I don’t get word out from the factory floor often enough. I’ll try to do better. 

Our tech and development team worked weekends in February to upgrade LexBlog’s managed WordPress platform to PHP 7.2.

PHP is a programming and scripting language to create dynamic interactive websites. WordPress is written using PHP as the scripting language. Like WordPress, PHP is also  Open Source and used by countless developers and managed platforms, worldwide. 

Why should you and other digital publishers care about our upgrade? 

  • PHP 5.6 and PHP 7.0 are officially no longer supported by the foundation that manages PHP – this means no more updates to those versions making them a huge security hole for people still using those versions.
  • PHP 7.2 provides around a 20-25% performance bump from PHP 7.0 meaning sites will be faster and our servers can handle a greater number of inbound requests.
  • PHP 7.2 includes some nifty security benefits and as the WordPress core team pushes all of WordPress users to utilize more modern versions of PHP, these benefits will help protect passwords/emails/etc.

As reported by WordPress, only 12.6% of WordPress installations are on PHP 7.2. while around 56% are on PHP version 5.6 or older. 

This represents a huge problem for those site owners running on older versions of PHP – and another reason why lawyers and law firms should be running WordPress and any digital publishing platform on a managed platform which can seamlessly roll out upgrades just as you’d receive them on any SaaS solution. 

Thanks Jared, Scott, Angelo and Josh for another job well done. 

Reviewing state bar association websites and their online publications, we’re finding that the vast majority do not include a listing of their member attorneys’ law blogs.

There are exceptions. I gave a shoutout today to the State Bar of Arizona and veteran journalist and editor of the Arizona Attorney Magazine, Tim Eigo for their work in creating and running the Arizona Attorney Blog Network

Bar association websites, as they should, routinely list resources for member lawyers and the public. Even though law blogs represent some of the best, if not the best, legal reporting, information and commentary – for the public and lawyers – blogs are largely absent from bar websites.

Resources for the public on websites include pamphlets, ask-a-lawyer, call a lawyer, self-help articles and lawyer referral services.

Imagine adding a listing of blogs sharing practical and regular insight from caring and experienced practitioners from cities, large and small, across your state. 

Better yet, imagine a flow of blog content across a bar site page or online publication of curated law blog content. A living and breathing resource for the public and lawyers.

A number of bar association sites have bar association or bar section blogs with contributions from members attorneys. They’re good.

Democratizing such blogs to include contributions from independent bloggers or a listing of such independent blogs and their publishers who are members of the bar would only add greater value to member attorneys – and the public.

All bar associations discuss the merit of lawyers and how they serve people. Law blogs – in some states, over a hundred of them – and their lawyer publishers are living proof that lawyers do care and are willing to share information and insight freely with the public.

Shine a light on these women and men who are blogging. It’ll keep them blogging, keep them them giving lawyers a good name and keep them establishing trust in lawyers in your state. 

I empathize with bar associations in that many are understaffed and underfunded. The idea of handing more work – getting law blogs on a website or online publication – to some of the most hard working and dedicated people around is not appealing. 

Perhaps with some planning and effort over time – and help from LexBlog – we can make a little headway in getting some of the better legal information and commentary available to members of bar associations and the public. 

The World Wide Web is thirty years old today.

The Internet may have existed for twenty years before the WWW, but it was not until English scientist Tim Berners-Lee brought us the Web So that documents and resources could be shared and linked to via Uniform Reosource Locators (URL’s).

A year later, Berners-Lee brought us the first software to display web pages on terminals called the Line Mode Browser.

It was not until 1993 when a Marc Andreessen led team at the University of Illinois brought us the Mosaic browser and then Netscape built on Mosaic a year later in 1994 that the Web became democratized – usable by the masses.

Matt Mullenweg, the co-founder of WordPress celebrated the Web’s 30th anniversary by sharing that WordPress was created fourteen years after the birth of the Web with the mission to democratize publishing.

Democratize publishing WordPress did. As recently as twenty years ago, it was unheard of for anyone to have ready and inexpensive access to a printing press and a worldwide distribution network. Today, WordPress open source software has made this a reality. 

At the same time, LexBlog saw law blogs as the democratization of legal publishing. Lawyers everywhere could build their name as trusted and reliable authorities in niche areas of law.

Until then, large legal publishing and media companies held the reigns to legal publishing Only those legal professionals approved by these gatekeepers could write and publish, whether it was a journal, news, commentary or information piece.

Now, any legal professional may publish and distribute news, insight and commentary. LexBlog, with 22,000 law bloggers contributing to its network is, as Ed Walters, the CEO of Fastcase, describes it, the largest newsroom in the history of legal journalism. 

We talk of AI and other technology bringing us extraordinary change in the years ahead. But, arguably, the digital printing press, enabling anyone to communicate, advance ideas and collaborate is the most powerful piece of technology we’ll see in our lifetimes. 

Mind too that we are witnessing all of these changes in many of our lifetimes. Vinton Cerf, recognized as one of the fathers of the Internet itself. was born just a decade before me.

We’re not talking Bell or Edison. In celebration of this 30th anniversary, Cerf tweeted a picture of he and Berners-Lee joking about who invented what.

When I think of it being only 16 years since the advent of the digital printing press and LexBlog grabbing it to build a managed WordPress platform for the law (thanks Matt), it feels like we are just getting started in democratizing legal publishing. 

Bob Ambrogi made clear in his talk last week that the future of legal journalism is founded on law blogs. Law blogs, rather than treaditional legal journalism and reporting, are now the primary source for legal news, information and commentary.

Law blogs whose content is now being aggregated and curated by LexBlog into a meaningful network of content and contributors segregated by channel, industries and topics. And which content is distributed via the Web, email and social media. 

Rather lawyers, law firms and some legal tech companies hiring public relations and marketing agencies to get them in what they perceive as the news, these organizations are creating the news with their niche blog publications.

No gate keepers. No relying on reporters whose publications are often behind behind pay walls.

Sadly, the vast majority of legal technology companies have chosen not to participate this legal journalism of today. 

If there any one group spending a lot of money PR and marketing an attempt to get coverage, while at the same time producing so little of their own journalism,. it’s legal tech companies. The same legal tech companies heavily represented at Ambrogi’s talk on the future of journalism – founded on the contributions of companies just like them.

Legal tech companies regularly tell me “We’re going to hire someone to handle our blogging and social media, then we’ll be covered. As if a 25 year old employee with no domain expertise on your technology and its role in the industry is going to help.

A credible alternative would be to look at doing six to twelves pieces a year and have those pieces flow into LexBlog and across social media.

You’ll pick up each a company profile page, a personal profile page and a page for your independent publication – a publication indexed on your domain, not LexBlog’s domain.

Need a platform and an independent publication site, LexBlog can do it for you. But we’ll do all of the above, including circulating your commentary, for free.

If this is too hard, then you should revisit why you have a company to start with – or at a minimum question whether you understand news and marketing today.

  • Six to twelve posts a year. That’s six to twenty hours a year.
  • Posts of 400 to 750 words, no one is looking for 1,000 words, unless it’s necessary to get your point across. This is true journalism, not some lengthy word count that marketers are encouraging companies to do for SEO. 
  • Share what you’ve been reading and what it means; answer common questions; share what transpired at a recent conference. We’re not talking seminal brilliance here, it’s what you already know and are observing.

We’d all be the richer having legal tech entrepreneurs as legal journalists. Lawyers, law firms, other tech companies, conference/show coordinators and investors. All better informed, advancements through ensuing discussion and educated buyers.

Straight talk from the people in the know with no intermediaries, whethe those intermediaries are marketing or PR professionals packaging the message for legal tech companies or third party publishers. 

Legal tech companies would be light years ahead. Trust, relationships, and spending much, much less and getting much more when it comes to brand awareness and business. 

Legal tech company could have their own publication for $600 to $1000 a year (LexBlog prices) and have their insight and commentary further reported and syndicated by a publication headed by the dean of journalism and legal tech reporting, Bob Ambrogi.

There’s an awful lot of PR and marketing professionals chasing Ambrogi – and guys like me – to get coverage on behalf of the legal tech companies they represent. Some, unfortunately, with shallow messages that do more to hurt ther client than help them. 

Seems so simple, but legal tech companies, their founders and their marketing/Pr agencies are always reluctant to enter the world of citizen journalism.

What a missed opportunity. 

The future of legal journalism is here and that future has arrived in the form of LexBlog.com, according to Bob Ambrogi, its Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, addressing a standing room only audience of about hundred and fifty in Chicago last Thursday evening.

Speaking at the Chicago Legal Innovation and Tech meetup at Skadden, Ambrogi’s passion and vision were keenly on display. If there were any doubters of his message, Ambrogi pushed them over the top with his down to earth conviction in what he was telling us – from his personal start in legal journalism through today.

Ambrogi always wanted to be a journalist. The problem was that the year he started journalism school was the same year as Watergate — and Woodward and Bernstein. Everyone and their brother wanted to be a journalist.  To his surprise, Ambrogi’s application letters to the New York Times and the Washington Post went unanswered. 

Planning to head to journalism grad school, someone told Ambrogi that would be waste. He ought to go to law schoool, because the law was part of everything. 

Though Ambrogi practiced law for a few years, he followed his passion for journalism to found the publication, Lawyers Weekly. A publication with a national circulation that I subscribed to while practicing law in Wisconsin.

To think that I’d some day be working alongside the guy running the publication would have been pretty far fetched.  

Ambrogi went on to lead and run a host of legal publications, newspapers and newsletter services with American Lawyer Media (ALM). The guy was Editor-in-Chief of the National Law Journal.

As successful, profitable and wide reaching as these news publications were, like newspapers, they’ve hit on hard times. Less publications, fewer reporters and editors and far less coverage, per Ambrogi.

As with other industries though, the Internet presented new avenues for legal reporting. But were they the answer? 

LexisNexis owned Law360,  providing sound legal reporting, leaves us with this screen, said Ambrogi, everytime we click to reach their stories from search or social networks. Legal news is behind a pay wall, just as LexisNexis required with previously open contributions on Law.com.

Other alternatives such as Lexology and JD Supra require publishers and reporters (the lawyers) to pay to run and circulate their reporting. Distasteful to a reporter at heart like Ambrogi, and preventing legal reporting for lawyers who don’t have the money to pay for circulation.

The best and most compressive legal reporting is taking place on law blogs, per Ambrogi. Law blogs have become the leading source of legal information, news and commentary on countless topics. Search for legal news and information and you find blogs.

However there was no where that pulled all of this content from law blogs together. No where to find the blogs, the bloggers and their organizations. 

Though in its infancy as a legal news and commentary site, Ambrogi sees LexBlog as the future. Aggregated and curated legal news and commentary for delivery from law bloggers, worldwide.

You could see the pride in this veteran journalist when he told the audience that there were already 22,000 legal bloggers contributing to LexBlog – with a profile page for the blog, blogger and organization for everyone of them.

Best of all, from Ambrogi’s standpoint, was that it was all free and all open. When Ambrogi threw this slide up to say free profiles and free and open access, the response from audience members was “No way, what’s the catch, you can’t sustain that.”

Ambrogi, and I’ll confess myself included, loved the desire of audience members, many of whom were leading law professors, entrepreneurs and practicing lawyers, to learn more.

They sensed what Ed Walters, the co-founder and CEO of Fastcase, reported first hand – the LexBlog network represented the largest newsroom in the history of legal journalism. 

Perhaps more than the legal bloggers and LexBlog, it’s Bob Ambrogi delivering us the future of legal journalism. And why not.

Ambrogi’s the dean of legal journalism in an age where legal tech and innovation, exactly what he personally covers day to day, is driving the future.

If the cold of New York City weren’t enough, I am headed for another round in Chicago for the rest of the week.

ABA TechShow is what’s in store. Entrepreneurs and innovators on both sides of the aisle.

Startup and emerging growth tech companies run by entrepreneurs on one side. On the other side, lawyers operating smaller firms, who by necessity to effectively serve real people and crack the financial nut, are entrepreneurs in every sense of the word.

I’m at home with these folks. I practiced as a trial lawyer 280 miles up the road in Wisconsin for almost 20 years. I was an entrepreneur as a lawyer and have been an entrepreneur for the last 20 years in legal tech companies.

Having a beer, sharing a meal, and doing business with these women and men who are shaping the law as the law relates to the vast majority of Americans, consumers and small business people, is the stuff that life – and real law – is made of.

Rather than being dominated by large companies, some of whom totally pulled their support from TechShow, large law firms and corporate legal shops (all of which have fine people), as is the case at other legal tech conferences, there’s something real and entrepreneurial about the crowd at TechShow.

Rightfully so, call it innovation and legal tech with large law and large corporations, but it’s not not the same sort of entrepreneurship as where the mortgage and credit card bills are on the line. 

Please look me up if you want to meet, discuss blogging/digital publishing or grab coffe or a pint. I’d welcome meeting, I am not near as bad as some of the large legal publishers may say I am. (Email or text/call, 206-321-3617)

I’ll be there Wednesday through Saturday afternoon. In addition to meetings and me interviewing some of you, here’s some of what I’ll be up to.

Also want to catch up with legal bloggers, including law student bloggers, to capture your experience with blogging for a new show I am starting. 😉

Technologist and the founder of blogging, Dave Winer, blogged this week that if he were the CEO of The New York Times he would start a blog hosting service, with Times branding.

People would know, per Winer, that this is blog space, not editorial space. Blogs would be sources, from which the Times editorial people would be encouraged to quote.

Winer would also recruit people whose ideas were valuable enough to be otherwise quoted in the Times to begin to blog – or at least offer them a blog.

There would be a central place for the aggregation of all the blog posts with the ability to subscribe to individual blogs, all under reader control. 

Winer’s description of a New York Times blog hosting service sounds a lot like LexBlog and where we are going.

We have the service – more expansive than hosting alone. Had it for 15 years.

The last year plus we begin to aggregate and curate the blog posts coming from now over 20,000 legal bloggers.

With Bob Ambrogi, as Editor-in-Chief and Melissa Lin, as Associate editor, on board we’re know working on how we frame the reporting of legal news and commentary – with these bloggers being the sources, I suppose.

Though I have always had a problem with Winer’s reference to bloggers being the source.

No question bloggers are the boots on the ground, often with expertise and passion on what they’re covering. But they feel like more than someone to just quote. They are the reporter, the best and, often, the only source – they are the reporter, not a source to be quoted by a reporter or editor. 

When Winer was reporting/blogging from a national political convention almost 15 years ago, I didn’t need an edotorial person to get me his stories or to quote them, I read them direct.

Perhaps others needed Winer to be sourced for his story to get out. And perhaps legal bloggers need to be sourced for their stories to get out.

Semantics aside, a blogging service, with an aggregation and curation component, is definitely needed today to get us the reporting we need on any subject. Reporting is not there otherwise. 

In Winer’s case, to get us the news that a democracy needs to function. In the case of a LexBlog hosted legal blogging platform and network, for legal news, information and commentary to get out there to both advance the law and make the law more accessible. 

I’ve long looked at LexBlog as empowering legal journalists around the world. I like Winer’s thinking here, even if we’re not in total alignment.

There was recent discussion on Twitter and LinkedIn as to the ideal length of a law blog post.

Lost in the noise was what is real law blogging for business development. A conversation.

Listen first to what the people you want to engage/meet are saying/writing and what is being said/written about them. Then blog about what they are saying/writing or what is being said/written about them. They’ll engage you in return.

You may find the people and organizations you’ll want to engage like this will be the influencers of a lot of people that you want to reach – reporters, bloggers, respected social media users, conference coordinators, association leaders and corporate leaders. 

My company has generated a lot of business from my blog (company was in fact built from my blog), but most of our customers did not find me from my blog posts nor had they ever read my blog.

My company and I built trust and a reputation through blogging, or perhaps better called, networking through the Internet.

Networking in person I have never measured the amount of words I used in talking with people as a measure of success and I’ll not do so online – though I have a problem going long in each case.

I understand there are other purposes for blogs, or for writing on blog software, that being reporting and long form analysis – that’s great and it works for many purposes – including, if done right, building a name and relationships resulting in business development.

If you’re chasing stats, clicks, likes, comments as the true measure of success and developing a word count strategy to get these, things can get confusing. Things also get noisy if you listen to all the marketing advice about the perfect way of doing this or that on the Internet.

Say what you need to say in engaging people, often not your clients and prospective clients, to engage people strategically, and move on.

It’s a fun and rewarding way to blog. 

Bob Ambrogi reported this morning that Axiom, a global legal services company providing legal professionals and technology to legal departments in the largest companies in the world, is going public.

Made me wonder who were the “alternative” legal service providers of today. Companies like Axiom or traditional law firms?

After all, Axiom already has 2,000 employees across three continents.  

A few weeks ago, Frank Ready of Legaltech News reported that Elevate, providing consulting, technology and services to major corporations and law firms, worldwide, is considering purchasing a UK law firm and going public, following the recent acquisition of two companies.

From Elevate’s founder and executive chair, Liam Brown:

We’d rather bring in public company capital so that the management team can continue to control the strategy and direction and growth of the business.

When companies such as Axiom and Elevate were started, they were viewed as alternatives to the way legal services had been provided by traditional law firms. They were labeled and are still called a “Alternative Legal Service Provider (ALSP).” 

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of ALSP’s today. They include LegalZoom down to smaller companies with Apps delivering legal services to consumers and small business people. Services that law firms could either not provide or not provide in the manner consumers expected services in an Amazon next day delivery world.

Thomson Reuters reported last month that ALSPs comprise $10.7 billion of the market for legal services, a compounded annual growth rate of almost 13% percent compared to just two years ago. The ALSP market is projected to grow by 25% over the next few years. Significantly greater growth than the traditional legal services market. 

Rather than label ALSP’s being the alternative, why not call a law firm an alternative legal service provider also. 

On one side you have any argunbaly more expensive, inefficient and tech deficient model run by law firms. 

On the other side we have companies driven by delivering services as efficiently and cost effectively as possible by leveraging innovation and technology in a fashion not hamstrung by the way it’s been done. 

I may be a bit cynical. There are many fine law firms delivering valued services. It appears though that the venture capital and public capital markets view what’s been labeled an alternative model as one that corporations, worldwide, will use an awful lot of for legal services. 

It was Justin Kan, who has raised over $65 million from the likes of Andreessen Horowitz, for his legal services company, Atrium, who said something to the effect, that when he found an industry model based on being inefficient, he wanted in. 

Ambrogi asked Cisco Chief Legal Officer, Mark Chandler, about ALSP’s in a recent edition of Ambrogi’s LawNext podcast. Ambrogi, paraphrasing a bit, relayed to me on Facebook, that Chandler  “doesn’t like the word “alternative.” He is open to any legal services provider who will offer him good quality and good value for the money.”

Law firms, Axiom, Atrium, Elevate, LegalZoom, and consumer legal serveices apps companies, they are alternative legal services providers today.