Legal Eagles Know How to Tweet

What is all the flutter and flap about Twitter and why should lawyers care?

Twitter is a “micro-blogging” tool that you can take with you. While similar to SMS and blogging, it mimics your freshman creative writing course by giving you a topic upon which to expound. When you log on, you are presented with the question: “What are you doing?” Tweets are limited to 140 words or less, in keeping with our modern affinity for newsworthy sound bites rather than in-depth analysis. The idea is to update everyone, or anyone, willing to “follow” you, on all the minute details of your life as you relay them in near real time. According to the site itself, Twitter allows you to be “hyper-connected” with your friends and always know what they are doing. I think the service lends itself more to the mobile phone than to the desktop, or even laptop, computer, as a cell is better sized for adventuring and reporting while on the run. Oh, and did I tell you the service is free? Apparently, they haven’t “monetized” yet.

Why the fuss? According to Blogger pioneer Evan Williams, quoted in this Fortune article, Twitter is gonna be “really big”! As of June, 2008, Twitter had almost three million monthly users. That number doesn’t include mobile activity. Adam Lashinsky at Fortune talks about how “establishment” Twitter has become:

Other establishment types are getting down with Twitter. Barack Obama’s campaign (handle: BarackObama) has 51,620 followers and counting, who’ve requested updates on events. CNN distributes news alerts via Twitter, and JetBlue (JBLU) sends out customer-service updates. The CTO of Cisco (CSCO, Fortune 500), Padmasree Warrior, Twitters all day long. She recently took a moment to inform her 180 followers she was having “an aargh moment right now: forgot to pack my laptop power chord [sic].” Utility is in the eye of the betwittered.

Umm, Errr. O.k. That brings me to my second question, why should lawyers care? Apparently, many think they should. Here is some cross-pollination for you: attorneys in Linkedin’s Answer section talking about the effectiveness of Twitter as a marketing tool. Some feel it is effective for networking, while others use it to point to their blog or Facebook profile and, in turn, their websites. Steve Matthews has created a “Twitter-tracker” for legal types at his site legalvoices.com. I browsed some of the entries and I have to admit that the industry-related conversation was quite lacking. Apparently, even lawyers need a break from the law.

Matthews discusses Twitter’s value to lawyers as a marketing tool here. The value Matthews identifies is not so concrete and seems more a by-product of the catharsis of letting everyone know your most mundane thoughts as they bubble up. According to Matthews, Twitter shines as a tool for relationship-building, blog-to-blog discussions, link sharing and improved search engine rankings. All of these are good things.

With a bit of incredulity in her words, Law Librarian Connie Crosby notes that webinars and Twitter have joined and their offspring, the Twebinar, is now upon us. Having not yet personally experienced one, I cannot say how well the format works.  As they are out there, Twebinars should at least be included in the “potentially valuable” column.

Entering a more tangible realm, Kevin O’Keefe provides four personal examples of how Twitter has enhanced him professionally. You can’t argue with firsthand experience. O’Keefe also provides the following three general examples of how Twitter can expand your professional prospects:

You can benefit from Twitter in three ways, that I see today. First, a way to socially network with people, some of which networking may lead to work, speaking engagements, and the like. Two, a means to amplify your message, i.e., spreading what you what you may be blogging, writing, or speaking on. Three, if you blog, you are going to get news from other bloggers whose content you may want to reference in your blog or work.

Although not personally a Twitter-er, Jordan Furlong talks about the benefit of Twittering your clients:

1. GPS tracker. Clients who want to get hold of their lawyer don’t get much help from an out-of-office autoreply e-mail. But a Twittered status update — “Going into motions hearing @ 10:15, incommunicado till 11:30″ or “Leaving office to visit client @ 2:40, in meetings from 3:30 on” — provides clients with more information than “I’m away from my desk.” Better yet, it allows the lawyer to issue “blackout period” notifications — “I’m unavailable at these times for this reason” — which I like because it could help restore to lawyers even a small degree of control over their accessibility (cf. the expectation of 24/7 reachability, above).

2. Bulletin newsbreaker. Say a significant court decision affecting your client’s industry has just come down, or a key competitor has just issued a revised profit forecast. You could e-mail the news, and hope the client happens to be looking at her overloaded Inbox at that moment. You could blog it, if you owned a blog and had time to post something and were anywhere near a web interface. Or you could take 60 seconds to punch out a 140-character tweet to your client Twitter users, and thereby gain the full breaking-news benefit. Do this a few times and your client will start tracking your tweets for need-to-know news, and how cool would that be?

3. Link recommender. It almost seems as if TinyURL, the invaluable little site that transforms long, unwieldy web addresses into six-character TinyURL suffixes, was designed years ago with Twitter and its strict character limits in mind. Quite regularly, a lawyer comes across an article that would be of interest or utility to a client, but most times those links go unforwarded, are bundled into a newsletter, or maybe form part of a series-of-links blog post — no immediacy and not a whole lot of impact. Instead, try Twittering a recommended item (with a TinyURL hyperlink) to your client once a day, and if it’s good-quality stuff, your client will start to look forward to your daily dose of twitter recommendations.

Echoing my refrain from my earlier Facebook, Linkedin and virtual law discussions, it would be shortsighted of any professional in this fast-paced, technology-driven world to ignore the latest, greatest communication fad. Worms to the early birds who can figure out how to use these tools to their fullest advantage, and maybe have a little fun at it too.

In Lashinsky’s words:

Birds twitter. Their tweets may be meaningless to you, but they presumably mean something to other birds. And therein lies the latest flight of fancy dreamt up by ambitious entrepreneurs hoping to strike it rich.

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More Music, Law and Judicial Humor

I previously paired music and judicial opinions in this entry.  Then I surveyed the use of humor in judicial opinions in this entry. John Browning, a partner in the Dallas office of Gordon & Rees, LLP, efficiently combines all three – music, humor and judicial opinions – in his article Legally Speaking – Lyrical Law in the August 12th issue of the The Southeast Texas Record. I would paraphrase the article for convenience, but it wouldn’t do Mr. Browning’s treatment “justice” (oops, a little of my own humor).

Seriously. I envy judges who are appointed to their positions and can break up their arid writing with the occasional oasis of levity. I cannot even tell you how many times I have stayed my typing fingers mid-pun in the course of writing a memorandum, brief or other “formal” document for a client. In law school and in my early years as an associate, I was admonished to keep the humor out for fear of creating the wrong impression. Thank goodness there are now blogs in which we pent-up technical writers can shed the mantle of formality and lay down the laughs. If it is good enough for Judge Learned Hand and Chief Justice William Rehnquist, it should be good enough for us all!

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Pretty Soon, We Won't Need People

Remember a couple of posts ago where I discussed the difference between a virtual lawyer and an eLawyer?  I made some assumptions about the virtual lawyer that apparently aren’t all that true in every case. My assumption was that a virtual lawyer is a flesh and blood attorney practicing law in the real world, albeit sans the confines of the brick and mortar office . The true virtual lawyer apparently lives as an avatar and is a member of the SL Bar Association.

People are connecting on-line in a variety of ways. According to the Legal Technology section of the ABA Journal, legal dinosaurs are going to have to adjust to the virtual practice of law in this Brave New World that is increasingly relying on blogs, social networks and virtual communities. The results of a survey presented during a recent ABA Tech section talk are telling: as stated by the speaker Nick Abrahams, “if you’re over 35, you’re the loneliest person on Facebook because only 1 percent of workers in that age group are using it.”  Contrast this with 25 percent of workers between 25 and 35 and one-third of workers under 25. Abrahams suggests that embracing rather than blocking access to these networks makes more sense as it avoids the risks of disenfranchising the growing percentage of workers using such sites.

Back to the SL Bar Association. SL stands for Second Life, of which many WordPress readers and contributors likely are well aware. For those of us just emerging into the glow of this concept, it helps to have a definition, such as this one from Second Life’s own web page:

Second Life® is a 3-D virtual world created by its Residents. Since opening to the public in 2003, it has grown explosively and today is inhabited by millions of Residents from around the globe.

From the moment you enter the World you’ll discover a vast digital continent, teeming with people, entertainment, experiences and opportunity. Once you’ve explored a bit, perhaps you’ll find a perfect parcel of land to build your house or business.
You’ll also be surrounded by the Creations of your fellow Residents. Because Residents retain intellectual property rights in their digital creations, they can buy, sell and trade with other Residents.
The Marketplace currently supports millions of US dollars in monthly transactions. This commerce is handled with the inworld unit of trade, the Linden™ dollar, which can be converted to US dollars at several thriving online Linden dollar exchanges.

Is it me, or does this all sound just a bit fantastic? The SL Bar Association has its own networking site with 52 members.  The home page has its own Virtual World Law News and there are even virtual courses, such as one for Trademark Infringement in the Virtual World or one for Internet Legal Research, held at a virtual address, but giving actual CLE credit. The real and the unreal collide when you attempt to navigate to the SL Bar Association’s office – you need to click the “teleport” link. 

SL has also been used in the real world as a tool to support a legal research class at the Nova Southeastern University Law School. According to the article by Rob Hudson linked above, SL was used as an interactive exhibit for the students of the issues arising and agencies involved in international law. The class also attended a lecture in the SL world held by a member of the European Union Parliament. Finally, a student employed SL to present, in avatar form, a legal research project he was required to complete but could not present in class on the scheduled date.

Why do lawyers get involved in SL? Carolyn Elefant posits that SL serves as a creative and entertaining release for lawyers, who get to create legal systems and courts. Other lawyers represent SL residents in legal transactions and court battles in exchange for Linden dollars. Still others form their virtual firms in SL with links to their real world law firms in the hopes of generating actual U.S. dollars. Ahh. There’s the marketing angle.

Then there is the clash between real life lawyering and virtual lawyering: In May 2006, U.S. attorney Marc Bragg brought an action against SL’s creator, Linden Lab, claiming it had unfairly terminated his SL account and confiscated his property portfolio, barring access to land or other investments. The causes of action include conversion, fraud, unjust enrichment and breach of contract and the case is continuing.

Needless to say, navigating new frontiers brings thorny problems regarding ownership, ethics and boundaries. It will most certainly be interesting to watch. Or maybe even to jump into.

Pretty Soon, We Won’t Need People

Remember a couple of posts ago where I discussed the difference between a virtual lawyer and an eLawyer?  I made some assumptions about the virtual lawyer that apparently aren’t all that true in every case. My assumption was that a virtual lawyer is a flesh and blood attorney practicing law in the real world, albeit sans the confines of the brick and mortar office . The true virtual lawyer apparently lives as an avatar and is a member of the SL Bar Association.

People are connecting on-line in a variety of ways. According to the Legal Technology section of the ABA Journal, legal dinosaurs are going to have to adjust to the virtual practice of law in this Brave New World that is increasingly relying on blogs, social networks and virtual communities. The results of a survey presented during a recent ABA Tech section talk are telling: as stated by the speaker Nick Abrahams, “if you’re over 35, you’re the loneliest person on Facebook because only 1 percent of workers in that age group are using it.”  Contrast this with 25 percent of workers between 25 and 35 and one-third of workers under 25. Abrahams suggests that embracing rather than blocking access to these networks makes more sense as it avoids the risks of disenfranchising the growing percentage of workers using such sites.

Back to the SL Bar Association. SL stands for Second Life, of which many WordPress readers and contributors likely are well aware. For those of us just emerging into the glow of this concept, it helps to have a definition, such as this one from Second Life’s own web page:

Second Life® is a 3-D virtual world created by its Residents. Since opening to the public in 2003, it has grown explosively and today is inhabited by millions of Residents from around the globe.

From the moment you enter the World you’ll discover a vast digital continent, teeming with people, entertainment, experiences and opportunity. Once you’ve explored a bit, perhaps you’ll find a perfect parcel of land to build your house or business.
You’ll also be surrounded by the Creations of your fellow Residents. Because Residents retain intellectual property rights in their digital creations, they can buy, sell and trade with other Residents.
The Marketplace currently supports millions of US dollars in monthly transactions. This commerce is handled with the inworld unit of trade, the Linden™ dollar, which can be converted to US dollars at several thriving online Linden dollar exchanges.

Is it me, or does this all sound just a bit fantastic? The SL Bar Association has its own networking site with 52 members.  The home page has its own Virtual World Law News and there are even virtual courses, such as one for Trademark Infringement in the Virtual World or one for Internet Legal Research, held at a virtual address, but giving actual CLE credit. The real and the unreal collide when you attempt to navigate to the SL Bar Association’s office – you need to click the “teleport” link. 

SL has also been used in the real world as a tool to support a legal research class at the Nova Southeastern University Law School. According to the article by Rob Hudson linked above, SL was used as an interactive exhibit for the students of the issues arising and agencies involved in international law. The class also attended a lecture in the SL world held by a member of the European Union Parliament. Finally, a student employed SL to present, in avatar form, a legal research project he was required to complete but could not present in class on the scheduled date.

Why do lawyers get involved in SL? Carolyn Elefant posits that SL serves as a creative and entertaining release for lawyers, who get to create legal systems and courts. Other lawyers represent SL residents in legal transactions and court battles in exchange for Linden dollars. Still others form their virtual firms in SL with links to their real world law firms in the hopes of generating actual U.S. dollars. Ahh. There’s the marketing angle.

Then there is the clash between real life lawyering and virtual lawyering: In May 2006, U.S. attorney Marc Bragg brought an action against SL’s creator, Linden Lab, claiming it had unfairly terminated his SL account and confiscated his property portfolio, barring access to land or other investments. The causes of action include conversion, fraud, unjust enrichment and breach of contract and the case is continuing.

Needless to say, navigating new frontiers brings thorny problems regarding ownership, ethics and boundaries. It will most certainly be interesting to watch. Or maybe even to jump into.

I'm In The Majority: Westlaw vs. Lexis

I don’t often occupy that position, but I apparently do on this issue. Stanford University conducted a survey of law librarians and found respondents generally prefer Westlaw to LexisNexis as a research tool. Not surprisingly, Thomson Reuters proudly trumpets the results on its own blog. Evenso, the numbers are interesting:

Law school respondents preferred Westlaw at a rate of nearly four-to-one
78% of federal court/government respondents preferred Westlaw
60% of the law firm respondents preferred Westlaw

Of course, this is Thomson’s summary of the results. You can read them for yourself here.

My shorthand response to the Westlaw vs. LexisNexis debate traditionally has been that Westlaw has the edge on case law and legal research, while LexisNexis has the edge on newspapers, periodicals and other publications. I think these differences have been collapsing over the years.  The ultimate winner of this debate will be the one who packages the information (the same information, mind you) in a manner that is easier to locate, assimilate and manipulate. I always found Westlaw easier to use but that may have owed more to my first Westlaw representative than to any other factor.

And when the free online resources for this essentially public information improve their interfaces and accessibility, watch out Big Two!

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I’m In The Majority: Westlaw vs. Lexis

I don’t often occupy that position, but I apparently do on this issue. Stanford University conducted a survey of law librarians and found respondents generally prefer Westlaw to LexisNexis as a research tool. Not surprisingly, Thomson Reuters proudly trumpets the results on its own blog. Evenso, the numbers are interesting:

Law school respondents preferred Westlaw at a rate of nearly four-to-one
78% of federal court/government respondents preferred Westlaw
60% of the law firm respondents preferred Westlaw

Of course, this is Thomson’s summary of the results. You can read them for yourself here.

My shorthand response to the Westlaw vs. LexisNexis debate traditionally has been that Westlaw has the edge on case law and legal research, while LexisNexis has the edge on newspapers, periodicals and other publications. I think these differences have been collapsing over the years.  The ultimate winner of this debate will be the one who packages the information (the same information, mind you) in a manner that is easier to locate, assimilate and manipulate. I always found Westlaw easier to use but that may have owed more to my first Westlaw representative than to any other factor.

And when the free online resources for this essentially public information improve their interfaces and accessibility, watch out Big Two!

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Because I can ….

I made my own new RSS badge of the official Olympic Adidas soccer ball in honor of the Beijing Olympics and the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team routing New Zealand and proceeding to the quarter-finals this morning! Go Team USA!

If you want the badge, let me know and I will figure out how to send it along.

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Check Out My RSS Icon

It’s a little fuzzy around the edges, but I kinda like it. Once again, my esteemed computer geek husband helped. It’s a nod to my musical roots and my vintage guitar collection. Rock On!

Tip of the headstock to the Lorinator for her iccn graphic.

Wikipedia, Redux

Further to my earlier post about Wikis and Blogs as sources for legal authority and judicial citation, here is a great link to the Harvest Christian Academy’s page entitled “Lose Your Wikipedia Crutch.” The page lists 100 places to go in search of information on a variety of topics, arranging the places by type such as Library & Reference, User Contributed, Encyclopedias, Science & Math, Social Studies, Fine Art, Language & Literature, Technology, Question & Answer, General and Miscellaneous. If you just aren’t sure about that Wikipedia entry, why not try one of the alternatives listed in this article to jump-start your search?

Also, in the spirit of healthy competition, Google has announced its own user-contributed-content encyclopedia, Knol. The tagline is “a unit of knowledge.” According to itself, a “knol” is an authoritative article on a specific topic. From the site:

Knol makes it easy for you to write and share your knowledge with the world. Knol offers:

Ease of use
All you need is an account, a name and a desire to write and we’ll take care of the rest.

Control
You specify the level of collaboration you want with the community. Your knol, your voice.

Community
You can connect with other experts in your area of interest to share and grow knowledge.

Visibility
We value and promote authorship. Great content will be visible on any search engine.

Growth
Sharing your knowledge with the world is rewarding for everyone.

It was launched on July 23, 2008 and appears to still be in beta form. There is still plenty of room for good “knols” contributed by all of you bursting-with-knowledge sorts.

Welcome To My New Little Web World

I just spent all afternoon and evening moving my blog / blawg from Windows Live Spaces to a previously existing, but languishing, WordPress account. There was no easy way to do it. I had to manually move 32 posts drafted over the past five months, upload the photos and videos, edit so that it would like right and figure out how to get my picture in the sidebar and an RSS feed to my http://advantageadvocates.com website, the latter with the help of my esteemed, computer-geek husband. It was worth the effort. In the past five months, I got a grand total of zilch comments and one invitation to be the friend of a drunken barfly. In the past two hours, I have gotten two very nice comments. PayDay!

I hope you enjoy my blogblawg going forward. I try to post at least once per week, if not more, as the schedule allows. I have one salaried job, one business and one family with three children. It gets busy around here, but it’s all good.

Thanks for reading!