Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Pirate's Dilemma

The delightful Connie Crosby of Crosby Group Consulting gave me this book on her recent trip to Boston. Matt Mason traces the current web 2.0 movement back to the 1970's punk rock culture. He starts with focus on a quote from punk fanzine Sniffin' Glue with a diagram showing three finger positions on the neck of a guitar with the caption:
"Here's one chord, here's two more, now form your own band."
In a 2.0 world, doing-it-yourself does not seem that radical anymore. Anyone can be published author on the web. You can jump onto Blogger and in a few minutes have a powerful web publishing platform up and running in a few minutes.

Mason looks to some early punk bands who played for themselves and your buddies. Then maybe a few friends come along. If other people come then great, but it does not matter that much because you are doing for yourself and few people close to you. Mason focuses mostly on music, but in the background I was thinking more about blogging and enterprise 2.0. It does not make much sense to put together and a print a book that only a few hundred people will read. That is a big deployment of capital with an improbable return on investment. With web 2.0 the capital for distribution and publishing is minimal. A blog with only a few hundred readers is successful.

It goes back to my post on Why Blog? It is about me capturing my ideas and sharing them with myself and sharing them with some friends and colleagues.
"Here's one post, here's two more, now form your own blog."
I also see the pirates taking over knowledge management. Knowledge management was about capturing the best documents and the best practice, vetting them and packaging them for distribution. There is a big hierarchy of command and control over what information gets published and who gets to see it.

Enterprise 2.0 breaks down that hierarchy. Essentially, anyone can publish information, comment on information and link pieces of information together. The 2.0 movement goes a long way to one of the challenges of knowledge management by making it easier to turn tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge. Turn it over to the pirates. Let them find, collect and distribute information inside the enterprise in the way that works best for them.

The knowledge management 2.0 movement is about reducing the "management" and enlarging the knowledge base. KM professionals should look to ways to reduce the hierarchy and the barriers to contribution. Hand KM over to the pirates.

You can read more of my take on the book at - Book Review: The Pirate's Dilemma.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Legal OnRamp and the Wired GC

I sat in a webinar from John Wallbillich's Wired GC: Collaborate to Win. The webinar featured Paul Lippe talking about social nature of the law, lawyers and law firms. In large part, Paul pitched the benefits of Legal OnRamp for law departments.

Legal OnRamp has about 6,000 members. Paul does not feel that Legal OnRamp has reached the tipping point yet, but that it is fast approaching.

Paul thinks that lawyers will come from last to first in using collaborative media. He points out that the practice of law is inherently social and very collaborative. The common law is socially constructed. (Most of the primary law materials are in the public domain. After all, judges and regulators are paid with our tax dollars. It is the interpretation and application of that primary law that lawyers do.)

Paul highlighted how law departments using Legal OnRamp could reduce costs and have better collaboration within the department and with external counsel.

Paul went through these benefits of using Legal OnRamp:
  1. Peer-to-peer discussion. Most problems have been addressed before. It is better to leverage others' prior knowledge.
  2. Firms share resources on Legal OnRamp. (It is a great accumulation of legal information on lots of topics from lots of law firms).
  3. FAQs. Individual lawyers prepare quick answers on specific topics.
  4. Share recommendations to find the best lawyers. Most lawyers are hired from informal recommendations.
  5. Help Desk. There are free answers from experts inside law firms.
  6. Marketplace. A place to ask for lawyers interested in the business. This allows it to be more competitively sourced.
  7. Create and Share Documents. You can use a wiki to publish a document, get comments and allow others to edit it.
  8. Free or Low Cost Tools. There are some subscriber based tools. Legal OnRamp is a platform for deploying legal information. Paul showed an application called Baseline NDA. You can import an NDA and compare it to a template for compliance.
  9. Private Ramp. The platform can be an out-sourced IT tool.
  10. Department and Department/Firm Collaboration. You can use the platform's wiki tool to manage your internal information or a place to work with outside counsel.
It was interesting to hear Paul's take on Legal OnRamp from the in-house perspective. Maybe I just paid less attention to the in-house side since I was in a law firm. I am hearing lots of new things through my new in-house lens.

If you are a lawyer getting laid off, Legal OnRamp is offering some benefits to you:
"At Legal OnRamp, we're concerned about the recent layoffs of associates in large firms, but also optimistic that this will give those lawyers an opportunity to adapt to the world that's emerging. As such, even though Legal OnRamp is primarily for inhouse lawyers, we are inviting associates who are being laid off to join.  We are putting together a career center with a variety of resources, we have a number of job listings, and will support various networking and skills development activities. We have extended that offer directly to the firms and welcome individuals to contact us as well.  Just indicate which firm you are being laid off from when you request an invitation at"

Monday, November 24, 2008

A View From the Other Side - Law Firm Newsletters

It has been a month since I have turned from a provider of legal services at a big law firm to a consumer of legal services from big law firms. I thought I would share some of the things I have found.

First, I was surprised that the firm I left did not do anything to bridge the gap of information flow. Law firms should think about getting their departing lawyers set up with relevant newsletters to be sent to their new jobs. I have been getting more alerts (and more information) from other law firms than the law firm with which I have the closest bond.

One law firm asked me to set up a password-protected account to subscribe to alerts. But someone decided it need to be a complicated password with an uppercase letter, lowercase letter and a number/symbol. For a newsletter?!? That password is more complicated than the password for my bank account. I did not bother completing that subscription.

The general counsel forwarded me an law firm interesting newsletter: Privacy and Security Alert. Unfortunately when I went to that firm's website to subscribe, it was not one of the choices. I have noticed this with a few other law firms. If a law firm is going to label a newsletter, that label should be one of the subscription options.

All firms seem to break their publications into different chunks that make no sense to me. What is the difference between a publication, a newsletter and an alert?

JD Supra Expands Its Reach to Facebook and Twitter

I was one of the founding contributors to JD Supra. I was intrigued by the idea of a collective repository of legal documents. Intrigued enough that I was also a top ten contributor for a while.

One of criticisms was that a mere online repository of documents is not that compelling. Why should I publish to JD Supra? They started showing some value [See my post: JD Supra Revisited about how I was contacted to write a story based on my publications in JD Supra.] Now there are two new reasons.

One is their new connectivity with Facebook. You can "fan" JD Supra on their Facebook page:

Even better, your publications in JD Supra can show up in your Facebook news and profile. JD Supra created a new application that ties your publications to your Facebook profile.

Below you can see the three documents I published last week. They go into my update stream, so my "friends" in Facebook can see my publications.
There is also a "box" on my Facebook profile that accesses all of my documents in JD Supra through Facebook.

Second, JD Supra is tying the publication of documents in JD Supra to some Twitter stream. I noticed my Blogging / Social Internet Policy go into the twitter stream last week.

It looks like JD Supra is using these Twitter handles to re-publish alerts:
I am a huge fan of the connectivity between online communities. It creates much more value by republishing information in different ways so people can access and find the information they need in a way that works for them.

See some other takes on the new feature of JD Supra:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Why Blog?

Mary Abraham of the Above and Beyond KM blog asked me: How do I decide how/what/when to blog?

To answer these questions, I need to go back to when I first started blogging. My former law firm had used Microsoft's Sharepoint as the backbone of their intranet for years. The 2007 upgrade of Sharepoint included these things called blogs and wikis. I was not sure what they were, but they sounded interesting.

I quickly discovered that two people I knew had blogs: Ron Friedmann's Strategic Legal Technology and Joy London's Excited Utterances. I thought they were just websites. (Does it really matter anymore?)

I did a little research and decided to try it out. I would set aside an afternoon and set up a blog. Google claimed their Blogspot platform was easy to set up and free. It took all of ten minutes to set up of which five minutes was figuring out a name and four minutes was spent choosing colors. That left a lot of time that afternoon to think about the implications of what I had done. I also had to figure out what to do with it.

The name of this blog came from my split between knowledge management and real estate. ("KM" for knowledge management and "space" for real estate.) Initially, I thought the blog would be all-encompassing. But I quickly found the knowledge management posts and real estate posts were jarringly different.

Eventually, I spun off the real estate posts into a different blog: Real Estate Space. There I could organize my thoughts on real estate law. At this point I was also beginning to see the marketing value of a blog. I saw my blog posts coming back very high in Google search results. I even did some tests by publishing some of The Firm's alerts in my blog and comparing search results. My blog posts consistently out-performed The Firm's website.

I managed to convince my colleague David Hobbie to try out blogging. He set up Caselines to talk about litigation knowledge management.

Knowledge management had a lot more vibrant discussions happening than real estate, so KM Space was my focal point, with Real Estate Space as more of side project. Real estate law does not change very much. As a lawyer, it did not seem appropriate to write about the real estate market conditions.

For me, blogging was always about personal knowledge management. I put up posts to memorialize interesting things I find. I put up posts to help me focus my thoughts more coherently. Blogging is part of my learning process.

With my new position, I am using a blog as a learning tool. I set up a blog to help me capture the statues, regulations, articles and ideas that I need to learn about compliance. That translates into 143 posts over the past month. This blog is dark now, but I hope to bring it public in the future.

During my time off between positions, I set up a blog to chronicle my paddling adventures: Paddling Space. I wanted to keep track of my experiences and map my routes.

Along with knowledge management, blogs act as a lightweight content management tool. I recently converted into a Wordpress blog. I have found it so much easier to use that using FrontPage and uploading files.

I think the common theme for all these blogs is using the blogging platform to put my thoughts and ideas into a searchable place. I happy that anyone takes the time to read any of my blogs, but I think I am the biggest consumer of my blog material.

To get back to Mary's original questions...

HOW I blog is easy. I post from just about anywhere: the work computer, the home computer, my blackberry or my iPhone. The web-based publishing of my blog platforms make the how part very easy. Although KM Space and Real Estate Space use the Blogspot/Blogger platform, I have decided that I like the Wordpress platform better. Paddling Space uses uses the self-hosted version of Wordpress. (It was very easy to set up and gives me great control over the look and feel.) Compliance Space is currently on, but I will migrate that to a self-hosted site before it goes public.

WHEN I blog is whenever the information hits me. I am a big fan of using a blog to capture my notes during a conference, webinar or presentation. Some presenters seem to be annoyed at the typing. They clearly have not been to a law school classroom lately.

I tend to pre-publish blog post lately to smooth out the flow. Any of the blog post you see with a 9:00 AM publish time (including this one) were pre-scheduled to publish.

HOW OFTEN I blog is related to WHEN. I am not a magazine publisher. I do not keep a schedule. When the information comes to me, I blog. I will often look at the blog and see that I have not posted lately and use that as indicator that I have not been thinking about my job or learning enough lately. Looking back at the number of blog posts over the past year, it looks like I have been learning a lot. KM Space 316 posts, Real Estate Space: 60 posts, and Compliance Space: 143 posts.

WHAT I blog about is helped by the separation of my thoughts into the different blogs. The other blogs are more repositories. This blog is also about having a conversation. Sure it tends to be more about yelling back and forth from mountaintops than a watercooler-like conversation. Twitter is a much more conversational platform.

I am also intrigued by Matt Simpson and Luis Suarez (also of ) over at with their podcast about the conversational side of social media. That truly is a conversation about the conversation.

This blog is about allowing me to communicate with other interested and interesting people. It allows a place to capture my thoughts and share them with you (and myself).

Friday, November 14, 2008

Unwanted Messages - Filtering Information

Have you noticed fewer spam messages over the past few days? According to the Washington Post, a web-hosting firm was shut down that was a major center for spam activity: Host of Internet Spam Groups is Cut Off. Email security firm IronPort report a 66% drop in spam levels on Tuesday night after the host was shut down. reported a 75% drop in spam e-mails per second.

It got me thinking about all of the unwanted messages we receive each day. Email is just one medium. Since I moved to my new job, I have a new email address. The spammers have not tracked me down yet. Inevitably they will.

Of course when I get home, I have the same problem with other communication tools.  The few important pieces of mail are overwhelmed by the credit card offers, catalogs and junk mail. I get more phone calls from telemarketers than friends.

The difference is one of cost. The incremental cost of sending out 10 million emails instead of 10 thousand emails is almost zero. It takes more time and money to make a phone call or send an item in the mail. Of course, that is what makes email so attractive for business use. It is fast and inexpensive.

Then there is also the advertisements in South Station, on the subway, and on the bus. There are the Google ads alongside my search results. There are the ads on the radio and television. There are the fundraisers on National Public Radio. There is the loud guy on the cell phone behind me.

We are in the information age and we are flooded with information. We need ways to filter the information so we can separate the information we need and care about from the unwanted messages.

Spam filters do a great job of blocking the spam. Caller ID lets me filter unwanted phone calls. Tivo lets me filter out unwanted television ads. Email rules filter the law firm alerts and updates out of my email inbox and into a place for later consumption.

The problem is not that there is too much information. The problem is that there are too few filters. We need to do a better job of filtering the incoming flow of information.

We also need to do a better job of controlling the outgoing flow of information. Do we really need to reply all? Do we really need to send that email out at 11:00 pm or can it wait until the morning? Does the message need to go by email or would be better handled through a phone call or other communication medium?

Friday, November 7, 2008

LinkedIn Events versus Upcoming

LinkedIn launched the LinkedIn Events module: Announcing LinkedIn Events. You get event recommendations, you can indicate if you are going and you can see who else is going. Once you mark an event, it shows up on your LinkedIn profile.

This is a great feature, but not a new idea. I have been a fan of Upcoming for while: [Doug on Upcoming]. The site is classic example of Metcalfe's law. It gets more useful as more people use it.

LinkedIn provides a bigger user base of connections to tie into. I have 323 "connections" on LinkedIn, but only 23 "friends" in Upcoming.

Upcoming is a more open platform. In particular, Upcoming supplies lots of RSS feeds giving you notifications of new events that your "friends" are attending and new events added to groups that you join. It also ties into Facebook and other aggregators like FriendFeed.

With all these new applications, LinkedIn is starting to move closer to the Facebook model of aggregating information. It will interesting to see how the events and other application features evolve.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Essential Blog Elements

Kevin O'Keefe of Real Lawyers Have Blogs  put together some key elements to have on your blog: Essential law blog pages needed to promote yourself.

I have read too many blogs, for lawyers and others, that do not tell you what the blog is about or who is writing it. Evey blog (including my blogs) wander a bit. You need to pull together a summary of what you are trying to say and where people can find more information about you.

If you are sitting on blogger like me, don't use the standard About link. Create a blog post with the information. Backdate it to keep it out of the feed. Here is my about page: About this Blog and Doug Cornelius. To prove its importance, my tracking numbers show the "About" page to be one of the five most visited posts on this blog.

The one thing Kevin left out is a disclaimer. There is still some uncharted territory with blogs. Bar counsel has barely figured out what to do with Web 1.0. You should label your blog as legal advertising and disclaim any possible attorney-client privilege. I have a disclaimer in About this Blog and Doug Cornelius. Over at the Real Estate Space blog, I was more cautious and put a link to the disclaimer in every post. Since lots of blog content is read through RSS feeds, readers may not see the disclaimer.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Blogging / Social Internet Policy for a Law Firm

I would appreciate your thoughts on this policy focused. It is written from an agnostic policy perspective, neither prohibiting nor promoting blogs or social media. I plan to use this as a starting point at the New Company.

When employees create their own blogs, comment on a blog, create a LinkedIn profile, use Facebook and/or contribute to or through any of the other online media (i.e., Wikis, blogs, chat rooms, Internet forums, electronic mailing lists, etc.) they are impacting their personal image and potentially impacting the firm. If your profile online indicates that you work at the firm, then that activity is associated with the firm.

When it comes to expressing opinions about anything having to do with the law, law firm employees are in a special position and have some limitation that other industries do not have. Statements in public forums may inadvertently create an attorney-client relationship, and may also violate the rules prohibiting law firm advertising.

Follow these guidelines when creating and/or publishing legal or non-legal content online:

· Maintain Client Confidentiality. Work for clients and the identities of our clients must be held in confidence to the extent appropriate for that client and client relationship. You must comply with the firm’s Client Confidentiality Policy.

· Be mindful of creating an attorney-client relationship. It is recommended that you not advise any course of action with respect to a particular set of facts. There can be a fine line between supplying legal information and supplying legal advice. Focus on new and interesting things happen in your area of expertise. Be careful asking specific questions.

· Think first. Remember you are publishing in a public forum, so don’t publish anything that you wouldn’t want to be viewed by your family, colleagues or the general public. Since content is easily transferred and replicated across the internet, it is nearly impossible to delete content once it has been published.

· Identify yourself. If you are commenting or publishing on topics related to your job, identify yourself as a lawyer or an employee of the firm. If you are an attorney, you may link to your bio on our public website.

· Disclaimers. You should make it clear that you are expressing views that are your own and not those of the firm.

· Be careful about jeopardizing firm-client relationships. If you are commenting on a legal matter, consider whether the position you take may be adverse or offensive to any of our clients. In case of any doubt, check with the head of the relevant Practice Area.

· Be respectful. Rumors and gossip spread like wildfire on the Internet. Be respectful of your colleagues, the firm, and our competitors.

· Follow the law. This should be obvious. In particular, be cautious of securities law violation and copyright violation. You must be familiar with and comply with the Copyright Policy.

· Use of firm logos or service marks. The firm logo or service mark cannot be used.

· Anonymous Contributions. The same cautions and restrictions on communications apply to supposedly "anonymous" blogs, comments, posts or other content. There almost nothing is truly anonymous on the internet. You should not use anonymity as a shield for malicious or wrongful content.

  • Registration: If you have a blog that is related to your job (for example a lawyer with a law-related blog), it must be registered with ______. 
  • Media: Media inquiries related to your blog should be handled like any other media inquiry.
  • Disclaimer: There should be a prominent disclaimer or link to a disclaimer on the main page, as well as in the “About” portion of your blog. See _______ for an appropriate disclaimer.
  • Name of Blog: Neither the title of the blog nor the URL of the blog may include the firm name.
  • Comments: Bloggers may allow others to comment on their posts. Comments may be attributable to the blogger so you should be prepared to moderate comments and delete offensive comments.
  • Content: Do you have questions about what is appropriate to discuss on your blog? Ask the head of your Practice Area or the head of the relevant Practice Area.

Commenting on Blogs

You should treat the comments you make on another blog the same as you would treat posts on your own blog


LinkedIn is a powerful professional online networking tool. For attorneys, LinkedIn is a relatively new tool and state bar regulators have not ruled on what is appropriate.
  • Avoid answering legal questions. It is very easy to inadvertently create an attorney-client relationship. The line between supplying legal information and legal advice is very gray.
  •  Recommendations are particularly problematic. In some jurisdictions they can be viewed as testimonials and attorney advertising. Attorneys should avoid providing recommendations to other attorneys for that reason. If you receive a recommendation, please have it promptly reviewed by ________. Non-attorney staff members may recommend other non-attorneys if they otherwise comply with the above guidelines.

Facebook/MySpace/Other Social Network Sites

Although these are largely social tools, if you are a member of the firm’s network or list the firm in your work information then your activity in these types of sites impacts the firm as well as your personal image. The guidelines are applicable to your use of these sites.

Legal OnRamp

This site is a knowledge platform for attorneys matched with some features of social networking sites. Unlike some other online sites, this one is well-populated with in-house counsel of clients and potential clients. Please contact _____ with any questions about the use of this site.


Any edits you make to wikipedia while using a firm computer can potentially be tied back to the firm. Even an anonymous edit marks the editor with its Internet Protocol address. This IP address can easily be tied back to the firm.


Twitter is a type of blogging, limited to 140 characters per post.