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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