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.

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Traditional Networking – Does It Still Work

July 9, 2009

As the debate over Twitter / Social Media marketing tool heats up, we should all remember that other, successful, networking and marketing strategies exist.  Nearly everyone familiar with the subject will suggest that new media combined with traditional practice marketing will lead to the best results.  Despite my strong belief in the power of Twitter and Social Media, even I acknowledge, that a successful practice cannot rely exclusively on social media marketing.

The Rainmaker Blog recently posted an article entitled: “Law Firm Marketing: 7 Tips on Finding Clients Through Formal Networking” and it is worth a read.  I’ll give you the seven tips but if you want the explanation of how to use them, why to use them, and why they are successful, you will have to go check out the Rainmaker Blog to learn the intricacies:

  1. Join the right groups
  2. Join elite groups
  3. Use an “audio logo”
  4. Remember your primary purpose
  5. Ask open-ended questions
  6. Be intentional in your follow-up
  7. Track your efforts

[Explanations Here]. I only partially agree with their suggestions.  I think #1 and #2 are definitely important.  I question #3 and its effectiveness (depending on the practice you are trying to build).  I don’t find #4-#6 as particularly helpful; they are too general.  And I agree with #7.  But each one of these points is greatly enhanced when social media is added to the mix.  Your efforts will be easier and more effective.

Ultimately, running a successful law practice is like running a business.  You can market all day and all night but if you have a product that no one in the market wants or that is beat out by the competition, you’re marketing efforts will all be for naught.  The best law firm marketing comes from practicing good law that helps clients achieve their goals and satisfies their needs.


Legitimate LinkedIn Reviews

July 7, 2009

Corporate attorneys are advising supervisors and managers to be careful when posting overly-positive or potentially misleading employee endorsements on LinkedIn. The big concern is that crafty employee plaintiffs’ counsel will use LinkedIn reviews much in the same way that they currently use positive reviews found in the employee’s written file: to establish that their client was wrongfully discharged or fired as a result of discrimination.

Counsel who represent employers have all come across glowing employee reviews that discuss, at length, the superior qualities and work ethic of an employee who, within weeks of the review, is fired for poor performance or insubordination.

As described in the National Law Journal’s article:

Plaintiffs’ lawyers, they fear, are scouring these sites, looking for evidence to dispute firings, as most LinkedIn recommendations are positive. So if a supervisor claims that an employee was let go due to performance problems but gave a rave review about him or her on LinkedIn — that, the lawyers stress, won’t look so good.

It is a valid point.  Employment lawyers and H.R. personnel are constantly instructing management and supervisors to conduct regular, accurate, performance reviews.  Reviews posted on LinkedIn need to be equally accurate.  A good practice employers might implement is to tell their supervisors and managers not to post reviews, positive or negative; according to Carolyn Plump, a partner at Philadelphia’s Mitts Milavec, as quoted in the National Law Journal:

Generally, my advice is that I think employers are often better served by merely stating dates of employment, positions with the company and salary, and staying away from much more because there are so many potential ramifications if they say something.

Of course, like most stories, this one has both sides.  The example cited by the National Law Journal is that of a supervisor who is constantly leaving negative reviews.  While a single negative review might be offered as evidence of discrimination, counsel for the management could offer evidence of all the other negative reviews to establish that the supervisor was not singling out a particular gender, race, or nationality.

So what is the conclusion?  It is the always the same conclusion.  Conduct regular, accurate, performance appraisals and enforce your existing policies indiscriminately.

Related Post:
The LinkedIn Bible: If Your Profession is Your Religion, This May Be for You


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,


Social Media Legal Spotlight: JDSupra / JDScoop

June 18, 2009

This is the first in what I hope will be a long-running list of posts that spotlight specific social media sites that are tailored towards assisting attorneys and lawyers market themselves, their skills, and the particular value that they bring to an attorney-client relationship.  I have chosen JDSupra (and its associated blog, JDScoop) to be the initial spotlight for several reasons.

First, JDSupra does much more than allow users to socialize.  In its own words: “JD Supra allows lawyers, law firms, and legal professionals to publish and distribute their work online to a wide audience.”  I know what you are thinking: so JDSupra is a lot like Scribd.com isn’t it?  Both sites are social repositories for various documents.  But JDSupra has the added benefit of focusing on all things legal.  You won’t find the following on Scribd:

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.” Our accompanying blog, JD Scoop, celebrates this great work and the people behind it. Read commentary on court filings and decisions, interviews with JD Supra contributors whose work shapes the legal landscape, as well postings on media coverage, marketing, legal knowledge management, and many other related subjects.

As legal junkies, we love having access to new and hot pleadings, such as the Microsoft Click-Fraud Complaint posted by yours truly.  We especially like having access to these filings without having to pay the PACER fees that often are required when accessing federal dockets.  But JDSupra does much more than collect and publish legal pleadings, articles, summaries, and treatises.

Second, JDSupra distributes your documents to targeted audiences across numerous social media and new media channels.  Post a “Hot Doc” and wait 30 seconds, and bam, @jdsupra and @jdtwitt have posted it on Twitter.  Thousands of followers, who have voluntarily signed up to follow specific legal topics get a link to your posting and then get to see your work in action (more or less).  For attorneys who are confident in their work product, this tool can be invaluable.  For those who don’t want the prying eyes to see how they handle their cases, well, you best stay away.

Third, let’s talk about JDSupra’s Law Centers:

Our new Law Centers aggregate by subject all of the documents and legal information posted daily to the site. Organized into four broad categories (Business Law, Personal Law, Government Law, and Law Practice) the centers cover topics such as:

(See full list of Law Center topics here.)

Law Centers provide a quick and easy way to discover (and actually read) new legal developments essentially on the same day that the “event” became a “development.”  The comparison is not entirely consistent, but where Twitter is “real-time search,” JDSupra is “real-time legal developments.”

Also impressive is the numerous ways that JDSupra and JDScoop have integrated social media into helpful chunks of information.  You can get the comprehensive list of Lawyers on Twitter, Legal Research, and Profiles of Your Favorite Attorneys.

The amount of information is immense and sifting through it all can be a little overwhelming.  Spend enough time on the site, however, and you will learn a lot of things that you never knew.  At the end of it all, the two one-line marketing slogans that JDSupra uses ring true:

(1) Get Noticed. Widely.
(2) Be Found in Search.

In conclusion, I invite @JDTwitt and the other JDSupra folks to add comments about why they think their service is valuable to those involved in the legal field.  Those comments will be added to the post or included in the comment section.  This is a site about social media after all.  It seems like those who receive the focus of the spotlight should be allowed to make a few social contributions.

–Tyson
http://twitter.com/tysonsnow
http://linkedin.com/in/tysonsnow
http://facebook.com/tysonsnow


The LinkedIn Bible: If Your Profession is Your Religion, This May Be for You

June 17, 2009

Today’s entry comes from our friends at CIO.com (http://www.cio.com) and, in a summary fashion, claims to include everything that you need to know to market yourself on LinkedIn, to build a massive network of professionals, to manage connections and recommendations, and much, much more.

Why a LinkedIn article in the middle of Twitter’s massive impact on the Iranian elections (check out #IranElection) and the mass scramble to participate in the Facebook landgrab?  Well, it is always good to be focusing on resources that are presently being underutilized by significant numbers of people.  Right now, LinkedIn fits that category.  It is one of the original and probably the best known social network for working professionals.  I my self have ignored my LinkedIn account often enough.  But I’m learning from my mistakes and reasserting myself in the LinkedIn community.  And I’m experiencing a lot of success from the results.

I’ll leave it to the experts at CIO.com and C.G. Lynch (the author of the article) the delve into the details.  Highlights include:

  1. Five dos and don’ts of LinkedIn etiquette;
  2. Building strong network profiles;
  3. Managing LinkedIn connections;
  4. Utilizing LinkedIn company profiles;
  5. Getting the most from LinkedIn recommendations;
  6. Using free LinkedIn applications; and
  7. The ins and outs of open networking on LinkedIn.

This list is a good overview and, while the additional information is not “in-depth” by any stretch of the imagination, it serves as an excellent starting point for those learning how to use LinkedIn and how to use it successfully.

I’m going to add an eighth category to the list.  It is: “Using questions and answers to establish yourself as an expert in any given field or on any given issue.”  Here are the steps that LinkedIn suggests for establishing yourself as an expert in a particular field:

When you see a green box with a white star on a Profile, you know that person has proven their expertise by answering questions posed in the Answers forum. They have had answers selected as the ‘Best’ answer and are given expert status. Answer experts can be found at the bottom of the Answer home page. To earn expertise:

  1. Find questions in the areas you know.
  2. Browse questions to find categories familiar to you and answer those questions.
  3. Every time the questioner picks your answer as the ‘Best’ answer, you gain a point of expertise in the category of the question. The more points of expertise, the higher you appear on lists of experts. Private answers don’t count toward expertise

See [Earning Expertise in Answers]. And suddenly, you are an expert.  Well, maybe not suddenly but, if you have valuable information to contribute, your opinions will soon be respected and you will find yourself fielding and answering more and more questions.  My success in this regard has only recently begun but I have been amazed to see the amount of interest it has resulted in.  I get several phone calls and emails a day from people with employment law concerns.  As a management side attorney, I can’t take a lot of these cases, but I can help people out and, at the end of the day, if your number one goal as a lawyer is to help out each and every person you can, you will either find success or it will find you.

One additional quick tip.  I’ve added some of LinkedIn’s Q&A RSS feeds to my Google Reader (and other RSS Agregators).  This way, I get an alert anytime a question is asked in a category or field in which I am interested in promoting myself, my experience, and my knowledge.  The prime example of this is the Employment Law Group.  I subscribe to all the questions and therefore can quickly determine whether I can answer and whether I have time to provide an answer that is actually substantive and helpful.

Always remember, if your answer doesn’t take long to compose or if you are simply cutting and pasting from Google, Bing, Wolfram, or any other search engine, the answer probably isn’t too valuable.  Most people know how to find basic information on the Internet.  But as a working professional, LinkedIn allows you to utilize your expertise to help others and build your network.  You should do it.

Make sure you promote your LinkedIn profile in additon to all your other social media endeavors.  It takes time to become involved and it takes even more time to start seeing results.  But if you sew the seeds now, the harvest will eventually come.

View Tyson Snow's profile on LinkedIn
http://www.linkedin.com/in/tysonsnow

If you are not in my network, you should be.  Feel free to add me or you can always catch me on Twitter if you have additional questions: @tysonsnowhttp://twitter.com/tysonsnow