Just exchanged Twitter messages with New York Attorney Scott Greenfield. I explained to Scott that if he had been able to attend the LexisNexis sponsored LegalTech panels on blogging and online networking, that Scott would not have been able to resist calling BS on the panelists.
That would have been especially true as to the presentation by John Lipsey, VP Corporate Counsel Services for LexisNexis, who appeared to run a standard PowerPoint he uses as an intro to Martindale-Hubbell’s long discussed, but never launched, social networking site, Martindale-Hubbell Connected.
LexisNexis sponsored the Web 2.0 trek at LegalTech New York. As such, LexisNexis, I am told, got to pre-approve all speakers on the panels at the sessions. I was invited and accepted to speak on one the Web 2.0 panels months ago but was ‘apparently bumped off the panels‘ by LexisNexis when LexisNexis reviewed those invited to present.
The result of LexisNexis sponsored panels was taking exciting topics such as blogging, social networking, and social media and turning them into pretty boring sessions. I’ve seen record attendance at similar sessions the last year for legal professionals in Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles, Cleveland, and Portland. At each of those events no one left and many crowded the stage to ask panelists questions.
At LegalTech’s LexisNexis online networking session at least 25% of the crowd exited early, with many more who would have liked to. With 10 minutes to go in a 75 minute session, an attendee raised their hand and asked for one example of how online networking could be used for client development and if one of the presenters had a good example. 65 minutes in and you’ve left the audience asking what good could come of using mediums that Fortune 200 companies and lawyers are using in innovative and exciting ways for business development, PR, and customer service.
Watching the Twitter discussion about the panel became the most entertaining part of the session. (@GabeAcevedo: @LTNY online networking panel. This is not what I expected. Must either leave/kill self soon as possible.) If we would have followed one person’s tweet suggestion that we take a sip of water each time a panelist said Martindale, we’d have drowned.
If I’m not familiar with blogging and attended the LexisNexis sponsored blogging session to help make the decision on blogging, I’d pass. Law firms talking of printing out blog pages to get copyright protection. Law firms matter-of-factly not allowing comments on a blog because of liability and ethics fears that were never challenged.
At non legal technology and new media conferences I attend, these type of sessions would never be allowed. They’re looking for innovators. They’re looking for excitement. They’re looking for people who don’t try to spam the audience with presentations discussing their own products, let alone stack panels with promoters of your products and with people who do not challenge sponsors.
If non legal technology conferences pulled the BS pulled in the LexisNexis sponsored online networking and blogging sessions, conference attendees would have revolted. Attendees would have called BS and conference spam right from their seats in the audience. Panelists would have been put on the spot. Discussion, some heated, between the panelists and the audience would have ensued.
Perhaps that’s too much for the legal profession. But at a minimum, we in the legal profession should demand more. It’s not enough that bloggers are critical and that the twitter discussion makes fun of the panels. Email conference coordinators and demand better. Email the conference presenters and the CEO’s of their companies, especially those promoting their products from the stage and complain. Comment on the presenter’s blog posts telling their readers how great the presentation was. Voice complaints through comments on their corporate blogs.
It’s clear LexisNexis has no shame on this front. They also have a vested interest in keeping a muzzle on innovative thought leaders who may shine a light on less costly and more effectively client development solutions than those sold by LexisNexis.
Incisive Media put on a heck of a conference in LegalTech. There must have been two or three hundred exhibitors. Networking between attendees was great. But to put this conference over the top, let’s shoot for the best when it comes to innovative presenters. Don’t limit speakers to those vetted by LexisNexis or other companies. Don’t let presenters use the stage to market their wares.
Ultimately, it comes down to the us in the legal community as a whole to speak out and demand more. With the advent of blogs, Twitter, and online transparency we’ve never had a better chance. And don’t just send me side notes and emails because you feel intimidated to speak out (I receive many), speak up.
Imagine open and engaging education sessions about social media, effective Internet client development, online word of mouth marketing, effective PR online, effective blogging, and online networking. It can happen if we demand it.
And if the traditional companies such as LexisNexis, Thomson Reuters, and Incisive Media won’t serve it up, we’ll put on alternative conferences bringing in the best and brightest.
The legal community, lagging other professions, as well as the people and organizations to which we provide legal services has so much to gain through innovation across our industry. Innovation needs to begin with real teaching and evangelizing to the masses in our profession. Let’s bring it about for the benefit of us all.