Trial lawyer turned legal tech entrepreur, Kevin O’Keefe is Founder and CEO of Seattle based, LexBlog, Inc., which is building the world’s largest and most comprehensive legal news and information network by drawing on the contributions of legal bloggers worldwide. @kevinokeefe, kevin@lexblog.com, 206-321-3627

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.

My colleague Bob Ambrogi reported yesterday that Avvo founder, Mark Britton is leaving the company he launched in 2007.

Following the January news of Avvo’s acquisition by Internet Brands, Britton’s announcement that he was leaving the company after its annual Lawyernomics conference in May is not too big of a surprise.

Britton will leave Avvo though having left a significant impact on the law — and the business of law. A very positive impact.

Britton was driven by his belief in serving consumers. From Ambrogi’s report:

Even though we knew some lawyers would take issue with what we were doing, our focus in this product — was in serving the consumer and on getting them the help that they need.

I remember meeting Mark for the first time in a Starbucks in Pioneer Square with a colleague of his, probably twelve or thirteen years ago.

They were working on the stealth launch of company that would help consumers and small business people faced with legal issues — or at least that’s what I recall. The discussion got into lawyer ratings and lawyer questions and answers, something I believed in from my days with Prairielaw.com and LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell when they acquired Prairielaw.

Happy to help share what I knew or thought, I was skeptical though of a venture capital backed company helping the little guys of the world.

We may have met another time or two prior to Avvo’s launch, but what I remember next was calling Mark the day of the launch and giving him grief that my name with an old Seattle business address was listed in the directory.

As if Mark didn’t have anything else to do that day, he got on the phone and listened to my rants about never practicing law in Washington and not even keeping a license anymore.

Talking to colleagues in the industry then, people were giving Avvo months before it would collapse. How could a company scrape lawyers’ profiles across the net, list the information Avvo could get in lawyer bio’s and apply ratings only Avvo thought were not arbitrary?

A lot of lawyers can be intolerable by nature, but touch them personally like this.? You’re asking for flack in spades.

A class action suit was immediately filed by a Seattle lawyer claiming that his information and the info of other lawyers could be not displayed like this. When the security guard in my building commented to me, without my mentioning Avvo, that this Seattle lawyer, with a history of representing consumers, would take Avvo down in no time, I really thought Avvo may not make it.

Not so when Seattle lawyer, Bruce Johnson, a nationally recognized First Amendment lawyer swiftly brought an end to the suit on the grounds of free speech. Ironically, the same position Super Lawyers took throughout their infancy.

When Avvo launched lawyer blogs I charged up the hill to his office, and ranted at Mark how could you (I can be nuts at times). “If you really want to help consumers and the lawyers who serve them, LexBlog can do blogs a lot better than you. Let us do them for you.” As if that level of tact would get me anywhere.

Hard to believe Mark was as nice and receptive to me then and all times thereafter. But he was and he has always been willing to share feedback and advice with me over lunch or at a conference over a beer.

Throughout our exchanges I went from being a cynic, to believing Mark when he said nothing was going to get between consumers and Avvo. Avvo would be placing the interests of consumers first, even if it meant challenging lawyers and legal organizations.

Eleven years can be an eternity for most startups. One you have to able to make it that long, and two, with heavy investment you need a liquidation event at at some point.

But in those eleven years, Britton and Avvo accomplished a heck of a lot.

  • Martindale-Hubbell, close to a $300 million company, crumbled. I always believed, and told Mark, if Avvo could outlast and out compete Martindale and their misguided strategy as to the net, Avvo would be over the hump and dominate the “legal directory” space. Avvo did, and ironically is now part of the same company, Internet Brands, that acquired the Martindale and lawyers.com brands and assets from LexisNexis.
  • Lawyer ratings, like it or not, are here to stay. Maybe not the ideal rating system from the perspective of many lawyers, but Avvo’s ratings are something consumers and small business people can understand and feel comfortable with in sharing their rating of a lawyer.
  • Lawyers across the country were given a search engine optimized professional looking directory presence that was chock full of information. Information lawyers could provide and information that consumers could relate to.
  • Lawyers across the country got good legal work from their Avvo listing at a cost that paled in comparison to the prices of yellow page ads and websites.
  • Consumers could ask questions of lawyers coast to coast and they did so in spades.
  • The ability for a consumer to talk to a lawyer for less than forty bucks — all via a website or smartphone, the likes of which consumers expect today.
  • Legal services for a flat fee via a network of rated lawyers in your state. Though bar associations may have challenged the program on the grounds that Avvo’s collecting a marketing charge from lawyers amounted to a lawyer’s splitting a fee with a non-lawyer, this type of service is not going away. It’s a service that is going to help bridge the access to legal services divide.
  • A team of passionate, smart and driven people was assembled in Seattle who believed that there had to be a better way to deliver legal services to average people. That caring lawyers, willing to do work at a fair price could help these folks — so long as there was a way to connect the two. And that technology and data could play a big role in bringing this about. Britton may be leaving, but his dream will live on in many of them, whether they remain at Avvo or not.

In an email announcing this would be his last Lawyernomics conference, Mark said he would remain close to the legal industry.  I hope he does in some capacity.

Mark’s ability to assemble and lead a team focused on a common goal is not a skill that comes naturally. This coming from someone who tries to get better at it by the day and has used Britton and his passion as a bit of a role model.

A job well done – by Mark and the Avvo team.

Websites have only been around the last fifteen or twenty years – at least for lawyers. In that time the legal website business has become a billion dollar business (basing on the legal yellow page spend plus large law market).

But are most lawyers well served by the current method of delivering websites?

For most of the lawyers in this country, do they need to be sending, three, five or ten thousand dollars on a website delivered the way they are today – agency model of designs to psd’s and developed on software unlikely to be upgraded? Websites are also usually accompanied by monthly hosting and maintenance fees. Modifications usually lead to more charges.

That’s a big increase from the first mass law firm website offering, Martindale-Hubbell’s “Law Firm HomePage” that cost $500 per year.

What if law firm websites were delivered as a SaaS solution – a cloud based software as a service solution? What would law firm websites as a service mean?

There would be a low monthly subscription with no initial fee.

The service would be all inclusive.

  • Customized responsive (mobile) design – or whatever new technology arises – that could be re-designed at anytime
  • Cloud hosted
  • Regular upgrades and feature enhancements
  • SEO (search engine optimization)
  • Support
  • Full content exports and domain transfer upon cancellation

Through scaling and DIY (do-it-yourself) delivery components, a website delivered as a SaaS solution need not skimp.

  • Unlimited number of pages per website
  • Top level domains for each site (smithlawfirm.com vs wordpress.com/smithlawfirm)
  • Google local search enabled for site display on search and maps
  • Online contact form for prospective clients
  • “HTTPS Everywhere” with free auto-renewing SSL certificates for security and enhanced search performance on Google
  • Seamless integration with various other legal solutions and other services such as Clio, Rocket Matter, MyCase, Law Pay, Lexicata, Google Analytics, Google and Bing Webmaster Tools

Law firm websites as a service falls in line with all sorts of SaaS solutions lawyers are using.

Practice management, billing, legal research. bankruptcy forms, immigration processing, court deadline management are all being offered as cloud based SaaS solutions. Microsoft Office 365, a SaaS offering, is billed as giving law firms access to Microsoft Office tools from virtually anywhere, plus collaboration services that are easy to administer.

Legal tech entrepreneurs are coming out of the woodwork offering SaaS solutions to lawyers.

Clio, a cloud based practice management SaaS solution, alone, has close to a hundred legal tech solutions integrating with the Clio platform. Most, if not all of the solutions, are being offered as a SaaS solution.

There’s simply no way lawyers would be receiving the valuable services that they are without the cloud and SaaS. Services that are improving lawyers’ lives and improving the delivery of legal services to the public we serve.

I blogged a couple weeks ago about LexBlog as a SaaS solution. We’re a publishing company founded on a business model of contributors publishing on independent sites. As a result, we’re in the publishing software business.

Our software is not limited to presenting a blog site user interface. So why not a website interface and offer it like we do our other offerings as a SaaS solution.

I have never been a fan of websites as the core of a lawyer’s online business development efforts. I see the net as offering greater networking opportunities to build relationships and a name. So LexBlog stayed clear of a website offering.

But websites play a significant role in a lawyer’s online visibility. If websites can be offered in a better way for lawyers, and the public, which ultimately benefits from the efficient business practices of lawyers, why not websites as a service.

Make sense?

Computer scientist and author, Jaron Lanier, in a ballyhooed op-ed in the Guardian, challenges us all to delete Facebook.

Lanier was no fan of Facebook before (having already urged people to delete their social media accounts), but after Cambridge Analytica he saw it the perfect time to challenge everyone to beat the addiction, make a political statement and redefine your social life.

The problem for lawyers is that Facebook represents the opportunity to engage the public where they are and on their terms.

Like it or not, lawyers have an ethical obligation to make legal services accessible to people – not just to the impoverished, but to middle income individuals and small business people. To do this as a lawyer you not only need to go where the people are, but you need to establish trust by listening, sharing and nurturing relationships.

More people spend more time on the Internet on Facebook than any other place. Social media, Facebook included, represents the town square, the coffee shop, the church group and the civic board of today. It’s where lawyers establish enough trust and value in people’s minds that legal services, at least though a lawyer, remain a viable answer for consumers and small business people.

Lawyers jumping off Facebook can do so out of fear (perhaps legitimate) or to make a political statement, but by doing so they are turning on the public they serve. Access to legal services will only decline.

Lanier says:

Before Facebook, there were ways to do most of the things that Facebook allows, and there still are. There are other ways to keep up with friends, be informed, discover local events, announce your own life events, publish opinions, meet new people, and so on.

That’s simply not true. Before Facebook, lawyers did not have a forum for such engagement with the public. A forum that enables lawyers to bring access to legal services by establishing trust and demonstrating value.

Lest you think the public is bailing on Facebook en masse, I expect you’ll find that the vast majority of Facebook users still find the social network integral to their social, community and professional life.

In fact, Mark Zuckerberg, while apologizing and promising changes protecting privacy, in a conversation with the New York Times’ Kevin Roosecommented on the “Delete Facebook” hashtag campaign on Twitter.

I don’t think we’ve seen a meaningful number of people act on that, but, you know, it’s not good. I think it’s a clear signal that this is a major trust issue for people, and I understand that. And whether people delete their app over it or just don’t feel good about using Facebook, that’s a big issue that I think we have a responsibility to rectify.

There’s much not to like over what we’ve discovered the last week, but my former rector, agreeing with my sentiments on Facebook, may have said it best, ” Facebook remains a true option for something good. But it’s harder to say so.”

For access to legal services, Facebook is more than an option, Facebook represents an opportunity for lawyers to bring access to legal services. As such, lawyers have an obligation to see the storm through.

A lawyer’s word of mouth today is in fact social media. If you fail to develop and maintain your online reputation, it might be developed anyway and not represent the best you have to offer.

This from attorney and legal blogger, Jennifer Brandt, who co-chairs the family law group at Cozen O’Connor, a 700 lawyer firm in 26 cities.

Despite the benefits of having an online reputation and presence, many lawyers feel this is somehow beneath the level of the profession. Many of these same lawyers adhere to the antiquated notion that business should be developed by word of mouth only and not through what they may deem as online “advertising.”

What these folks don’t realize, however, is that the word of mouth today is in fact social media. Moreover, if you fail to develop and maintain your online reputation, it might be developed anyway through online rating systems or client commentary – and it may not represent the best you have to offer. (emphasis added)

Having no presence on social media is just as bad for lawyers.

If there is a dearth of information about us online, a prospective client may question why this is so and thus similarly question our fitness to take on their matter.   They may view us as old-fashioned and not in touch with current trends that could benefit their representation.  As such, it important for both seasoned and new attorneys to consistently monitor and improve their online reputations.

The average person using the Internet spends over two hours per day on social media. About 80% of people under age 50 use social media, with the number only dropping to 64% for those age 50 to 64. (Pew Research Center)

People receive news and information, collaborate professionally and engage each other personally across social media. Social media, blogging included, represents the town square, the coffee shop and the bar association meeting and more of today.

The first thing I look for when hiring a professional today — lawyers included — is their Internet presence. What are they saying, what are their peers saying about what they are saying and what are their patients, customers and clients saying about them.

I just retained legal counsel today to represent LexBlog on various transactional matters. I knew of the lawyer and his expertise from his blogging and social media use. It was another lawyer, who I first met via her blogging, who suggested I hire him. Believe it or not, I am more like your public today than you think.

I’m with Brandt, on the value of a reputation – and today, an online reputation.

It is well established that a lawyer’s greatest asset is his or her reputation. In this day and age, this includes one’s online reputation. Developing and maintaining an online reputation can be done for little to no cost, and the return on this minimal investment is astounding.

Lawyers generate their best work via word of mouth and relationships. The Internet did not change this. The Internet accelerates reputations and relationships. No online presence just accelerates how far you are falling behind in the public’s mind.

For legal technology companies and innovative law firms the best way to partner with law students on their projects/causes and to hire law students part-time or as interns is to engage the students directly, not go through the law schools. It’s probably preferable to hire full-time this way.

This engagement will come just like it does in the “real world” — through networking.

Networking today though comes faster and more authentically via the Internet. The exchange of ideas, collaboration, nurturing relationships and building a name is happening all around you via blogging and social media.

The best students for legal innovation and tech companies are using the net for learning, networking and building a brand. It’s the same for law firms. The problem is there are not enough law students networking online.

Law schools are letting students down here.

No question law schools are teaching legal tech and innovation. Many schools host clinics and programs supporting such initiatives. But that’s not enough.

Law students need to let the world know who they are and what they are doing. That’s only going to happen by using the Internet — blogging, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Snapchat – whatever works.

Failing to do so, the students knowledge, passion and drive in legal tech is living under a rock. Who sees the student, what they stand for and what they are doing unless the student is using the Internet?

Are we to wait for a law school to toute that it’s innovative and leveraging tech in its programs? Warranted or not, most all law schools tout such prowess. Or for the law schools to wait for employers to contact them for the names of candiates or to invite employers to interview students with resumes in hand.

Law schools mean well, but you’re letting your students down in their ability to get jobs in tech and innovation companies — and even law firms — if you don’t teach students how to network through the Internet and have social media role models as your dean, professors and career development folks.

I have learned so much in this regard from law professors Dan Linna and Dan Katz as well as former Michigan State Law School Dean Joan Howarth.

I can’t tell you how many law students I have met through blogging and social media. Great young professionals who inspire me and others.

At the recent ABA TechShow we had two law students working LexBlog coverage of the show. Both were active on social media and blogging.

Also at TechShow, LexBlog promoted, for free, throughout our day one coverage, the cause of Impowerus, a law student founded legal tech startup which connects immigrant youth with pro bono lawyers.

I became familiar with Impowerus the Sunday night before TechShow when a Notre Dame law student was on Twitter discussing the startup. Immigration attorney, Greg Siskind chimed in on Twitter on the spot that their cause was a good one.

I reached out to Impowerus’s founder, a current 2L student at Notre Dame, the next day to let her know that we wanted to list them as a sponsor of our coverage.

I met these two Notre Dame Law students at TechShow and introduced them to tech and immigration law leaders whom I thought could help them and their cause. I’ve since exchanged emails with one of the students about having me visit Notre Dame Law School next month for a stiudent led program on social media and blogging.

Tech entrepreneurs and law firms would be so lucky to have these students work for their organizations.

Yet when I approached Notre Dame in the past to speak at the school on social media and blogging and how it can help students for learning and networking, I was turned down — twice. ‬The reason being that their students can get good jobs in large law already — go figure.

I agree with Dan Rodriguez, the Dean of Northwestern Law School and a role model for all in networking through the Internet, that the opportunity exists to go through the schools.

And with Dean Rodriguez’ immediate comments on this past that it need not be an either or.

Law students are better served though when out using the Internet to network and build a name.

Students are not alone, law schools are best served having their students actively using the Internet. Law schools are know by their students and grads.

Students are a law school’s evangelists in what the school is doing in legal tech and innovation without the school even asking. Students are more real and authentic than the school is when the school uses social media in the school’s brand name.

Law schools are well intentioned in helping law students. Getting students using the Internet would give them the help they need and deserve though.

The ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct make fairly clear that lawyers have a duty to bring about access to the legal system on behalf of the public. Today, this means seeing that technology that can help bring access to legal services be used to do so.

The preamble to the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct makes it the duty of lawyer entrepreneurs driving innovation and technology, like me, as well as lawyers in regulatory bodies do all we can to deliver access to legal services to the American public. Not just for the impoverished, who may or may not be entitled to legal services and pro bono services, but for the vast majority of Americans who have no effective access to legal services.

These are model rules, until adopted by individual states, and this is a preamble. But it would be a sad reflection on our profession if lawyers interpreted gaps in ethical guidelines to avoid addressing a problem we’ve arguably created.

From the preamble:

[6] As a public citizen, a lawyer should seek improvement of the law, access to the legal system, the administration of justice and the quality of service rendered by the legal profession. As a member of a learned profession, a lawyer should cultivate knowledge of the law beyond its use for clients, employ that knowledge in reform of the law and work to strengthen legal education. In addition, a lawyer should further the public’s understanding of and confidence in the rule of law and the justice system because legal institutions in a constitutional democracy depend on popular participation and support to maintain their authority. A lawyer should be mindful of deficiencies in the administration of justice and of the fact that the poor, and sometimes persons who are not poor, cannot afford adequate legal assistance. Therefore, all lawyers should devote professional time and resources and use civic influence to ensure equal access to our system of justice for all those who because of economic or social barriers cannot afford or secure adequate legal counsel. A lawyer should aid the legal profession in pursuing these objectives and should help the bar regulate itself in the public interest. (emphasis added)

When I shared paragraph six with my comments about lawyers in general and those in legal tech companies over on Facebook, Dan Linna, who’s been a leader on the legal innovation and technology front, commented:

I agree that we lawyers should live up to these ideals. I’m afraid that this preamble and lawyers’ commitment to the public and justice generally ring hollow to most people as mere platitudes. We lawyers can change the narrative. There are many opportunities to lead, work with other professionals, and help create a better future!

Linna’s right. We can’t reduce to a mere platitude a lawyer’s comittment to seeing that the public has access to legal services. When it’s done, we need change the narrative and work to create a better future.

Legal tech entrepreneurs, at least those who are lawyers, have a duty to seek access to legal services in the work they are doing. Many are doing so. Other legal tech companies are focused on large dollar transactions and litigation among large law and corporations, all of whom already have access to legal services.

Legal tech entrepreneurs are not alone in their obligation. Lawyers, particularly those in regulatory and licensing bodies, have a golden opportunity to improve access to the legal services. More than an opportunity, they have the duty to do so, per paragraph six.

Rather than meeting their obligation, some bar associations, presumably guided by their lawyers, have taken stances against innovation and technology that could have improved access to legal services.

Look at Avvo’s fixed feed fee legal services which a number of bar associations brought to a halt by telling lawyers it would be unethical to render legal services as part of the Avvo service. The reason being a bit of a stretch — that lawyers would be splitting fees with a non-lawyer as a result of Avvo’s marketing fee.

Rather than meetIng their duty of improving access to the legal system and legal services, the bar lawyers turned the other way.

Bankruptcy trustees, also lawyers, are standing in the way of legal technology expediting the processing of bankruptcy filings in the name that doing so would be improperly unbundling legal services.

Rather than debate legal technology and split hairs to prevent its use, let’s change the narrative and focus on our ethical obligation to effectively use technology to bring access to legal services.

LexBlog, via the law bloggers it supports worldwide, has become one of the largest legal news and information networks.

We support these bloggers with a digital design and publishing platform we developed on a WordPress core.

Developing the platform was the only way we could scale our offering. Without the platform, we could not provide each blogger/publication regular upgrades and feature enhancements, let alone support all of these publishers with our success team.

Our platform is not limited to a blog site user interface. The platform can present interfaces for websites, mini-sites, magazines, content portals and what have you.

Knowing this, organizations have approached LexBlog asking if they could license our platform for their members and customers. We’re in the process of doing so.

In discussions with these folks, I started thinking that LexBlog was basically offering a SaaS solution for digital design and publishing. Organizations, or end publishers directly via a do it yourself (DIY) blog, website etc, receive web design and publishing software cloud hosted and supported by LexBlog.

Pulling up the Wikipedia definition of a SaaS solution, what are doing seemed pretty close.

Software as a service (SaaS) is a software licensing and delivery model in which software is licensed on a subscription basis and is centrally hosted. It is sometimes referred to as “on-demand software”, and was formerly referred to as “software plus services” by Microsoft. SaaS is typically accessed by users using a thin client via a web browser. SaaS has become a common delivery model for many business applications, including office software, messaging software, payroll processing software, DBMS software, management software, CAD software, development software, gamification, virtualization, accounting, collaboration, customer relationship management (CRM), Management Information Systems (MIS), enterprise resource planning (ERP), invoicing, human resource management (HRM), talent acquisition, learning management systems, content management (CM), and service desk management. SaaS has been incorporated into the strategy of nearly all leading enterprise software companies.

The term “Software as a Service” (SaaS) is considered to be part of the nomenclature of cloud computing, along with Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), Desktop as a Service (DaaS), managed software as a service (MSaaS), mobile backend as a service (MBaaS), and information technology management as a service (ITMaaS).

Wow, that’s a mouthful, but you get the point.

Calling things “as a service” can be helpful to understand an offering.

LexBlog’s entire team is in WeWork, which has been characterized as “offices as a service.” Rather than rent and set up offices with everything you need, WeWork provides you everything you need, and more, in a hosted environment for a monthly subscription.

What do you think? Is it helpful to describe LexBlog’s offering as a SaaS solution for digital design and publishing? Does it matter?

The Denver Post announced the layoff of 30 reporters and editors this afternoon. The layoff represents a third of the Post’s staff and the fourth major layoff in three plus years.

It’s going to be impossible for the Post to continue covering what they have.

It’s not merely a question of being able to cover what you have in the past, there’s a real question of whether newspapers as large as the Denver Post will survive at all.

Seattle’s second paper, the Post Intelligencer is long gone – and so are any number of other major metro’s. Newspaper circulation, on a steep decline, is approaching circulation levels of the 1930’s.

The closing of newspapers does not mean the end of meaningful news. The news may even be better.

News is really what someone tells us – that’s it.

When the means of capturing and reporting the news was in the hands of the few — newspapers, radio, television — we got our news from a few sources.

That’s changed with smartphones, laptops, blogs, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and more.

If you’re over 65 you may watch news on television and read it in newspapers. Not those thirty or forty and younger. In fact, they’re capturing and reporting the news on a smartphone in addition to watching it on a smartphone.

Look at today’s National School Walkout, covered, reported and viewed by millions on Twitter — including the only student who walked out his school, a young black man, whose Twitter video has been viewed by 3.1 million people and counting.

Facebook was used by parents and students throughout today to share news of the wakout in their town. The news was shared on Facebook pages and across Facebook groups for schools, towns and cities. It’s a safe bet more parents received reports of the walkout from Facebook than local television or newspapers.

Little question the news today spread faster with more detail and emotion than newspapers and television stations could equal. National and local news will even call on citizen journalist’s tweets for pictures and video footage of the walkout to include in their own coverage.

Yes, newspapers are on the decline — and yes, we’ll lose something if they all but disappear. But citizen journalism may provide us with something better.