We are seeking someone with passion to become our Communications and Marketing Lead.

Working with company leadership, team members and external resources, you will develop, lead and execute all internal and external communications and marketing, reaching people and organizations, worldwide.

This is not a position for someone seeking the monotony of a larger organization. You will be challenged to work outside your comfort zone in order to grow professionally and personally. We will support you and provide opportunities for growth because we believe in helping our team members realize their potential and dreams.

Responsibilities include:

  • Live and communicate LexBlog’s values, internally and externally. Our values enable team members to act with “Integrity in the Moment of Choice” and our audience to know us.
  • Own and present the LexBlog brand, internally and externally.
  • Develop and lead an authentic social media plan, calling on the talent, energy and personal involvement of the entire LexBlog team.
  • Develop and execute your own personal brand via social media, conferences and business relationships.
  • Develop, recommend, and lead company communications and marketing plans.
  • Increase recognition of the company and our products.
  • Work closely with our sales team so that they may help you, and you them.

You will own this role if:

  • You like having fun
  • You like growing
  • You like working with company leadership on a regular basis
  • Have a ton of energy
  • Have a passion for social media, no matter the form
  • You are organized and systematic to a fault
  • You like people and enjoy meeting new people
  • You are a good writer
  • You know done is better than perfect
  • You do what it takes

About LexBlog

Founded in 2004 to empower lawyers to increase their visibility and accelerate their business relationships through blogging, LexBlog is the hub that brings together many of the best legal minds on the web. Its publishing platform, offered as software as a service (SaaS), powers more than 15,000 legal bloggers and over half of the nearly 1,500 blogs published by the 200 largest U.S. law firms. By expanding LexBlog to blogs not published on its platform, LexBlog is building the largest and most comprehensive legal news and information network in the world.

Look forward to talking with you. Drop an email to kevin@lexblog.com or  jobs@lexblog.com.

PS - LexBlog believes in hiring PhD’s* (poor, hungry and driven).

* “We’re not talking about people being poor economically. We’re talking about being poor in terms of knowledge, about people who are constantly searching to learn more, to find more wisdom. And hungry in this context refers to those with a tremendous desire to succeed, people who won't ever be satisfied with an ordinary level of accomplishment. And driven people are the ones who set ambitious goals and then pursue them with real ferocity.” - Mario Gabelli

The CEO of LexisNexis, Mike Walsh received a letter this last week from Michael Best’s James Fieweger, a former Asssiatant U.S. Attorney skilled in criminal and state and federal investigations.

A letter accusing Walsh’s company of anticompetitive sales practices and asking that it cease those practices and enter into a dialog with the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) leaders, “as opposed to legal or commercial action.”

AALL is the only national association dedicated to the legal information profession and its professionals. Founded over a century ago on the belief that people —lawyers, judges, students, and the public—need timely access to relevant legal information to make sound legal arguments and wise legal decisions.

Its almost 5,000 members are problem solvers of the highest order from major law firms, law libraries, law schools and various state, federal and municipal bodies. AALL fosters the profession by offering its members knowledge, leadership, and community that make the whole legal system stronger.

What won’t LexisNexis talk about with these 5,000 customers and their representatives? LexisNexis’ practice of tying alleged lesser products to products in greater demand. Want the later, buy the former too.

As LexBlog’s editor-in-chief and publisher, Bob Ambrogi reports:

…[F]irms have historically been able to purchase from LexisNexis the publications and services that fit their needs. They could, for example, purchase specialized materials such as Moore’s Federal Practice, various treatises, or analytical tools such as Lex Machina, without having to license Lexis Advance.

No more says LexisNexis, per Fieweger,

Since July 2017, however, AALL has received numerous reports from law firm-affiliated members that LexisNexis has adopted a new sales policy. Under the new policy, firms are required to purchase a license to Advance before they can purchase access to other LexisNexis publications and products. And those firms that do not wish to purchase Advance, for whatever reason, have been foreclosed from accessing other products they have used in their practice for years and, in some cases, for decades.

AALL has attempted to discuss this potentially illegal tying arrangement, but as the letter to Walsh states, “to date, LexisNexis’ response has been vague, incomplete, and unsatisfactory, evincing no interest or intent to revoke or otherwise modify the practice in question.”

We’re not talking small law firms that LexisNexis is kissing off.  Jean O’Grady, senior director of information, research and knowledge services at DLA Piper and former chair of the Private Law Libraries Section of AALL, reports from her blog that she’s seen LexisNexis take “an increasingly combative stance” in contract negotiations with customers like her firm.

Greg Lambert, chief knowledge services officer at Jackson Walker, shares on his blog, that what LexisNexis is doing in tying Advance and other products such as Law360 is going to serve as a wake up call to firm leaders that LexisNexis is harming the industry and is only trying to prop up a product that cannot stand on its own.

If LexisNexis were talking and listening to its customers, they’d not be exerting this “kiss off, we’ve got a monopoly” approach.

It’s not just at the sales and business development level where LexisNexis folks are refusing to talk, it’s an attitude that’s top down from company leadership.

I’m not sure I know what Mike Walsh looks like, let alone have I ever read one of his blog posts, mutually shared thoughts with him on Twitter or engaged him on LinkedIn or Facebook.

If not Walsh, who then in LexisNexis leadership engages folks on the Internet. Who develops trust for the company? Who gets out and shows that the company cares? Who from LexisNexis has engaged leaders in the library and knowledge field enough that that these folks enjoy taking your call or having a drink with you at next month’s AALL annual conference.

I get it. “I’m the CEO. I’m the Executive VP of Sales. I don’t have time to get out and engage customers and their influencers such as O’Grady and Lambert on the Internet. I don’t even know how. I have marketing and communications folks handling that.”

What you’re really saying is that I am going to push, trick, and cajole our mediocre products into your hands at as a high a price as a I can get. If that doesn’t work, I’ll force you to take my mediocre stuff by tying it to stuff you really want.

Those days are dead. Marketing and selling today is an online conversation establishing trust and relationships.

It would be great to see Walsh at the AALL annual mingling with customers. Perhaps set up a time to field questions.

Ambrogi is the leading reporter and commenator in legal tech and innovation. He’s known and trusted by AALL members.  I’m sure Ambrogi would be happy to sit down with Walsh for an interview on Facebook Live or otherwise.

In face of what O’Grady calls a revolt by the AALL, “LexisNexis should open up about its policies,” says Ambrogi. “Neither it nor its customers are well served by its keeping its lips sealed.”

Ambrogi’s right. LexisNexis owes the legal profession that much.

The vanity marketing for lawyers is a huge one.

The latest entry comes from  U.S. News & World Report which announced in a press release last week that, in partnership with Best Lawyers, it is releasing an online legal directory of lawyers.

The directory will start with less than 100,000 lawyers, but will eventually include over 1.3 million private-practice lawyers. It is not clear whether law firm and bar association sites will be “scrapped” to get lawyer listings or whether the directory listings are being supplied by Best Lawyers. Law firms can, of course, supply information and there is a FAQ on the site for more info.

Client reviews will not be included, unless a lawyer pays $30 a month for a premium profile.

Best Lawyers media relations manager, Katie Morgan, tells the ABA Journal, lawyers can delete the reviews they don’t like, “and decide which ones, if any, to publish on their profile,”

In addition to being able to publish favorable reviews, lawyers paying the $30 a month may display rankings and awards with their profile in “ an ad-free experience.” Presumably this means that ads from competing lawyers and law firms will be sold around the directory listings of non-paying lawyers.

Lawyers will pay for this listing. The more directory listings the better for many lawyers. The more online walls to hang their plaques and awards. Better yet, for $30 a month, you get a valuable link back to your website for SEO. A link from an influential news authority like U.S. News was.

The press release says the comprehensive guide will serve as a valuable resource for consumers seeking legal assistance. But how valuable is the information to people and businesses when selecting a lawyer?

Tim Smart, executive editor of U.S. News, says:

U.S. News helps millions of people each year make complex decisions, from finding the right hospital or doctor to identifying the best college, online program or graduate school. We’re delighted to team up with Best Lawyers to offer our audience new legal resources.

U.S. News bills itself as “the global authority in rankings and consumer advice.” Best Lawyers® bills itself as “the world’s only purely peer-review™ guide to top talent in the legal profession.”

“The global authority” and “the world’s only purely peer-review.” I don’t know.

And look at the standard for lawyers getting into the directory.

Inclusion in the Lawyer Directory is solely based on whether an attorney is currently working in private practice. A lawyer does not need to be ranked by U.S. News or Best Lawyers to appear on the site, and there is no charge for a lawyer’s basic information to appear in the U.S. News Lawyer Directory.

A lawyer in private practice needs to be breathing to qualify for inclusion in the directory.

Where does it stop and couldn’t we, as lawyers and law firms, do better?

I get the need for directories – maybe. But more of them? And to cast your directory as special and authoritative, which this one doesn’t appear to be.

As a lawyer, why not use the Internet in a little more constructive way – by helping businesses and individuals and building a name for yourself – rather than buying vanity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For bloggers, Barron says content syndication is greatly beneficial.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s the answer?

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

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

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

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

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

Who knew? Law blogs and Seinfeld.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All a little sad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why should a bar association care?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The study’s findings confirmed my feelings.

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

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

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

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

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

Focus on the value of a smartphone, says Veissière.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.