John Barker (@contentbarker), Vice President of Strategy & Competitive Intelligence for Wolters Kluwer, asked this week, “What Can Legal Citators Learn from Facebook?

Barker’s point being that social networking and social media drives discussion and collaboration around all topics today. We benefit from crowd wisdom. Why couldn’t our legal profession learn from Facebook as to how we could advance the law and surface secondary authority referencing primary law?

As way of background, a legal citator is a citation index of legal resources.  The best-known of which is Shepard’s. Given a case, code or regulation, a citator allows you, as legal researcher, to find newer writings which cite the original source and thus to reconstruct the judicial history of cases, codes, regulations etc.

Well today with open publishing (blogs) and memorialized discussion of the law (social networking and social media), linking one book or one piece of paper to another, even if by a computer, is a bit antiquated. It also slows down the advancement of the law and the connecting of the like minded.

From Barker:

Think a moment of how Facebook works. Members of the social media network can make a post or share an article, reply to it, share it again, comment on it, etc. Who can see the post and those subsequent annotations depends on permissions set by the poster: specific friends, all friends and the public. Those comments and shares can be seen as a sort of commentary.

Barker sees the Facebook model working in the world of legal citation indexes in a few different ways.

  • Collaborative annotations in the citator as a marketing tool. Lawyers, law professors and law students might welcome sharing their insight and commentary for the influence, authority and word of mouth they would build. Citator customers could even set up alerts to follow certain lawyers.
  • Intelligent filtering: not all comments are desirable. Citators could use algorithms and sentiment analysis just like Facebook to surface the most valuable and relevant commentary.
  • Wisdom of the crowd. Facebook enables likes, shares and comments to determine the most popular commentary. Citators could enable paying customers to vote. I differ with Barker here as I’d leave it open to the masses to capture the best sentiment with filters/algorithms eliminating the static.

When it comes to major legal publishers, Barker’s been ahead of the pack in driving discussion on the role of blogs and social media in legal publishing and research. His comments are sound and signal where we are headed.

To think we are going to continue to do legal research in ways similar to the way we are doing it now is nuts. Lawyers, law students and law professors are walking around with a computer in their pocket conducting legal dialogue on an open network that’s world-wide 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Social signals (huge data) will soon eclipse editors as the means of surfacing the most relevant and valuable information. This is already happening in e-discovery.

Information services and publishers like Wolters Kluwer can learn a lot from a guy like Mark Zuckerberg (and his thousands of engineers). We all can.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Scott Beale

John Barker (@contentbarker), the VP of Strategy & Competitive Intelligence for Wolters Kluwer, blogged this morning on the increasing need for current awareness in the business of law.

Both law firms and in-house legal departments have obvious business development needs.

  • Law firms want to maintain and/or increase revenues from existing clients by delivering more value as well as find new clients.
  • Corporate legal departments must engage in business development by showing greater return on investment from the department’s budget, and  increase awareness about the importance of engaging legal department earlier in the product development process.

How are they doing they going to meet these business development needs? Conversations with law firms and corporate legal departments around the world lead Barker to believe current awareness is a big key.

  • Practice of law current awareness, specifically, knowing about the latest cases, legislation, regulations, etc., needs to focus on the impact on the client’s business. Law firms representing pharmaceutical companies and the corporate legal departments within them, need to understanding tax, labor, privacy, antitrust, securities, corporate law, etc., in the context of the pharmaceutical industry, not only from the perspective of a particular area of law.
  • Current awareness needs to shift from an area-of-law focus to a focus on the intersection of multiple areas of law in the context of a particular client’s industry or product line. Think of the legal team working on complex cross-border mergers & acquisitions. A single case, regulation or statute could have consequences for tax, labor, securities and corporate law. The intersection of each of these practice areas can affect the speed and goals of a transaction. Current awareness thus needs to explain its relevance to all of those practice areas and how it can impact a transaction.

There can multiple ways for lawyers to maintain current awareness but blogging has to be near the top of the list.  From me, as opposed to Barker:

  • The most important aspect of blogging is listening to influential sources on the law and industry as well as to key words and key phrases relevant to the industry.
  • Listening via an RSS reader or Twitter, the lifeblood of bloggers, gets lawyers outside the law and listening to industry sources and experts around the world.
  • Blogging is more of conversation than writing content. By listening to influential legal and industry sources and engaging them via blogging, a lawyer is learning in a collaborative fashion, much like attending leading industry and legal conferences.
  • Blogging puts lawyers front and center for having current awareness. Being one of the handful of ‘go to’ lawyers on niches established, or enhanced, through blogging is worth its weight in business development gold.
  • Blogging requires learning through multiple senses – reading from those you are following, digesting mentally, keying things up, reviewing your thoughts on the screen, reviewing feedback from others, digesting that feedback, and responding to that feedback. How many other learning channels does a lawyer use that are as powerful for building current awareness?
  • Blogging, along with ancillary social media, demonstrates what you are listening to and learning in an open and transparent way. Other lawyers may be listening and reading, but how is that demonstrated to to their audience?
  • In-house legal does not blog much, but may want to, especially on a private blog alerting corporate members of potential legal issues. A blog could share items they are finding via RSS feeds and Twitter.

I have talked with John on multiple occasions on the changing landscape in large law and the role that large companies such as Wolters Kluwer may play world-wide. We have not talked of current awareness, specifically, for business development before.

I cannot think of a better way to demonstrate current awareness than blogging.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Daniela Kantorova

mobile desktop legal researchRaymond Blijd (@legalcomplex), Project Manager Online Innovation of Wolters Kluwer, makes a compelling case that we are witnessing the death of legal research on desktop in his post today.

While Health and especially Finance went full throttle in mobile, driven respectively by pure need and speed, other business markets have been slower to adopt. Yet, this anxious stance does not reflect reality: PC shipments will only be 20.6% of the total market of smart connected devices. Tablets are forecast to overtake PC sales entirely this Christmas. By 2017,total traditional PC devices are expected to drop to 13%, while tablets and smartphones will contribute 16.5% and 70.5% respectively to the overall market. Those that cling towards a PC oriented design strategy will face extinction just as the operating system and software needed to run it.

No question there’s an undercurrent of lawyers who believe it’ll never happen.

I hear them…these voices all around me…whispering: they will never do legal research on a smartphone, the screen is too small! How can lawyers or any knowledge professional do research on a mobile device? These voices weren’t whispers 2 years ago, they were loud and clear and drove me to write about it. Mobile consumes and desktop creates, no if and’s or buts. Now several events hopefully will exorcise these faint yet persistent notions and help us embrace our enlightened reality.

These events include the inevitable phasing out of desktops as the principal way we’ll be connected to the net. Research, after all, mandates being online. Mobile versus desktop legal research Add to this that mobile apps are arguably better and more innovative than many desktop applications. Innovative engineers want to work for companies developing applications for mobile more than for desktop applications. Companies developing applications, knowing where the world is going, are going to put their money on mobile apps over desktop apps.

Wolters Kluwer, per Blijd, is rethinking and redesigning research for any screen size and in all environments. I blogged a couple months ago that Wolters Kluwer migrated 32 medical publications to iPad and asked why not legal publications.

Of course there will be arguments that lawyers are different. I heard that when I suggested lawyers could travel with an iPad in place of their laptop toady. Blijd isn’t buying it.

Legal professionals spend between 40-50 hours on computers. Yet, they spend only 15 hours (30%) on research. Now here’s my question: if 70% on computers is not spent on research, than what are they doing? I presume emailing, drafting, scheduling or reading the news? I haven’t gotten my hands on studies to confirm this. But if so, do you really need a desktop for those “non research” activities?

Keyboards and monitor size are not an issue. They’re merely tools which can be plugged into a mobile device as needed for personal convenience.

It’s that computer in your palm or pocket that’s driving things. That computer that is infinitely more powerful than that computer we used in a law office 2o years ago. A computer that wasn’t even hooked up to something called the Internet.

Mobile is no doubt coming and will eclipse a desktop, not only for legal research, but also for practice management, writing, billing, and business development (blogging and social media included).

In three or four years we may not even use the terms, desktop or mobile. It’ll be a computer – or a tablet – or a smartphone – or maybe just a tool.

Image courtesy of Flickr by CALI.

Wolters Kluwer, one of the largest publishers in the world, and a big player in the legal publishing arena, has migrated 32 of its medical journals onto the iPad. This per Marc Iskowitz at Medical Marketing and Media.

The reason is the growing number of doctors and consumers using an iPad and advertisers wanting to reach them, particularly doctors.

In 2011, already more than 80% of US physicians owned a smart phone and, by now, an estimated 60% also use an iPad, while at least 40% of US doctors claim to go online during patient consultations, mostly with smart phones (Manhattan Research).

And among the general population, Google predicts that in 2012, for the first time ever, there will be more smart phone shipments than PC shipments in the US.

Mobile platforms are tailor-made for healthcare. “Mobile offers tremendous contextual cues that can connect with consumers in retail, in physician offices and throughout the day to help direct them to Rx brands and manage their health,” notes Martin O’Brien, partner at Rosetta.

The iPad opens up further possibilities for physicians, allowing them to show images and video clips to patients, and to more easily write clinical notes and check patient records.

It would only seem to be a matter of time that legal publications be migrated to the iPad. Already 30% of lawyers use an iPad and the iPad represents a wonderful tool not only for receiving legal information, but also engaging a lawyer’s target audience for business development.

ALM does not appear to have a clear digital plan though and LexisNexis’ alleged failure to invest in technology combined with its parent, Reed Elsevier taking subscription price hits with the growth of open access, has some in the UK financial community calling for its sale.

It’s possible that legal blogs, and the curation of such content, will lead the legal publishing vertical to the iPad.

We already have legal blogs on the LexBlog Network being showcased on Flipboard, with a number of posts on the network being called out as ‘Popular on Flipboard’ each day. We have law reviews moving from print to blogs. With the legal profession moving to mobile versus PC’s and the growing use of iPad’s why not all law reviews on iPad, maybe Flipboard.

It may take a little longer for legal publishing to move to the iPad than medical publishing, but we’ll get there.


Publishing Open Source
Image c/o opensourceway
John Barker (@contentbarker), Vice President of Strategy & Competitive Intelligence for Wolters Kluwer, posted this morning about the ‘Integration of Social Media and Government Content as Inspiration for the Private Sector.’ Barker pointed out the increasing use of social media by the US Government, the EU, and other national governments and agencies. What struck me was that despite pointing out the benefits of social media such as speed and open commentary, Barker played the card that social media may not be authoritative enough for true professionals doing research.

Do professional researchers truly want social media integrated into their research experience? There certainly is the issue of presenting too many documents to the professional trying to resolve a client’s question. Social media could be simply “too noisy.” Another issue is that of authority. Professional human editors author explanations that presuppose the complex relative authority of different sources of law. Social media is not a source of law. Anyone who retrieves search results from social media alongside human editorially reviewed content must filter out irrelevant content and be knowledgeable about the relative authority of all content types retrieved by the search. For example, if you run a search in a public search engine, you might retrieve links to official government sources of law alongside Twitter feeds and videos on YouTube. Professional customers value the extensive post-search filters that professional research services apply to human editorially reviewed content.

Barker comes from a background in professional publishing, including serving as a Product Manager and Executive Legal Consultant at LexisNexis and an Account Manager for Thomson Reuters. That’s a publishing background that guys like me are not equipped with, but it’s a background where companies sell books and, and now, online research with the value adds being 1) production of the content with strong editorial oversight (authority), 2) distribution of the content, and 3) vehicles to consume the content (books, online environments, and apps). With the advent of blogs and other social media, do traditional publishers play as important a role? Academics, government authorities, and practicing professionals (lawyers, scientists, doctors) all can publish via blogs (production). Distribution of content comes from RSS to readers and social media, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Consumption comes from apps produced by companies who specialize in apps for the consumption of content (think iPad, Kindle, Flipboard). Authority? Traditional publishers have a small pool editors of their choosing who bring their biases to the table, whether biased by strong beliefs or bias fueled by the companies underwriting the editors research. Social media, with information moving at lightening speed, brings collaboration, learning, vetting, and peer review like we have never had before. Arguably far stronger than the authority traditional publishers can bring. Barker acknowledges there is an opportunity for traditional publishers to harness social media and “…[T]o determine the best way to integrate social media into human editorially reviewed search results.” He continues that “Prototypes that experiment with different models of integrating social media into search results would be helpful.” The fact is professionals and companies are already integrating social media into their research. Prototypes integrating social media into search results is already happening. Google alone, has 100 times the engineers as traditional publishers will ever have already working on this and giving us live prototypes ala ‘Search Plus the World.’ What’s missing is traditional publishers not freeing up their content , writers, and publishers to have their research, insight, and commentary so that it can be integrated into social search and social discovery. The genie is not going back in the bottle. Information is best open and free flowing. More and more professionals are realizing that each day. We’re not going back to the day where traditional publishers can demand that social media be integrated into their research. We’re moving forward to the day where content from traditional publishers will be integrated into social media, or in other words, open source publishing.  

Attorney and media consultant, Bob Ambrogi, has a post this morning reviewing Thomson Reuters new site covering the Supreme Court’s 2011-2012 term, called Case by Case: The U.S. Supreme Court. The site is part of Thomson Reuters’ (owner of Westlaw) push into enhanced legal coverage through the web.

Bottom line Ambrogi says if you want snappy visuals the Thomson Reuters site is for you, but if you are looking for substantive information, look elsewhere.

The site uses interactive graphical tools to help users find information about the court, the justices and the cases, with links to analytical and legal materials, including motions, briefs and opinions. While the graphical elements hold the promise of being useful, the site’s usefulness is quickly lost for anyone who does not have a Westlaw subscription…….

…Although the site provides links to briefs, decisions and various other documents, all links lead to Westlaw. If you want to see the petitioner’s brief in a case, you’ll need a Westlaw subscription. If you want to see the court’s decision in a case, you’ll need a Westlaw subscription…….

If any of this were content proprietary to Westlaw, I might understand this set up. But many if not most of these documents are publicly available online. The Supreme Court’s opinions are available directly from the court itself, as well as from any number of other sites. Briefs are available from the American Bar Association’s stellar site, Preview of United States Supreme Court Cases. All sorts of background and commentary are available from the preeminent Supreme Court source, SCOTUSblog.

Joe Hodnicki, an excellent blogger at Law Librarian Blog, described the site as “…[A]nother corporate avenue to promote subscribing to Westlaw to access cited content.”

Thomson Reuters may not be alone in this tease and up sell approach.

I’ve been watching Wolter Kluwers, another of the large legal publishers, approach to new media. They have a number of blogs such as the Kluwer Patent Blog and the Kluwer Arbitration Blog.

The contributors appear to be lawyers and scholars that have historically written for Wolter Kluwers publications. Though the content may be of substance, there is little engagement on the author’s part (something it takes to be a good blogger) and I don’t see their bloggers or blogs cited on other blogs by the legal community as a whole nor the content being shared via social media ala Twitter and LinkedIn.

On the top of each blog is a bold link to ‘Related Sites.’ The related sites appear to lead to resources which require a subscription to Wolter Kluwer resources.

From one of Wolter Kluwer’s sites I was drawn to a “Manual IP iPad app,” which complements, an online version of their Manual for the Handling of Applications for Patents, Designs and Trademarks.

The app is little more than bulleted news headlines, which when clicked on takes you to a page where you can begin a free trial subscription of Kluwer’s Manual IP.

I don’t begrudge Thomson Reuters/Westlaw or Wolter Kluwers for wanting to sell subscriptions to their services. But to get into the blogging, new media, and app game as a fox in sheep’s clothing is likely to backfire.

Current subscribers may find the new forms of access helpful, but such an approach can turn off the legal community as a whole and do more harm than good to your brand.

Hodnicki and Ambrogi are heavy hitters when it comes to influencing the legal community. Getting them to belittle your product and imply it’s a scam to get lawyers to pay is not something you want to do. Unlike info from your new site or resource, Hodnicki’s and Ambrogi’s views are being sited and shared across the Internet.

A better approach for large legal publishers may be to support, sponsor, or partner with new media publishers who have figured out, through trial and error, how blogging and social media work.

Look at SCOTUSblog. It was started in 2003 by Attorney Tom Goldstein, before he had even made a name for himself as an advocate before the Supreme Court of the United States. Goldstein poured his heart and soul into providing a free and valuable resource on the Supreme Court.

Not only did SCOTUSblog become the most widely-read publication covering the Supreme Court, but it launched Goldstein’s career.

Rather than launch a site competing with SCOTUSblog, Bloomberg Law entered into a an exclusive sponsorship of the blog this fall. From Bloomberg Law Chairman, Lou Andreozzi, former CEO of LexNexis:

SCOTUSblog’s comprehensive and impartial examination of the Supreme Court is an important public resource and Bloomberg Law is proud to support their ability to bring this content to the public, free of charge via the Web.

Large legal publishers would be well advised to take more of the Bloomberg approach.

First, though there’s likely to be a role for professionally reported and edited legal news and information, you can simply not cover all the niches and nuances that practicing lawyers can cover via the power of blogging. With the growth of the net, blogging, and social networking, your subscribers expect and receiving information you cannot deliver.

Second, you don’t understand blogging and social media. The time and money you’ll put into it is not going to offer you the same return as partnering with new media legal publishers and harnessing the power of user generated content to complement your existing publications and reports.