

According to the Intellectual Property Office, the UK trade mark covers: “Conducting and organizing exhibitions, trade shows, conferences and workshops for public and private organizations, companies, lawyers and law firms for the purpose of exhibiting technical products and services directed to the legal profession, namely, computer hardware and software.”

The US trade mark also covers “newsletters issued periodically, directed to technical products and services for the legal profession”.

An ALM spokeswoman said it does not try to prevent ‘fair uses’ of the term outside of these areas.

It’s hard to think of what other areas could be relevant. ALM is looking to clamp down on any type of program or publication which uses the term “legal tech” or legaltech.”

Heck, there was a CLE program put on by few entrepreneurial Seattle lawyers up at Seattle University Law School this week. “Seattle Legal Tech – 3rd Annual 21st Century Lawyer CLE.”  (emphasis added)

What should they have called it? Seattle Application of Scientific Knowledge for Practical Purposes in Legal? 

I get that ALM has a publication called Legaltech News and holds a conference and show called Legaltech, rebranded as LegalWeek over the last couple years.

But really, throwing your weight around when it comes to a small conference put on by two young entrepreneurs in Northern England.  

From an ALM spokesperson:

ALM does not seek to prevent ‘fair uses’ of the legal tech term. However, as a trade mark owner, ALM’s goals are to both protect its longstanding rights and to try and prevent consumers from being confused into believing that another ‘legal tech branded show is affiliated with ALM’s long-standing event.

And if that’s not enough.

ALM and its predecessors have used the trademark ‘legal tech’ for over 30 years in connection with a leading trade show for the legal industry.

While the term legal technology, or ‘legal tech’ for short, has a descriptive meaning, by virtue of ALM’s long and successful use, the term has come to identify ALM’s leading conference and has become a trademark.

Indeed, the US and European trade mark offices recognised these rights when it permitted ALM’s registration of the marks many years ago.

I wonder if the ALM spokesperson has ventured outside, or onto the Internet for that matter, over the last decade or two. There is no way the phrase, “legal tech” has become synonymous with ALM’s conference. Even ALM, knowing their Legaltech show is struggling, changed the conferences name from “Legaltech Show.”

Ciaran Dearden, of the national law firm, Freeths, who is representing Pennington and Harding, has a different take than ALM, one founded in reality, common sense and the law.

The existence of this trade mark is really restrictive for a booming legal technology sector.

“When ‘fintech’ is in the dictionary, but ‘legal tech’ is a registered trademark, there is clearly a problem.

In our view, ‘legal tech’ should be a term open to all to use to describe what is a transformative movement in the legal sector.

The proprietor of a trade mark has to be proactive in protecting its intellectual property, and that simply hasn’t happened here.

In this instance, the proprietor has allowed ‘legal tech’ to become a generic term for the use of technology in the legal sector and, in doing so, has undermined the basis for the mark’s protection in relation to the proprietor’s services such that the trade mark should be cancelled.

Pennington told Bindman that ALM’s position is ridiculous and that he’s 99% sure the mark will be cancelled.

You look at the number of companies at Companies House that have got the words ‘legal tech’, let alone the number of conferences… There is no way [ALM have] control over it.

Now everyone is using the term, you can’t then turn round and say you’ve got to stop using it.

“’Legal tech’ should be free to use to describe any product that works in the legal sector like ‘fintech’ describes any that works in the financial services sector.”

Sadly, to be safe from ALM suing them, Pennington and Harding rebranded their legal tech conference as Legal Technology North, temporarily, knowing that they’d be challenging the trademark.

In an effort to get the word out on the conference and to give kudos to Pennington and Harding for having the gumption and desire to help lawyers and the people they serve, via tech and innovation, I’ve been tweeting word of the conference and the coverage the conference received in the Sheffield business community and beyond.

Local media in Northern UK took pride of the fact that local entrepreneurs were looking to grow the tech community in the area, something that London is better known for. 

It’s a shame when ALM, which bills itself as covering breaking news and trends in legal and bringing the leaders in the industry together, doesn’t cover or support legal technology and innovation efforts like this one. Let alone, try to impede them. 

Money doesn’t grow on trees for these two Sheffield legal entrepreneurs. In an effort to raise £5,000 for their defense of ALM’s trademark claim, they’ve launched a Gofundme campaign to raise money.

Over twenty years ago I read of the power of virtual communities in Net Gain, Expanding Markets Through Virtual Communities by John Hagel and Arthur Armstrong (now executive director of Debevoise &Plimpton).

I read Net Gain then while creating Prairielaw.com, a virtual law community of lawyers and lay people alike, later sold to LexisNexis. I am reading Net Gain again as LexBlog’s worldwide legal blogging network begins to pick up steam.

This legal blogging network is every bit a virtual community of:

  • Blogging legal professionals
  • Those supporting these legal bloggers – LexBlog and its partners
  • Those whom benefit from the legal information and commentary of legal bloggers, including legal professionals, consumers of legal services empowered by legal blogs to select a lawyer in a more informed fashion, and other publishers who receive blog commentary by syndication.

No question there is a business model in organizing a legal blogging community, so long as the focus remains on helping the members – the bloggers and the beneficiaries of legal blogs.

From Hagel and Armstrong:

Virtual communities will increasingly be organized as commercial enterprises, with the objective with the objective of earning an attractive financial return by providing members with valuable resources and environments through which to enhance their own power. It is porecisely the profit incentive that will shape the evolution of virtual communities as vehicles to augment the power of their members. Members will value this power and richly reward the community organizers that deliver it to them most effectively, and abandon those which compromise on this value proposition. It is in giving a net gain in value to their members that community organizers will realize a substantial net gain of their own.

As a virtual community organizer, LexBlog must focus on two business imperatives to deliver this value proposition, per Hagel and Armstrong. Aggregating members and aggregating resources relevant to members. 

I’d add a third imperative, aggregating the publishing of legal bloggers. 

Resources relevant to members include, and could include:

  • Profiles of bloggers, blogs, and organizations whose members blog
  • Curated news and commentary from legal blogs delivered in relevant methods 
  • Cost effective professional blog publishing platforms (presently being used by 18,000 legal professionals, worldwide)
  • Education on effective blogging and publishing, including the personal use of social media for engagement and syndication 
  • Syndication partners whether they be legal organizations (law firms, law schools , bar associations etc), publishers or legal research companies.  

Virtual communities have unquestionably shown their value to organizers and members over the last twenty years. Social networks are everywhere. Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter, Snapchat, Reddit and more. 

The business model of some of these community organizers being to market the demographics of users while other organizers charge for service offerings. But in all cases of a successful virtual community, a net gain for members and organizers.

Stay tuned as to how LexBlog will deliver a net gain to all in this virtual legal blogging community – with the focus throughout being value to members. 

Watching WordPress cofounder, Matt Mullenweg deliver his annual State of the Word at WordCamp US on Saturday afternoon from Nashville there was little question that Gutenberg is the future of legal publishing.

Beginning with the WordPress text editor (unchanged for a decade till now) released this week with WordPress 5.0, Gutenberg will ultimately impact the entire publishing experience, including customization of our publications. 

Gutenberg will empower lawyers, law firms, law students, law professors, and organizations throughout our legal profession to do everything, and more, that traditional publishers have done.

A law firm, law school or court could take control of their own publishing on WordPress based platforms and out perform the likes of Thomson Reuters, LexisNexis and Bloomberg.

Gutenberg delivers a “block” publishing experiencing that enables users you to create as rich a post layout as one can can imagine and even build their own themes. WordPress developers expect to transform WordPress into something users love, as opposed to something they use because everyone else does.

Gutenberg will get us to look at the editor as more than a content field. We’ll look at the editing field as place for design, font treatment, art, photography, layout and inclusions from video, and audio to other technology.

Lest one think that’s just for websites, digital publishers ranging from The New Yorker to The Athletic blend design, layout and fonts to make for a more attractive reading experience.

WordPress is approaching near ubiquitous status in publishing with 70% of sites with a content management system (CMS) using WordPress. Gutenberg is only going to further fuel WordPress open source developers around the world that much more.

Proprietary software providers, no matter how large or well funded, are no match for WordPress development today. They’ll lag even further behind WordPress with the advent of Gutenberg. 

Sure, WordPress is not perfect. No advanced legal tech solution is. But the use, momentum, development community and passion within the WordPress community is going to bring us all the future of legal publishing.