Do Lawyers Have Their Heads In the Clouds?


Sometimes, as a heavy duty user of cloud tools and a vocal advocate of same, I take for granted that others have the same awareness of and comfort level with them as I do. Not necessarily so, it appears. Less than a year ago, Citrix published a study that revealed that most people were a bit confused about the topic. Their blog post reporting on the study posted a few somewhat humorous highlights, such as:

  • 95% of those who think they’re not using the cloud, actually are
  • 3 in 5 (59%) believe the “workplace of the future” will exist entirely in the cloud
  • 40% believe accessing work information at home in their “birthday suit” would be an advantage
  • More than 1/3 agree that the cloud allows them to share information with people they’d rather not be interacting with in person
  • After being provided with the definition of the cloud, 68% recognized its economic benefits
  • 14% have pretended to know what the cloud is during a job interview

So, how do lawyers measure up against the more general population of cloudless masses? The ABA conducts a Legal Tech survey every year, the actual results of which I admittedly don’t read because the multi-volume set is a bit pricier than I would like to fork over. So I tend to depend on the reviews and reports by those more in the legal tech know than I, such as bloggers Bob Ambrogi and Nikki Black.  I encourage you to hit the links to get more details on the results of the latest survey. But I can summarize for you that attorneys’ use of the cloud has grown significantly over the past year, with the  larger percentage of respondents assigning the greatest importance to time and billing and case management applications. Interestingly, though, the top four most used applications by lawyers are not legal-specific apps but are consumer apps – Dropbox, Google Docs, iCloud and Evernote, in that order.  As it appears, lawyers are ahead of the curve on cloud awareness and adoption. Yay, us.

But maybe you need a bit more information and guidance on the cloud and what it means to you as a lawyer. Well, I have the goods for you. Or, rather, MyCase – a cloud-based case management software company – has them, in the form of a nice slideshow. Check it out and be informed!


Hot Dog! Advocate's Studio Nominated For ABA Blawg 100!

Well, whaddya know? My little piece of the Web got nominated for an AWARD.  I got an email from the American Bar Association that someone actually nominated Advocate’s Studio for inclusion on the ABA’s Blawg 100 – and it got a few votes! And, as far as I can tell, it wasn’t me, my friends or family doing the voting! Woot! If you head over to the link above and register, you can vote for it too!

The blog is listed in the ABA’s Legal Technology category, which is fitting since comparative religions and philosophy isn’t what I am writing about here. I am all about making the job faster, easier and more fun with technology. I have to admit, it makes me quite happy to see that someone is reading my blog. While I do write for the sheer pleasure of doing so – I really love digging up tech tips, tricks, new tools and applications and reporting on them here – it is always great to get some positive feedback.

My blog has come a long way from its humble origins on in early 2008. I had a lot to learn, and find I am still learning. Lots. Shortly after I started blogging, I read on the Web that other professionals were concerned that there were no blogging women lawyers out there. I found this interesting – my decision to blog was a direct result of finding some particularly fantastic female bloggers in the space (Susan Cartier Liebel, Nicole Black and Carolyn Elefant, to name a few) and getting inspired to try it myself (here is the blog post I wrote in response to C.C. Holland’s inability to find us). And I haven’t always been kind to the ABA in connection with the Blawg 100 – last year I did criticize the process due to the lack of female representation in the tech category in particular (here is my mini rant on that one). I am happy to say that there are now three women-operated blogs in the tech category – 33 1/3% of those listed. That’s progress. Last year, less than 10% were represented across the Blawg 100’s entire list. But lets not stop there – we still have some ground to cover.

But much like an actor dissing the Oscars until being awarded one of the golden statues, bottom line is, here I am, grateful for the honor. I am going to keep on writing as long as I can, and your readership and interest help keep it all going.

Oh, and thanks to mom and dad for the unending support and encouragement, my dear husband who periodically needs to retrieve me from tech hell, and my kids who, despite the fact they have no idea what I am doing typing away furiously on the computer, think it is pretty cool anyway.

Peace out. 🙂




The Cloud: A Foul Play?

Whether or not to use the Cloud in your legal practice: that is the question. To be, or not to be, in the Cloud depends heavily on the ethical rules that guide our profession. Not surprisingly, those ethics commissions are having just as much difficulty grappling with the question as are the ordinary practitioners faced with the attractive option of SaaS and cloud products. Is there an ethical trap inherent in the use of these tools, just waiting to be sprung?

Fortunately, the ABA Commission on Ethics is striving to be realistic in its approach to the use of cloud computing and possible violation of client confidentiality. The Commission has drafted a proposal to assist lawyers in making decisions regarding cloud services. 

The gist of the proposal, as well as the gist of the ethics opinions rendered by state bar associations, is that a lawyer need take “reasonable” steps to ensure client confidentiality and that this same standard applies to use of the cloud to transmit client data. Some opinions also combine the concept of flexibility with reasonableness, clearly a nod to the “everchanging nature” of technology. Protection level may be adjusted based on the client’s needs and nature of the information involved. And, rightly so, the onus should be on the lawyer to establish that he or she acted reasonably with respect to the use of technology for storage, manipulation and transfer of data. This includes a showing that the lawyer acted diligently by, for example, analyzing terms of service, privacy policies, security features and actively took the steps necessary to ensure the greatest level of protection available. This does not inecessarily require a complete refusal to use anything cloud in support of your practice.

Take a look at some  of the reported ethics opinions. From these, you should be able to get a sense of what is required of you when you opt to look to skyward for technological assistance. And remember, just because it comes from the cloud doesn’t necessarily mean that something wicked this way comes.

The Problem With Women Blawgers

When you pour your cup of morning coffee and settle down to some virtual reading enjoyment, do you tee up your favorite legal blawgs? Do you know or even notice whether those blawgs are written by women? Do you read publications by the American Bar Association (ABA), peruse their Blawg Directory, or pay attention to their annual Blawg ratings / rankings / listing or whatever it is, the Blawg 100? Do you count how many women blawgers are listed in their Directory or represented in the Blawg 100?

Lawyers are familiar with the ABA, it is our primary national professional association. The ABA Journal was one of the very first legal magazines I subscribed to. Whether by actual or implied valuation, most lawyers at least recognize its name, if not accord it some level of deference.

The ABA also publishes books (link here) and promotes those books to other lawyers and, if interested, pretty much anyone that can navigate the Web. One of those books, Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier (link here), is published by two lawyers, Carolyn Elefant and Nicole Black, whom I highly respect. By the way, they also author some of the finest legal blawgs out there. I have a copy of their book and do recommend it as a great primer for lawyers looking to enter the online networking fray or aspiring to take their online networking to the next level.

One of the first points to be made in any discussion about social media is the value of legal blawging. Why? Because it highlights legal expertise and ability and affords lawyers a chance to expand their reach to new audiences and potential clients. So, it stands to reason, if an “independent” and respected organization features your legal “blawg” and gives you a little “badge” to proudly wear in your side bar, your powers of persuasion in this venue should increase correspondingly. Better readership, better rainmaking, in a word. Better rainmaking means more money and prestige.

What is the Blawg 100, you ask? Well, according to itself, it is a list of 100 legal blawgs (blawgs are the cute legal name for blogs, in case you were wondering) on the Web. The entire Web. It does not appear to have any jurisdictional limitations. After “narrowing” down the field through an undisclosed process, readers can then vote for their favorites. From their own promotional introduction:

Welcome to the fourth annual ABA Journal Blawg 100—the best legal blogs as selected by the Journal’s editors.

Each year, we scour the Web to bring you the best and brightest law bloggers in a variety of categories, and this year is no different.

Register with if you need to, then take a look through this year’s honorees and vote for up to 12 of your favorites. Click on each of the 12 categories listed below to browse blawgs, and to vote for a blawg, click on the box to the left of it. Winners of the popular vote will be announced in January.

Good luck to all of this year’s honorees, and happy voting!

My emphasis there, in bold. It bears noting that “scouring” the web includes looking at public nominations for the best potential entrants. Nominations, though, are not the sole means for the first cut – it appears there is editorial discretion, which should be the case when you bill the ranking as a list of the top 100 legal blawgs (in a field that likely approaches 10,000) as selected by the ABA Journal editors, the masters of the flagship publication  of our preeminent national professional association.

The Blawg 100 has been going since 2007. I have been blogging since 2008. As I do a lot of online reading (with more than 100 of my own legal blawg subscriptions filling my feed reader across three different categories), I could not avoid discussions of the Blawger-Oscars even if I had wanted to. Every year I read the entries and every year I find some of my favorites, a very few I haven’t met before, and some that make me scratch my head and wonder “what in the world were they thinking? This year is no exception.

One calculation I had never engaged in was how many women were represented in the Blawg 100. Until this year.

A couple of days ago, Nicole Black aptly and accurately pointed out in her post on her excellent Sui Generis blawg that, of the 100 blawgs represented, less than 10% were authored by women. Actually, she posed the question far more eloquently: ABA Journal Blawg 100: Where The Hell Are The Women’s Blawgs? And she really has a point.

If a blog listing that bills itself as the “best” and the “brightest” of all blogs out there does not include a cross-section of subject matter and author diversity, or it regularly lists the same few blogs it has come to know and love, then it has a bit of a marketing problem. For whatever reason, the Blawg 100 is claiming to be something it is not – a true ranking via objective criteria of the best and brightest of the entire universe of blawgers. This wouldn’t be a real issue for me, except for the fact that it perpetuates a myth that might be taken as truth by less experienced (or should I say less cynical) readers.  More importantly, it perpetuates a status quo with respect to industry recognition that directly affects pre-eminence and earning in our brave new virtual world. A status quo that keeps women from the upper echelon.

Maybe if they called it “The ABA Journal Editors’ Personal Favorite Morning Reading Material“, I might have less of a problem with it and simply allay my irritation by sending them an email inviting them to broaden their scope by checking out some of the other excellent blawgs out there. But the true problem here is an industry blawg ranking that implies (note I did not say actively engages in) the promotion of bias and literary homogeneity in world of professionals that is anything but.

This is not the first time the issue of the missing women blawgers has reared its ugly head. I wrote about it ages ago (link here) when C.C. Holland over at pointed out that there were not enough women bloggers out there. I suggested that one need only open their eyes to see some excellent examples of female legal blogging, perhaps moving the field of vision beyond such indicators as LexMonitor’s AmLaw 200 listing. Back in 2008, the point was well taken that, if you don’t look for them, you won’t see them.

Flash forward to 2010 and the same point applies. Progress? Not so much. How can we expect readers to do the extra work finding examples of “fringe” writers and excellent minority professionals if industry publications won’t put in the time and effort.

This issue is not limited to female legal bloggers. About a year after my initial post, Mashable wrote about a shocking disparity in the number of women writing Wikipedia articles – about 13% of the authors polled (over 50,000 responded to the survey). I had to post about it (link here) and, as a result, got the most hits and comments I have EVER gotten on a blog post.

And recently, a good friend and most excellent literary fiction author, Christiane Alsop, wrote about her own informal survey of the numbers of women represented in “top” literary lists, featured in literary publications, writing as literary critics or promoted as writers in the advertising included in such publications. Her numbers were slightly better than those evident in the 2009 Wikipedia survey or the current Blawg 100 representation – hovering between 20 and 26%. However, she aptly points out that the number of female book consumers – ostensibly the target audience of these up-and-coming writers, literary critics and advertisements – are heavily female.

Interestingly, a similar statistic obtains for lawyers. But not at the top levels of law. Take these recent figures from Chicago Breaking Business:

– More than 60 percent of staff attorneys are women, the highest percentage of women lawyers in any category of practice and by definition the category with little possibility of career advancement.

– During the 2010 survey period, 93 percent of large law firms terminated lawyers, with men and women let go in proportionate numbers. But, terminations are highest among part-time attorneys, a position largely occupied by women: 56 percent of firms terminated one or more part-time employees, and in 83 percent of those firms, more women than men were terminated.

– The percentage of women equity partners is unchanged over the last five years, with women accounting for only about 15 percent of equity partners.

– The average firm’s highest governing committee includes only one or two women among its members. And about 10 percent of the nation’s largest firms have no women  on their governing committees.

– Female associate compensation is on par with that of male associate, but the gap widens at higher levels. Women equity partners earned 85 percent of the compensation earned by their male counterparts.

– Forty-six percent of firms credited no women at all among their Top 10 rainmakers

And, when hard economic times hit and people become more dependent upon their own marketing efforts to find new work or, perhaps, embark on a solo career, diversity figures drop steeply (link here). Interestingly, the ABA Journal notes the point in its article about the drop in female applicants to law school, as well as a quote from Hannah Brenner at the Michigan State University College of Law that:

For one thing, women lawyers continue to be vastly underrepresented in top-level positions. “That sends a message, …”

And, like the literary industry, women USE these resources. Carolyn Elefant points to some statistics on female readership, in a post on Blogging for Lawyers from over a year ago, that:

Women are nearly twice as likely to use blogs than social networking sites as a source of information (64%), advice and recommendations (43%) and opinion-sharing (55%)…

Blawgs are where people go to find legal subject matter experts. Women are using blogs and blawgs to find information, advice and recommendation. But women are not represented at the highest levels of a profession charged with, among other things, championing diversity and civil rights.

And I guess that is my point – it sends a message. When women, or members of any other group, aren’t represented, aren’t recognized, aren’t spotlighted at the top earning spots or aren’t afforded top accolades in their profession, it sends a message. Whether due to active bias, institutional inertia or a faulty system, it sends a message. Is that the message you, dear reader, want to be reading? Is that the message you, ABA, want to be sending?

I tried, in vain, to collect some VERY interesting tweets that my retweet of Nicole’s recent post generated on Twitter over the past couple of days. Unfortunately, tweet aggregator Storify didn’t deliver for me. Instead, check out some of the updated information on the social media discussion included by Nicole in her post linked at the top of my post here. Suffice it to say, like my Wikipedia post, the issue of the missing women blawgers generated a great deal of discussion from some surprising quarters, although my hopes for the discussion actually generating active change are somewhat more reserved, if past experience proves anything.

Nice One, ABA! A Free Search Engine for Law Reviews

The ABA is now offering a free, full-text, search engine for on-line law reviews and journals. There are over 300 publications represented. The engine will also pull from document repositories that host academic papers, as well are related publications such as the Congressional Research Service Reports. Hit the jump above, check out the list of included resources, and try it out. It’s not like you have to pay anything for it!

Hat tip to Legal Writing Prof Blog.

More Tools & Apps

You can never have enough of them. Particularly if they will help you run your business, solve your problems and make your job easier.

The ABA Journal has compiled a list of “70 Sizzling Apps” – lawyer-friendly helpers that run the gamut from word-smithing to productivity to accessibility to task management to fun and games (lawyers need a break too!).  Some apps, particularly in the latter category, do not really exhibit a clear connection to the practice of law, but they are all interesting and worthwhile to some degree.

Here is a sample of apps listed by the ABA article:

WaffleTurtle offers searchable iPhone apps of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ($2.99); Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure ($2.99); Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act ($4.99); Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure ($2.99); Federal Rules of Criminal Proce­dure ($2.99); Federal Rules of Evidence ($2.99); Lanham Act ($2.99); local patent rules from seven federal district courts whose dockets attract great numbers of intellectual property cases ($2.99); Sarbanes-Oxley Act ($1.99); securities laws including the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the Securities Act of 1933, the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, the Invest­ment Company Act of 1940 and the Invest­ment Advis­ers Act of 1940 ($4.99); federal copyright code ($1.99); and federal patent laws ($2.99).

I was suprised to see that a few of my favorites didn’t make the list. One of these is reQall, a free iPhone app and companion web service  that beg for a $24 per year Pro subscription to keep track of your to do list. It’s quite ingenious: it takes emails or voice recordings of to-do list items, transcribes to text, organizes tasks by location or keywords, offers shared reminders with co-workers, friends or family, includes memory jogging functions, syncs with Google calendar and Outlook, and now sports a related items link that will sync reQall with Evernote and group items accordingly.

Whatever your preference in apps, there is no shortage to choose from, as the ABA so aptly points out!