Sunday, May 13, 2018

Syndication of law blogs a real plus for bloggers

Syndication as we’ve come to known it is akin to the TV show Seinfeld. When the show ended in 1998, folks like me saw it for the first time in reruns on various stations other than NBC, where it originally ran.

In a nice piece on content syndication and blogs, Brendan Barron explains the basics, basics largely applied by LexBlog as we build a legal news and information network by curating/syndicating legal blogs world-wide.

[S]omeone makes a copy of content that was originally published elsewhere and then uses it on their own WordPress website. So, for your purposes, content syndication could mean that you import someone else’s content into your site (which is probably what most of you will do). It also means that you could loan out your own content to others.

When Seinfeld gives Seattle’s Channel 11 permission to run his shows in syndication, there’s no copyright infringement. Same for blogs.

When someone willingly grants permission for others to use their blog posts in syndication, and proper attribution is provided to the original author and source, there shouldn’t be any problems with violating copyright law.

For bloggers, Barron says content syndication is greatly beneficial.

  • Their content now has the opportunity to be introduced to a new audience.
  • They’re receiving free promotion of content on another platform that requires zero work on their part.
  • They receive a a new backlink to to their blog from a highly influential source, growing the influence of their blog and improving its seach performance. [last point on search added by me]

In the case of LexBlog, add delivering the blog posts to legal research services such as Facebook and further syndicating posts via email newsletters and social media.

What about duplicate content confusing the search engines and possibly causing your blog to rank lower than the syndication source?

No question syndicated content is duplicate content, it’s content indentical to something that already exists online and is already indexed by the search engines.

There’s a good reason search engines hate duplicate content, per Barron,

To put it plainly, it’s because duplicate content is usually a sign of unwarranted use of someone else’s work (i.e. plagiarism). In this case, however, that clearly is not your intention as you’re publishing content with a direct attribution back to the original writer and source. That said, Google’s bots aren’t smart enough to know that an arrangement was made.

What’s the answer?

[Y]ou need to somehow communicate to search engines that the duplicate content is not to be indexed or ranked (since that privilege belongs to the source). After all, you don’t need to rank for this page.

As Barron explains, You can communicate to search engines in a couple different ways.

1. Add a Canonical Tag. A canonical tag is one you place in the header of the syndicated content page. It tells search bots, “Hey, I don’t deserve any of this praise. Can you guys please just give it all to this person over here?”

2. Update the robots.txt. If you simply want to keep the search engines away from this page, you can instead use the robots.txt file in the root directory.

LexBlog will use the Canonical approach. Our goal is to shine a light on bloggers and their commentary. Let people world-wide discover them and their insight – but always to recognize the power of a citizen journalist having their own publication.

Key for law bloggers, I’d think, is the syndication be done through a credible publisher, that the content be open and free to readers, that as the original publisher you need not have to pay for syndication, that there be links back to the original content and authors and that there be continuing constribution in the form of blog and blogger profiles.

Who knew? Law blogs and Seinfeld.


Syndication of law blogs a real plus for bloggers posted first on https://fergusonlawatty.wordpress.com

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Study of legal tech company marketing omits online networking

Is it possible that ninety-seven percent of legal tech companies have no firm grasp of their go-to-market strategy or, at best, a scattered one, and that the vast majority lack an understanding of their products positioning and customers as reported by legal PR and marketing Baretz+Brunelle in their Legal Tech Go-to-Market Report?

LexBlog’s editor-in-chief and widely recognized legal tech reporter, Bob Ambrogi doesn’t think so. From his piece in Above the Law:

My impression of this survey is that its conclusions are overbroad. I have no doubt that many legal tech companies lack a cogent go-to-market strategy. But I strongly doubt that it is anywhere near 97 percent. I likewise have no doubt that many companies are confused about their product and customers, but again, I doubt that it is as endemic as this survey suggests. The fact is that many legal tech companies are highly strategic and successful in their sales and marketing.

Though Baretz is a widely respected organization, Ambrogi added another kicker.

Of course, given that this survey comes from a PR and marketing firm, there is also a subliminal message to be found between its lines: Hire us and we’ll help you sharpen your strategy.

What the the report really misses is the large amount of networking through the Internet being done by legal tech companies for branding, product positioning and selling. It’s being done to strategically nuture relationships with buyers, consultants, and influencers in order to develop business.

I regularly engage legal tech company founders, executives, financiers and the influencers of those reporting and leading the discussion on legal tech companies via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and blogging.

It’s a real, authentic and vibrant discussion – person to person, as opposed to company marketing and communications.

Though there are many legal tech companies participating in networking through the Internet, person to person, admittedly the number doing so is less than half.

Of those legal tech companies not networking authentically, person to person, most attempt to network through the net via their company brands. The results are sketchy at best as those they are trying to reach see through the awkwardness of their approach.

Maybe I miss the point of the study, which admittedly is brief and limited in scope. But wouldn’t networking through the Internet even be acknowledged? Wouldn’t the large amount networking through the Internet by legal tech companies be seen in advance of the study? After all, networking online is a marketing method uniquely suited for technology companies.

Maybe the use of the Internet, as it pertains to the study, is just a tactic within a strategy, or the lack of a strategy. Admittedly other tactics were not addressed.

But to miss the online marketing taking place and skip the strategy altogether?


Study of legal tech company marketing omits online networking posted first on https://fergusonlawatty.wordpress.com

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Smartphones are not making us antisocial, they’re making us hypersocial

smartphones antisocial social

We’re not addicted to smartphones, we’re addicted to social interaction. And this is a good thing.

Those are the findings of a McGill University study recently summarized in Neuroscience News.

We all know people who, seemingly incapable of living without the bright screen of their phone for more than a few minutes, are constantly texting and checking out what friends are up to on social media.

These are examples of what many consider to be the antisocial behaviour brought on by smartphone addiction, a phenomenon that has garnered media attention in the past few months and led investors and consumers to demand that tech giants address this problem.

Multiple students in a Indiana University Law School class I attended last week challenged other students to be more present. To engage others socially, versus being tied to their cellphones.

I wondered if the students appreciated the value of their smartphones for social interaction for learning, networking and building a name.

Did the students understand the tremendous value in social interaction on a smartphone? If they were most legal professionals, they had no idea.

The study’s findings confirmed my feelings.

…[W]hat if we were looking at things the wrong way? Could smartphone addiction be hyper-social, not anti-social?

Professor Samuel Veissière, a cognitive anthropologist who studies the evolution of cognition and culture, explains that the desire to watch and monitor others, but also to be seen and monitored by others, runs deep in our evolutionary past. Humans evolved to be a uniquely social species and require constant input from others to seek a guide for culturally appropriate behaviour. This is also a way for them to find meaning, goals, and a sense of identity.

In a forthcoming study published in Frontiers in Psychology, Samuel Veissière and Moriah Stendel, researchers in McGill’s Department of Psychiatry, reviewed current literature on dysfunctional use of smart technology through an evolutionary lens, and found that the most addictive smartphone functions all shared a common theme: they tap into the human desire to connect with other people. (Emphasis added)

Professor Veissière is spot on, “There is a lot of panic surrounding this topic.”

We should be looking at the news here, says Veissière. Any addiction arises out of our desire for human interaction, and there are simple solutions to deal with that, ie, turn off notificactions or your phone at certain times.

Focus on the value of a smartphone, says Veissière.

Rather than start regulating the tech companies or the use of these devices, we need to start having a conversation about the appropriate way to use smartphones. Parents and teachers need to be made aware of how important this is.

Ignorance runs rampant here. Lawyers, law school professors and law firms see being addicted to smartphones as a bad thing. Even using a smartphone for social interaction is seen by these folks as having nominal value. Most boast of not using Facebook and Twitter, as if that’s for people below them.

These folks neeed to be made aware of how important social networking via a smartphone is.

  • Following focused news and information on a news aggegrator or Twitter
  • Sharing this news on social networks with your comments
  • Engaging other legal professionals who comment on and like what you have shared
  • Further network with these individuals, business people, legal professionals and influencers – bloggers, reporters, association leaders, conference coordinators
  • Leverage your growing network and relationships for business, speaking engagements and the like
  • Lerverage the name you’ll have built by social networking

Can you really do all this with a smart phone? Absolutely.

The computer in your pocket or purse is probably the single most powerful – and certainly the most accessible – device you have for learning and networking.

And a big reason for this is so many other people being addicted to social interaction on their smartphone – and knowing how to do so in a valuable way.


Smartphones are not making us antisocial, they’re making us hypersocial posted first on https://fergusonlawatty.wordpress.com

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Blog (law) for America

Nellie Bowles penned a wonderful piece in the The New York Times this week on ‘Report for America,’ a non-profit organization, modeled after AmeriCorps, aiming to install 1,000 journalists in understaffed newsrooms by 2022.

Molly Born, one of the first selected for the program who covers the coal fields for West Virginia Public Broadcasting, told Bowles,

I felt like I needed to give something back to a place that has given a lot to me, and journalism is the way for me to do that.

It’s important to have reporters based in parts of America where some people feel misunderstood. It just helps us get a greater understanding of who we are and who our neighbors are.

Bowles report on the plight of journalists sounds earily similar to the plight of small law in communities across our country – even blogging lawyers.

Historically, reporters would start their careers at small publications and move on to progressively larger ones. These days, young journalists tend to find work right out of college — but the jobs they end up with often don’t require them to take time talking to story subjects face to face or learning about different communities.

“Maybe they have done that Brooklyn thing, where you spend a year or two in a cubicle working for a blog,” Charles Sennott [co-founder of Report for America, who covered wars and insurgencies in more than a dozen countries as the Jerusalem-based Middle East bureau chief for The Boston Globe], 55, said. “But that’s not the same as being on the ground doing the real work, knocking on a door and walking into someone’s kitchen.”

In 1990, daily and weekly newspaper publishers employed about 455,000 people, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By January 2016, that number had fallen to 173,000.

How many lawyers are getting first hand experience, eye to eye, with a client? Many lawyers feel trapped doing work for other lawyers, never having having client interaction.

Other lawyers know no better than kicking out or buying content as a way to “market” themsleves. These lawyers have no clue what blogging really is nor how blogging works to build trust, a name and a book of business.

Law blogs penned by small firm lawyers addressing the needs of individuals and small businesses could be much the same as Report America.

Less than 20% of the people in this country have meaningful access to the law. Crushing student loans drive law grads to large law, less demand for small town law, tech driven efficiencies driving down prices and alternative online legal services are only making matters worse – for both people needing a lawyer and for lawyers who’d like to help them.

Leading legal ethics lawyer, Will Hornsby, and himself a champion for access to legal services wrote almost 20 years ago about personal plight areas of the law. By personal plight, Hornsby meant areas of the law in which an individual or small business person needed a lawyer right now.

Personal plight includes bankruptcy, workers compensation, divorce, employment, criminal, real estate, personal injury, immigration, disability, social security, estate planning and more.

Blog (law) for America in the form of blogging lawyers covering personal plight areas of law for two or three hundred communities could be quite a force.

Blogs by local lawyers not only provide meaningful information, but establish trust – something lawyers sorely lack when it comes to individuals and small businesses.

Unlike corp members in Report America, lawyers don’t need a stipend or grant of  $40,000 for two years. Lawyers have a revenue model – it’s called getting paid for the legal services you render.  Law blogs generate work.

In addition to generating revenue, law grads get first hand experience talking with clients face to face – across the kitchen table, if you will.

Blog (law) for America is a win-win. Individuals and small business people get access to localized law from a local attorney who cares about their city or town and who knows the nuances of the law being applied locally. These folks learn to trust a local lawyer who enjoys what they do and whom earns an okay living.

Lawyers who want to, do real law, person to person, and earn a living doing so.


Blog (law) for America posted first on https://fergusonlawatty.wordpress.com

Friday, April 13, 2018

What if law schools were charged with never letting a student fail on their dreams?

What if law schools were charged with never letting a student fail on their dreams?

In this story from Notre Dame Magazine, I’m reminded of Emil T Hofman, a chemistry prof at Notre Dame for four decades and Dean of the Freshman Year of Studies for about three decades, who felt 18-year-olds were too young to know what they wanted, much less to fail on their dreams.

Farther Ted Hesburgh, then president of the university and Emil T (as he was both affectionately and hatedly called on campus) did as much as anyone other than my parents shaping my belief that anything you can dream is possible.

Emil T figured that If Notre Dame accepts the best students they should be treated right. That meant giving them a flexible academic program with time to decide on a major, and helping them to succeed and like the University.

I remember to this day sitting in Emil T’s office, which almost on top of the Grotto telling him I was failing, that I totally blew it by going for an engineering degree and drawing a four credit F in advanced calculus and a D in Fortran for about a 1.3 gpa (it was the B- in Emil’s class that saved me). Another semester on probation and I’d be kicked out of the University.

He told me he and the University wouldn’t let me fail. He, and later the assistant dean of business school, who worked with me later on, didn’t let me fail. I graduated with my dream intact.

From the Notre Dame Magazine story,

Ray Sepeta ’75Ph.D., a counselor who worked under Hofman for nearly 15 years, says the dean had clear expectations of his team. He never gave up on a kid, Sepeta says, and held the counselors responsible for failures. Sepeta remembers a moment revealing that Hofman lived his beliefs.

Sepeta was advising an impoverished student from the West Coast who was struggling on many fronts at Notre Dame. Hofman joined one conversation and learned that the woman wanted to go home to see her family on break but couldn’t afford it.

“I watched Emil pick up the phone and pull out his own credit card and pay for her ticket home,” Sepeta says. “I’m not sure if she realized how unusual this was. He had a belief that our kids will succeed at any cost.”

The vast majority of twenty-sum year old law students are too young to know what they want and are certainly too young to fail on their dreams.

Is it too much to ask law school deans, professors and administrators to believe that their kids will succeed at any cost?

It’s in the law school’s interest. Notre Dame, which still follows Emil T’s philosophy, fails less than 1% of students and has among the highest percentage of contributing grads of all universities.


What if law schools were charged with never letting a student fail on their dreams? posted first on https://fergusonlawatty.wordpress.com

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Having left a positive mark on the law, Mark Britton is leaving Avvo

My colleague Bob Ambrogi reported yesterday that Avvo founder, Mark Britton is leaving the company he launched in 2007.

Following the January news of Avvo’s acquisition by Internet Brands, Britton’s announcement that he was leaving the company after its annual Lawyernomics conference in May is not too big of a surprise.

Britton will leave Avvo though having left a significant impact on the law — and the business of law. A very positive impact.

Britton was driven by his belief in serving consumers. From Ambrogi’s report:

Even though we knew some lawyers would take issue with what we were doing, our focus in this product — was in serving the consumer and on getting them the help that they need.

I remember meeting Mark for the first time in a Starbucks in Pioneer Square with a colleague of his, probably twelve or thirteen years ago.

They were working on the stealth launch of company that would help consumers and small business people faced with legal issues — or at least that’s what I recall. The discussion got into lawyer ratings and lawyer questions and answers, something I believed in from my days with Prairielaw.com and LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell when they acquired Prairielaw.

Happy to help share what I knew or thought, I was skeptical though of a venture capital backed company helping the little guys of the world.

We may have met another time or two prior to Avvo’s launch, but what I remember next was calling Mark the day of the launch and giving him grief that my name with an old Seattle business address was listed in the directory.

As if Mark didn’t have anything else to do that day, he got on the phone and listened to my rants about never practicing law in Washington and not even keeping a license anymore.

Talking to colleagues in the industry then, people were giving Avvo months before it would collapse. How could a company scrape lawyers’ profiles across the net, list the information Avvo could get in lawyer bio’s and apply ratings only Avvo thought were not arbitrary?

A lot of lawyers can be intolerable by nature, but touch them personally like this.? You’re asking for flack in spades.

A class action suit was immediately filed by a Seattle lawyer claiming that his information and the info of other lawyers could be not displayed like this. When the security guard in my building commented to me, without my mentioning Avvo, that this Seattle lawyer, with a history of representing consumers, would take Avvo down in no time, I really thought Avvo may not make it.

Not so when Seattle lawyer, Bruce Johnson, a nationally recognized First Amendment lawyer swiftly brought an end to the suit on the grounds of free speech. Ironically, the same position Super Lawyers took throughout their infancy.

When Avvo launched lawyer blogs I charged up the hill to his office, and ranted at Mark how could you (I can be nuts at times). “If you really want to help consumers and the lawyers who serve them, LexBlog can do blogs a lot better than you. Let us do them for you.” As if that level of tact would get me anywhere.

Hard to believe Mark was as nice and receptive to me then and all times thereafter. But he was and he has always been willing to share feedback and advice with me over lunch or at a conference over a beer.

Throughout our exchanges I went from being a cynic, to believing Mark when he said nothing was going to get between consumers and Avvo. Avvo would be placing the interests of consumers first, even if it meant challenging lawyers and legal organizations.

Eleven years can be an eternity for most startups. One you have to able to make it that long, and two, with heavy investment you need a liquidation event at at some point.

But in those eleven years, Britton and Avvo accomplished a heck of a lot.

  • Martindale-Hubbell, close to a $300 million company, crumbled. I always believed, and told Mark, if Avvo could outlast and out compete Martindale and their misguided strategy as to the net, Avvo would be over the hump and dominate the “legal directory” space. Avvo did, and ironically is now part of the same company, Internet Brands, that acquired the Martindale and lawyers.com brands and assets from LexisNexis.
  • Lawyer ratings, like it or not, are here to stay. Maybe not the ideal rating system from the perspective of many lawyers, but Avvo’s ratings are something consumers and small business people can understand and feel comfortable with in sharing their rating of a lawyer.
  • Lawyers across the country were given a search engine optimized professional looking directory presence that was chock full of information. Information lawyers could provide and information that consumers could relate to.
  • Lawyers across the country got good legal work from their Avvo listing at a cost that paled in comparison to the prices of yellow page ads and websites.
  • Consumers could ask questions of lawyers coast to coast and they did so in spades.
  • The ability for a consumer to talk to a lawyer for less than forty bucks — all via a website or smartphone, the likes of which consumers expect today.
  • Legal services for a flat fee via a network of rated lawyers in your state. Though bar associations may have challenged the program on the grounds that Avvo’s collecting a marketing charge from lawyers amounted to a lawyer’s splitting a fee with a non-lawyer, this type of service is not going away. It’s a service that is going to help bridge the access to legal services divide.
  • A team of passionate, smart and driven people was assembled in Seattle who believed that there had to be a better way to deliver legal services to average people. That caring lawyers, willing to do work at a fair price could help these folks — so long as there was a way to connect the two. And that technology and data could play a big role in bringing this about. Britton may be leaving, but his dream will live on in many of them, whether they remain at Avvo or not.

In an email announcing this would be his last Lawyernomics conference, Mark said he would remain close to the legal industry.  I hope he does in some capacity.

Mark’s ability to assemble and lead a team focused on a common goal is not a skill that comes naturally. This coming from someone who tries to get better at it by the day and has used Britton and his passion as a bit of a role model.

A job well done – by Mark and the Avvo team.


Having left a positive mark on the law, Mark Britton is leaving Avvo posted first on https://fergusonlawatty.wordpress.com

Saturday, March 17, 2018

LexBlog as a SaaS solution?

LexBlog, via the law bloggers it supports worldwide, has become one the largest legal news and information publishers.

We support these bloggers with a digital design and publishing platform we have developed on a WordPress core.

Developing the platform was the only way we could scale our offering. Without the platform, we could not provide each blogger/publication regular upgrades and feature enhancements, let alone support all of these publishers.

Our platform is not limited to a blog site user interface. The platform can present interfaces for websites, mini-sites, magazines, content portals and what have you.

Knowing this, organizations have approached LexBlog asking if they could license our platform for their members and customers. We’re in the process of doing so.

In discussions with these folks, I started thinking that LexBlog was basically offering a SaaS solution for digital design and publishing. Organizations, or end publishers directly via a do it yourself (DIY) blog, website etc, receive web design and publishing software cloud hosted and supported by LexBlog.

Pulling up the Wikipedia definition of a SaaS solution, what are doing seemed pretty close.

Software as a service (SaaS) is a software licensing and delivery model in which software is licensed on a subscription basis and is centrally hosted. It is sometimes referred to as “on-demand software”, and was formerly referred to as “software plus services” by Microsoft. SaaS is typically accessed by users using a thin client via a web browser. SaaS has become a common delivery model for many business applications, including office software, messaging software, payroll processing software, DBMS software, management software, CAD software, development software, gamification, virtualization, accounting, collaboration, customer relationship management (CRM), Management Information Systems (MIS), enterprise resource planning (ERP), invoicing, human resource management (HRM), talent acquisition, learning management systems, content management (CM), and service desk management. SaaS has been incorporated into the strategy of nearly all leading enterprise software companies.

The term “Software as a Service” (SaaS) is considered to be part of the nomenclature of cloud computing, along with Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), Desktop as a Service (DaaS), managed software as a service (MSaaS), mobile backend as a service (MBaaS), and information technology management as a service (ITMaaS).

Wow, that’s a mouthful, but you get the point.

Calling things “as a service” can be helpful to understand an offering.

LexBlog’s entire team is in WeWork, which has been characterized as “offices as a service.” Rather than rent and set up offices with everything you need, WeWork provides you everything you need, and more, in a hosted environment for a monthly subscription.

What do you think? Is it helpful to describe LexBlog’s offering as a SaaS solution for digital design and publishing? Does it matter?


LexBlog as a SaaS solution? posted first on https://fergusonlawatty.wordpress.com