Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Tech startups, not law firms, are attracting many law grads

With the rise of the startup culture, law grads are looking for in-house opportunities. Hands-on action and innovation, as opposed the grunt work many young lawyers are doing at law firms, is appealing to grads looking to find purpose and to see tangible results in the workplace.

This from Caroline Spiezio (@CarolineSpiezio), reporting for Corporate Counsel.

Look at Samantha Von Hoene, who three years ago turned down a clerking position at a law firm to intern in-house at a finance firm.

Von Hoene told Spiezio:

Most people said, ‘Oh Sam, you’re so crazy, the rest of us are going to the law firm first, and we want to go in-house but [on] the traditional route. It seemed like they’d already resigned themselves to this route. I was viewed as someone who was taking a different path.

Three years later, Von Hoene is head of legal affairs at Enjoy Technology, a startup that sends experts to deliver, install and explain how to use technology products from companies such as Sonos and AT&T. Being the only lawyer at an emerging growth company, she gets hands on business and legal experience.

When I got to Enjoy there were no guidelines. It was like that [idea of] ‘hey, we’re scrappy and we want to move quickly and here’s what we wanna do,’” she said. “I’ve spent the past two and a half years working with teams and internal clients. Over 50 percent of my day is in cross-functional and operational meetings.

Smart law schools are looking to get grads in startups. Spiezio reports UC Hastings has launched a Startup Legal Garage to match students with startup companies for the experience and the network of contacts.

I’m seeing students from Michigan State’s Law School jump on opportunities in startups for clerking while in school and upon graduation. Like UC Hastings, Michigan State is educating and empowering its students on this front with its LegalRnD program.

Michigan State 3L, Andrew Sanders, responding to my tweet sharing Spiezio’s story, says that he loved clerking for Elevate, a technology and legal services provider to law firms and corporate legal teams.

Many law students view start ups and “non-traditional” law jobs as risky. Von Hoene doesn’t regret taking the risk and hopes law grads will join her in organizations where they can immediately make a difference and prove themselves.

A hope of mine is that people in the industry start making pathways where others who are younger in their career have opportunities to prove themselves. This is a really exciting, new way of thinking. While young lawyers may not bring 10 years of experience, just fresh out of law school, they’re hungry. They want to identify problems and figure out solutions, which is far more valuable.

Legal services are being reengineered. The number of lawyers needed to do traditional legal work is on the decline, law grads are not getting the jobs they thought they would. Fortunate for law grads are the opportunities that startups, legal and non-legal, provide them.

Key is opening your eyes, having faculty and a law school seeing the opportunities and the willingness to take a chance and be different – to bet on yourself.

Tech startups, not law firms, are attracting many law grads posted first on https://fergusonlawatty.wordpress.com

Friday, December 1, 2017

Do I Have a Motorcycle Accident Case?

As an experienced Pennsylvania motorcycle accident lawyer I handle a large variety of cases. Aside from the satisfaction I get helping others, this variety really keeps me interested after all these years. Anytime a fellow rider has an accident of any kind on their bike, I would like to help. However, there are just some […]
Do I Have a Motorcycle Accident Case? posted first on https://fergusonlawatty.wordpress.com

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Social media is what you make it

Social media

Legal professionals are quick to dismiss social media for networking and building a name.

Junk, political views, loss of privacy, fighting, ads and more are what I hear for excuses. Author, strategist and long time blogger, Euan Semple, in a post this morning labels it “pontificating about toxic social media.”

Semple references a Facebook post from a mother who lost a daughter to cancer. A post so moving it moved his daughter to tears.

The mother and daughter of a business colleague of mine each movingly posted to Facebook about their husband and father’s suicide. Posts that generated lengthy discussion about depression and what we can do to help peers.

Hardly toxic. So much value.

This potential to put our most difficult and challenging thoughts down in writing, to clarify our thinking, to open up our hearts, to create shared meaning, this is as much social media as the poisonous damaging views that also get shared.

Lawyers who hardly use social media are the first to dismiss it as toxic. But social media is what we make it.

As professionals, we need to contribute, personally and professionally,  Doing so we build a network of people we trust and whom trust us. The algorithms of the social networks will in turn deliver valuable information and dialogue.

As Semple says, the value we receive from social media is for us to determine.

I have said it before, and will keep saying it, that social media is what we make it, it is up to us. Sure it is dominated at the moment by addictive and manipulative platforms but they are nothing without us, without our highly valued “content”. We control that content. It is our responsibility.

Dismissing social media is nothing short of a blown opportunity.

We have this wonderful opportunity to do what I call “joined up writing”. To think harder and share better. As David Weinberger described it all those years ago “writing ourselves into existence”.

Want an existence on the Internet? It’s not coming with a website and SEO.

You’ll need to “write yourself into existince by contributing value to social media.

Social media is what you make it posted first on https://fergusonlawatty.wordpress.com

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Innovation and tech neeeded in law school curriculums to increase access to legal services

Law Schools access to legal services

Law schools have an obligation to introduce innovation and technology disciplines into their curriculum, not just to prepare graduates for the future, but to increase access to legal services.

This from Dan Linna, a professor of law at Michigan State and Director of LegalRnD – The Center for Legal Services Innovation. Talking with Ed Sohn about Linna’s Law School Innovation Index:

Everyone needs to get behind solving the “access to legal services” problem. We have this stench, this terrible problem, where approximately 80% of people in the U.S. lack access to civil legal services, not to mention the myriad of problems with our criminal justice system and public defense.

A huge portion of our citizens are disconnected from the law. How is that sustainable for us as a society?

Acting is the right thing to do for all of us in the legal profession.

I’ve tried to answer [Head of Legal Services] Jim Sandman’s call to accelerate legal-service delivery innovation and technology adoption across the legal industry. The overall mission is to increase access to legal services, because it’s the right thing to do, and because the current disenfranchisement of so many threatens the rule of law and democracy.


I believe that we need a shared mission and vision. Why are we part of this profession? How can we help people and contribute to something bigger than what’s right in front of us?

The Law School Innovation Index measures the extent to which law schools have incorporated true legal-service delivery innovation and technology disciplines into their curriculum.

Too many legal innovation discussions get stuck talking about efficiency. But we can improve quality and outcomes. We can prevent problems and improve the user experience. We can expand access at all levels and help preserve and expand the rule of law! We can contribute to multidisciplinary teams solving “wicked” problems. We must innovate and think big, especially in law school.


Schools have been called innovative for a wide range of activities. Some have built curricula around legal-service delivery innovation and technology disciplines. Others are called innovative because they offer classes about the law of technology, which is great, but it doesn’t address the need for improvements in the delivery of legal services.

Law and technology, which I hear every day, is not enough, per Linna.

If you tell students to take engineering courses because they’ll be better patent lawyers, that’s great, but that sounds like it falls into the “law and” technology category.

Yes, lawyers should work with technologists to learn and shape the law of technology. That’s incredibly important. But we also need law students working with engineers, product managers, behavioral scientists, and other scientists to improve the delivery of legal services.

I recall dinner with Linna in East Lansing a couple years ago in which he presented me a draft of the mission statement for a soon to be LegalRnD. Focused on a the delivery of legal services and the 80% of people who didn’t have access to legal services, I liked it.

Truth be told, I wondered how great an impact he and the Center could have.

But with the Law School Innovation Index and earlier, the Legal Services Innovation Index measuring law firms’ use of tech and innovation, Linna and the Center are having an impact. An impact measured in talk, dialogue and pressure on law firms and law schools to act. But it’s a big start.

Like many legal tech entrepreneurs, I left the practice to help others through innovation and the effective use of technology. Whe you get your face up against it in every day business, it’s easy to lose sight of the end game.

Linna’s work is pulling me back in and serving as a reminder to think big in my use of innovation and tech to bring access to legal services. Asking, “Why are we part of this profession? How can we help people and contribute to something bigger than what’s right in front of us?”

Innovation and tech neeeded in law school curriculums to increase access to legal services posted first on https://fergusonlawatty.wordpress.com

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Law blogs published by local lawyers more trusted online legal information

Local law blogs

The Financial Times’ Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson’s report from Bowling Green, Kentucky on why Americans do not trust news from mainstream journalists signals why law blogs published by local lawyers will be more trusted than other online legal information.

From Edgecliffe-Johnson:

According to Gallup, America’s trust in mass media peaked at 72 per cent in 1976, the year All the President’s Men hit cinemas. By last year, that figure had plunged to 32 per cent…

Sam Ford, an MIT research affiliate who grew up in Bowling Green, tells Edgecliffe-Johnson that “most journalists are from elsewhere.”

As Craigslist and Walmart hollowed out local business models, America’s remaining journalism jobs become concentrated in cosmopolitan, economically successful and liberal coastal cities. If you only meet a reporter when they parachute in from Washington or New York to cover an election, natural disaster…, “that changes the relationship a community has to journalism” Ford says.

Local news in Bowling Green means Joe Imel, the director of media operations at the Bowling Green Daily News. Imel runs the presses of the 163 year-old paper “with a police scanner in hand and a pillar-of-the-community appetite for school board meetings and little league results.”

“You guys cover the flash and trash. We’re the ones sitting down covering the day in and day out things,” Imel tells Edgecliffe-Johnson, “If we were to go away, you’d never know they’d raised your taxes.”

James Neal, the owner of a small Bowling Green grocery and filling station, hits the nail on the head on where many Americans turn for news. He told Edgecliffe-Johnson he “prefers to get his news from his patrons than than the journalists…”

The Internet democratized news publishing. Whether it be a blog, website or social network, we begun to our get news from each other. News truly became what someone told us.

The value and validity we placed in this news is determined by how much we trust the messenger, the publisher.  Common sense dictates that many Americans would trust “locals” more than others.

Blogs have democratized reporting and commentary for local lawyers. Lawyers have the ability to share helpful and practical legal information on general or niche subjects for the people in their town or municipality. The algorithms running Google and other social networks see to it that locals see the local lawyer’s blog commentary.

Unfortunately, lawyers have not seized this opportunity to share legal information with locals. Websites, often filled with canned content written by others thousands of miles away don’t engage locals. People don’t trust them.

The void is filled by large organizations. Whether Avvo, Legal Zoom, Rocket Lawyer, the ABA or state bar associations, the people penning this online legal information and commentary have never lived in the towns they are looking to reach.

The legal information and commentary, though somewhat relevant, has no local flair or anecdotes. No “reporter” who’s walked the streets of the town, talked with locals in coffee shops and pubs, coached youth sports or handled matters before local judges.

Law blog posts from a local lawyer who can relate, who sends her kids to the same schools and gets involved in the same local political debates will naturally be more trusted than information from those who “parachute” in via the Internet to share legal information for their own gain.

The majority of Americans do not trust lawyers nor our justice system. We’re right with journalists, with about 33 percent  of people trusting us.

But a survey found the majority of Americans would likely hire a lawyer they see using some form of social media. The reason is trust. We trust those “individuals” we see publishing online, especially locals.

Law blogs published by local lawyers represent an opportunity for lawyers to share trusted legal information. Those lawyers who do so will be more trusted, will be serving their town and will be hired.

Law blogs published by local lawyers more trusted online legal information posted first on https://fergusonlawatty.wordpress.com

Friday, November 3, 2017

New York City Bar Association Small Law Symposium is Thursday – See you there

NYCBA Small Law Symposium

The New York City Bar Association’s 14th Annual Small Law Firm Practice Management Symposium is this coming Thursday, November 9. It’s an honor to be presenting for the second year in a row.

Whether you are just starting out or been practicing for decades, I can personally vouch that the Symposium offers valuable guidance on both managing and growing a practice.

I particularly like the open dialogue between presenters and attendees. Discussion flushes out what’s on people’s minds and you walk away with information you can put to work immediately.

Unlike other bar associations, the NYCBA has no hangups about giving preference to bar committee members, authors or “non-vendors” as presenters. NYCBA is looking for top shelf and up to date information from presenters, especially on technology and innovation.

In the New York City Area? Consider attending. The program runs from 8:30 – 5:00 and is a steal at $65 for members and $100 for non-members. There’s also plenty of time to network with colleagues throughout the day at the Exhibit Hall and during the complimentary breakfast, luncheon and reception.

I’ll be on mid-morning with Tim Baran of Good2bSocial to discuss the power of networking through the Internet for growing your business.

  • How to develop a strategy?
  • How to define your audience?
  • The importance of listening, and how to do so, before engaging.
  • Role of content, in any form, for building relationships and a strong word of mouth reputation.
  • Publishing mediums, whether your own blog or third party publications such as Above The Law, Forbes or Bar Associations.
  • Role of social media and how to use it – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn.

See the Symposium brochure for more information.

New York City Bar Association Small Law Symposium is Thursday – See you there posted first on https://fergusonlawatty.wordpress.com