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.


Employees v. Employers on LinkedIn

July 23, 2009

Current Employment recently ran an interesting article: “Employers: The LinkedIn Recommendation is Not for You.”  The premise of the post is that the reviews that both prior and current employers are leaving for employees on sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook.  For employment lawyers, the problem (or the benefit — depending on whose side you are on) immediately jumps out:

Employees get terminated. A lot. And a lot of those terminations are based on performance.  As a plaintiffs’ attorney, the best evidence you have of a wrongful or discriminatory termination is documentation establishing that the “pretext” for the termination (the performance problem) is false.  Suddenly LinkedIn is in play.  Since the vast majority of reviews on LinkedIn are positive, any and all employment lawyers with plaintiff clients should be scouring the site for positive reviews from the same managers that term’ed the employee for “performance” problems.

Tim Eavenson, the author of the Current Employment article sums it up quite well:

This is just the Web 2.0 version of advice that management lawyers have been giving forever – be very careful about praising your exiting employees.  I know it sounds harsh, but glowing praise (particularly where it is undeserved) can really be a problem.  If an employment case goes to trial, you will be in the uncomfortable position of having to explain to a jury what happened in the hours or days between the writing the amazing recommendation and the time you canned the employee for poor performance.

Tim then poses the question of whether the recommendation feature on LinkedIn is worth anything.  He offers several suggestions and I agree: since anyone can make a recommendation, you can get recommendations from co-workers, friends, buddies, company insiders, or anyone else who might have a foot-in-the-door.  You can also get recommendations from prominent people you may have not worked but have interacted with: committees, boards, groups, clubs, etc.

The take-away: Employers – be careful; be very careful. Employees – a good-word or a thumbs-up from a respected colleague or member of the community can be the difference between an interview and a resume sent straight to the paper shredder.

As with all social media, the feature works better when more people use it.  And I encourage you to do that. When you have a reason to leave a recommendation or describe an experience or if someone requests your assistance, take that request seriously and give some thought into what you write.  As more and more employers turn to social media sites for background information on potential employees, this accurate data becomes invaluable.


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.