I’m in Las Vegas for the Legal Marketing Association (LMA) Annual conference this week. Not my favorite city, but I always enjoy LMA Annual for any number of reasons.

As always with conferences, it’s about the people. Relationships are what make the world go round. I’m pretty active on social media, but there’s no substitute for meeting face to face. Even hugging a long time customer (yes, there’s a lot of hugging) can mean a lot.

Drinks or dinner with industry colleagues we work with or want to work with is where business gets done. It’s wild that we don’t often talk business, but talk more about family, sports and where people grew up. Business discussion follows over the phone days later.

Getting feedback from customers, most often unsoliciated, comes face to face pretty quickly over a beer. Customers don’t shy from letting me know where we need to get better. While customers may not open up to my success team, folks want to get heard at the top and see something change. Most often it’s because they care. They want us to be successful.

I also want to brief customers on what’s become nothing short of a LexBlog revolution with our move from an agency model to a managed WordPress platform for legal. Customers receive all they have in the past, yet improved with more options, more quickly and at lower prices. We email folks, but things don’t always resonate.

Our products and marketing folks were nice enough to put together a brief deck that David Cuthbert and I can walk customers through in 5 or 10 minutes. We’re not trying to sell, I just want customers know the impact (all good) on them. Key for me is not selling here, but letting marketing professionals enjoy their time and catching up with each other.

Knowing the mood and trends of law firms when it comes to marketing, business development and technology is one of the most important things I do. Getting a hundred people in a room, listening to a speaker or a panel discussion and how they engage the presenters with questions and comments tells me a lot.

In Monday’s pre-conference technology track it was all about marketing automation. Law firms were all over it. Made clear that LexBlog needs to educate our customers on what they already have available from us and how easy it is to do integration with our platform so it’s working in harmony with whatever automated marketing platform they’re going to use. We also should reach out to the providers so they know we are there for integration.

Kudos to conference chairs, Cynthia Voth and Paul Grabowski, and their teams/committee members and LMA executive director, Betsi Roach and her team for pulling together another good show. Almost 2000 people, 160 sessions, and a crowded exhibit hall of companies/sponsors makes for a great event.

If you want to get together, drop me a note on social media works (Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn) and my phone to call or text is 206 321 3627. My email is kevin@lexblog.com. I’d welcome catching up and if a customer to walk you through our evolution.

Michigan State University College of Law is hosting their second annual Social Media Bootcamp this Saturday (Feb 4). I couldn’t be more honored to be leading the workshop. We had a great time last year.

The workshop is open to law students, lawyers, academics, judges, court staff and all other legal service delivery professionals.

The interactive workshop is designed to help law students, lawyers and legal services providers improve their professional use of blogging and other social media, whether you are beginner or a pro.

You’ll learn how to effectively utilize social media to build a personal brand, establish expertise, and build an online community. You’ll also learn how social media can be used for learning, advancing the law, and networking as a law student, lawyer, law professor or other legal professional.

If you’re a practicing lawyer, you’ll leave knowing how to really use the Internet to get the type of work you want from the type of clients you want to represent.

We’ll cover, among other things:

  • Use of a news aggregator (Feedly) for listening to the influencers and identifying items to share
  • Blogging on a niche to build your name, a network and advance the law
  • Twitter for listening, establishing yourself as an intelligent agent, building social media equity, and building relationships
  • Facebook for building solid professional relationships and sharing personal and professional information and insight
  • LinkedIn for more than just a profile, but to engage, to build a name – and in the case of lawyers how to get work

Law student, professor or law school administrator and looking to blog, ask me about the LexBlog sponsored Law School Blog Network. You’re entitled to a blog on our comprehensive blog publishing software and related services – for free.

Complete details:

  • Date: Saturday, February 4, 2016
  • Time: 9:00 am – 3:00 pm
  • Event Address: 648 N. Shaw Ln, East Lansing, MI 48824
  • Room: Castle Boardroom (3rd Floor)
  • Parking: Free on weekends in the parking ramp next to MSU Law
  • RSVP

Questions? Contact Amy Krieg, Assistant Director for Career Development, kriegamy@law.msu.edu or (517) 432-6830.

Big thanks for Michigan State Law for having me back again. This may be the third or fourth time in the last couple years. You’ve opened my eyes to the passion of law students looking to do great things – often, for other people.

Hope to see how this year’s social media contest is going too. past participants have ended up at with positions at Honigman in Detroit, General Motors, London law firms (internships) and West Coast companies in the agriculture/food business.

Want to share the story of your startup with me on Facebook Live this week at Legaltech in New York City? Could be a tech startup or even a law firm startup.

The story for me is not the stuff that press releases are made of, but more of the human story, often of most interest to customers and influencers.

Thinks like:

  • How’d you get started?
  • What made you crazy enough to do a startup?
  • How’d you scratch by without any money?
  • How you used blogging and/or social media to build a name?
  • What’s been the scariest moment in getting up and going?
  • What’s been the most rewarding moment?
  • What are you hoping to accomplish?

In addition to the large legal technology and publishing players, there are always plenty of founders of innovative tech startups at Legaltech, whether exhibiting or networking. Over the last few years, we’re seeing more and more law firms leveraging technology and innovation to deliver legal services more efficiently. I expect they’ll be a few law firm founders like that attending.

My company, LexBlog, has always had a presence at Legaltech. Not in the traditional sense of booths etc, but through blogging, social media and video interviews – all covering the event.

This year it’s me doing some Facebook Live interviews telling the human side of startups. You can expect to get some good coverage not only through Facebook, but also through my sharing of the videos on Twitter and my blog. LexBlog will share word of the videos as well on our network.

Reach me on Facebook messenger, kevin@lexblog.com or call/text at 206 321 3627.

ALM charges sponsors to speak at educational sessions at LegalTech Show now known as Legal Week. Maybe not for all of them, but at least for the one in which I was asked to participate.

That may be standard practice for some conferences. In fact, we were told the $7,500 fee we would pay to have me moderate along with related fanfare that would reach about one hundred people was less than other shows charge.

I’m an old trial lawyer at heart. I like to know people’s motives when they’re presenting something. Why wouldn’t audience members of a pay for play conference feel the same way?

Imagine if someone at LegalWeek got up to introduce me and said Kevin O’Keefe knows a fair amount about this blogging/social media topic, but the real reason we picked him was that his money was good. Crass? But true.

Don’t get me wrong I like that ALM puts this show on every year. I am not sure who else would. It brings people from around the world interested in legal tech together in one place. And ALM can’t do it without sponsorship money.

The biggest reason I go to conferences is for the camaraderie. I like catching up with colleagues face to face and I enjoy spending time with customers and prospective customers. Relationships come first in business.

Educational sessions, though tough to find time for, can be excellent when led by people with a passion for a niche, people exploring new areas as part of their learning (take Fastcase’s Ed Walters “Law of Robots” at ClioCon) and entrepreneurs plowing new ground who share their experiences and know how with customers and entrepreneurs to be.

I’ve been going to ALM’s LegalTech Show for more than a decade. I have to believe ALM’s emphasis is on exhibitors and getting people to walk the exhibition halls. More money there than in educational sessions.

But educational sessions can be a big draw if they are exciting and led by people incredibly passionate about what they do.

Asking someone to sponsor a session, to find a few people as panelists and put up a sponsor’s table out front can be all it takes to suck the passion out of a speaker.

And what about the woman or man who has some kick ass idea or technology they’ve been working on out of their garage who’s funding their startup on credit cards? I did it and would have choked if I heard it may cost $7,500 to present at the “most important legal technology event of the year.”

ALM, if it wants its show to continue, should look for ways to up its game on educational sessions. It would’t be hard. Otherwise people and organizations will put on their own off site sessions in venues across the street from the Hilton.

And yes, we did turn down the opportunity to have me speak at LegalTech. As always I am happy to get together anytime. Just look me up — with $7,500 in my pocket I can buy a round of drinks.

Good2bSocial, a leading social media agency for law firms, is hosting a Webinar this Wednesday at 1 ET on to leverage the real power of blogging and social media to build a name, relationships and revenue.

I have the pleasure of partcipating in the webinar along side Guy Alvarez, the founder of Good2bSocial and its Chief Engagement Officer.

Among other things we’ll cover:

  • Developing a strategy for your blog
  • Technology and services needed
  • How to use LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to engage your audience and build relationships
  • How to engage influencers — bloggers, reporters, association leaders and conference coordinators — to grow your network and visibility
  • How to measure success from blogging and social media

Further details and a link for registration are available here.

Hope to see you there — and yes, it’s being recorded if you are unable to attend.

Read a story about a legal tech startup and you’re apt to read that they’ve raised venture capital or are about to do so.

In the vast majority of cases, venture capital is no sign of success — nor needed.

Jason Fried (@jasonfried), co-founder of Basecamp, wrote last week that most successful businesses don’t need venture capital to stay afloat.

…[I’t’s] basically like living in their parent’s basement. They haven’t had to go and make their own living yet.

Launching a tech startup is not nearly as expensive today as it was fifteen years ago. You don’t need a lot of developers, data base people and system aministrators. Much of what these folks did back then is now available in software or services available for free or at minimal cost. AWS and other cloud providers make hosting cheap.

Sure, you may need development and design work needed. That can come in the form of sweat equity from you or friends. In some cases you’ll need to pay for services or bring in a “partner.”

Extend your existing income and benefits as long as possible, ideally until your startup is afloat. You and any partners can keep your day jobs while working on the startup on nights and weekends.

Save all the money you can. As you consider cutting back on your job or quiting altogether, a spouse or partner (who’s a saint) is awful nice to have for income and benefits. And of course, you all live cheap, even as a family.

Demonstrate you have a real product. This means getting people to take money out of their pocket and put it in your pocket.

Customers will help you develop a product that’s of value to people and one that will sell. Paying customers, more than anyone else, will be vested in your success. Customers will get you pumped – “I built something that others will actually buy.”

You need not have a lot of customers, one may be enough. I knew I had a product with LexBlog when a law firm agreed to pay $200 a month. After a year, I had seven customers paying me that.

Having no investors limits your spending. You won’t be hiring people you may not need, traveling to conferences you need not attend, marketing a product that’s not proven or buying equipment you can do without.

In the time it takes to find investors, assuming you’re successful in finding any, you could be working on your product.

Many startups talk of venture capital. That’s unrealistic, except in the rare case where you’re looking to go public or garner a large market share.

Venture capital, by my definition, is for all practical purposes, institutional money. Venture capitalists raise money from others, hundreds of millions dollars, in rounds of investment. The money invested with the better venture capitalists will come, in part, from pension funds and large organizational investors.

Venture capitalists invest in enterprises with a strong team and that will offer a big return – North of ten times. VC’s will be looking to invest a significant sum – enough to babysit with board members and advisors.

Procuring and managing investments in smaller sums from a good number of people is no easy chore either. A lot of time, legal fees and juggling other’s views.

Once you’ve generated some sales and can see you’ve got something real you may need to hire some people and incur some expenses. Look to debt to fund you.

I used credit cards to first fund LexBlog and a previous company. In LexBlog’s case, we never hired another employee until the credit cards had a zero balance. At times I ran them up to over $50,000.

Once your business can demonstrate it can cash flow a loan, head to a small bank. Yes, you will need to sign a guaranty and yes, you’ll need some collateral – second mortgage on your home or a lien on your non 401k/pension savings.

Small banks are looking to make loans and will lend you $25,000 to $250,000 or more. Small banks are also good financial partners to have in that they’ll be looking to see that you’re running your business prudently — something I’ve found helpful with all the crazy business models out there.

Going into debt and pledging your own assets is scary. But as my best friend, a small town banker in Wisconsin told me, “The bank isn’t looking for you to pledge your assets, they are looking to see how confident you are in your business. How confident are you?”

Sure, there are exceptions to the need for raising capital from investors. Pinching pennies, holding two jobs and borrowing money may not work for everyone.

If you can pull it off though, there’s nothing more rewarding for you and your family than knowing you’ve built something from scratch — the old fashioned way.

As of this morning, I’ve run 192 days in a row. Now I’m shooting for 200, then one year.

I run for my brain. Running each morning relieves stress, enables me to sift through matters and generates ideas.

Hey, it’s not just me, The New York Times’ Gretchen Reynolds (@GretchenReynold) reports that science sees working out, or running, to be “quite beneficial” for your brain.

I started running each morning in April, 2015. I was embarking on a retooling of LexBlog. The decisions that needed to be made would effect people, products, customers and finances. I knew it would be stressful. I knew I needed to stay mentally healthy.

I’ve found running to be the greatest stress reliever in my life since I started running after college. If I wasn’t running marathons with my friend and now my lawyer, Tom Pedreira, during law school, there’s no way I would have graduated. When you’re not that smart, law school is awfully stressful.

I missed a handful of days in 2015 and a couple in the beginning of 2016. After missing a day when I flew to the Bay Area and back in June I thought why not see how many days I could go, maybe even to the end of the year. Knowing myself, it was easier to run each morning than to skip a day a week — I’d just skip a couple more.

Big thanks to Ben at Seattle’s Sound Sports (best running store in Seattle) who turned me onto Hoka One running shoes. In December 2014 he said you’re not chasing runners down from behind and training to race marathons – “you’re old like me and can run regularly without injury with the Hoka One.” He was right.

Big thanks to my COO, Garry Vander Voort, who said it’s okay not to get in to the office first thing. “We’re better off to have you do emails and some social media at home, have a coffee, go for a run and then take the 8:45 ferry in.” I’m an Irish Catholic who’s bred to feel guilty at all times, but Garry was right.

Big thanks to Louis, my yellow lab, who runs with me each morning when I am not traveling. We’re becoming well know by the people on our island.

And thanks to my Dad who ran more mornings than not beginning in the late 1960’s. He and his running, even with Alzheimer’s, served as a good role model.

Another 173 days until a year. All so my brain doesn’t break.

We’re always thrilled when The ABA Journal releases their Blawg 100 list, because we see many familiar names from the LexBlog Network.

For those who don’t know, each year the Journal collects nominees in one of thirteen categories, often because the staff at The ABA Journal found them useful resources for finding new sources, analysis, and insights. It’s one of the biggest awards you can win as a legal blogger.

This year we’re pleased to recognize the 17 blogs from the LexBlog Network featured on the list! Congratulations to them, and all the blogs nominated. You guys make us proud.

Solo and small firm lawyers get lost in the maze of legal products and services. Which are helpful? How do they work? Who can I trust?

Offering a list of possible services and solutions isn’t enough. In fact, that can just lead to more confusion. Any lawyer who’s hit the exhibit floor of conferences such as the ABA TechShow or ALM’s LegalTech knows what I mean. The average lawyer is overwhelmed.

The American Bar Association stepped up to the plate last week to help solos and small firms on this front. ABA Blueprint offers lawyers a one-stop shop for legal products and services.

Rather than a compilation of providers or a bar affinity program offering discounts alone, Blueprint, with a dynamic Web interface, walks ABA members through  “Firm Builder,” chatbot-like tool that offers customized practice solutions based on members’ individual practice needs and free live consultations with practice management experts. The application can be used on desktop and mobile devices.

ABA BLueprint

ABA Blueprint

Universal Solutions, an alternative way to build your firm on Blueprint, is open to any lawyer and offers solutions and services tailored to starting a firm, getting paid, growing your firm, building a team, e-discovery and insuring your future.

From practice management solutions, billing tools, virtual assistants, insurance, and marketing technology, Blueprint offers steep ABA member discounts to over a dozen services, including:

  • Ruby receptionists, a virtual reception service
  • Clio, a cloud based practice management solution
  • Lawpay
  • Lexicata
  • Quickbooks Online
  • Microsoft Office 365
  • LexBlog (us), a comprehensive blogging solution

No question that Blueprint offers value to lawyers. The names of trusted solution providers and discounts that more than cover ABA dues make sure of that.

The ABA is making a sincere effort to help lawyers with Blueprint. First discussed this last summer, the ABA at the impetus of its current president, Linda Klein (@lindakleinlaw), moved quickly (uncharacteristic for ABA) to get Blueprint to market.

When I first heard of ABA Blueprint, I asked on Twitter how LexBlog could help. I received an immediate response on Twitter from Nicole Bradick, Chief Strategy Officer of CuroLegal, which developed Blueprint in concert with the ABA. She connected me with their CEO, Chad Burton, who quickly put together a deal with LexBlog that offered ABA members our most liberal discount.

It’s easy to be cynical of the ABA and criticize their offerings for lawyers (me included), but Blueprint is on its way to offering lawyers meaningful solutions in a method that scales – through technology and partnerships.

Last week, we held a Law Blogger Con Meetup in New York City. Though the event was hosted by the New York City Bar Association, I was concerned that not too many folks heard of the get together.

So in addition to spreading the word via email, social media and LinkedIn messages, I started a Meetup group a few days before entitled Law Blogger Con New York City.

  • I entered a name for the group, it’s location, a group description and my profile.
  • I selected up to fifteeen topics by which Meetup users in the area with relevant interests would be identified of the group.
  • I entered a description of the event, who may be interested (lawyers, law students, law professors and other legal professionals), the location and the time.
  • I approved Meetup’s announcing the group to Meetup users.
  • Meetup announced formation of the group and the Law Blogger Con.

About twenty people registered for the group with three or four rsvp’ing. In addition to others attending by virtue of other invites, we had a few come by virtue of Meetup. Some of them entered positive reviews.

The good part of using Meetup for me is that this group continues on. Users can continue to register, I’ll invite more New Yorkers to register and those registered will receive an invite to our next Law Blogger Con to be held the beginning of February.

We’re only thirty-one in size now, but I could see this group growing to two or three-hundred people.

As way of background, and I am sure you’ve received such Meetup invites, Meetup is an online social networking portal that facilitates offline group meetings around the world. Meetup enables members to find and join groups unified by a common interest, whether it be the law, business or even, law blogging.

Users enter their city or their postal code and tag the topics they want to meet about. The website/app helps them locate a group to arrange a place and time to meet. Topic listings are also available for users who only enter a location. The cost to the organizer is nominal.

Among other things, group functions include:

  • Schedule meetings and automate notices to members for the same
  • The ability to assign different leadership responsibilities and access to the group data
  • The ability to accept RSVPs for an event
  • The ability to monetize groups, accept and track membership and/or meeting payments through WePay
  • Create a file repository for group access
  • Post photo libraries of events
  • Manage communications between group members
  • Post group polls
  • Allow users to contact other Meetup group members.

Sure there are CRM’s and other organizing tools, but Meetup pulls in people with relevant interests you’d have never met. I met a lawyer from Merril Lynch and a legal marketing professional I would not have otherwise met.

Meetup also gets you out there, as the event organizer, as someone or an organization as a little more innovative in nature. After all, Meetup is a fairly new phenomena. But with over 28 million users and 261,000 groups, it’s impact is growing.

LexBlog is going to start Law Blogger Con events around the country. We’ll use email, LinkedIn and social media to get the word out. My gut tells me though that a Meetup Group for each city will be key in growing attendance and camaraderie.

Stay tuned.