Social Media for Professionals: Taking on Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Yahoo!

September 3, 2009

There are many things that make social media great.  You can keep in contact with friends, you can exchange info with classmates and former co-workers from around the world, and you can even be introduced–or introduce yourself–to large audiences or prominent people that were never before accessible to the likes of you and me.  Social media continues to open the lines of communication by making relevant information accessible and available in a timely manner.

As an attorney, one of the sites I frequent is JDSupra.  The site is not your typical social network.  Rather, it is a document repository for individuals and organizations within and without the legal profession:

JD Supra allows lawyers, law firms, and legal professionals to publish and distribute their work online to a wide audience.

Legal professionals publish and share court filings, briefs, alerts, articles, newsletters, and numerous other legal documents on JD Supra.  Our tagline reads: “Give content. Get noticed.”

I frequently contribute articles, briefs, and orders.  More frequently, I use the articles, briefs, and orders posted by others.  It is a great way to promote myself and my practice and, at the same time, it is a great resource for staying abreast of evolving legal issues and cutting edge legal decisions.

Yesterday, I uploaded some of the recent filings and orders in the highly-covered and highly-debated Authors Guild v. Google, Inc., class-action lawsuit.  You might know it as the Google Books or Google Library class action or even as the Google Books Settlement.  For those who haven’t heard, Amazon, Microsoft, and Yahoo! have allied themselves in opposition to Google’s attempt to get judicial sanction that would allow Google to scan and digitize millions of pages and books that are still copyrighted but whose copyright owners cannot be located.  And Amazon filed its Objection to the Proposed Settlement yesterday (September 2, 2009).  I ran across it online, glanced through it, thought it might be of interest to others, and proceeded to upload it to JDSupra.  At that point, I continued on with the rest of my busy day.

Several hours later, I was at a friend’s house playing soccer with his little girls (it is their first year of soccer–I can almost hold my own) when my Blackberry started to buzz.  Adrian Lurssen, an early Yahoo! employee and current Director of Communications at JDSupra, sent me a tweet and asked if I would be interested in writing a brief guest-blog about Amazon’s Objection and the Google Books case in general.  Standing on my friend’s back patio, I fired up my preferred mobile Twitter app (it is UberTwitter if you are wondering) and quickly replied that I was definitely interested.

Adrian and I DM’ed back and forth and tossed around a few ideas.  My loving wife (who is a “real” IP lawyer–a patent attorney, as opposed to the rest of us “soft” IP lawyers–also known as IP litigators) cut me some slack and I pounded out a piece that is now prominently displayed on JDSupra’s blog and in JDSupra’s hot documents: Amazon.com’s Objection to Proposed Settlement in “Authors Guild v. Google, Inc”.

Thanks to various social media outlets, in under 24-hours, I found a copy of Amazon’s Objection, read it, became interested in it, and then uploaded it to JDSupra (which passed it along to thousands of its followers and subscribers). The filing caught Adrian’s eye and he quickly connected with me through Twitter (and, at least, my cell phone).  We chatted back and forth. And now I have a featured piece posted on the front page of a website frequented by legal professionals.

I was given the opportunity to share some knowledge and “expertise” with an extremely large audience that would be unavailable to me but for Adrian’s and JDSupra’s help.  JDSupra has a timely and relevant piece that is likely of interest to much of its audience. The symbiotic nature of this connection is obvious.  It is a perfect illustration of what social media allows and how it can work.

Let me conclude by waxing philosophical.  Maybe the question needs to change from: “What has social media done for me today?” to: “What have I done for social media today.”  If you make valuable contributions to the medium, the medium will reward you in spades.  It may not happen immediately (Adrian and I have followed each other on Twitter for at least half a year) but opportunities will come and you can seize them, if you so choose.

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Social Media, Competitive Intelligence, and the Practice of Law

July 16, 2009

As we all learned during my epic interview with 22tweets, in addition to being a super-cool bmx-riding employment and intellectual property lawyer, I am a self styled tech geek.  I blame my mom; she is the one with the M.S. in Computer Science.  But I digress.

I don’t know which RSS feed, linking service, twitterer, or other source pointed my in the direction of the Texas Bar Journal, but I suddenly found myself reading a wonderful article entitled: Social Media Tools for Law Firm Competitive Intelligence (pdf) written by none other than Emily Rushing (@emily_rushing), someone I happen to frequently follow on Twitter.

The article covers everything: Competitive Intelligence (Wikipedia); Communications (LinkedIn, Facebook, Ning, and Twitter); and Delivery Tools (PDFtoWord and FeedMyInbox).  While most recent law school grads are familiar with some or all of these tools, Emily’s article is a must read for all attorneys (and paralegals and staff).  Seriously.  I can’t emphasize this any stronger: This is stuff that you need to know.

So, after congratulating Emily on such a great article, I, naturally, pawned some of my work off on her and asked her to guest blog for the site.  We bantered a little about possible topics but I wanted her to take the blog post in whatever direction she felt it should go; the result is fantastic.  Here it is, in its entirety:

Tyson has kindly invited me to contribute a post on social media for law firm and legal competitive intelligence (CI) and I would like to briefly discuss some of the tools and techniques that I use in my capacity as CI Specialist for Haynes and Boone LLP.

CI may be defined generally as “the action of gathering, analyzing, and applying information about products, domain constituents, customers, and competitors for the short term and long term planning needs of an organization. Competitive intelligence (CI) is both a process and a product.” (wikipedia). Increasingly, social media is an integral part of both the CI process and product, and provides an invaluable resource in the identification of business opportunities in the legal industry.

This blog provides great discussion of the many social media tools available to legal professionals, so I won’t rehash the basics but will provide the following resource guide to selected, no-cost intelligence delivery tools.

Tools (Collecting and Delivering Intelligence)

  • Tabbloid – Tabbloid is a service presented by HP (presumably in an effort to encourage increased printer cartridge use) that will turn any RSS feed into a periodic PDF document with almost no effort at all.
  • PDFtoWord – This site will convert any PDF to a Word document. It does a pretty good job and is a great service to use if you have bulk conversions to do, especially if you’re away from your copy of Acrobat.
  • Readability – This browser applet removes all ads or frames from a busy social media website, allowing the user to focus instead on the content. Using a tool like this reduces clutter on the page and frees up the reader to concentrate on the article or post.
  • Dapp Factory (“RSSification”) – Dapp Factory provides an indispensable tool to “RSSify” any HTML website. Using patented technology, the site identifies the “posts” or portion of the page to track for changes or updates. It will then create either an RSS feed or a widget for use, at absolutely no cost.
  • FeedMyInbox – FeedMyInbox is for users who are not quite comfortable with RSS feeds and still prefer to have content delivered to their email inbox.
  • Google Reader Group Feeds – Where raw research or data is needed, it is sometimes useful to create grouped feeds and public pages of carefully selected content for your CI users (other attorneys, your clients, etc.) allowing them the ability to subscribe, review and share the feed posts in real time.

Real-Time Search

Real-time search, and real-time identification of potential clients, is a hot topic in social media right now. Twitter search is conducted in real time and many twitter applications and related sites allow for real-time trend analysis. (i.e. Monitter) Additionally, FriendFeed recently expanded its real-time updates to its search functionality, allowing for real-time search results in one continuous stream. “FriendFeed is a service which, instead of layering a meta-network on top of all your other social networks, will create a news feed incorporating them all much like the Facebook news feed.” (via CrunchBase). Researchers are just beginning to explore the value of real-time search to CI and business development activities, but my hopes are high that these new tools will continue to increase our efficiency and effectiveness in using social media.

Many thanks to Tyson for the opportunity to contribute to this outstanding blog. For more information, please see my July article, “Social Media Tools for Law Firm Competitive Intelligence” in the technology issue of the Texas Bar Journal and connect with me on twitter or LinkedIn.

Wow. Now that is what I call one fine guest post. Now, let’s be clear from the outset; I hate the “Web 2.0” moniker.  But I do recognize the organization of information and the means of communication are rapidly changing.  More significantly, access to information, including legal information, gets better and better every day.  As I posited in my 22tweets interview, I believe that while access to law and legal materials increases, the law itself and its processes become more complex.  In layman’s terms: lawyers aren’t going anywhere.  The real question is what role will lawyers play in a world where knowledge and information is so readily available, particularly in real-time?  That is one of the questions that I hope we can continue to address on this blog.


Lawyers Turning Away From Twitter?

July 3, 2009

The Law.com Legal Blog Watch has been doing an excellent job of covering stories about lawyers who despise Twitter.  Okay, “despise” might be a mischaracterization.  They have posted blogs by Larry Bodine on why lawyers should not use Twitter and more recently, on Tom McLain’s departure from Twitter.  To its credit, Law.com has also blogged in favor of Twitter marketing via hyper-popular Adrian Dayton’s blawg review.

The Social Media Lawyer wants to weigh in: Don’t buy the hype — on either side.

Bodine and McLain are correct.  Twitter will not build a law practice.  Just like buying a stack of fancy looking business cards, leasing some fancy new office space, or “hanging up a shingle” won’t build a law practice.  But the current discussion of Twitter as a marketing tool is too narrow (and often misunderstood).  For example, Bodine states:

After months of using Twitter, I’ve learned that it is a shouting post for relentless self-promoters, a dumping ground for press releases and advertising, an ego-driven competition to amass followers, and a target for computer-automated Tweets.

Wow.  That sounds a lot like the same problems that come along with advertising in phone books or on billboards.  I  disagree with Bodine’s claim that Twitter cannot be used for business development.  The underlying principle of social media is to connect people who share some sort of commonality.  Those people are more likely to turn to each other in their decision making processes.  In our business, having a big network, especially a big network that trusts you and frequently benefits from our advice, is invaluable.

McLain’s approach is more reasonable.  He doesn’t outright criticize Twitter as a marketing tool.  Rather, he states:

A fair assessment of my own marketing practices is that my priorities have been wrong and I was spending too much time on Twitter and not enough on higher ranking methods.

And in all fairness, everyone should read McLain’s response (which can be found below), which explains the purpose for his infamous “tweet” and provides a much better and more thorough explanation of McLain’s thoughts on Twitter marketing than can be found on the infamous Law.com blog post.

That said, it still strikes me as odd that the concept of Twitter marketing can be completely written off with a straight face.  Good lawyers know that a good law practice is built — and has always been built — based on good legal work and good results.  Law firm marketing, outside the P.I. world, focuses on highlighting your specialties and the unique characteristics that you bring to the table.  When was the last time someone retained Kirkland, Skadden, or Cravath from a phone book ad?  Never.  (On a side note, I think Quinn Emanuel’s “Justice is Blind” campaign is clever and probably effective).

For firm lawyers, at least, Twitter is not about building a practice; it is about sustaining a practice.  Twitter, like blogs, like newsletters, like updates, like all those other things you send out to your clients, simply helps you share your wares.  It is a showcase.  A much classier showcase than the back of a phone book.  As numerous law firms have already noticed, Twitter is a fast, easy, and efficient way of proclaiming their success and their expertise.  This is good marketing, not an “an ego-driven competition to amass followers,” as Bodine would have you believe.  Check out these names:

Fulbright & Jaworski
McDermott Will & Emery
Weil Gotshal & Manges
Greenberg Traurig

And other major players are waiting in the wings. According to @LawyerKM, here are some of the firms making their Twitter presence known:

Those, my friends, are some heavy hitters.  They aren’t “active” yet and it is possible that the firms don’t intend to use the Twitter feeds.  But they are there none the less.

Now, it is true that Twitter is a new technology, in the process of developing, and it is most certainly not an end-all-be-all to lawyer marketing.  But to simply discount it as a marketing method is ridiculous.  Especially in a time when clients want to know who their attorneys are, the types of people they will be working with, and what unique characteristics and abilities their counselors bring to the table.  Trust me lawyers; clients will use Twitter to compare law firms in the same way that they are currently using Martindale-Hubbell and LinkedIn.

Twitter is a client facilitator.  Other uses may develop over time but there are plenty of opportunities out there already.  We are lawyers; we practice law; we market so that we can practice law.  Twitter is only a small part of a marketing plan that is even a smaller part of building a successful legal practice.  But Twitter is a factor in that plan and while there may be some people who disagree, but those people are wrong.  Don’t worry, this site will contain many more articles about how social media is helping practicing and firm lawyers achieve success.

UPDATE: 7/3/2009:

Seyfarth Shaw LLP definitely has a Twitter presence.  Check out the comments and follow them at @seyfarthshawLLP – http://twitter.com/seyfarthshawLLP (Mark, thinks for the heads-up!)

Haynes and Boone LLP is on board too: @haynesboone – http://twitter.com/haynesboone

–Tyson
http://twitter.com/tysonsnow (@tysonsnow)
http://linkedin.com/in/tysonsnow


Review: Social Networking for the Legal Profession

June 27, 2009

The Internet is a great resource.  It allows people with what would otherwise be unheard-voices express their opinions, thoughts, and contributions to the collective discussion that is currently taking place throughout the United States and the World at large (look no further than the controversy over the Iranian Elections to see proof of that).

One drawback is, of course, that certain people proclaim to be authoritative on subjects they may not be authoritative on (disclaimer: I claim to be authoritative on nothing).  A possible example of this is the publication of Social Networking for the Legal Profession (“Social Networking”).  The title certainly is catchy.  And, hey, show me a lawyer who isn’t looking for ways to develop business and I’ll show you a lawyer who has retired (or who has been elected or appointed as a judge).

The problem with Social Networking (the book, not the concept) is that it does not really seem to offer any novel information or approaches.  The official spiel reports (as nearly all of us already know):

Now, we are proud to announce the release what is a major new report, published in association with Ark Group, entitled Social Networking for the Legal Profession, In the report, Lee Bryant and I look at ways in which legal professionals are exploiting social networking for business, both internally for operations and communication, and externally as part of their marketing and business development efforts.

Plenty of buzzwords: exploiting social networking, increasing operations and communications, and marketing as well as business developments.  Certainly, each of these goals is worthy of any attorney.  But I’m not sure that Social Networking for the Legal Profession is any better at assisting people in these pursuits than much of the freely available information online.  A quick Google or Bing search should give you a lot of information that you might be looking for.

As with all publications such as  Social Networking, I have significant questions, especially when I am asked to pay for them.  Here are some of the claims the authors will attempt to discuss: (#) what social networking means; (#) using online social networks; (#) policy and governance issues around social networking adoption; and; (#) future social networking trends and their impact on the legal profession.  I’m fairly certain that I can find good answers to all of these questions for free among friends, colleagues, and Twitter-buddies.

Don’t get me wrong; it is great to see these discussions taking place and, more particularly, to see big firms such as Allen & Overy and Latham Watkins becoming involved.  Clients deserve more information and involvement and we should all be seeking to facilitate it.  We are in teh business, after all, of representing clients.  However, as we all know, this universe is shifting on a weekly, if not daily basis.

The resident expert for Social Networking, Penny Edwards, is described as follows: “Penny is an enterprise social computing consultant at Headshift, where she leads the user analysis, engagement, adoption and community building elements of projects with legal and professional services firms.”  Not exactly a resume that I would look for if I were trying to hire a law firm marketing manager. But hey, I’m just a young associate; what do I know.

As social media in the law develops and, as we all play a part in it, I hope that no one book or convention will control how it is implemented and used.  We have already posted the following three articles (free access I might add):

We also recently posted a detailed story about JDSupra and how that website is changing the way biglaw is down, how the legal landscape is viewed, and who has access to the information necessary to make legal decisions in their lives.  We hope you have time to check it out: Social Media Legal Spotlight: JDSupra / JDScoop.

It is through constantly developing and revising articles and websites such as these, as well as judicial opinions defining the parameters of how social media can be used in litigation and the investigation processes that will determine how social media will affectually affect all of us in law. Personally, I would not invest heavily in “books” or “treaties” on the subject matter. If it isn’t readily available online, contact me, and I will find it for you.  Trust me, it is out there.

In the meantime, check out some of these legal heavyweights on Twitter; they should be able to help:

http://twitter.com/tysonsnow
http://twitter.com/LeeRosen
http://twitter.com/constructionlaw
http://twitter.com/AdvertisingLaw
http://twitter.com/SmallFirm
http://twitter.com/justia
http://twitter.com/StephKimbro
http://twitter.com/tweetlaw

A complete review can be found over at JDScoop, but that previous list should keep you busy!  And don’t forget to add me: @tysonsnow

Now, we are proud to announce the release what is a major new report, published in association with Ark Group, entitled Social Networking for the Legal Profession,


Tweeting About Law Practice – Best Of Edition…

May 20, 2009

Great e-Book by Matthew Homann (of the the [non]billable hour fame): “Thinking About Law Practice in 140 Characters or Less” – The best 100 legal tweets according to Matthew.  You should definitely give it a look if you get a chance.

Matthew’s blog is one of the better legal blogs around.  It comes highly recommended by me and many others.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with Matthew and his blog, he styles it as follows:

Matthew Homann is a lawyer, mediator, blogger and entrepreneur who’s an innovative and passionate thinker about changing the practice of law in ways that benefit both lawyers and clients.Matthew Homann is a lawyer, mediator, blogger and entrepreneur who’s an innovative and passionate thinker about changing the practice of law in ways that benefit both lawyers and clients.

Get on the subscription list or add the RSS feed to your Google Reader.  You’ll be a better lawyer for it.


Review: 10 Reasons for a Law Student to Blog

April 12, 2009

A recent post over at the in propria persona blog discusses some reasons why law school students should (or should not) be blogging. Several of the points made by author Kristopher A. Nelson are interesting and worthy of consideration. I found number eight to be particularly relevant:

8. Future employers will research you on Google

Better insightful Web commentary than drunken MySpace pictures, no? (You are writing insightful commentary, aren’t you?) If you’re not comfortable with this, don’t blog. You can try to hide behind the anonymity of the Internet, but it can be difficult, and defeats some of the main point of blogging. Regardless, be sure you are fine with what you write because your online words tend to stay around longer than you would think.

Kristopher is dead on. When I get resumes, one of the first things I do is search for some “real” information about the candidate. I use Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and others. And I don’t just do this for students. Whenever I open a new litigation matter, I research opposing counsel, potential clients, relevant parties, and anyone else who might be involved in a case. Your web presence will provide a lot of information that can be helpful (or hurtful) to your reputation and your job prospects. Blogging can help you to cast yourself in the best (and hopefully the true) light.

Another interesting point is #1:

1. Lawyers write

Being a lawyer is, at least in part, about writing well. Blogging is a natural extension of this. If you’re a law student, you need to “think like a lawyer.” Blogging can help.

This point is, of course, true. Lawyers write. Lawyers write a lot. Being able to advocate on paper (rather than in person at oral argument or in some similar venue) is becoming more and more important as motion practice becomes even more important due to overcrowded dockets and busy court schedules.

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