Category Archives: Technology

Best of NBH: Stop Fixing Your Own Tech

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Here’s a tech-related tip from this post:

How many times has a quick technology fix turned into a day of un-billable time?  Trust me on this one, no matter how much (or little) work you have, your time is better spent building your business and serving your clients than it is crawling around on the floor underneath your desk repairing your computers or troubleshooting your network.

Need help remembering this resolution?  Try this simple trick:

Everywhere in your office where you have technology (on the copier, on the network switch or router, and on every computer) tape a label that has the following information on it:

  1. Your hourly rate
  2. The hourly rate of your tech-support person
  3. Their phone number

Now every time you’re tempted to “fix” something yourself, call in the experts instead.  You’ll find that you (and your technology) will be happier and more productive when you spend your time doing your job instead of doing someone else’s.

Website Bio Advice for Accountants

Accounting Bio Venn Diagram

After my Attorney Website Bio Venn Diagram went viral yesterday, Joel Ungar asked me to do one for accountants.  With his help, here it is:

 

Your clients still don’t care where you went to law school.

Lawyer Bio Website DiagramThis is an update to this post from a few years ago.

Great Writing from the Legal Underground

My long-time blogging friend Evan Schaffer has compiled all of his best writing (and it is really great stuff) into one post.  Enjoy!

Presentation Mistakes to Avoid

Funny, because its true.

The Essence of Successful Blogging

I found this quote in this great list of inspirational resources for writers.  It seemed to hit the “how to start a successful blog” nail squarely on the head:

Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style. Kurt Vonnegut

 

Meet Your Future Connected Clients

 

A peek at your future clients, from OnlineSchools.org:

 

 

 

Poster-ize Your Firm’sTwitter Policy

Here are some great social media “Propaganda” Posters with messages that reflect more than a few firms’ “official” social media policies.

 

 

 

The iPad Office

Mashable shares some creative ways small businesses are using the iPad.  Here’s what an owner of a yoga studio says about using the iPad as a customer-intake device:

First order of business? Ditching the front counter and bar code scanner you see at a lot of yoga studios and gyms. “When people walk in the door, we hand them the iPad, and they sit on the couch — it’s a lot more casual, and we can bring them tea or water,” Foster says. Instead of standing awkwardly at the counter and filling out waivers and liability forms on a clipboard, the iPad makes people feel comfortable and also makes data entry a breeze for goodyoga. The studio uses a Google form, so the staff doesn’t have to worry about decoding a patron’s chicken scratch and the team saves times since the client info goes into the database automatically.

Improve Your Firm’s Website with the 50/100/150 Rule

This Smashing Magazine article by Brad Shorr identifies five fatal copywriting erros that can ruin your firm’s website.  His first cardinal sin?  Making your firm’s site all about the firm:

Problem is, the rest of the world isn’t interested in your story. Customers don’t have time to admire your greatness. They’re too busy searching for ways to make life better for themselves. A high-level Web page answers one question of the reader above all: What’s in it for me? To illustrate, we’ll stick with products, although this applies to other types of pages as well.  It’s not about you. A well-written category-level product page talks a bit about features, a little more about benefits and a great deal more about the experience.

The author suggests you create a “Word Budget” that limits the number of words you can use to describe the features, benefits and experience your product or service offers.  Given 200 words on your firm’s home page, here’s how you should “budget” them:

  • 50 words on the features
  • 100 words on the benefits
  • 150 words on the experience

Here’s why:

  1. Setting a “word budget” forces discipline. Not only that, it relieves the anxiety over having to determine how to approach each individual product page, thus eliminating one of the biggest causes of delay in Web development projects.
  2. Focusing on the experience forces you to think about the target audience of the page in question. The experience I described speaks to an operations person. If my audience is made up of C-level executives or purchasing agents, then I would need to describe a completely different experience. If I’m writing for all three audiences, I may have to rethink my word budget. In any event, having an audience in mind prevents a Web page from devolving into that cursed, watered-down, “everything for everyone” messaging that says absolutely nothing.
  3. The purpose of a high-level page is to get people interested in the product. Once they’re interested, they may crave more information about features and benefits. Perfect. Tell the long version of your story on a detail-heavy product sub-page. Companies need not neglect features and benefits; they just need to suppress the urge to hit visitors over the head with them the minute they walk through the door.

Here’s how:

 

  • Before you start writing, collect feedback from customers and prospects. Ask them why they buy from you, why they don’t, and how doing business with you has affected them.
  • Start with an outline. Associate every feature with a benefit and every benefit with an experience.
  • Have a customer read a draft and then explain to you why they would want to buy the product. If the customer “gets it,” you’re a star.
  • Do the same thing with a person who knows nothing about your product and industry. If that person gets it, you’re a rock star.

The entire article is worth a read, and after you check it out, head on over to your firm’s website.  My guess is that it makes at least three of the five mistakes Brad identifies.

And if you don’t have the ability to make meaningful changes to your firm’s website, at least start with your bio, and use Brad’s 50/100/150 rule to make it better.

Explain the “Why” to Your Clients

Smashing Magazine has published a tremendous guide to designing an easy to understand e-commerce checkout process for web sites.  If you take credit cards on your site, it is a must-read.

However, even if you don't charge people on the web, you should check out the article anyway, because it explains something about collecting sensitive information from people that we all need to understand: it isn't just the "what," but the "why" that matters:

Even unambiguous fields, such as “Email address,” are great opportunities to explain what you’ll use the data for. “Email address” may be a sufficient description, but most people would want to know how you’ll use their email address. Why do you need it?

In your client intake forms, do you explain why you need all the information you are asking for?  Perhaps you should.

Ignite Law Details

Small Ignite Logo 

Head on over to the Ignite Law site to submit a proposed talk, check out the submissions we've already received or pick up your free tickets for the event. 

We're looking forward to seeing you in Chicago!

Ignite Law is Back

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I'm very excited to announce that Ignite Law is back at ABA TECHSHOW this year!  We'll have all the details up on the Ignite Law site Monday, including how to reserve your ticket (we sold out last year) and how to submit a speaking proposal. 

In the meantime, check out some of last year's Ignite videos.  We can't wait to see you in Chicago!

Use the Right Words in Your Marketing

Found this great tip on Connection Cafe about how to use Google's Keyword Tool to understand what people are looking for:

Explore opportunities for new offers or ones adjacent to what you currently offer.  Go to the Google Keyword Tool.  Enter a single term associated with your organization’s services, products, or offers.  You could also provide a URL to one of the pages that describe what you’re doing today and Google will use that to help with the research. 

The tool will return a long list of similar terms that people are searching for.  It will also tell you roughly how many people are searching for those terms and how competitive the market for placing advertisements on those pages will be.  Sort by search volume or competition.  What do these results tell you people are searching for versus what they’re finding?

 

Are Your Conference Calls Like This?

Funny, but true:

 

Your Clients Don’t Care Where You Went to Law School

After my Law Firm Website Venn Diagram got such great feedback, I thought I’d do another highlighting one of my big pet peeves: lawyer bios.  Here you go:

Lawyer Bio Venn Diagram

Use Words that Suck Less

Unsuckit
As someone who splits my professional time working with both lawyers and with corporate America, I hear just as much business jargon as I do legalese. 

Though I've not found a "de-legalese-r" site on the web, I have found Unsuck-it, a website that takes business-speak and makes it, well, less sucky.

Some examples: 

Incentivize: In order to meet our phase 1 deliverable, we must incentivize the workforce with monetary rewards.

  Unsucked: Encourage or persuade.

Low-Hanging Fruit: Our budget’s tight on this one, so we need to go for the low-hanging fruit first.

  Unsucked: Easy goal.

Synergy: We are actualizing synergy amongst team members directly related to the project.

  Unsucked: Working together.

You can search for terms, and even generate an email to the offender who used the word.  Now, we just need the legal version!

Selling the Senior Partner on Social Media

If you’re fighting an uphill battle in your firm trying to get the senior partners to buy into social media, you might want to give a few of these “vintage” advertisements a try:

Images from Sao Paolo ad agency Moma.  Hat tip: Unplggd.

Looking for a Legal Job, Try YouTube

Here's a brilliant way to catch the eye of that hiring partner who won't take your calls.  Worth a watch if you're trying to catch the attention of someone in a unique way.

Resolve To Fix Your Technology Less

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This resolution is for nearly every solo and small firm lawyer out there (including those with computer science degrees): Resolve to Fix Your Technology Less.

How many times has a quick technology fix turned into a day of un-billable time?  Trust me on this one, no matter how much (or little) work you have, your time is better spent building your business and serving your clients than it is crawling around on the floor underneath your desk repairing your computers or troubleshooting your network.

Need help remembering this resolution?  Try this simple trick:

Everywhere in your office where you have technology (on the copier, on the network switch or router, and on every computer) tape a label that has the following information on it:

  1. Your hourly rate
  2. The hourly rate of your tech-support person
  3. Their phone number

Now every time you’re tempted to “fix” something yourself, call in the experts instead.  You’ll find that you (and your technology) will be happier and more productive when you spend your time doing your job instead of doing someone else’s.

Holiday Gift Guide for Lawyers

My friend Reid Trautz is back with his fifth Holiday Gift Guide for Lawyers.  I want the Zvox Incredibase!

Ten Rules of Law Firm Retreats

Whether your next law firm retreat takes place at a tropical location or in the firm’s conference room, there are several things to keep in mind to make it productive, useful and fun.  Here are my Ten “Rules” for law firm retreats.  Feel free to add your own in the comments.  Enjoy!

1.  When planning a retreat, the most important voice at the table should belong to your best clients.  Ask them what you need to improve upon in the coming year, and invite them if you dare.

2.  At a good retreat, firm management spends as much time listening to the lawyers as they do talking to them.  At a great retreat, that ratio is closer to 3:1.

3.  It is far more important for attorneys to think together at your next firm retreat than it is for them to golf together.

4.  If you don’t make time for lawyers to improve your firm during the retreat, they’re less likely to take time to improve your firm when the retreat is done.

5.  In big firms, the first thing you should teach lawyers is one another’s names.  Familiarity builds collegiality.  Lawyers won’t care what their colleagues do until they know who they are.

6.  “Networking” cocktail parties don’t encourage firm-wide collaboration as much as they encourage firm-wide inebriation.

7.  If the firm retreat is the only time lawyers talk about marketing, it will be the only time they think about marketing.  Same goes for client service.

8.  Your staff knows more about how to serve your clients well than your associates do.  Bring them along, value their opinions and act on their suggestions.  You’ll find that the cost of their attendance is far lower than the cost of their absence.

9.  The three questions every lawyer should be able to answer after a retreat are: “What can I do better?” “Who should I know better?” and “Why should I be better?”

10.  The two costliest items at any firm retreat are the time and attention of the attendees.  Use them wisely.

If you'd like some help implementing some of these suggestions, check out LexThink and drop me a line.  If you'd like to see more Ten Rules posts, here they are.

The New LexThink.com

After lots of work, I'm happy to unveil my new LexThink site.  I still have lots of work to do, including some minor tweaks and major content additions, but am happy enough to release it in "beta" for now.

On a technical side, it is built in WordPress, using the amazing Headway theme.  My friend M. Jason Robards did all the art work, but the design and content are all mine.

Free Photos for Great Presentations

I use my own photos in almost all of my presentations.  If you’re not up to taking your own pics, but still want to avoid cheesy clip art, check out this resource: 37 Places to Get Free Stock Images.  I really like (and use) Every Stock Photo and Stock Exchange.

Because You Can Do It Doesn’t Mean You Should

A quick tip that popped into my head while speaking in Minnesota earlier this week:

Tape the telephone number of your IT/Tech professional under your desk near the tangle of cords coming from your PC (and on your server, router, etc.) so you see it when you’re most likely to try to work on your tech stuff yourself.

Still tempted?  Next to the number, write your billable rate and write theirs.

Blocked? Stop Typing!

The title of this short post from the 37 Signals Blog says it all: Writer’s Block is Sometimes Just Typer’s Block. If you’re having trouble writing, try this:

Record the conversation where you get it out right. When you speak an idea, it engages a different part of your brain than when you write it. You often say it clearer when you’re just riffing aloud. And you get to more gut-level stuff too. You bypass that “should I say this?” filter. You get it straight from your gut/brain instead of your fingers.

As someone who used to dictate all the time, I’ve gotten away from the think first, type later model of writing, but am going to break out my digital recorder and give it another try.

A Social Media What-To-Do

Lots of folks are talking about using Social Media for business, including me. When I speak to lawyers, after the “What the heck is …” questions come the “How much time will this take me?” ones. Last week, my friend Chris Brogan published his 19 Presence Management Chores You COULD Do Every Day post on his fantastic blog. In it, he shares 19 “chores” one could do every day (or at least every week) to keep one’s online presence alive and kicking on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Blogs.

Here are his LinkedIn tips:

  1. Enter any recent business cards to invite them to LinkedIn (if you’re growing your network).
  2. Drop into Q&A and see if you can volunteer 2-3 answers.
  3. Provide 1 recommendation every few days for people you can honestly and fully recommend.
  4. Add any relevant slide decks to the Slideshare app there, or books to the Amazon bookshelf.

Nobody knows this growing world of “Presence Management” better than Chris, and I’d highly recommend you not only read his full post, but add some (or all) of his suggested “to-do’s” to your list.

A Legal Blogging Roundtable

Last month, I participated in a legal blogging roundtable for the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis that was published in their subscription-only newsletter.  My partners in crime were Dennis Kennedy (DennisKennedy.Blog), George Lenard (George’s Employment Blawg), and Evan Schaeffer (Trial Practice Tips and The Legal Underground).  Together, we have combined for more than 20 years of blogging experience.

Dennis took our contributions and republished them to his blog as A Blogging Guide for St. Louis (and Other) Lawyers (and Others).  Here’s one of our takes on the future of blogging:

Matt Homann: I think we’ll see the continued adoption of blogs by legal professionals as much by choice as necessity. The next generation of law firm clients have lived their entire lives online, interact with Twitter and Facebook constantly, and read blogs everyday. They may have never used the Yellow Pages, and instead look to the web before making any major purchasing decision. They’ll expect a robust online presence from the professionals they hire, and a blog is one of the easiest and most effective ways to build that presence.

George Lenard: Integration with the surviving remnants of mainstream media into enriched, customized streams of information in manageable chunks for busy readers, plus continuing contributions to the wealth of information available to web users through ever-more-sophisticated search technologies. I was recently told by a web-content distribution company that my posts now have the potential of appearing in a news stream on the Wall Street Journal’s law pages amidst conventional sources such as the ABA Journal, if they match the WSJ search criteria, with no distinction in appearance that would suggest that my content is in any way inferior or less professional than that written by professional journalists.

Evan Schaeffer: I don’t have any predictions about the future of blogging. If you think of blogging as merely a means of publishing one’s writing, which it is, you don’t have to be too worried about the future. Get into the habit of writing, and if you like it, you can always migrate to the next technological platform, if and when there is one.

Dennis Kennedy: Among bloggers, Twitter and microblogging is all the rage. That will continue to affect blogging, but blogging still has great potential, especially to cover niche topics. I remain bullish on blogging. As for predicting the future, I still like what Ernest “Ernie the Attorney” Svenson said in an article on the future of blogging from four years ago in Law Practice Magazine: “Perhaps the biggest question that remains is: How quickly will law firms move to develop blogs? It depends on a lot of internal and external factors. But the clock is certainly ticking. For some firms that sound is just loud and annoying, while for others it is stirring and prompting them to act. So when will your firm create a blog? Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick . . . .”

Using Simple Technology isn’t Easy

Last week, I was listening to several lawyers complain about how hard it was to convince new associates to learn the technology everyone else in the firm had been using for years. From embracing dictation to using books instead of online tools, newbies “just didn’t get it” according the the group of senior attorneys. 

As I tried to explain to them that the technology they utilized, though pretty basic, wasn’t easier to use for someone unfamiliar with it, I struggled to find a good example. Today, I finally found one in the unlikeliest of places: an article by a teenager who gave up his iPod for a week and replaced it with his father’s 25-year-old Sony Walkman.

The article is hilarious at times, but highlights just how older, “simpler” technology isn’t actually easier to use for people unaccustomed to it. Some of the best quotes:

My dad had told me it was the iPod of its day. He had told me it was big, but I hadn’t realised he meant THAT big. It was the size of a small book.

It took me three days to figure out that there was another side to the tape. That was not the only naive mistake that I made; I mistook the metal/normal switch on the Walkman for a genre-specific equaliser, but later I discovered that it was in fact used to switch between two different types of cassette.

Personally, I’m relieved I live in the digital age, with bigger choice, more functions and smaller devices. I’m relieved that the majority of technological advancement happened before I was born, as I can’t imagine having to use such basic equipment every day.

Twitter Presentation for LegalTech West Coast

I’m off tomorrow for Incisive Media’s LegalTech West Coast. I’m speaking about Twitter on a four-person panel, so my time will be limited. Here are the slides I’m going to use to support my presentation. I’d love your feedback.

What’s Your Type?

I ran across Matthew Butterick’s wonderful Typography for Lawyers site today and wanted to share it here. Matthew’s a typographer turned civil litigator who started the site to help lawyers write prettier — if not better.

Why does typography matter?

When you show up to make an oral argument, you make sure that you present yourself as professionally and persuasively as possible. Similarly, your written documents should reflect the same level of attention to typography.

I highly recommend you add this to your reading list. Now, if I could just stop hitting the space bar twice after each period.

Meet me in Los Angeles

Heading next week to Incisive Media’s upcoming LegalTech West Coast, which takes place June 24-25 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.  I’m going to be reprising my role on the Twitter panel June 25th at 2:15 pm with Kevin O’Keefe.  Joining us will be Denise Howell and Nina Goldberg (links to their Twitter pages), and the moderator will be the incomparable Monica Bay.

I’m thinking about a Tweetup/PubCrawl along the lines of the one we did at Techshow for the evening of the 25th.  Anybody interested?

Ten Rules of the New Web

I just returned from the fantastic Missouri Solo and Small Firm Conference, where I led a session (with Reid Trautz) unofficially titled the New Web for Lawyers.  We talked Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Blogs.  Here are some of “Rules” we discussed:

1.  “Social media” isn’t rocket science.  It’s just sharing who you are, what you do, and what you think with friends, colleagues and clients online.

2.  LinkedIn is: “Where are you working?” Facebook is: “What are you doing?” Twitter is: “What are you thinking?”

3.  Ever thought it would be cool to be invisible?  Ignore Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, and to a vast number of your potential clients, you will be. 

4.  Want to understand the value of being active online?  Ask the guy standing in the corner by himself at your next networking event how many friends he’s made.

5.  First impressions are no longer made in person.  People want to get to know you before they meet you — and the place they go is the web.  Are you there, and what kind of first impression do you make?

6.  Just because you are “friends” with someone online doesn’t mean they’d recognize you in a crowd of three people.  Make your online connections the start of relationships, not the extent of them.

7.  Unless you measure the value of your real friendships by business you receive from them, it is unfair to hold your online friends to a higher standard.

8.  The only thing you’ll get from your online friends are their updates… unless you ask them for more.

9.   Before Facebook, what happened in Vegas stayed in Vegas.  Now, what happens in Vegas can impact your business.  Be careful on Facebook, but ignore it at your peril.

10.  The most important social media tool is the telephone.  Reaching out to online friends can turn them into real ones.

If you’d like to see more Ten Rules posts, you can check them all out here.  If you’d like to read ideas like these as I develop them, follow me on Twitter.

Looking for Cool Ways to Connect with Clients? -(STOP)-

Telegramstop is a company that will send an old-time looking telegram to anyone in the world for under five bucks.  Could be a cool, retro way to connect with some clients or friends.

The Math of Justice

I’m a big fan of Craig Damrauer’s New Math site.  He combines simple text and visuals with math to describe sometimes complicated concepts.  Here’s his latest:

And my favorite:

Ten Rules for Conference Vendors

In March, I shared Ten Rules for Conference Attendees.  As the spring and summer conference seasons heat up, I’ve put together Ten Rules for Conference Vendors.  Here they are:

1.  If the only way you can sell your value proposition is with a white paper, you don’t have a value proposition.

2.  You do not earn my attention by giving me a pen. You earn it by solving a problem I can’t solve without you.

3.  The more your booth looks like everyone else’s the more I think your product does what everyone else’s does, too.

4.  Don’t get offended if I don’t believe your product will do what you promise.  I’ve been burned before by people who sounded and looked a lot like you.

5.  Everyone working your booth should have a 7 word answer to the question “What do you do?”  The first three words of that answer should be “We help you…”

6.  The number of words on your booth is inversely proportional to the likelihood I’ll read any of them.

7.  These five words should NEVER appear on your booth: Trusted, Leading, Innovative, Premier, and Unique.  If they do, you probably aren’t.

8.  Dump the booth babes.  If I can’t trust you to make good decisions about your marketing, how can I trust you to make good decisions about serving me?

9.  Your product’s benefits are not as different from your competitors’ as you believe them to be.  Instead of selling me “unique” features, sell me outstanding service.

10.  Capture my attention before you capture my contact information.  A one-dollar USB drive in exchange for a year of emails and telephone calls is not a fair trade.

You can read the rest of my 10 Rules Posts here

100 Tweets: Thinking About Law Practice in 140 Characters or Less.

I really like Twitter.  For those who follow me, you know that I try to share lots of legal-themed tips, thoughts and ideas.  In fact, most of my Ten Rules posts started out on Twitter — where I’ll test 15-25 “rules” to see which ones work best before picking the ten favorites.

However, there’s lots of stuff that lives on Twitter now that used to live here on the blog.  And since I don’t expect everyone reading this to follow me there (or go back and read through my 2000+ Twitter messages), I decided to compile a “Best Of” list of my favorite tweets.

So, here (in .pdf form) is a little e-book I’ve titled:  100 Tweets: Thinking about Law Practice in 140 Characters or Less.  It contains my favorite 100 tweets, in no particular order, and should give you a sense of what I share on Twitter that you don’t always see here.

If you enjoy it, and would like to follow me on Twitter, I’ll see you there.

Unofficial Techshow Pub Crawl

This Thursday (April 2, 2009), I'll be leading the second annual Unofficial Techshow Pub Crawl at ABA's Tecshow.  We took a year off last year, but are back in 2009.

We'll meet up at the Hilton Chicago Lobby at 8 and head out for a few beers at 3-4 bars in the neighborhood.  Expect a great time, good fellowship and a hangover Friday morning.

UPDATE:  Here's the "agenda" for our evening:

7:30 – 8:00:  Meet in Hilton Lobby Bar
8:00 – 9:30:  South Loop Club, 1 E. Balbo Ave. (about a block from Hilton)
9:30 – 11:00:  Hackney's Printer's Row, 733 S. Dearborn
11:00 – 12:00: Villains Bar and Grill, 649 S. Clark
12:00 – ???:  Kitty O'Shea's in the Hilton Chicago

Here's the map:

View Larger Map

If you want to join the group early, many of us will be convening at a Tweetup here.

For real-time Twitter updates from the Crawl, you can follow me (@matthomann), or follow the Unofficial Techshow Pub Crawl hashtag (#utspc).

See you in Chicago!

Say My Name!

Here’s a quick and cool idea from a Smashing Magazine post on building a perfect portfolio website:  Tell your customers how to pronounce your name.  Here’s a snippet from designer Chikezie Ejiasi’s site:

If you’ve got a hard-to-pronounce name, tell web visitors how to pronounce it.  You’ll make it a lot easier for them to ask for you by name.  I’d think about doing this with business cards, too.

If you’re designing a law-firm website, you can do a lot worse than to check out the rest of the article for lots more great ideas.

Ten Tweets about Twitter

As I've prepared for my LegalTech session on Twitter, I've been thinking about what to say.  Since I've been having so much fun with all of my "Ten Rules" posts, I thought I'd do Ten Tweets about Twitter.  As a bonus, all but the last one are exactly 140 characters!  Here you go:

1.  It's easy to learn how to use Twitter, but it's hard to learn why.  Once you get the “why,” you'll move from skeptic to disciple overnight.

2.  Twitter isn't like Facebook: Twitter starts conversations with people you’d like to know. Facebook starts them with people you used to know.

3.  The greatest value of Twitter doesn’t come from knowing what the people you follow are doing.  It comes from knowing what they are thinking. 

4.  Ever think, “If only I could get 5 minutes with Mr. _______, my biz would explode” moments?  They’re on Twitter, you’ve got 140 characters.  Go!

5.  If you want to extend your Twitter relationships into the real world, be a real person on Twitter — and don’t call yourself “@imgreat12375”

6.  If you fear Twitter will interfere with your ability to get your work done, you’re not afraid of Twitter, you’re afraid of doing your work.

7.  Twitter helps start conversations like kindling helps start fires. However, without further attention and real fuel both will soon burn out.

8.  Twitter's like a networking meeting on steroids — though the conversation’s better and there're a lot fewer insurance salesmen in the room  

9.  There are Twitter friends and real life friends.  The successful Twitter user values both, but knows how to turn the former into the latter.

10.  The number of followers you have is far less important than the number of followers you deserve.  Always work to deserve more. 

BONUS:  Twitter How To: Follow, Care, Follow, Share, Connect, ReTweet, Repeat

If you'd like to catch up while at LegalTech, shoot me an email at Matt@LexThink.com. You can also follow me on Twitter here:twitter.com/matthomann


Ten Rules of Legal Technology

For your consideration:  Ten “Rules” of Legal Technology.  Not many are new, and very few apply only to lawyers, but these are a few more nuggets I’m pulling out of previous posts to fill out my portfolio of speeches I’ve got “in the can.”  Enjoy:

1. Since the first PC, legal tech companies have been promising to help lawyers capture more time.  Capturing time isn’t the problem, charging for it is.

2.  It is more important to get better at working with people than it is to get better working with technology.

3.  You should never have a bigger monitor or more comfortable chair than your secretaries do.

4.  Never brag about implementing technology in your firm that your clients have been using for a decade.

5.  The single piece of technology all lawyers should learn to use better is their keyboard. 

6.  Sophisticated clients don’t demand sophisticated technology, they demand sophisticated lawyers.  They assume the technology is part of the package.

7.  Social Media isn’t technology.  It’s your Rotary Meeting on steroids — though there are less lawyers in the room and the clients are better.

8.  Want to invest in an inexpensive communication technology guaranteed to improve your thinking skills and increase collaboration with clients? Buy a whiteboard for your office.

9.  Belt, meet suspenders: One backup solution is never enough.

10.  The only technology ROI that matters is your clients’ return on their investment in you.

Bonus Rule:  The one piece of technology your clients wish you’d get better at using is the telephone.  Call them back!

Also, check out Ten Rules About Hourly Billing and Ten New Rules of Legal Marketing.  If you’d like to hire me to speak, head over to LexThink.

Want to avoid your clients?

OK, I’m not advocating this, but if you’ve got just a minute and don’t want to talk to that client who goes on and on and on …, try Slydial.  The free service promises to to connect you DIRECTLY to a person’s mobile voicemail.   They don’t answer, but get your message, and you can go back to being productive. 

Co-Op Your Small Team

If you’re looking for a solution to keep your small team on track, you should check out Co-Op, a lightweight, super-intuitive way to know what everyone in your team is working on right now.  It is a bit like Twitter meets your time sheet, and looks very cool.  Here’s a screenshot:

Want to Buy a Law Firm Brand?

I came across IncSpring yesterday.  It is a marketplace where designers can sell (and companies can buy) “ready-made brands.”  If is a pretty neat concept, and you get to deal directly with the designer.  Not a lot of “legal” brands yet, but if you’re a Texas Lawyer, you can do a lot worse than Lone Star Law:

Amazon Prime Time

I’m not sure how many people I’ve told about Amazon Prime, Amazon’s $79.00 per year “Membership” that gets you free second-day shipping on everything Amazon sells (as opposed to stuff Amazon sells for other people), and $3.99 an item next-day shipping when you absolutely, positively have to have it overnight.

The shipping deal is pretty sweet, but the best part is the amount of time I DON’T spend in Target, Barnes and Noble, OfficeMax, etc.  I keep a list of things I use again and again on a shopping list at Amazon, and when I need to replenish my supplies I click “order” and a package arrives at my door in two days.

Here’s the thing:  If you like the idea of Amazon Prime AND want to help me make a little dough, sign up with this link.  I get $12.00 through the end of October for each referral.  If you’d rather not send me some grocery money (who am I kidding, I’ll probably spend it on books and gadgets), go straight to the non-referral link (here) and sign up anyway.  I like Prime that much.

Five Reasons Lawyers Need a Digital Camera

Every lawyer needs a digital camera for their exclusive use.  I’m not talking about sharing one with the entire office, or using your camera phone or the one from home (when you remember to bring it).  I’m talking about a small, digital camera (like this one) you can keep in your pocket, briefcase or purse. 

I take mine everywhere.  Here are a few not-so-obvious reasons lawyers should, too:

  1. To remember what your clients look like.  Go ahead, admit it.  When you look through your files at the end of each month (you do that, right?), you always have at least one client’s name you can’t put with a face.  How about the times you get a call from Bob Smith, and you can’t remember just exactly who Bob is?  Every time you retain a new client, take their picture.  Upload it to your practice management/contact management program and print it out to put inside their file.  Even better, also put it in an album of past and current clients (like a yearbook) and you’ll never be caught scratching your head wondering just who that person was you just bumped into at the supermarket.
  2. To make sure you send your bills out on time.  Take a picture of something you want (a new car), or something you love that costs you money (like your children), and clip that photo on top of your stack of bills when you review them every month.  The picture will remind you just why you do what you do, and motivate you to get your bills out on time.
  3. To make copies and turbocharge your whiteboard.  This tip alone could save you (or your clients) the cost of a camera in less than six months.  Sign up for a service like ScanR and send your photos of documents, business cards or whiteboards in and have them converted into .pdf files for free.  This can save you $1.00/page or more vs. paying for copying court files.
  4. To help your clients find the courthouse.  Next time you head to the courthouse, take pictures of the parking lot, the entrance, and even the place you want your clients to meet you.  Send the pics along with your letter telling them about their hearing, and they’ll be far more likely to be on time.
  5. To capture the cool things you see.  There are always things we see that we wish we’d remember.  Take a picture.  What you’ll find is you remember more things, and you’ll also start to become a much better photographer.

Conference Tips Revisited

Two years ago, I wrote The Conferencing Manifesto on my Real Big Thinking Blog.  I’m about to put that blog to bed (more on that in the near future), and wanted to repost some of my favorites.  Here are a few tips for conference goers:

Know Your Questions.  Seek Your Answers.  Never attend a conference without at least three questions you want answered.  Never leave until they have been.

Their Conference is Your Focus Group.  Want to measure the pulse of the marketplace?  Want feedback on your idea, product, or business model?  Go to a conference populated by your ideal customer.  Forget the sessions.  Hang out in the hallway.  And listen.  A lot.

Be Smart.  Be Helpful.  Then Be Quiet.  Other attendees may have come to the conference to meet people like you.  They may want and deserve your help (and you, theirs).  They didn’t come to hear your hour-long presentation.  Please understand the difference.

Paper Works Best.  Your ability to pay attention to conference speakers and attendees is inversely proportional to your ability to pay attention to the outside world.  Stow the laptop, turn off the BlackBerry, pull out the Moleskine, and start writing.  Oh, and if you can’t leave the real world behind for an hour or two, please don’t leave it at all.

Vendors Matter.  Vendors are like puppies.  They crave your attention.  Give it.  They know your industry and the other attendees better than you do.  Talk with them.  Learn from them.  Then take a few pens.

Blogging is not Participation.  We get it.  Your blog has tens/hundreds/thousands of readers who can’t wait to hear your take on the last speaker’s presentation and about how crappy the WiFi is.  Your “audience” will be there tomorrow.  Your fellow attendees will not.

The most important people at the conference are sitting next to you.   Think Tom Peters gives a rat’s ass about your new business strategy?  Is Seth Godin going to give you personalized marketing advice?  Of course not.  The people at any event who are most likely to have already faced your challenges (and maybe even solved them) aren’t the highly-paid keynoters, but rather your fellow attendees.  They are like you.  They can help you.  Ignore them at your peril.

Twittering

I’m Twittering again, for the first time.  Follow me at @mhomann (is that redundant?) if you please.  More importantly, if you’ve got someone you think I should follow, tweet me and let me know.

I Love Post-It Notes!

EepyBird’s Sticky Note experiment from Eepybird on Vimeo.

If Lawyers Didn’t Exist

I know, the title of this post sounds like the beginning of another lawyer joke, but it comes from a very thought-provoking article from Indi Young on A List Apart titled Look at it Another Way.

Indi suggests several ways we can “step out of our problem-solving role.” This is important because:

Whether we’re improving what we make, how we make it, or how we share it, we normally take the perspective of the creator by default. We can’t help it. We’re drawn into decisions about all sorts of details. We love the minutia—solving problems, finding a way around a limitation. We don’t try to see past our own role in the process.

Instead of trying to improve our businesses (or our processes/outputs/etc.) from the inside, she suggests we drop our problem-solving role completely, forget about our business’ existing limitations and become the person we serve.

Pretend you and your organization do not exist, and study what this person does with all the resources available in her life. For example, what does a citizen need from her town government? She needs a way to get from her house to the grocery store, the library, the post office, her workplace, etc. These could be roads, bike paths, public transit, and sidewalks. She needs utilities like water and electricity to be delivered to her property. She needs assurance that her property will be defended from fire, protected from floods, and accessible during a disaster. She wants to feel safe from assault, whether by a human, an animal, pollution, noise, or disease. This list goes on.

Like governments, lawyers (though some might argue) exist to fulfill a need. Here’s a way to identify those needs: Think about your clients for a moment. But, as the article suggests, don’t think of them as a “user” of the thing you provide. Instead, “think about how and why they accomplish what they want to get done.”

So, who are your clients? What do they look like? Where do they live? What do they need? What do they want to get done?

Most importantly, what wakes them up at 2:00 am the morning before they call your office? Would they say it is because they wanted “estate planning” or because they want to make sure they can “take care of their family” when they die?

Put another way, if lawyers didn’t exist, what unmet need would your clients have? And if you were the only one to recognize that unmet need (in a world without lawyers, remember), would you invent your firm as it exists today?

Would your client?

Would Steve Jobs?

Need Help with Pie Charts?

If you need some design inspiration (or just a humor break), check out GraphJam, a collection of charts and graphs that visually depict really important things.  Like this:

Upcoming Events: Idea Market and Inter:PLAY

If you’re in and around St. Louis, there are a few things I’m involved in you might like.

The first is an Idea Market on September 15th. We’ve taken off several months for the summer, and I’m itching to try some new things with the group. We’ve only room for 30, so sign up now if you’d like to come.

The second is the Inter:PLAY, the new St. Louis Interactive Festival. The St. Louis Bloggers Guild has put together some really cool panels, and I’m pleased to be participating on three of them:

The Small Business and Social Media – Friday 9/19 @ 4pm

How prominent is your business’s online profile? Is it necessary to build relationships with bloggers and others in social media? Learn just how important social media is to your business – along with how to save your advertising budget dollars, build a viral marketing campaign, increase word of mouth, and other “guerilla marketing” techniques. Featuring Marianne Richmond, David Gray, Matt Homann, and Madalyn Sklar; moderated by Melody Meiners.

The Emerging Ethics of Social Media – Saturday 9/20 @ 1pm

A roundtable discussion on the ethical questions surrounding the world of social media. Topics addressed may include: privacy of bloggers and those whom bloggers write about; truthfulness v. artistic license; email and comment etiquette; and more. Featuring Todd Jordan, Jaelithe Judy, moderated by Matt Homann.

Cyberbullying – Saturday 9/20 @ 2pm

An apropos topic in our state of Missouri – which became the first to outlaw “cyberbullying” with a controversial new law. This panel will host an open discussion on online safety and privacy issues that all internet users face. Explore ways to protect yourself and your family while still participating in online communities. Featuring Elizabeth Helfant, Matt Homann, Kim Dorsey, Dana Loesch; moderated by Lisa Bertrand.

And if you like music, Inter:PLAY is a part of the much larger PLAY:Stl, with 99 bands over 3 days (warning, link opens with music). Hope to see you there!

Think Bigger

I’ve recently upgraded (the understatement of the year) to an Apple Cinema 30 inch display and I can’t describe how much of a positive difference it has had on my work. Just the ability to see multiple windows at the same time has been a tremendous time-saver.

So, since I know a bigger screen helps me to work faster, I decided to try a another “does size matter?” experiment. I grabbed a pad of 18″x24″ drawing paper and a marker and sat down to do some brainstorming.

What I found is that the extra room on the paper gave me permission to think bigger.

  • Doodles? Check.
  • To Do list? Check.
  • Mindmap? Check.
  • Notes? Check.

All on the same page.

If you’ve got something you’d like to think about in a different way, go ahead and up-size your canvas. I bet you’ll find the extra space will give you (or your clients) more room to be creative. Give it a shot and let me know how it works for you.

My iPhone Sucks

Ok, I said it. My iPhone sucks!

I used to love my iPhone, but now I love my iPod Touch. The funny thing is, I’ve not gotten a second device. Rather, the “Phone” part of the “iPhone” doesn’t work much at all. That’s unless you think it is acceptable to drop one conversation FIVE FREAKIN’ TIMES in 30 minutes! Seriously, I’ve now started phone conversations apologizing for the dropped call that’s inevitably coming before I want the call to end.

The iPhone’s my only phone. As someone who spends a good part of their day using the phone, this is simply unacceptable. This is my first bad experience with an Apple product — and I’ve been a fanboy since I bought the original Macintosh in ’85 with money earned during the summer of my junior year of high school.

I’m off to AT&T tomorrow to figure out what to do. I simply can’t have a phone that’s not one most of the time. AAAAAARGH!

Word Up!

This Lifehacker post rounds up some pretty neat word tools. Definr (lighning fast, search as you type dictionary), Confusing Words (pretty obvious, actually) and the Visual Dictionary (to connect words with images) will find a home in my writing toolbox.

Using Instant Messaging in your firm? You should.

Here’s an article from Science Daily that suggests that Instant Messaging (IM) reduces workplace interruptions. If you’ve been avoiding IM in your workplace because you believe it saps productivity, think again:

The study challenges the widespread belief that instant messaging leads to an increase in disruption. Some researchers have speculated that workers would use instant messaging in addition to the phone and e-mail, leading to increased interruption and reduced productivity.

Instead, research showed that instant messaging was often used as a substitute for other, more disruptive forms of communication such as the telephone, e-mail, and face-to-face conversations. Using instant messaging led to more conversations on the computer, but the conversations were briefer, said R. Kelly Garrett, co-author of the study and assistant professor of communication at Ohio State.

Worth a read.

Who Killed the Cat?

Here’s what happens when you take a comic strip about a fat, self-absorbed cat and remove the main character. From the intro:

Who would have guessed that when you remove Garfield from the Garfield comic strips, the result is an even better comic about schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and the empty desperation of modern life? Friends, meet Jon Arbuckle. Let’s laugh and learn with him on a journey deep into the tortured mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness in a quiet American suburb.

Sorry, Mom. ;-)

(Nearly) Free Sarbucks Wi-Fi

If you are on the road a lot, and find yourself in the occasional Starbucks, you can get (nearly) free daily Wi-Fi for the cost of a single cup of coffee each month. Get a Starbucks Card, register it online, and use it at least once a month, and you’ll get two consecutive hours a day of complimentary Wi-Fi.

Of course, if you’ve got an iPhone, or want to pretend you do, you get the free access anyway.

You Gotta Try PicLens

Trust me on this one. If you EVER view photos or other images in the web, you’ve got to try PicLens. Easily the coolest thing you’ll see on your computer this year. Don’t believe me? Check out this demo. I love it!

Size Matters

If you are still tooling around with a small computer monitor (or worse, your staff is), check out this post from the WSJ’s Business Technology Blog. It is time to supersize:

Researchers at the University of Utah tested how quickly people performed tasks like editing a document and copying numbers between spreadsheets while using different computer configurations: one with an 18-inch monitor, one with a 24-inch monitor and with two 20-inch monitors. Their finding: People using the 24-inch screen completed the tasks 52% faster than people who used the 18-inch monitor; people who used the two 20-inch monitors were 44% faster than those with the 18-inch ones. There is an upper limit, however: Productivity dropped off again when people used a 26-inch screen.

Heading to Techshow (For Just One Day)

I’m going to be swinging through Chicago this week, and figured I might as well stop by Techshow — my favorite legal conference.  I’m not speaking this year, and will thus be relegated to a free exhibit-hall pass (Tom, can you hook me up?) I’ll be hanging around Wednesday and part of Thursday.  I hope to see you there.  

More PowerPoint Resources

Need some more PowerPoint inspiration?  Check out this amazing resource list from Meryl’s Notes Blog.  Lots (and lots) of great stuff.

I LOVE Tripit

If you travel at all, you have to check out Tripit.  You can forward all of your travel confirmation emails (from airlines, Hotwire, Expedia, hotels, etc.) to one email address and Tripit organizes your itinerary for you.  I’ve been using it since the early beta period, and I love it.  Highly recommended!

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Monitor Client Web Sites with Dapper

You are keeping up with all your clients’ web sites, aren’t you?  Well, one way to do it is to use Dapper with your handy-dandy RSS reader.  Dapper can take any site (or portion of it) and turn it into any number of formats for you.  Very slick!           

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NPR = Free Music

Have eclectic tastes in music?  Want some free?  Check out NPR Music.  It is an amazing treasure-trove of cool concerts, studio sessions, musician interviews and profiles.  Awesome! 

Whenever I’m looking for something new (or old) it goes right up there on my “to check out list” with Wolfgang’s Vault.

STL Blogger Meetup II

There’s another STL blogger meetup set for December 14th at Lewelyn’s Pub in Webster Groves, Mo.  It starts at 6:30 pm.  The last one was a blast.  Though I’ll arrive late, I hope to see you there.

A You-Tube for Legal Docs? Check out DocStock

Here’s a profile of DocStock, a site allowing people to find and share professional (including legal) documents. 

The profession is changing, my friends.  What are you doing to be ready?

Web 2.0 Replaces Lawyers Again?

Brian Benzinger at Solution Watch writes about a new service called Tractis, which “allows you to negotiate and execute worldwide legally binding contracts online.”  Significantly, the service also has sort of a contracts wiki that allows folks to upload contracts and templates that can be edited, commented upon, tagged and shared.  Very cool/scary for lawyers.  Find out for yourself and take the tour.

Just GOOG it for Info.

Need to dial directory assistance?  Use Google’s 1-800-GOOG-411 (1-800-466-4411) for all your directory assistance calls.  It is FREE and gives you the option of pushing the details of the listing you’re seeking directly to your mobile phone via SMS.  So far, it isn’t ad-supported either.  Program it into your cell phone now.

Thanks to Cool Tools for the tip.

Travel Tip: Wakerupper

If you are on the road a lot and have grown tired of trusting your hotel’s wake up call, check out Wakerupper.  It is a free service that will call your phone at a pre-determined time and read you the message you asked it to.  Thanks, Lifehacker.

Justify that Messy Desk

From an 2002 New Yorker Essay from Edward Tufte

Paper enables a certain kind of thinking. Picture, for instance, the top of your desk. Chances are that you have a keyboard and a computer screen off to one side, and a clear space roughly eighteen inches square in front of your chair. What covers the rest of the desktop is probably piles—piles of papers, journals, magazines, binders, postcards, videotapes, and all the other artifacts of the knowledge economy. The piles look like a mess, but they aren’t. When a group at Apple Computer studied piling behavior several years ago, they found that even the most disorderly piles usually make perfect sense to the piler, and that office workers could hold forth in great detail about the precise history and meaning of their piles. The pile closest to the cleared, eighteen-inch-square working area, for example, generally represents the most urgent business, and within that pile the most important document of all is likely to be at the top. Piles are living, breathing archives. Over time, they get broken down and resorted, sometimes chronologically and sometimes thematically and sometimes chronologically and thematically; clues about certain documents may be physically embedded in the file by, say, stacking a certain piece of paper at an angle or inserting dividers into the stack.

But why do we pile documents instead of filing them? Because piles represent the process of active, ongoing thinking. The psychologist Alison Kidd, whose research Sellen and Harper refer to extensively, argues that “knowledge workers” use the physical space of the desktop to hold “ideas which they cannot yet categorize or even decide how they might use.” The messy desk is not necessarily a sign of disorganization. It may be a sign of complexity: those who deal with many unresolved ideas simultaneously cannot sort and file the papers on their desks, because they haven’t yet sorted and filed the ideas in their head. Kidd writes that many of the people she talked to use the papers on their desks as contextual cues to “recover a complex set of threads without difficulty and delay” when they come in on a Monday morning, or after their work has been interrupted by a phone call. What we see when we look at the piles on our desks is, in a sense, the contents of our brains.

Ah, now I know the piles are there for a perfectly good reason.  Thanks to Stephen O’Flynn for the tip.
 

Personal Technology Challenge: 10 Things

I really liked this post in Zen Habits titled The 100 Things Challenge.  The essence is that you cut your personal possessions down to 100 things.  Things that are shared, non-personal stuff, books, and tools don’t count.  It got me wondering about our personal technology burden.  How many different programs, web applications, tools, toys and gadgets do we accumulate?  How many of those do we use everyday? 

I’m going to cut my tech burden down to ten items for the next 30 days.  This includes hardware, software and web apps.  Here’s my initial list:

  1. MacBook Pro
  2. iPod
  3. Treo
  4. Google Reader
  5. GMail
  6. Google Notebook
  7. Entourage
  8. MindManager
  9. Keynote/Pages
  10. ScanR

What’s on yours?

TED’s 100

From the TED Blog100 Websites You Should Know and Use.  Some pretty cool sites here, especially under the category, “Curiosity and Knowledge.”

Meet Musicovery

I LOVE Pandora, and listen to it almost all day long.  Today (courtesy of VSL), I found Musicovery.  Hard to describe (think Pandora meets a mood ring meets the Visual Thesaurus) but if you like music, check it out.

Did You Know?

Here’s a video you may have seen, as reimagined and updated by XPLANE, my new employer.

LinkedIn Tips.

If you are new to LinkedIn, or want to figure out ways to use it better, check out this guide from Web Worker Daily.

What Can Google Do?

Here’s an interesting look at all of the Google Labs products from Mashable.  Worth a look, especially if you spend all your Google time in the search box.

OCD for Presenters

Here are some great tips for the road-warrior who does a lot of presentations from Escape from Cubicle Nation.  Too many to list, and all are worth a read.

Idea Garage Sale: The Technology Bin

These are a couple of leftovers in the tech bin that I’ve found, used and/or just wanted to share:

  • Review Basics:  Online, secure reviewing platform for video, images.
  • CircleUp:  Email or IM a question to a group and get back a single result with everyone’s answer.
  • ScanR:  One of my favorite apps.  Turns your camera or cameraphone into a scanner and business card reader.
  • Jott:  Love this one too.  Call a number, leave a message, and get it converted to a text email sent to you or to someone else.
  • iPolipo:  Schedule meetings automatically, share your calendar selectively.
  • TimeSnapper:  Automatic screenshot journal.  Answers the question: “What the hell did I actually do today?”
  • PlaceSite:  Local wireless platform that could work in conferences or small groups.
  • Gaboogie:  Conference calling service that calls you and your attendees.
  • Fidg’t:  Uses Flickr and LastFM tags to visualize your network.
  • ProfileFly:  Ties all your contact, profile, and bookmark links together on one place.
  • Pando:  Share large files through email and IM.

Also, check out this Google Document with a bunch more links from the ABA Techshow Presentation.

Father’s Day = E-Mail Detox Day

Tim Ferriss suggests fathers take a complete break from e-mail on Father’s Day.  I’m in.  Anybody else?

Address the Email Last

Quick email tip from Tricks of the Trade:

If you are sending an email with an attachment, add the attachment first, then compose the message, and then add email addresses tothe send line. Now there’s no chance you’ll have to send the ever-popular “whoops, forgot to attach the file” follow-up.

In fact, it’s a good practice to always put the email addresses of the recipients in last, to ensure that an errant carriage return or mouseclick won’t fire off the message half-baked.

Cool Tool(Bar) for Clients?

How about giving your tech-savvy clients their own firm- (or client-) specific toolbar for their browsers?  Techcrunch profiles Conduit, a company that makes it easy to “roll-your-own” toolbars.  Here’s the Techcrunch Toolbar, for an example.

An Unreasonable Request

I am a big fan of making Unreasonable Requests — requests that I don’t expect a “Yes” answer to, but that I make nonetheless.

I’m going to be sharing several on this blog over the following months.  Here’s the first:

I need someone to redesign my blog.  I’ve got quite a few projects I’m working on, and need to incorporate them in a new, non-template based site.  I know what I want, but don’t have the HTML and CSS chops to do it myself.  In exchange (in addition to ample credit) I will work with you to make your business better — and I promise you’ll find the trade more than fair.

LinkedIn for Litigation?

Guy Kawasaki explains how to use LinkedIn’s Reference Check Tool to avoid bad bosses.  In essence, you can input a company name and a range of years to find people who worked at the company during a given time period. 

This would be a great tool for locating potential witnesses in a litigation action.  Input the plaintiff/defendant company name and the years before, during and after the actionable conduct.  LinkedIn will serve up a list of people who may know a bit about company/facts/etc.  Even better, they may no longer be employed and more likely to help you.

Another way to Bill for E-Mail

Postful is a pretty ingenious service that creates and sends written snail-mail correspondence from e-mails forwarded to the service for just $0.99 each.  This could be a KILLER application for lawyers, especially if confidentiality issues, firm branding and other details could be worked out.  Imagine being able to send real honest-to-God letters from your blackberry, without secretarial help.  Very Cool!

How to “Black Out” During Your Next Presentation

Bert Decker has a great (and easy) tip to improve your next presentation:  Use Black Slides.  According to Bert, a blacked out slide (as opposed to justing hitting the “B” key) accomplishes three things:

1. Clear the screen.  Once you’re done with the picture, graph or supporting information, you want to remove distraction, and go to a black slide so you can amplify, tell a story, or make an additional point, etc.

2. Black out the screen.  Simply put, so you can walk in front of the projector. Almost all meeting, board and conference rooms are poorly designed so that they have the projector screen right in the middle of the room or stage. It should be at the right or left, so YOU can be in the middle. After all, YOU should be the center of your presentation, not your slides.

3. Totally change your mindset.  Change he creation and emphasis of the presentation. This is by far the most important of all, and needs it’s own paragraph.

Presentation Inspiration

If you want to see some best-in-breed presentations, check out Slideshare’s World’s Best Presentation Contest.  Slideshare is an online, presentation sharing application.  Worth a look.

Techshow Blogger Pub Crawl Details

The Techshow Blogger Pub Crawl is all set.  Here’s a map of the crawl with the times for each stop.  Here’s the agenda:

 7:00 pm  Start at the Sheraton Hotel
 7:00 –  8:30  Lucky Strike Lanes,  322 E. Illinois Street, directly across from the Sheraton.
 8:30 –  9:30  P.J. Clark’s, 302 E. Illinois Street, in the same building as Lucky Strike.
 9:30 – 10:30 DeLaCosta, 465 E. Illinois Street, a swanky new bar just down the street from P.J. Clark’s.
10:30 – 11:30 Dick’s Last Resort, 435 E Illinois Street, a fun bar right on the river.
11:30 – ?????  Lizzie MacNeill’s, 400 N. McClurg Court, right next door to the Sheraton.

I hope you can make it.  Sign up here (or just join us on the Crawl).

Techshow Blogger Pub Crawl

I am heading to Chicago this morning for ABA’s Techshow.  This afternoon, I’ll plot a course for the First Annual Techshow Blogger Pub Crawl, and post it here.  We’ll meet at 7:00 pm in the lobby of the Sheraton Hotel and Towers and hit 4-5 bars within walking distance.  If you are going to be in Chicago for Techshow, or live there and want to join us, please sign up here.

Oh, and don’t worry if you can’t join us at the beginning.  When I post the schedule, I’ll let you know what bars we’ll be at (and when), so you can join us in the middle or the end.

Techshow Blogger Bar Crawl

ABA’s Techshow is just around the corner, and we need to do something to get the bloggers together.  Since there’s nothing formal planned for us, I’m organizing the First Annual Techshow Blogger Bar Crawl.  We are going to meet in the Sheraton Hotel’s lobby at 7:00 pm on Thursday, March 22nd and head out on a walking (and drinking) tour of the neighborhood.  I’ll have more info on the places we’ll be soon, but expect to hit between three and five bars.  I will enforce the schedule, so if you can’t make the beginning of the crawl, join us along the way.

I’ve set up a Techshow Bar Crawl page here to register.  Cost is free.  See you next week!

Chicago Blog Conference in May

My friend Phil Gerbyshak is helming an interesting blog conference in Chicago on May 11-12.  I’m going to try to make the trip up I-55 for the event.  Check it out!

LinkedIn and Gmail

I’ve been a big fan of LinkedIn for quite some time, and since I abandoned Outlook (and LinkedIn’s amazing Outlook plugin), I’ve been using the Firefox and Gmail extensions pretty regularly.  When I logged in today to invite a few of my contacts, I noticed I could import all of my contacts from my Gmail (and Yahoo, Hotmail and AOL mail) address book, and invite them at once.

From your LinkedIn home page, click on the “+Expand Your Network” button on the upper right and follow the instructions.  Very easy and very cool!

See You in NYC!

Forgive the light posting, but it has been crazy lately.  I’m off tomorrow for ALM’s LegalTech in NYC.  If you’d like to meet up, drop me a line at Matt@LexThink.com or call me at 618-407-3241.  I hope to see you there.

Blawg Review Awards

Blawg Review’s anonymous (and very smart) editor has posted his/her Blawg Review Awards for 2006.  This blog was named “Best Legal Consultant Blog.” 

I’m honored, but the thing that struck me as I read through the list of award winners was that I know 22 of the other bloggers named, and have met at least 17 of them in person (18 if you count the Editor).  Every single one of them is someone I’m glad to know, and that but for the blog, I’d have never met otherwise.

So thank you Blawg Review for reminding me this holiday season how cool it has been to be a “blawgger.”  More importantly, thank you for reminding me how many incredible people I’ve met along the way.

Resolutions III: December 24

Resolve to become aware of news affecting your cients before they do.*

1.  Using Google Blog Search or Google Alerts set up several searches for each of your clients.  Use their names, industry, competitors’ names, products, etc.

2.  Subscribe to the RSS feed for each search.

3.  Notify your clients whenever you see something relevant to them or their industry.

Extra Credit:

4.  If you use Google Reader as your RSS Aggregator, create a “tag” for each of your clients.

5.  For each tag, Google Reader allows you to create a unique URL for that tag that you can share with your clients.

6.  Give each of your clients their tag’s unique URL and everytime they open it in their browser, they’ll see everything you’ve “marked” for them to read.

*  This post will be expanded into a longer how-to in January.

Christmas Comes Early

If you are a music lover, you HAVE to check out the Concert Vault.  It features 300 complete concerts, from bands in their prime, all free to stream on your computer! 

Right now, I’m listening to an all-acoustic concert by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young that was recorded at the Fillmore East in NYC in1970.  From the website:

David Crosby – guitar, vocals
Stephen Stills – guitar, upright bass, piano, organ, vocals
Graham Nash – guitar, piano, organ, vocals
Neil Young – guitar, organ, vocals

This is the acoustic set on the fifth night of the legendary six-night run at the Fillmore East. The Four Way Street live album contains recordings from this run. This entire run of shows capture CSNY hot on the heels of success from the recently released Deja Vu LP and was during the group’s most prolific phase, as all four were working on solo albums that would soon define them as individual artists.

Highlights include the Buffalo Springfield gem, “On the Way Home,” and a rare nod to Graham’s past with The Hollies “King Midas in Reverse.” David also sings “Triad,” the controversial and unreleased song he recorded near the end of his tenure with The Byrds that was featured on Jefferson Airplane’s Crown Of Creation LP. Material from the first CSN album is well represented, as are a few sneak previews from the solo albums then in progress. Neil Young’s medley is also a wonderful sequence.

The acoustic set closes with a short but lovely rendition of “Love the One You’re With.”

Simply amazing!

Don’t Make Me Feel Like an Idiot When It is Your Fault

Warning, rant ahead.  Logged in to Technorati this evening.  Clicked on a link from “My Account” page.  Here’s what I got:

 

Technorati Blog Info1164506507088

If I did something wrong, don’t make me feel like an idiot.  That goes double WHEN I FOLLOW YOUR LINK ON YOUR OWN PAGE! 

LinkedIn for Lawyers?

From TechCrunch:

LinkedIn, a social networking website primarily focused on business connections has added a section to their site that allows users to recommend service providers — a yellow pages based on user referrals. From web designers to doctors, users rate service providers in a thumbs up, thumbs down voting system similar to Digg.

Here’s another article article with more:

In the case of LinkedIn’s directory of service providers, users can search narrowly for services recommended by friends, or they can widen their search to friends of friends. Failing that, a global search capability is offered to allow users to search across the full LinkedIn network.

Making the system work will depend on whether LinkedIn users bother to write recommendations for other businesses, building on an existing feature within LinkedIn that encourages colleagues to recommend other colleagues.

It also could draw in new users. Most LinkedIn members currently are executives, professionals, sales people and other office workers. The new directory could attract trade workers.

Are you ready for this?

Blog to Visit the Horizontal City

My friend Dave Gray has written a great post about why people (should) blog.  I’m fortunate to see Dave almost every week, and have talked blogging with him a lot.  He really gets it, and I promise you, you’ll see his “horizontal city” idea again.  A lot.  Go read his post now

What a Cool Club! How’d I get in?

OK, this one caught me completely by surprise:  I was named to a list of the Top 100 Legal Technologists in the world (pdf here) by London’s CityTech Magazine.  Very cool!

LexThinking Again 2.0

Dennis, JoAnna and I are working on a few new LexThink! events.  The one that’s almost ready for prime time is described here in Dennis’ post.  Check it out. 

Last Week on My Idea Surplus Disorder Blog

Here are the posts from last week on my Idea Surplus Disorder Blog:

 

This Week’s Idea Surplus Disorder Posts

As I posted yesterday, I’ve started another blog called Idea Surplus Disorder.  Here are my posts so far.  Check it out.

Brainstorm Brilliantly

13 Ways to Think About It

In What Ways Might We …

Question of the Week

Creativity: Stop, Start, Continue and the Power of One Percent

The Return of Think Tank Tuesdays

Forty-Twenty Productivity

Focus on What is Possible Instead of What is Not

Creativity Hacks

You Might As Well Jump!

Revenge of the Mac Lover

Here’s an extreme example of the power of the blogosphere.

Step One:  Write law.com article about how Mac’s suck, with at least a few technical innacuracies.

Step Two:  Follow up with blog post about article, taking on”Mac Jihadists.”  81 comments and counting. 

Step Three:  Watch others pick up your article and criticize you in their own blogs

Step Four:  See how at least one of the critical articles makes it to the front page of Digg.

Step Five:  Watch your online reputation take a major hit.

It is only a matter of time before some of these blog posts show up on the front page of Google.  As it stands now, using Google’s Blog Search, a post titled “Stupid Larry” is the first result.

I know Larry and like him.  I’ve presented with him at ABA’s Techshow.  He’s a very smart guy, and it wouldn’t surprise me if this is all part of a plan to demonstrate how blogging works — a subject he writes and speaks about frequently.  However, it is also a cautionary lesson in the power of blogs and citizen media.  I will say this, I bet his article is the number one page (by far) served up by law.com this week.

Don’t Play the Line

I have a bunch of cool stuff coming up tomorrow, but for now, here’s a bit of a time-waster:

First, check out Line Rider, a fun little flash game that you will love.

Second, watch this YouTube video of an amazing Line Rider drawing.

Third, go back and play Line Rider again and again, while marvelling about how cool the video was.

Fourth, curse me for telling you about this.

Don’t Forget the E-mail Clause in Estate Planning Doucments

Saw this on Lifehacker:  What happens to your email when you die?  Suggests (linking to a CNET article) attorneys press clients to include password data in estate planning documents so heirs can get to your email, photo sharing, music, and other online accounts when you die.

Is anyone doing this?

Women Want a Story

Here’s a fascinating article from iMedia Connection on what motivates men and women to purchase things.  The whole thing’s worth a read, but what jumped out to me were these paragraphs that discuss how others’ purchasing decisions impact men and women differently: 

Men are willing to make a purchase once it has been demonstrated that someone else was successful with the same purchase; kind of a, “that worked for Joe, so it’ll probably work for me” mentality.

Women posit things differently. It’s good to know if something worked for Sally; it’s better to know what Sally’s motivations were for her purchase. Success in itself isn’t meaningful unless the conditions leading to success are the same. (So much for women not being cut out for the sciences!) This can be thought of as, “it may have worked for Sally, but Sally bought it for reason A and I’m interested in reason B, so the same purchase might not work for me.”

If you have testimonials on your site, and want both men and women to be impressed, this is important stuff.

Pheeder for Client Communication?

Have ten client appointments you have to cancel tomorrow because you got stuck in trial?  Don’t have the staff to do it for you?  Try Pheeder.    Here’s how it works:

Enter your phone number, plus the numbers of the friends/clients you want to contact.

Pheeder will call you so that you can record your name and a message.

After you hang up Pheeder will call all of your friends. Pheeder will tell them they got a message from you and then it will play your message.

If any of your friends records a reply to your message, Pheeder will call you back so that you can hear their replies.

There is no step 4. This is pretty simple really. So give it a shot!

I haven’t read their privacy policy, and don’t speak to the ethical issues of offloading client numbers and a message to a third-party service, but this is yet another cool Web 2.0–ish application that gives a peek into what’s possible.  Did I mention Pheeder is free?

Pzizz for Free!

I love Pzizz, a computerized napping application, and have blogged about it before.  If you want a FREE license, go vote at My Dream App and you’ll get an e-mail with the download information.  Trust me on this one.

The Thirty Day Rule for Technology Purchases (and Irrational Client Demands)

I liked this idea from Get Rich Slowly:

The 30-day rule is a simple method to control impulse spending. Here’s how it works:

  1. Whenever you feel the urge to splurge — whether it’s for new shoes, a new videogame, or a new car — force yourself to stop. If you’re already holding the item, put it back. Leave the store.
  2. When you get home, take a piece of paper and write down the name of the item, the store where you found it, and the price. Also write down the date.
  3. Now post this note someplace obvious: a calendar, the fridge, a bulletin board. (I use a text file on my computer.)
  4. For the next thirty days, think whether you really want the item, but do not buy it.
  5. If, at the end of a month, the urge is still there, then consider purchasing it. (But do not use credit to do so.)

I can think of so many places this would work.  First, for those firm technology and gadget purchases or upgrades, sit on the impulse for a month.  If you still think you need it, make the purchase.

Second, if you have an irrational client demand you do something that you don’t think is particularly prudent (like filing that motion to compel to get the lawnmower back from their neighbor in the middle of winter), suggest that you wait 30 days, and if they feel it is still important then, you’ll do it.

Wanna Blow Stuff (Photos) Up?

If you need to blow up some digital photos for use at trial (or just because you want some really big photos), check out Pictopia.  (Via Cool Tools)

Web Two Point What?

Here’s a great introduction to the much-hyped, often overused term “Web2.0” that’s worth a read.

A Lawyer’s Blog Should …

It has been a while since I’ve pointed you towards my friend Yvonne DiVita’s blog.  If it isn’t in your rotation of regular reads, it should be.  If you want to know why, check out her recent post, A Business Blog Should … 

 

Set Expectations Via E-Mail

Here’s a great tip via Email Overloaded:  In your e-mail signature, include something like Bob Walsh does:

(I usually check email every few hours during the day.)

Things I Like

I’m playing around with Amazon’s new “AStore” product.  It allows me to build a virtual storefront with products I choose.  I’m going to change it every month with new and cool books, magazines, and gear that I personally recommend.  Check it out and let me know what you think.

Be Phone Tree Free

Got an e-mail the other day from Marcin Musiolik, alerting me to his company’s new project called Bringo!  Here’s how it works:

  1. Find the company you’d like to call by category (credit cards, mortgages, loans, health care)
  2. Enter your phone # (we will never disclose your phone number to anyone, not even your mother!).
  3. Wait a few seconds while we navigate the phone tree.
  4. When we call you back, pick up your phone and you’re done. No more phone trees.

Looks pretty cool.  Try it out and let them know what you think in the comments to this post.  And if you think your clients or customers would use this service to contact your firm, it’s time to rethink your telephone answering options.

UPDATE:  Marcin tells me they are adding law firms next month.  I’d sure not want to see mine on there.

Advice for “Contact Us” Pages

Here’s some good advice for those “Contact Us” pages on the web:

Problem: Contact options are limited.

Solution: Give customers more control of how to contact you. Provide plenty of options: phone, form, e-mail, and chat. Let them contact you their way. RADirect offers a telephone number to talk to an engineer, as well as a short form and a chat option when available. The e-mail form guarantees a response in one business day. If you click on “Speak to a System Engineer” in the nav bar, you’re guaranteed a response in two hours from the point of action.

Problem: People are left to send and pray. So many contact forms and “thank you for contacting us” pages leave visitors frustrated. They don’t provide any information on what to expect when someone contacts the company via form or e-mail. Visitors want to know when and how you’ll reply. Some pages won’t even give the business hours. …

Solution: Tell visitors exactly what to expect when they reach out to you. Tell them what’s happening and what to expect in the future. If they must have information handy when they contact you, be sure to list that on the “contact us” page, too.

There are lots more “Problems” and “Solutions” in the article.  Worth a look.

Good (Net)Vibrations

Here’s an exercise for today.  Check out NetVibes, a really cool customizable home page, with the ability to display multiple types of content in drag-and-drop boxes (read a quick review here).  Then think about the kind of RSS-driven content your firm or company could generate (think RSS feed for each case, for example) and imagine giving your clients a home page customized just for them.  Oh yeah, the cost of a NetVibes page?  Free.

Forgive the Construction Mess

I am noodling around a bit with my blog’s design.  Forgive the duplicate postings and the visual mess for the next day or so.  Thanks.

Another Way to Impress Potential Clients

Ever think of adding a multi-media presentation to your professional firm’s web site? For a very cool (and different) idea, check out Ganas Consulting’s Declaration of Independence.

Via Presentation Zen

A Web Navigation Test

Here’s some good advice from A List Apart on web design and navigation

Any good global navigation scheme should, at a glance, answer the top three questions every user has at the back of their mind on any page:

  1. Where am I? (Present)
  2. Where can I go? (Future)
  3. Where have I been? (Past)

Here’s a test: Go to any random page on the internet. A deep page, not a home page. Then see if you can answer all three of those questions without looking at the URL or mousing over links to see where they go. See if you can tell your present, future, and past purely through visuals. Even in our brave new Web 2.0 world, most sites fail.

Does your firm’s web site pass the test?  Check out the article for lots more great stuff.

Hello Gill Wagner

I’m showing Gill Wagner the power of blogs.

Tick is Slick: Time Keeping the Web Way

All right, we all know the name of this blog is The [Non]Billable Hour, but you’ve got to check out Tick, a really cool Web 2.0 application for tracking time (and measuring it against budgets).  Very slick, and free (for now).  Are any of the legal technology vendors making anything this cool, intuitive, and pretty?

Tick is Slick: Time Keeping the Web Way

All right, we all know the name of this blog is The [Non]Billable Hour, but you’ve got to check out Tick, a really cool Web 2.0 application for tracking time (and measuring it against budgets).  Very slick, and free (for now).  Are any of the legal technology vendors making anything this cool, intuitive, and pretty?

Get Your Lawyers to Use Technology

Here’s an interesting tip to spur firm-wide adoption of  new technology:  Cut Off Non-Adopter’s E-Mail

Is This the New 80/20 Rule?

Is this the new 80/20 rule?

It’s an emerging rule of thumb that suggests that if you get a group of 100 people online then one will create content, 10 will “interact” with it (commenting or offering improvements) and the other 89 will just view it.

Word Processing, Old School

Need to do some distraction-free writing?  Try Dark Room, a “full screen, distraction free, writing environment.”  I used it yesterday to knock out an article I’m writing and must admit, I really liked it.

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St. Louis Blogger Meet Up

The American Association of Law Libraries is hosting its 99th Annual Meeting in St. Louis next week.  There are several law librarians who blog (or who want to start), and we are going to meet up Monday, July 10th at Kitchen K (map) for a blogger happy hour, starting at 5:00 pm.  You don’t have to be a lawyer or law librarian to come.  I hope to see you there.

Seven Challenges to Successful KM in Law Firms

This is an old article from Cory Doctorow, but you should read it if you want to successfully implement KM (Knowledge Management) in your firm.  Though Cory is talking on the problems of promulgating reliable metadata (“data about data”) on the web at large, I think his observations are true in small organizations as well.  Cory gives seven insurmountable obstacles that will keep us from reaching “meta-utopia.”  In a law firm setting, these are the ones that seem most likely to torpedo a successful implementation of KM:

People are lazy

You and me are engaged in the incredibly serious business of creating information. Here in the Info-Ivory-Tower, we understand the importance of creating and maintaining excellent metadata for our information.

But info-civilians are remarkably cavalier about their information. Your clueless aunt sends you email with no subject line, half the pages on Geocities are called “Please title this page” and your boss stores all of his files on his desktop with helpful titles like “UNTITLED.DOC.”

This laziness is bottomless. No amount of ease-of-use will end it. To understand the true depths of meta-laziness, download ten random MP3 files from Napster. Chances are, at least one will have no title, artist or track information — this despite the fact that adding in this info merely requires clicking the “Fetch Track Info from CDDB” button on every MP3-ripping application.

Short of breaking fingers or sending out squads of vengeful info-ninjas to add metadata to the average user’s files, we’re never gonna get there.

People are stupid

Even when there’s a positive benefit to creating good metadata, people steadfastly refuse to exercise care and diligence in their metadata creation.

Take eBay: every seller there has a damned good reason for double-checking their listings for typos and misspellings. Try searching for “plam” on eBay. Right now, that turns up nine typoed listings for “Plam Pilots.” Misspelled listings don’t show up in correctly-spelled searches and hence garner fewer bids and lower sale-prices. You can almost always get a bargain on a Plam Pilot at eBay.

The fine (and gross) points of literacy — spelling, punctuation, grammar — elude the vast majority of the Internet’s users. To believe that J. Random Users will suddenly and en masse learn to spell and punctuate — let alone accurately categorize their information according to whatever hierarchy they’re supposed to be using — is self-delusion of the first water.  

Blogs are Child’s Play

According to this study, 78% of young people have a personal website or blog.  These are tomorrow’s clients and customers.  They will judge you based upon your online presence, or lack thereof. 

What are you going to do about it?

TypePad and FeedBurner, Together at Last

If you’ve got a TypePad Blog and a FeedBurner Feed, you’ve got to do this.  Now.  All of the multiple feeds TypePad publishes automatically are now consolidated with my FeedBurner feed.  To the 980+ of you RSS subscribers reading this blog, thank you!  Rick, you guys are doing some amazing stuff over there.

Computer Programs I Want: ToDo-per Scooper

Saw this about scheduling productivity “dashes” on 43 Folders, and had this thought:

Say you’ve got 10 (30, 200?) items on your To-Do list, and you are so overwhelmed, you don’t know where to start.  What you need is a Random Task Generator, (alternative title “ToDo-per Scooper”).  Here’s how it would work:

1.  It would take the list of your to-do’s, either inputed directly or scoured (scooped?) from your Outlook tasks list, along with the estimated amount of time you think each task will take. 

2.  It would automatically add 50% more time to your estimate (to account for innacurate and overly-optimistic estimating).

3.  Whenever you set aside a certain amount of time on your calendar for non-specific task completion, it would fill in that time with a randomly-selected To-Do (or To-Do’s) that fit the time you set aside.

4.  The randomness could be changed to give more weight to more important tasks — kind of like adding more balls for the bad teams in the NBA lottery.

BONUS:  If this feature were incorporated into an enterprise-wide calendaring and task-management program (legal software vendors, are you listening?), the business could set aside an hour each day when everyone could get access to a fresh set of to-do’s to complete in that hour.  I think it could make the whole enterprise more productive.

Anyone want to build this application with me?  Or is it already out there?

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Legal Widget

How about a dashboard widget (like this one) for tech-savvy clients to request a call/e-mail/im chat from their equally tech-savvy lawyer?  Kind of like a legal Bat-Signal.

Harvest for Timekeeping

Anyone using/trying Harvest, an intresting time tracking tool?

Total Client Awareness

Here’s a simple tip from Personal Tech Pipeline (via LifeHacker) that all lawyers should take advantage of:

Let’s say you have a friend who lives on the other side of the country. Let’s call her “Janet Birkenstock.” You can set up a Google Alert using quotation marks around her name that searches both news stories and web sites. Then you can just forget about it. From then on, whenever Janet runs a marathon, gets promoted, is quoted in the local newspaper, or does anything that someone mentions in the news or on the web, you get an e-mail with a link to that page. You can always be the first to congratulate her, or whatever. The point is that you’re staying in touch with and remain aware of your friend without any effort at all.

Now imagine setting up similar searches with all your friends, family members, former colleagues and others — and, of course, yourself (to find out what others might say about you).

You can set up dozens or even hundreds of these Alert searches, and they will work for you forever, finding information on people you care about and letting you know what’s new with them.

Now set up searches about your neighborhood or small town. If some developer is planning to bulldoze the local park and build a shopping mall, you’ll be the first to know (and can visit the local city council meeting in time to provide input).

Easy, cheap, and your clients will wonder how you know everything about them (and their industry, competitors, etc.) before they do.

Keep Your Cell Phone Number Private

Here’s a great tip (via a LifeHacker reader) to keep your cell phone number from showing up on caller ID:

With your cell, just start the number you are calling with the *67, as if the phone number begins with those three digits. The important thing to remember is that you will need to put the 1 in before the area code, as cells don’t normally need the 1.

For example, enter *6719175551212 before hitting the talk button will lead the receivers caller id to read “restricted.”

As Johnny Carson would say, “I did not know that.”

My Attempts at Better PowerPointing

Over the last several months, I’ve done quite a few presentations.  Since I have been reading great blogs like Beyond Bullets, Presentation Zen and Powerpointless, I find that I am focused more than ever on using PowerPoint as a complement to my speech, and not as a replacement for it.  In other words, I don’t want people to be able to read on a slide what I’m about to say.  I’d rather them look to me for the information instead of the screen.

In my PowerPoint journey, three interesting things have happened.  First, the more tuned in I am to the importance of “good” PowerPoint, the more offended I become by “bad” PowerPoint — I’m told former smokers experience a similar reaction to cigarette smoke after they quit.  Second, I’m emboldened to try even more radical presentation experiments (my BlawgThink presentation in MindManager is one example).  Finally, I’m amused at how others, only familiar with the “traditional” way of powerpointing, are mildly offended when I suggest my way may be better (or at least more fun).

If you attended my BarCamp or Techshow presentations, let me know what you thought.  For everyone else to see what I’m talking about, I’ll attach my three most recent presentations to this post later today for your feedback.  I look forward to your comments.

UPDATE:  Here are the slides from my BarCamp presentation, as well as my two Techshow presentations, 60 Marketing Tips and Beyond ROI.  All are in .ppt format.

Tips for Timely Replies

Here’s a good (and simple) tip from Email Overloaded for making sure you reply to all of those e-mails each day:

  1. Need to reply but don’t have time right now? Drag the message into a special folder, entitled “Reply”, that holds all the messages that need replying to.
     
  2. Schedule a couple of times a day, every day, in which to crank though the Reply folder, during which you shoot off the necessary answers and file the messages elsewhere.
    If you don’t have time to formulate a reply to a complex or time-consuming issue, use
    this method to keep the other side’s faith until you get the chance to reply.

Did Your Acquaintanceship Make Money This Year?

Angie McKaig has some fantastic e-mail tips.  Here are my favorites:

Run a business, not an acquaintanceship.
Always respond promptly – same day is ideal; at least every 2-3 days at a bare minimum.

Explanations go a long way.
Take the time, when you can, to educate. An extra 10 minutes spent writing a few paragraphs to explain something to a client can buy a priceless amount of goodwill.

It’s time for a mindshift, entrepreneur.
Email is not something that takes you away from your work. Email is a vital part of your work. It requires the same care, feeding and watering as the rest of your business, if not more so. You’re not in Cubeville any more, with a sales department to back you up. You’re it, bub. Remember that without those emails, phone calls and other “interruptions”, you wouldn’t have a business.

 

MiniVan Man

After driving the family minivan (Honda Odyssey, if you must know) from Los Angeles to St. Louis, I read this from The Truth About Cars, and just now got done laughing:

Morphing from pistonhead into Minivan Man (MVM) is a process, like grieving. At first, when the kids arrive, proto-MVM goes into denial. He hangs-on to his/his partner’s two-door, or trades the sports car for a hot two-plus-two. He assures his partner that everything will be OK; the baby will fit in the back, no sweat. (Silently thinking, it’s a baby, it’ll never remember.) When the new father feels the brunt of his hormone-crazed wife’s rage as she tries to maneuver a squealing child into the back, when he sees his precious litte angel in that dark, windowless space; he knows he’s been beaten. He gets angry. Then he gets over it.

Bargaining starts. Well, honey, we don’t really need something THAT big do we? A large sedan would be just as good, wouldn’t it? Maybe something with a sports suspension. You know you like to drive fast too– not that you would with baby on board, but every now and then… Hey, how about a Dodge Magnum SRT8 station wagon? And then, suddenly, he becomes aware of minivans. The ease of those sliding doors. The advantages of all that room: less struggling, less screaming, Mommy can go back there and pick up the damn bottle, infinite cup holders, etc. He gets it.

After depression, acceptance. Then, purchase and pleasure. Today’s minivans really are great for kids: safe and comfortable, with lots of room for Happy Meal toys, juice boxes, bikes, groceries, soccer balls, backpacks, PSP’s, friends and all that other stuff that makes parenting so expensive. The best ones even have God’s gift to hassled adults: rear seat DVD’s. The audio for these systems can be faded to the rear of the vehicle, giving MVM the rare chance to have an uninterrupted conversation with his partner. That’s no bad thing; unless of course it is. In that case, there’s enough room for your beloved to stretch-out in the back and watch Toy Story for the 46th time.

So True.

A Ginormous Table PC

Eric Mack is evaluating an ultra-wide screen Tablet PC.  Look at the size of the thing in his lap.  Me gotta have one — if for no other reason than to make my MindManager maps rock.

UPDATE:  All right, someone tells me this was an April Fool’s Joke.  Had I read the post on April Fool’s day, I may have caught it.  However, catching up on my blog reading four days after the fact, I didn’t even think it could be a joke.  And I still want one!

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Dreaming About Technology

I’ve been jonesing for a second monitor since I moved to California (I had a dual monitor setup in my law office).  Adding a second monitor to your computer can increase work efficiency by leaps and bounds, and is probably the single best technology “tweak” you can make to improve your productivity. 

Now that I’m coming back to St. Louis, and will be setting up a permanent home office, I’ve been on the lookout for a second monitor (or even a third) for my dream technology setup. 

On one monitor, I’d have EverNote on all the time.  I recently rediscovered this great program and have jumped head first back into it.  It is essentially a digital doodle pad that resembles a huge, endless spool of paper.  You can drag and drop nearly anything in to it, and it is an AMAZING note-taking/list-making application.  If you can forego some of the bells and whistles in the $34.95 TabletPC “plus” edition, it is even free.  I haven’t even scratched the surface of what it can do, but I’m already hooked!

On the second monitor (and since this is my dream setup, I’m running three monitors here), I’d have my trusty MindManager Pro with Gyronix’s Results Manager open.  For me, there is simply no better way to flesh out ideas and keep track of them than with this combo of fantastic products.  Pricey, to be sure, but if you pay attention to this blog, I’ll have an announcement soon telling you how you could win both.

On my third, and primary monitor, I’d have Outlook running in the background with my web browser (Firefox) in the foreground.  If you use Outlook, you have to try Anagram.  Outlook seems naked to me without it. 

Once I get the new setup up and running after the LexThink Lounge, I’ll post some pics.

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Quick Tech Tip for Users of Multiple Computers

Got two (or more) computers and want to get to the files on each?  Check out FolderShare.  From JK on the Run:

I have been using my HP tc1100 Tablet PC alongside a Sony U71 for a few days and the solution I have chosen to keep them in sync is FolderShare, a free (in beta) service from the Windows Live offering from Microsoft. FolderShare claims to be a simple solution to keep multiple computers in sync no matter where they are, provided they are connected to the web. I have been using it and so far I am very happy with the service and how well it works.

I’ve tried FolderShare a while back and was impressed.  When I go back to multiple computers again, I’ll be sure to give it another whirl.

Technology does not equal productivity.

Here’s a must-read article from Wired, that shows how technology has made us less productive.  Some quotes from the story:

Workers completed two-thirds of their work in an average day last year, down from about three-quarters in a 1994 study, according to research conducted for Day-Timers, an East Texas, Pennsylvania-based maker of organizational products.

The biggest culprit is the technology that was supposed to make work quicker and easier, experts say.

“Technology has sped everything up and, by speeding everything up, it’s slowed everything down, paradoxically,” said John Challenger, chief executive of Chicago-based outplacement consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

“We never concentrate on one task anymore,” Challenger said. “You take a little chip out of it, and then you’re on to the next thing. It’s harder to feel like you’re accomplishing something.”

TheirSpace – Understanding How Children Use the Internet

If you want to understand how children today use the web (primarily MySpace), and the implications for professional service providers (or just for parents), read Danah Boyd’s paper, titled Identity Production in a Networked Culture: Why Youth Heart MySpace.

What’s that Thingamy

I have to admit, I’m intrigued:

One single system to run your business.

No need for other enterprise software nor middleware.

No need for hierarchies nor information tree structures.

No need for management to run the workflow.

Enter the future at your own pace, start small or big.

Refine your business model and processes continuously.

And yes, you’re not the first to utter unbelievable, bollocks, bullshit, etc. under your breath.
We like that, leaves us only one task: Prove that the system actually works.

Would that not be kind of cool if we did?

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Join Me at BarCamp

I’m going to be hanging around a lot of people waaaaaaaay smarter than I am at BarCamp Los Angeles next weekend (Saturday and Sunday, March 4–5, 2006).  I’ve tentatively titled my session “UnConferencing for Normal People — Taking the UnConference Mainstream.” 

While everyone else is building cool web2.0 applications full of ajaxy goodness (I don’t really know what that means, either), I’ll be working to build the perfect conference.  I’ll post my presentation up here later this weekend.

Come join me!  Have a Beer.  Don’t cost nothin’.

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Domain Name for Sale

Don’t know how I missed this one, but Kevin Heller is selling the domain name sucksmyan.us.  Too funny!

If you must bill by the hour …

Here’s a cool utility that could help you recapture some of that lost time.  From the TimeSnapper website:

With TimeSnapper you can play back your week just like a movie. You can play it at any speed you like, and jump in at any time you like.

When it’s time to fill out that dreaded timesheet, TimeSnapper is a savior. No need to tear your hair out trying to remember where all the time went.

Via Lifehacker.

E-Mail Retention for Lawyers

ZDNet has a great list of “classic clueless-user” stories submitted by IT folks.  Here’s one that made me laugh:

4. We currently have a great policy for keeping e-mail to a minimum. It’s only kept 90 days, then it’s deleted, so if you want to save it past the retention period, you have to put it into a file somehow.

This has been in effect for several years, but amazingly, we had a couple of executives in the legal dept who built up 40,000 messages in their inboxes each, without having any deleted. I finally got the connection when the new “retention policy” was published. The company lawyers who wrote it had a line in the document that excluded themselves from the policy and made sure they could keep everything forever!

21 Tips to Better Blogging

Here are 21 great tips for better blogging, from MakeYouGoHmm.com.  They’re all great, but a few got a hearty AMEN! from me, including:

6.  Start blogging about subjects that aren’t already being blogged to death, or write about them with a fresh perspective. Unless you are some kind of celebrity, the head of a major company, movie star, etc, just being you is likely not enough in today’s overcrowded blog space. If too much of your content is “me too” then readers will find it harder to stay interested and look elsewhere.

8.  Don’t slap a bunch of flashy banners and buttons (no matter how small) all over the place. The clutter effect will happen if you keep jamming more and more stuff onto the pages, so be picky about what gets on the pages — and keep the content relative — and when something doesn’t seem as important or relevant either remove it completely or move elsewhere.

16.  Don’t cripple the RSS feed. Some readers may actually prefer to read your posts in their favorite aggregator or portable device, so try not to punish them for their preferences.

20.  Are you having fun? Readers are smart and can tell who is having fun from their writing over those who are laboring. Don’t labor, have fun. If trying to follow too many things on this list is peeing in your cornflakes, then stop following this list. It’s not the gospel, although I believe these tips will help those who are seeking some guidelines and direction. 

While talking tips, if you haven’t already, check out Evan Schaeffer’s presentation from BlawgThink here.

 

Law Office of the Future for the Mobile Lawyer

Man, I’ve got to get me one of these.  The only problem, not much of a waiting room.

Practical Tech

I’ve known Adriana Linares for a few years now.  She’s cool, hip, and on top of her technology.  And she’s blogging!  If you want practical, no lingo advice on using the technology you already have, check out her I Heart Tech blog, and you’ll “Heart” Adriana too!

LegalTech NY … Whew!

Just got back last night from LegalTech NY, ALM’s mondo legal technology event.  I’ll post some thoughts on the conference later, but one thing I would have loved was a “Best in Show” award for the coolest product.  Here’s my vote:  the O-yA search appliance.  Very cool!

Welcome to the Blogosphere, David

David Maister has a blog!  David has written many of my favorite books on law practice and client service.  His voice is a welcome addition to the blogosphere. 

Testing Bleezer

Just testing another blog posting client called Bleezer. So far, I think I like BlogJet better, but Bleezer’s built-in tagging is pretty cool.

Technorati:
del.icio.us:

Not blogging yet? Your clients may expect it.

Still looking for a reason to blog?  In this post from the Work Better Weblog titled, Wanted – Real Estate Agents to Blog the author explains why he wants his next real estate agent to have a blog: 

This is what I’m looking for in the next real estate agent I work with:

  • A weblog that’s about 60% ‘business’ – properties, housing market, interest rates, mortgage stuff. With the rest of it more personal and hopefully completely off topic. Ideally, some posts will cross both sides – likes restaurants and events in the neighborhoods they really like.
  • Yes, the weblog needs to have an RSS feed filled with photos so I can automatically stay up-to-date on the home sales in the area.
  • I’d also like an iCal calendar available, so open houses can be loaded into my things-to-do this weekend.

These 3 items help me build a relationship with an agent, on my terms and without the risk of spam and unwanted phone calls. While at the same time, building the agent’s reputation, credibility, and network.

You’ve been warned.  ;-)

What is your ink to data ratio?

Before you prepare your slides for your next trial, or slap together another PowerPoint for a client meeting or presentation, read this article setting out some basic principles of information design from Luigi Canali De Rossi.  In it, the author gives some suggestions on ways to better present data (charts, graphs, etc.) in presentations.  Here are a few:

  • Drop unplanned and unfunctional 3D effects from your information graphic. Unless you are a trained designer drop 3D graphs in favor of the apparently simpler and less fancy traditional 2D graphs.
  • Eliminate all frames and borders. They are not needed. Your data will not escape the newly found free space around it, but it will “breathe” and will provide with a more relaxing and legible visual space.
  • Drop also all unneeded borders of colors, bars, slices. Your eye can tell a column from an empty space without the addition of black ink around every object created by computer software.
  • Cut the prison bars. The horizontal and vertical “gridlines” that many graph tools utilize is nothing short of a visual prison, sold to us with the excuse of helping our eyes better find the value reflected by each bar.
  • Do not utilize bitmap, hatches, patterns to differentiate different bars, columns or slices. These effects are the heritage of the old times when there was no color available to differentiate different graph elements. These solutions are highly disturbing to the eye, they “vibrate” and create so called moiré effects. More than anything they look ugly and old-fashioned.
  • Drop, eliminate, mute or simplify all remaining visual components which serve only decorative or unnecessary graphic-enhancing purposes. Reiterate and improve, until you can actually see that the quantity of ink you are using is truly serving the very purpose of communicating real data.

I know I’ve violated at least four of these rules in presentations over the last few years.  How about you?

Update:  If you want to learn more about presenting data, check out this article about Constructing Bad Charts and Graphs.

BlawgReview Editor works for American Lawyer Media?

Someone asked me this question, and I pass it along without comment:  “Why does American Lawyer Media own BlawgReview?”  I also got this nugget:  the telephone number listed for “Ed Post” belongs to Jennifer Collins’ at ALM.

Update:  Now it makes more sense.  Here is a post from Lisa Stone on ALM’s Legal Blog Watch referencing the BlawgReview Awards and talking about the Anonymous Editor:

Meet Lady Justice or Themis, as portrayed by She-Hulk and Greg Horn, Marvel artiste extraordinaire. She is your host for Blawg Review Awards 2005, which is most appropriate, given her day job and her not-so-mild-mannered alter-ego. If you don’t know Jennifer’s backstory, then you need to read on.

Update 2:  I really like BlawgReview.  It’s a great concept well executed.  And I don’t know 100% for sure that Jennifer is the anonymous editor,  just a hunch.  Also, I absolutely have total respect for the public contributing editors Evan, Michael, and Kevin.  I’ve just been wondering how ALM’s up-to-now anonymous ownership of BlawgReview (or of the domain, at least) factors in to the whole equation.   In the interest of full disclosure (and it’s all about disclosure, isn’t it?), I used to belong to the law.com blog network.  Any ax grinding I had to do, was done here

Update 3:  The BlawgReview editor tells me I’m wrong.

My New Favorite Blog

If you like cars, check out The Truth About Cars, my new favorite blog.  The editorials are great (check out this one on the failure of niche marketing by US manufacturers), but if you like good car writing, you gotta read the reviews.  Here are just a few passages that made me laugh out loud:

On the Jeep CommanderAfter five minutes in the Commander’s tippy-up “theater-style” rear seats, full-sized adults will wish they weren’t. Thanks to a foot well that’s shallower than the British Royal family’s gene pool, even polypeptide deficient three-year-olds sitting in the way back run the risk of giving themselves a pair of shiners with their knees (try explaining THAT to social services). The Commander’s third row is like the Porsche 911 Turbo’s cupholders: you may be glad they’re there, but you’d be foolish to use them. And yet you do.

On the Ford FusionIf customers swim into their local Ford dealer’s fishbowl to spawn between $17k and $21k on behalf of a new Fusion, they won’t be doing so because the sedan’s sheet metal haunts their dreams– unless it’s a nightmare about being pursued by a giant razor. … Fire-up the Fusion and it’s immediately evident she’ll do the fandango. Just don’t expect thunderbolts and lightning.

And on the Hyundai SonataYou know what I love about the new Hyundai Sonata? Nothing. You know what I hate about it? Nothing. In other words, it’s a hit. Out there in the real world– away from the elitist, over-educated automotive palate of a professional car reviewer– any vehicle that asks nothing whatsoever of its owner is guaranteed a place in the average American motorists’ affections. If the automobile in question is cheap, reliable, comfortable and inoffensive, millions of people will buy it, love it and, eventually, buy another one. The new Hyundai Sonata is all that, and more. Not much more, but some…

E-Mail Newsletter Do’s and Don’ts

If you send out an e-mail newsletter (or even use e-mail for client communications), check out these Seven E-mail Landmines.  One tip that’s made me rethink my e-mails is this one:

The top 145-200 pixels of an email’s height are the most critical. Key information to include above the fold:

  • Company logo and link to the home page
  • The main call to action, plus a link to act on that call
  • A visual that enhances the brand image
  • A headline that encourages readers to read the rest of the message

From a design perspective, the most common mistake is to clutter this section with graphics. If stripped out or blocked, they negatively affect your message.

Taking Blogging Personally

One of the topics at BlawgThink was how much a person’s blog should say about them personally vs. professionally.  Fred Wilson’s post The Soul of A Blog answers the question for me:

… most people like getting a sense of who I am.  They can quickly scan past the posts they don’t want to read. But having those posts there gives them a sense of the other parts of me.

As I said to my friend when he told me about Dan’s comments, “a diversity of post topics is the soul of a blog”.  All head and no soul makes for a boring read.

Introduce your clients to blogs.

Not everyone “gets” blogging.  If you’d like to introduce your clients to blogs, why not give them a pre-populated list of blogs that are relevant to them and their business area — heck, include some blogs that reflect their personal interests, favorite hobbies, sports teams, etc.  Make sure it includes yours, of course.  Here, from Steve Dembo, is a quick way to do it:

If you go into Bloglines, click on My Feeds and scroll down to the bottom of the left hand frame, you’ll see a link called “Tell a friend”. Clicking on it allows you to enter in a list of email addresses and to pick among blogs you currently subscribe to. It will send out an email with a link to bloglines that will allow someone to register a new account at bloglines prepopulated with your chosen blogs!

Wow, I wish I’d known about this the last few times I got people started on bloglines. MUCH easier than having them jump from place to place to place subscribing to blogs without really understanding what it’s all about yet.

It’s kind of like a personal gift that keeps on giving.  It is like you are introducing your client to dozens of people that could directly help their businesses.  That’s pretty powerful relationship building. 

If you use this tip, though, at least promise me you’ll include the [non]billable hour in the list. ;-)

So, When Are You Starting Your Blog?

Since I’ve been in a BlawgThink-induced cave for the last several weeks, this may be old news, but as I catch up on my blog reading, I ran across this study (thanks to the Trends I’m Watching blog):

The survey found that 55% of corporations have adopted blogs for both internal (91.4%) and external (96.6%) communications. More than half of these organizations launched their blogs within the last year, and most of these started within the past three months. That’s a hockey stick. And it suggests that corporate communicators will drive future growth of the social media market.

As Dennis Kennedy might say, here’s the money stat:

Of those groups not blogging, the majority (70%) are positive about starting a blog, with 7% intending to start a blog immediately, 13% intending to start a blog within a year and with 50% studying the possibilities. Only 11%, or 1 in 9, of the total respondents are not blogging today and have no plans to do so.

WOW!  I wonder if (or when) we’ll see a similar response from lawyers and law firms?

Queer Eye for the Legal Guy

If your firm is doing some cool stuff with technology, but (like me) you could always use more cool tech stuff, check out HP’s Legal Technology Awards competition.  Sadly, I’m not eligible since HP sponsored the first LexThink and Dennis Kennedy and I did a commercial for them showcasing their Tablet PC’s.  Damn!

Entry deadline is December 1, 2005.

BaseCamp for Lawyers?

One of the things I want to talk about at BlawgThink is using new technologies, particularly the cool Web 2.0 applications (including blogs), in law firms.  I’ve been a big user of BaseCamp for quite some time, using it to manage LexThink personal projects.  Here’s a neat tutorial about how to use it for time tracking.  I don’t expect law firms to trust their time keeping to the folks at 37 signals just yet, but the idea is certainly interesting.

I only score a 5.

Jakob Nielsen posts the Top Ten Weblog Design Mistakes.  I violate at least 5, including this one:

Sadly, even though weblogs are native to the Web, authors rarely follow the guidelines for writing for the Web in terms of making content scannable. This applies to a posting’s body text, but it’s even more important with headlines. Users must be able to grasp the gist of an article by reading its headline. Avoid cute or humorous headlines that make no sense out of context.

I’m sure when Peter Flaschner gets done with my redesign, I’ll at least get a 7.

Bored with Times New Roman?

If you are a font groupie like I am, check out Vitaly Friedman’s collection of the Top 20 Best License Free Official Fonts

How to Live in RSSia

Steve Rubel has ten great ways to use RSS.  All are amazing.

Hard Drive Crash

We’ve gotten a bit behind on BlawgThink 2005 due to the hard drive in my Toshiba crashing Thursday morning (as I was getting ready to take it on a business trip).  I had it backed up, but it’s taken me most of the weekend to get back to basic functionality on my other Tablet PC (I know, I’m lucky to have two).  I’ll be back at full productivity tonight.  If you are waiting on more BlawgThink details, they’re coming tomorrow.

Absolutely Great Corporate Blogging Resource

As I was finishing up my preparations for my talk in Atlanta this Friday on Weblogs and the Law (or as I’ve titled my speech, “Why Lawyers Hate Blogs”), I stumbled across this White Paper from The Content Factor about corporate blogging.  In it, I found the single best piece of advice for beginning bloggers I’ve ever run across:

Start slowly. Read extensively. Post frequently. Link liberally.

The White Paper can be downloaded for free in exchange for your e-mail address.  I strongly encourage you to check it out.

Horrible Food, Funnily Described

Did you ever find a site that was so funny, so incapable of description, so twisted and disgusting (in a good way) that you just had to share it?  WARNING, not work safe if you’ll get in trouble for laughing out loud and wasting 30 minutes of your day!  Don’t blame me, Steve Nipper made me share it.  Here’s one of the more tame quotes (about trying a “potted meat” product):

Inside is a smooth, oddly pink meat paste. So smooth, in fact, I dare call it “creamy.” (I actually got a little gaggy just typing that.) Surprisingly, it was a little spicier than I expected. Although, that sensation may have been a by-product of my tastebuds dying.

As much as I love good writing about important things, I love great writing about totally disgusting food products even more.

Irrelevant Home Pages and the Value of Non-Directed Research

Mark Hurst, writing in the Good Experience Blog, shares some interesting insight into how web surfers really use the web.  Mark talks about a recent study his company did where they observed “dozens of customers using dozens of websites.”  The difference in his study, was that when asked to evaluate a company’s web site, the customers were not told where to start (such as a site’s home page) but were instead told to get there any way they wanted.  The big conclusion:  “Google has made home pages virtually irrelevant.”

Stated another way: many users, when not directed how to start, begin their sessions by going to Google and searching for what they want. (A small minority use Yahoo, and almost no one uses any other search engine.) Some companies, depending on their size and popularity, also have a fair percentage of users who do type the Web address directly into the browser….  Often the search results link pointed to a destination page in the middle of the website, which caused the customer to miss the home page altogether.

Why is this significant, you ask?  What does your website look like once you get past the first page?  If a potential customer or client gets jumps to the middle of your site via Google, can they find their way out?  Do they even know where they are to begin with?  Mark continues:

Customer experience is mainly about understanding, and serving, the key unmet needs of the customer. This is a strategic issue that’s poorly addressed with a tactical research method. You simply can’t find out the customers’ priorities if you give them a list of pre-written tasks; there are too many assumptions built in. Instead, why not just ask them to show their experience?

Read the entire post.  Show it to your web designer and think about it when preparing your next client survey.  Yet another way Google is changing the rules.

Full Text Feeds, Please

Google’s new Blog Search engine only indexes RSS feeds.  So if you want to be found, publish a full-text feed.  Please.

I’m never chewing gum again.

Kevin points to a bad blog.  Boy is it awful.  Take a look if you must:  JuicyFruit Blog.  But you’ve been warned.

There’s Shrimp Creole, Shrimp Gumbo, Pineapple Shrimp, Lemon Shrimp, Shrimp Soup …

Bubba (from Forest Gump) would be proud.  Microsoft is reportedly taking a page from Procter and Gamble as it names the entire Windows Vista family:

    • Vista Starter
    • Vista Home Basic
    • Vista Home Premium
    • Vista Pro
    • Vista Small Business
    • Vista Enterprise
    • Vista Ultimate

Which version is for me?  Where’s Small Business Premium?  How about Enterprise Pro?  Why can’t I have Ultimate Starter?  I’m sure it’s only a matter of time.  Is Microsoft worried about getting crowded out by Apple’s OS boxes on the shelves of Best Buy?  Microsoft has just added, collectively, hundreds of thousands of hours to the time computer buyers will spend buying their next computer.  How’s that a good thing? 

According to this article, it’s not.

When choosing to expand product offerings it is as important to recognize the parameters of competition where variety is an advantage and when it merely overwhelms the consumer.  (From the Drakeview blog)

As a professional service provider, how many “choices” do you offer?  How many options do you give your clients?  Are your clients often overwhelmed by the decisions they have to make?  Not sure?  Ask them.

And if you still believe more choice is better, go to Wal Mart and spend an hour trying to figure out what toothpaste to buy (and then decide upon the flavor).

Pandora is Awesome

I know I’m not the first to jump on this bandwagon, but I really, really like Pandora.  Input a song you like and it gives you a stream of music that shares similar qualities.  You can build multiple “stations” and share them with others.  The first ten hours are free, and I’ve already been exposed to music I love by artists I’d never heard before.  Check it out! 

Say Backpack

This fits in the “I can’t believe nobody thought of this before” department:  a backpack that has a light inside.  I want my next briefcase to have this feature. As for the post title, you Dora fans know what I’m talking about.

Generalissimo Francisco Franco is Still Dead.

And so is Technorati.  Now, instead of piling on, I’m going to point you to a new service that keeps on getting better and better:  Talk Digger.  Put in your URL and it will run parallel searches in Bloglines, Blogpulse, Feedster, Technorati, IceRocket, BlogDigger, PubSub, MSN and Google.  Today, I just noticed the ability to preview a linking blog in the Talk Digger window.  Very Cool!

Blog Subscribers

I have just moved my e-mail subscription service from Bloglet to FeedBlitz.  If you subscribed before, you’ll get two e-mails, one from each service, for the next few days as I make sure FeedBlitz works well.  If everything goes as planned, I’ll discontinue the Bloglet service on Monday.  Thanks.

Did Skype just die tonight?

Google Talk.  Integrated with Gmail address book.  Free voice calls to other Google Talk users.  Archived and searchable chats.  Can’t tell if it’s any better than Skype (which I love, by the way), but it looks pretty close.

WiFi Waiting Rooms, Continued

I received a comment from Jay Ruane to my post WiFi While Your Customers Wait.  I liked it so much, I thought I’d share:

We have been promoting the wifi access for a year. Better than giving away television to watch, develop a powerpoint presentation that can play on a loop in your waiting area and allow that to serve as an additional way for people to learn about your services, silently "sell" you and then use those same language in your client meeting, to reinforce the message.

Take a look at Jay’s Firm Web Site.  Not only does he promote his office’s available WiFi, but the site uses a blog to post updates.  Well done!

Comments in Ads?

I love Autoblog, and it is one of my first reads every day.  One thing Autoblog does is serve up a lot of ads, including one at the top of the page.  Today I noticed a “Comment on this Advertiser” link directly under the Suzuki ad.  Sure enough, clicking on the link brought me to a comments page asking me to “Please add [my] comments to inform others and help this advertiser improve their offering.”  

Way cool!   A great way for an advertiser (Suzuki) to get blog-like feedback without actually doing a blog itself.

Screen Real Estate for Sale.

See that huge freakin’ ad next to this post?  By Monday, it will be gone. Why?  Effective Monday, I’m no longer a member of the Law.com network. Long story short, my blog is “going in a different direction” than the network (their words, not mine).  Like all but one Apprentice contestant each season, I was fired. 

But this isn’t a rant against Law.com.  Instead, I want to thank them for their help in bringing my blog to more readers, and I want to offer some suggestions that I think will make the network better (even in my absence).  I’d also like to solicit your feedback in hopes of helping all of the crew at Law.com grow the network and improve upon it.

  • First things first:  Lisa Stone is fantastic.  She “gets” blogging (as demonstrated by her phenomenal success with Blogher) and continues to do an excellent job with the Inside Opinions feature she writes twice a week.   
  • Second, I’ve been privileged to get to know my fellow Law.com bloggers.  All of them are great bloggers and each of their blogs will continue to have a place in my aggregator.  I’ve even had the good fortune to meet several of them in person and I wish them the best in the future.
  • Third, Law.com deserves a tremendous amount of respect for being the first mainstream legal media outlet to recognize the power of blogging and try to harness it.  (As an aside, I had the privilege of meeting the American Lawyer Media CEO William Pollack at the inaugural LexThink event and he struck me as a technologically savvy and ahead-of-the-curve chief exec.  ALM is in good hands.)
  • Fourth, I want to apologize to everyone at Law.com if you ever thought my comments and criticisms (including the frequent jabs at the size of the honkin’ huge ad) were anything more than a genuine effort to improve the network of which I was a part (and a desire to reclaim some valuable screen real estate). 
  • Fifth, if I’d known in what direction my blog was going that diverged from Law.com’s intended path, I’d have made the change.  If you wanted less LexThink, I’d have complied.  Less Grace?  Check.  More baseball?  Check.  If you didn’t want my blog to serve as a marketing vehicle for my projects, I’d have toned that down too.  (Though, isn’t that one of the purposes of blogs?)  If you wanted more hard-core law … well, I’d have to draw the line somewhere. That said, thanks for never telling me what to write, or how to write it. 

Now that I’m out of the network, here are the things I’d do to improve it.  Law.com has heard some of these before, but to encourage debate among my readers and to get as much constructive feedback as possible to Law.com, I’ll share them with you.

  • I know this is beating a dead horse, but is a 300 x 600 pixel ad really necessary?  Perhaps on a blog like Monica Bay’s Common Scold, which has a tremendous amount of terrific extra stuff in the sidebars, a large ad is necessary to stand out, but when there is only one ad on the whole site, is the huge size really non-negotiable?
  • Now, go visit each of the law.com blogs and check out the ad.  Reload the page (along with the ad). It seems that at least 9/10 ad impressions are for American Lawyer Media properties — free advertising for ALM for which I don’t believe I was paid (Note, if I’m wrong here, please correct me and I’ll print a retraction). If Law.com/ALM is having trouble selling ads to traditional advertisers (not hard to believe, given the relative newness of blogs) wouldn’t a partnership with a blog advertising service make more sense? (UPDATE: As I visit the sites now, the ALM ads have disappeared and all I see are paying ads.  I would have really, really liked this to be the case for the last six months).
  • Help your bloggers help Law.com and ALM.  The Law.com bloggers are a really cool group of people.  I’ve met a bunch, and corresponded with the rest.  I can’t imagine a better group of cutting-edge tech savvy lawyers to advise anyone on what blogging is, where it’s headed, and how lawyers can benefit.  The problem?  Our brains weren’t picked and our collective smarts underutilized.  People are paying big bucks to have access to the kinds of talent ALM assembled in this network.  ALM had us for free (well, almost).  The first thing I’d do to change this is institute a monthly conference call among the remaining Law.com bloggers to get their ideas for improving the network (I’d even join in if they’d have me).  I’d also parade them around every ALM event where a blogger panel is appropriate — and identify them as part of the network.  Legal Tech NY and LA are obvious targets.  Blogs are hot.  ALM has a stable of amazing bloggers.  Show them off.  Use them. 
  • When a Law.com blogger suggests another blogger he/she thinks should be part of the network, run (don’t walk) to sign that person up.
  • Get into podcasting.  Now.  Be the place for legal podcasters to host and syndicate their content. You’ve got the servers, give that space to lawyers doing podcasts.  For free.  Promote the podcasts in Lisa’s column and promote the best of the best on the Law.com front page.  Also, use podcasting technology to supplement interviews in the print publications.
  • Build content-similar blawg silos, and aggregate (and make searchable) the RSS feeds.  I’d love to have an aggregated and searchable feed for all the IP blogs out there.  Same goes for the marketing blogs, and the trial tips blogs, and the ethics blogs, etc. Right now, the only common thread is that all the blogs are great, but there are not many other common themes running through the network. However, now that I’m gone, that may be changing.
  • Build a branded RSS reader, and make it dead simple to use.  Lawyers don’t all get blogs, and those that do don’t all understand the power of RSS.  If you built them a super-easy Bloglines-like RSS reader (or adopted an existing one) you’d control a bunch of the content lawyers read and make it even easier for them to read your stuff.
  • Dump the e-mail, embrace RSS.  Keep the e-mail lists, but offer a feed for every one of your e-mail publications. Combined with the branded reader, you would have unbelievable content to deliver to the desktops of your audience.
  • Take blog content and repurpose it in regular columns in the ALM print publications.

And thanks for everything.

Oh, and if you still want to advertise all of those ALM events and publications on my blog, come Monday, I’ll have some space for sale.  ;-)

Great tips for beginning bloggers.

From Thirty Stories Up:  7 Mistakes for your First Week of Blogging.

Lead us not into temptation.

Temptation Blocker blocks you from using certain computer programs for a certain period of time.  Very cool.  Now, if it could just keep everything/everybody else from interrupting your work day. 

Free Thirty Dollar RSS Reader.

I’ve been using Onfolio Professional 2.0 for several months now as my RSS aggregator and web clipper.  I recommend the software, and found a free version of the Personal edition offered here ($29.95 value).  Check it out. (Thanks to Ed Bott for the tip!)

Just a quick idea for all you legal software companies.

Every time a telephone call comes in to a law firm, start a timer that shows how much time has elapsed from the time the call came in and from when it was first “seen” by the lawyer to which it was directed.  After a certain time period elapses (say 24 hours) the senior partner — or the Client Service Officer — gets notified of all the unreturned calls in the office.  The calls are returned by the firm, even if to say, “Sorry we haven’t gotten back to you sooner.  We are waiting on XYZ and will touch base with you on a __________.”  The lawyers who don’t return calls are required to explain why, and the call-returned ratio is one of the factors used to determine compensation.

Build your Workshop

Jim McGee has a thought-provoking article titled, Building Your Knowledge Workshop that says (better than I did in this post) knowledge workers — and that includes lawyers — should stop looking for the perfect all-in-one software solution:

Since at least the days of Lotus 1–2–3, software marketers have promoted the notion of the one true tool; invest in one software product to support all of the knowledge work you will ever need to do. We keep falling for their seductive promises to our continuing disappointment.

For many projects, Swiss Army knives and Leathermen Tools are the answer. Multi-purpose tools are fine for toy problems and simple tasks, but no one serious about a craft works with a single tool. Good craftspeople depend on a collection of tools that work together and in a workshop where they can be found and used as the need arises.

We are at a point in carrying out knowledge work where we would be well-served by setting aside the quest for the one true tool and turning toward the problem of creating and equipping a knowledge workshop suited to our needs.

Jim uses the workshop metaphor, which I think is apt.  Here are some of his tips for building a productive knowledge workshop that are spot-on for any professional equipping their office:

Pay attention to whether tools you are considering play nice with one another.

[B]e conscious of how the tool mix is developing. Is there a balance between big tools and little specialty tools? Do the specialty tools bridge the gaps between what the big tools handle? Do the specialty tools get used often enough to be worth keeping, or do they exact greater demands on your memory than they return in improved effectiveness?

While selecting, assembling, and (eventually) integrating a random collection of tools into something more useful, consider how you will assemble relevant supporting materials. If you are a wordsmith, do you want an online dictionary available? Do you want more than one? If you perform market analysis, are there general statistical tables or reports that you draw on repeatedly (e.g., the Statistical Abstract of the United States)?

Are the tools and materials arranged and organized to make your work easier, or are they a long list of random entries or icons on your desktop?

Finally, Jim advocates taking some time out to play in your new workshop:

Set aside time to play with your tools and discover their limits and features. If you want to take advantage of pivot tables in Excel, waiting until they are essential to the product you must deliver by the end of the week is a mistake. Do you need to discover that pivot tables exist first? This is all in the nature of “productive play,” of learning what is possible from the workshop you are designing.

This last tip is probably the best of the bunch.  My father is a woodworker whose collection of tools rivals Norm’s from ‘This Old House.’  Whenever he buys a new tool (all too often, if you ask my mom), he plays with it for a few days.  He learns the tool’s in’s and out’s and never works with a fine piece of wood until he understands the tool’s limitations.  When is the last time you’ve set aside time to “play” with the tools your work depends upon?

Think Outside the Suitcase

If you are starting to think all websites look alike and want to to think a bit outside the box suitcase, take a look at this website.

Here’s how to get the senior partners to finally use their computers.

From the great blog We Make Money Not Art comes this description of a possible way to get those computer phobic lawyers (they still exist, don’t they?) to “buy in” to technology.  From the Deal Me In website:

Deal Me In uses a custom-designed deck of cards and card layout surface to provide users access to their digital archives, bypassing traditional mouse-and-keyboard interactions. The project is targeted at people who are unfamiliar with technology, primarily those who were already adults before the invention of the personal computer.

You really have to check this out to believe it.  Imagine a deck of cards, with one card representing each file.  Lay the card on the surface and up pops the digital file.  Pretty neat.

Living in RSSia. My new feeds.

I’ve been adding RSS feeds to my aggregator at an alarming clip.  While I’ve been pretty diligent at deleting at least one feed for every two I add, I’m still swimming in data.  One thing that helps is that at the end of each week, I delete everything that is clogging up my “unread items” folder in my aggregator and start new on Monday.  It is an amazingly liberating experience.

One thing I’ve wanted to do for a while is resuscitate my “Weekly Five” feature where I’d share five new/cool sites I’d found the week before.  Since I’m living in RSSland now (“RSSia”), I thought I’d do something a bit different.  Each week I’ll share the sites whose feeds have taken up a permanent residence in my aggregator.

In the last week, here is what’s new, in no particular order:

WorkHappy.net

Uncrate

Trends I’m Watching (Thanks to Zane for the tip)

Mark Hollander

Dig Tank

Drawn

Future Tense

Just Looking

I want my WOW’s. The non-legal software for lawyers challenge.

Quick, what is the coolest program or application you’ve used in the past year?  Was it made for lawyers?  Probably not. 

Thinking through my experiences at LA’s LegalTech, I’m struck by just how little cool stuff is out there for lawyers, technology wise.  The leading-edge applications sold to lawyers to manage their practices (combining e-mail, calendaring, document management, timekeeping, etc.) seem so 2001.  I guess I’ve become jaded and unimpressed with new legal technology because I’ve come to realize the programs deliver far fewer “wow’s” then some things a guy cobbles together in his basement and shares on the web for free (if you don’t believe me, take a look at Tasktoy or GTD TidlyWiki).  And because the money isn’t out there driving third-party programmers to improve upon the base product with plug-in’s or complimentary applications we are stuck with a few main players innovating at their own pace and failing to deliver the “wow’s” any professional who spends hundreds of hours a month working with his or her computer deserves.

So here is what I’m going to do about it.  I challenge you to tell me how you’d run your office if you couldn’t use any legal-specific program.  You need to be able to use e-mail, keep your contacts, share group calendars, manage documents, track to-do’s, and keep and bill your time.  You can talk about one program, or dozens.  If you suggest Outlook, I want to hear what plug-ins or add-ons you recommend.  Data can reside on your servers or with an ASP.  The only rule: the program(s) you use have to do at least one thing demonstrably better then anything in the legal field.  Apple users, have at it too!  And if you are a legal vendor with something that is really cool, let me know.  I’d love to be proven wrong!

 

Think in Ink

Finally, a blog about working in ink that has nothing to do with the Tablet PC.

Just Letters

Really cool, addictive, useless application.

Banks and RSS Feeds

I’ve been living in RSS land for a while now, even using MindManager to aggregate my feeds from Basecamp, Backpack, and Trumba (I use Onfolio for the rest).  Why can’t my bank give me an RSS feed of my account balance?  It doesn’t need any more info, just the number.  I know it wouldn’t replace Quickbooks, but would be a nice feature, nonetheless.

It is an honor just to be nominated! Really.

I just received an e-mail from June Holaday telling me this blog was nominated for Marketing Sherpa’s 2nd Annual Reader’s Choice Blog Awards in the “niche marketing” category.  The coolest thing about the nomination (and about blogs in general) is that I already know two of my co-nominees personally:  Michele Miller of Wonderbranding and Yvonne DiVita of Lipsticking.  Both are amazingly cool women who were among the first contributors to my Five by Five series.  After reading the other nominated blog — Anastasia Goodstein’s Ypulse — if I finish anywhere above fourth in this survey, something is seriously wrong in this universe.

 

UPDATE:  My friend (and chief Technolawyer) Neil Squillante reminded me that the [non]billable hour is up for “best legal blog” in this year’s Technolawyer awards.  The ballot is here, and you must be a Technolawyer member to vote.

Welcome Technolawyer!

I had a chance to meet Technolawyer’s Neil Squillante in NYC earlier this year, and we had a great evening together talking legal tech, blogs, and marketing.  Technolawyer has now started a blog, and though Neil is still keeping some of his Technolawyer goodies inside his fabulous e-mail newsletters, there is enough great stuff on the blog to make it worth a regular visit (or an addition to your aggregator).

Spinning Plates

This one comes from the Patent Posse at their Rethink IP Blog:  the Acme License Maker.

This was my first license plate after graduating from law school:

License_20050425184655_92910

And this may be my next one:

Nonblblhr

Podcasting for Idiots (With Idiots)

My friend Zane Safrit (who is not an idiot, by the way) has a cool new podcasting service he’s introducing at his company, Conference Calls Unlimited

I’m new to the podcasting game, but Zane assures me it really is easy. 

Step One:  Set up a telephone call through his company’s service, or use your own dedicated reservationless number.

Step Two:  Push “*7” (or something like that) when you want to start recording the conversation.  Push the same key combo when you want the recording to end.

Step Three:  Wait for his company to e-mail you the link to your hosted mp3 podcast.  They can also send you the mp3 file for you to edit.

Step Four:  There is no step four.

Now for the idiot part:  Zane interviewed me for his first podcast.  We talked about blogging, on-line collaboration, and LexThink.  Here is the link to the mp3 file:  Podcast Here

 

Start Your Blog: A Primer

For a really great introduction to blogging, check out this post from Michael Hyatt’s Working Smart blog, titled (appropriately enough) How to Start a Blog.

Hoosier Lawyer

My friend Steve Terrell just started his blog, Hoosier Lawyer.  Steve does a wonderful job every year with the Indiana Solo & Small Firm Conference and is a welcome addition to the Blawgosphere — even if he can’t drive a go-kart. ;-)

Article on Blogging

Sarah Kellog has a nice article introducing blogs to mainstream lawyers in the most recent edition of The Washington Lawyer.  I would still think it was a great article, even if she hadn’t said this about the [non]billable hour: 

Matthew Homann’s blog uses clever writing and a breadth of knowledge to bring innovative legal billing and marketing strategies to light.

Reid My Blog

My friend (and LexThinker) Reid Trautz has been writing Reid My Blog! for several months now.  Great stuff on law practice management, and an excuse for me to post this cartoon by Hugh MacLeod.

Read My Blog

Some Technology Remainders

I’ve become totally smitten with Onfolio 2.0 as my news aggregator. I used to use Bloglines, and still recommend it to anyone new to the world of Blogs and RSS, but the ability to download my aggregated feeds and read them offline (a la FeedDemon) combined with the ability to clip and save entire websites has really changed my browsing habits.  Best of all, for now it’s free!  However, when it goes on sale, I’ll buy it — it’s that good.

Zip Decode

Another very, very cool idea.

Pick your color

Just cool.

ABA Techshow Bloger Dinner

Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell have already posted a few times about this, but if you are a blogger (legal or not) and are going to be in Chicago on Wednesday, March 30, let me know and I’ll make sure to get you an invitation to the Blogger dinner.  It will be held at Catalyst Ranch, the same place we are doing LexThink, and should be a wonderful time to get to meet some fellow bloggers. 

Eye Tracking for Web Sites.

Where should you put the most important information on your website?  Read this.

Blogs for Project Management

I found a post on the Cutting Though blog a while back titled 10 Ways to Use Blogs for Managing Projects.  Next time you are looking for a cheap and effective way to manage a project in your business, think blog! 

My New Favorite Blog

I graduated from the University of Illinois in 1990, and was in Assembly Hall for most of the Flyin’ Illini’s magical run to the Final Four in ‘89.  This year, the undefeated Illini are playing the best basketball in team history and I’m happy to be able to follow along by reading my new favorite blog:  Illini Wonk.  Go Illini!

Subscribe to the [non]billable hour

I now have the “Subscribe” link working.  If you want to receive e-mail posts from this weblog (courtesy of Bloglet) go here and fill in your e-mail address.

And the Envelope Please

My friend Dennis Kennedy has given out his 2004 Legal Blogging Awards (nicknamed “Blawggies”) and I am pleased to accept the award for Best New Legal Blogger.  I’m a bit under the weather today, or you’d be getting a really long speech here (lucky for you).  Suffice it to say that I am thankful to everyone who has made 2004 my best year ever.  Thank you!

Big Announcement Number One

I have a bunch of big announcements to make over the next few days, and here’s the first.

Zane Safrit, blogger and CEO of Conference Calls Unlimited, has been a participant in my Think Tank Tuesday Group since its inception.  I’ve been totally smitten with Zane’s service since he set up our group with free toll-free conference call and webinar services.  Zane is one of the businesspeople I know who “get’s it.”  For example, his business has pulled most of its web advertising, and instead, put the money towards improving its customer’s experience with stunning results.  Take a look here and here for examples. 

I asked Zane how I could help his business grow, and he has made this generous offer — free to [non]billable hour readers.  You get your choice of any one of the following:

One free web conference, with the included conference call; or

The first month free of their monthly flat-rate services; or

Ten Percent off a toll-free reservationless conference call.

Here is the rub:  You have to call Chaz Czinder at 877–227–0611, extension 18.  Chaz will be your personal conference calling expert.  I’ve been using Chaz since we started the Think Tank Tuesday calls, and he’s great.  He’ll explain the service and set up everything you need.  He’ll even call you after your conference to make sure everything went well.  Just tell Chaz that I sent you.

Oh, and one more disclaimer:  I am getting nothing from Conference Calls Unlimited for this testimonial.  If you think I’m alone in extollling their service, go here and watch video testimonials from other customers.

If you are unhappy in any way, and I’m sure you won’t be, drop Zane a line and he’ll personally make sure you are satisfied.

Blogging Insurance

There is quite a bit of back and forth between Denise and Evan on Jeff Jarvis’ idea of a Bloggers’ Legal Defense Society.  Evan suggests the AmLaw 250 step up to the plate and contribute some cash to begin a sort of legal defense fund.

While it would be nice for the companies who provide most of the blogging software and services out there (Six Apart, Google, and now Microsoft) to contribute to a blogger defense fund, I think a better idea is to have the blogging companies provide some sort of blogging insurance as part of their service. 

The insurance could provide bloggers in limited circumstances (such as Jason Kottke’s) with a defense, even if damages were ultimately to be paid by the blogger.  I can’t imagine the cost of the insurance — spread among thousands (millions?) of bloggers — would be all that expensive.  And the public relations boost to the blogging service that steps up to the plate first would be immeasurable.  Having such insurance coverage available may even move more bloggers to a paid service from a free one. 

Are there any insurance types out there who would like to work out the details with me on developing blogging insurance?  If the big services won’t do it themselves, there may be thousands of bloggers out there who may pony up some of their own cash for a modicum of protection.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Thank You, Fred Faulkner

While I still want to tweak my web design a bit and add some more things (my blogroll, for instance) I wanted to thank Fred Faulkner for helping me get the new layout up and running.   I posted about some design changes I wanted to make and Fred graciously offered to help me move from the basic Typepad layout I was using to an advanced template design.  Fred has his own blog, is an all-around good guy.  Thanks Fred!

Do you treat new customers better than existing ones?

I’ve been using Timematters (version 5.0) since it came out, and was a faithful user of 4.0 before then.  Now I see that version 6.0 is out, with a bunch more bells and whistles.  Apart from a very complicated interface, I’m generally happy with 5.0, and if the Outlook integration worked as advertised (or at all on my machines), I’d stay with that product.  However, if the new version dramatically improved my user experience, I’d spring for the $500 or so the upgrade would cost our office.

Today I called LexisNexis Timematters sales and asked if I could download a trial version of the new software or get a demo disk.  The salesperson told me that was not an option for me, because I was already a customer.  Instead, I had to buy the upgrade and then take advantage of the money-back guarantee if I was unsatisfied.  However, if I didn’t already own the product, the salesperson assured me, they would send out a working demo disk and give me thirty days to “test drive” the software.

This isn’t a rant against Timematters, per se.  Instead, it should be a lesson to all of us whose business depends on returning clients or customers.  Before you extend that “special offer” and limit it to new customers only, think about how your loyal customers would feel if they learned it wasn’t available to them as well.  Why not give those existing customers the special perks and see how much more your business grows.

Drum Roll Please!

I’ve done it — I’ve found someone silly enough to pay me for doing what I was previously doing for free.  As of today, I have become an “affiliate” of the Law.com Blog Network.  The [non]billable hour is joined by The Volokh Conspiracy, May It Please The CourtI/P Updates, MyShingle.com, Jottings by an Employer’s Lawyer, and Crime and Federalism (click here for a link to all of our bios).  I’m honored to be in such fine company and hope that my affiliation with the folks at Law.com profits everyone. 

I have a lot more going on here too.  In the next week, I’ll be putting up a “user’s guide” to this blog, and will rerun some of my favorite posts in a new “Best of the Blog” category. 

On the Five by Five front, I’ve been getting the submissions for my Law Student Edition and can’t wait to share the five ways each contributor would change legal education. 

I also hope to have an announcement soon on the innovation conference conference for lawyers.

Finally, I’m rolling out a new project here called “Building the Perfect Firm,” where I’ll draw upon the hundreds of ideas I’ve compiled in this blog, along with substantive suggestions from non-lawyer experts in marketing, architecture, client service, psychology, business and innovation to put together a blueprint for how law could be practiced in a fulfilling (and hopefully profitable) way.

Well, that should keep me busy for the next few months.  If you are new to reading this blog, welcome.  If you are a long time patron of t[n]bh, thank you.  And if you are reading this post in your aggregator, click through to my site from time to time to look at the pretty ad.  Grace needs a new pair of shoes.

My Tablet’s Back!

I wrote here about my Tablet PC being stolen.  It turns out that I had left it at a client’s office right before I ran to St. Louis (where I thought it was taken from my car).  I had asked that client if he had seen my computer and he said no.  Last Thursday, he brings it by my office.  Apparently, his wife had picked it up and — assuming it was his — brought it home from his office.  After about a week, he asked her whose laptop bag was in their foyer.  When she said she thought it was his, he remembered my inquiry.  Problem solved. 

 

Under Construction II

New redesign is coming next week. 

Under Construction

I’ll be making some big changes here at t[n]bh and ask that you cut me some slack with the design experiments.  If you are reading this blog via RSS, continue to go about your business.

My Tablet’s Gone

My Tablet PC is gone.  I think it was taken from my car in St. Louis last week, but I didn’t notice until the next day.  Insurance company won’t replace without a police report — the problem is, though I believe it happened when I was getting gas (and all of my windows were down), I can’t say for sure.  I’ve written here and there about how crucial the tablet has become to my practice and now it is gone.  Anyone out there have an extra Tablet they’d like to give me?  I’m really bummed.

14 Tips to Get Blawging

Evan has a great guest post over at Notes from the Legal Underground by Federalist No. 84 that has 14 steps to “finding your voice in the blawgosphere.”  This post continues Evan’s history of some great guest posters.  If you already blog, or are thinking about starting, it offers some really good advice.

Stupd Client Quotes

Great new website/blog called Clientcopia that collects stupid client quotes (mainly from the design industry).  From the site:

There’s no getting around it. At some point in your career, your patience will be tested with a stupid client who is so clueless that you’ll question your sanity, career choice, and the future of mankind.

You may have dealt with one already, one that just stuns you like a deer in headlights. Dumbfounded to utter anything but an “uhhh…”. Some clients have no concept of reality. They make up their mind, just to change it again to an even more hideous decision. And will end up blaming you for the mess. Can we honestly blame the client? Sure we can…

Clientcopia was created to give you an escape. Take joy in knowing you are not alone.

We all feel your pain…

Some pretty funny stuff here.  Check it out.

ActiveWords in the NYT!

ActiveWords got a great write-up in the New York Times on October 3.  I still don’t use the program as much as I should, but still find it to be a great time saver.  Congrats, Buzz!

Idea Garage Sale.

I’ve been spending the last two weeks doing some housekeeping around the office:  closing files, throwing stuff away, reviewing every open file, and generally organizing the stuff I have sitting around.  One of the things I’ve noticed is how easy it is to accumulate things on the computer.  For instance, I have over two-hundred items in my “to blog” folder on Bloglines alone.  Add to that the hundreds of articles and web sites I’ve book-marked over the last four years and you start to get the picture of some of the electronic cobwebs in my office.

I have finally recognized that I have too many ideas sitting around cluttering things up.  For the next week, I’m going to have an “Idea Garage Sale” on this blog.  I’ll be throwing up tons of links, blurbs, and thoughts that I’ve found laying around for you to take if you want.  If there is anything left at the end of next week, it will get shipped off to Goodwill.

And as for my fellow bloggers, I know you are in the same predicament as I am.  Everyone knows that when the whole neighborhood has a garage sale, more people show up to buy and more stuff gets sold, so join me and have your own Idea Garage Sale, too.

Enjoy your shopping!

It’s official! The [non]billable hour is a time waster!

I was checking out my referral logs today for the first time in a few weeks, and found several incoming hits from Google to this post. Google “Time Waster” and you’ll find that this blog has cracked the top ten for that term!

I know my wife has called it that before, but now it’s official.

Site Maintenance

Thanks to an astute reader (thanks Fred!), I’ve found that my archive links to most of my Five by Five’s aren’t working. I’ll try to get that fixed today, along with a new “Look what I found!” list on the sidebar.

If Microsoft Owned Nintendo

Pretty funny. Screenshots of old Nintendo classics with a Microsoft touch.

St. Louis Blawgger Dinner

Dennis Kennedy has proclaimed St. Louis, Missouri “Blawg City USA” and I’m inclined to agree. However, what good is being a resident of Blawg City if you can’t get together and have a few cold ones (St. Louis is also the home of Anheuser Busch) over dinner. I’d like to wait until school starts (law school, that is) to get a few of our student webloggers on board, but in mid-September we’ll have the first Blawg City, USA dinner. Anybody in? Evan? Dennis? Buehler?

Irresponsible Time Waster

You were warned.

Look What I Found!

I changed the name of “The Weekly Five” to “Look What I Found” in my sidebar. I know the name is still pretty lame, but take a look at the five or so sites I’ll throw up there every now and then. A new group is up today.

Amazing Polaroids

Take a look at these Polaroid photos of London taken with an old Polaroid SX-70 and “manipulated” with a wooden stick before the emulsification on the instant photo dried. Absolutely incredible.

You gotta learn to type.

In a comment to Dennis Kennedy’s Five by Five post, reader Russ Krajec, writes:

Excellent comments. However, I would suggest one subtle thing that is missing: learn how to type.

Time and again, the old partners were brought up with their dictation machines and cannot type at all. When it comes to email, they peck out terse responses with no explanation, and the computer becomes all but unusable to them. In fact, it inhibits their ability to function and they become afraid of the computer. Lord knows the clients are seething when they send an email for a quick question in hopes of avoiding getting billed 10 minutes for a simple yes/no question, only to have the partner bill them a half hour to type out three sentences.

I visited my kid’s sixth grade class and told them that the single most important subject I ever had in high school was not English, math, science, or anything but TYPING. In fact, it was the only class in which I got a C, but it was the most useful class I ever had. (My high school just got a brand new PDP-11 and I wanted to be able to use it, so I took Typing with one other guy and 30 girls.) I told my kid’s class that if you don’t learn to type, it will be like running with a limp for the rest of your life. Certainly these old crusty partners are. The sad thing is that those old dogs keep limping and might need to put in the effort to learn a new trick or two.

All the email tools in the world aren’t going to help the old partner who can’t type.

I couldn’t agree more. Like Russ, my most useful class in high school was typing. I can type nearly 70 words per minute and I can’t imagine how much more productive I’ve become because of it. Everytime I see lawyers “hunting and pecking” their way around a keyboard, I grimmace. It’s a diservice to themselves and their clients if they can’t effectively use their computers, and it ends up costing them much, much more in lost time, additional support staff salaries, etc. than a good six week typing class would

The Weekly Five

I’m really going to have to come up with a new name for my sidebar’s “Weekly Five,” but for now, I’ve added five new links for your viewing pleasure.

Set your TIVO for the Blawg Channel

Dennis Kennedy, Ernest Svenson, Marty Schwimmer, and Tom Mighell have started The Blawg Channel, “a common platform from which the best of the legal bloggers can distribute their content and, more importantly, individuals or organizations can obtain this content all in one place automatically.” Dennis and I have had a few discussions about this project and I think it is a really cool idea. I’m just waiting for their first reality series: “Blog Swap.”

Let there be Light

15845_PE099792_S3I’m back from a vacation visiting my wife’s family (perhaps an oxymoron?) and back to blogging. After my post on ergonomics last week, I realized I needed a desk lamp. I found this one at IKEA in Chicago Sunday. The roller blade wheels really make me smile.

Administration and Other Stuff

A few things:

First, my new Weekly Five is up today. I need to rename the list (in my sidebar) because I don’t want it to be confused with my Five by Five feature.

Second, if you are expecting an e-mail from me, a lot of spam filters are bouncing my e-mail provider. I’m trying to get that sorted out today.

Third, today my site will have its 15,000th visitor. Now, I know that the Typepad statistics are somewhat misleading (no measure of rss and atom feed views), so I don’t know if the fifteen grand number is at all realistic. I’ve been blogging since the end of January of this year, and posted my 200th item this week, so I’m pretty happy about the response from everyone and I wanted to thank all of you for visiting, commenting, and reading the stuff I post about.

The Weekly Five (Week Six)

A new edition of the Weekly Five is up a bit early, as I’m going to be out of the office for a conference beginning tomorrow. Take a look.

The Weekly Five (Week Five)

The Weekly Five is up again in my sidebar. Take a look.

Missouri Solo and Small Firm Conference

I’m attending the Missouri Solo and Small Firm Conference at the Lodge of the Four Seasons again this year. For the money, this is the best legal conference in the midwest. Great speakers, wonderful collegiality, a great location, and a golf outing make the conference so popular, it regularly outdraws the regular Missouri Bar convention, and is sold out this year. If you are going to the conference, drop me a line as I’d love to meet you, and invite you to come go-karting on Friday night!

The Weekly Five (Week 4)

The new edition of the Weekly Five is up in my sidebar. Some creativity-related links this time to keep my brainstorming weekend going. Have fun.

Cool Tech Tools

It has been a blogging day today, and I’m trying to post a bunch of stuff I’ve saved up over the last few weeks. Here is a cool web-based utility called “Mail to the Future” that allows you to e-mail yourself a reminder anytime in the future. Works great and, best of all, it is free!

Another cool, free tool is AnyBirthday.com. Type in a first and last name and zip code (if you know it) of someone who’s birthday you want to know and you’ll likely get the answer here. To save you the trouble, mine is August 7.

Stephen Nipper tipped me off to a program called Adobe Reader Speed-Up that does what the title suggests: it helps Acrobat Reader open PDF documents much more quickly.

The Weekly Five (Week 3)

I’ve changed my Weekly Five again in the right column on the weblog. Take a look.

LinkedIn

I joined LinkedIn a few months ago, but didn’t do much with it. I just started sending out my invitations today, and have already gotten several responses back. If you belong to LinkedIn, drop me an invitation.

The Weekly Five (Week 2)

This weeks version of The Weekly Five is up in my sidebar on the site. Don’t wait too long because these links disappear and will be replaced next Friday.

Tablet PC

My new Tablet PC (a Toshiba Portege M205) arrives today and I am giddy with anticipation. I hope to run it though it’s paces and have a full report next week. The best part: after buying it on E-Bay, the seller tells me there is a rebate. Sweet!

Update: I’m salivating even more after reading this article.

The Weekly Five

Each week, I come across some really cool sites that I don’t specifically write about. To share them with you, I’m starting “The Weekly Five” list in the right column of this weblog. I’ll throw five (or so) sites on the list each week that I’ve found, liked, and added to my Bloglines news aggregator. Enjoy.

The [non]billable hour in print.

I am constantly amazed at the power of weblogs and the blogging community. Though I am far overdue in posting thank-you’s for sites linking to this weblog, there were some interesting off-line developments last week:

First, thanks to Evan Schaeffer for including this weblog in his Illinois Bar Journal Article (reprinted on his firm website). Evan is a friend, and if you haven’t read his Notes from the (Legal) Underground or Illinois Trial Practice Weblog, go do that right now.

Second, I posted here about letting your secretary fire a client as a “gift” for Administrative Professional’s Day. The post got picked up in a lot of weblogs and generated a request from the editor of the Administrative Assistants Update newsletter to reprint the post in her publication.

Help! Blogger in Need — Weblog Hacked!!

I’ve been reading Kirsten Osilind’s amazing Re:Invention Blog for quite some time.  She just redesigned the site and it looks fantastic.  When I e-mailed Kirsten to congratulate her on the new design, she e-mailed me back this:

Thanks for the compliments. Actually…someone hacked into the system last night and I effectually have lost the blog. They stole all the source files. And blogger has told me they can’t restore because it is instant publishing.

What the hacker did in effect was go in and delete everything but not republish. So the second I try to post a new entry and republish…the entire template will go to blank white screen and I will lose everything. Blogger is not being helpful and I am devestated. So I don’t think I will ever be able to post to the blog again.

If you know anyone who is techno savvy who could help I would be forever greatful. Cannot believe this has happened. Do believe it is the first example of a hacker with blogger though. So at least I am a first!

I’ve met Kirsten and she is one of the nicest people blogging today.  She writes out of a genuine interest in helping women succeed in business.  So, if you know someone who can help Kirsten, e-mail her here.

Two Anonymous Blawgers in the Same Fake Firm?

From Anonymous Lawyer:

There are days when I’m very generous to the associates who work under me. I try to give them as much freedom as possible with regard to their schedules, I try to make sure they understand the context of their assignments so dry tasks don’t seem quite so bad, I leave the truly heinous jobs for the paralegals, I praise them for a job well done…. And then there are days when I’m a jackass. Today is one of those days. I’m not in a very good mood — I didn’t get a chance to play golf yesterday, I got an angry e-mail from a client, and my wife thinks I should mow the lawn myself while I think we should just hire someone to do it for us even if it costs more than it should — so I got into the office about a half-hour ago, and decided I’m going to make someone’s day miserable, just for fun. I decided today would be a good day to have an associate “update our relationship information” at some of my more important clients. Which means calling into them and making sure all of the same people still work there, and seeing if there are any problems brewing that they just hadn’t gotten a chance to come to us with. Trolling for business, basically — but also updating records and making sure everything’s fine. Because there’s a chance they’ll really have a legal question, I can’t have a paralegal do it. So I’ve got a sixth-year associate who — once she gets into the office — will spend about 12 hours today on the phone. I mean, it’s something that has to be done every so often. I’m not sure there’s any reason why it has to be done today. Or by this particular associate. But oh well, too bad for her.

And from BeckyTurtle:

The partner I work with is breathing fire today. I guess he came in and made a phone call to one of our clients and asked for the old CFO, not the new CFO, because the contact database wasn’t updated when the old CFO was fired. He was embarrassed (and he should have been, because we had to buy the old CFO out of his contract, and it was an involved and protracted negotiation that both he and I were part of, and I can’t understand how he forgot in the first place). Anyway, he’s asked me to go through all of our clients and make sure the firm database is accurate with the personnel of the company and their correct address, etc.

It’s a huge pain in the ass. I’ve pushed some of it down on a third-year, but a lot of it is just me looking at the files and dictating to my paralegal, “ok, let’s see, BigCo just opened a Colorado office, make sure we have that information, you can get it in the annual report, and I think they laid off a bunch of their management, so pull me all the contact cards and let me look at them.” I mean, I keep so much of this in my head that I can’t just delegate it. Plus it’s sort of a rainmaking function — I call whoever my best contact in the company is and say “hello, hey, Alex, can I just make sure we have everything right, and is the chairman of the board still Pete, yeah, I thought so, and is there anyone new or anyone gone,” well, half the time Alex has a question he was meaning to call us about.

But it’s a huge hassle (well, except I can IM my friends while I’m doing it, which is kind of fun, since it only takes about half a brain). It means a million voicemail messages and not much uninterrupted time to get real work done. And I know I’m going to lose hours. I mean, it’s billable, I guess, especially in the cases where there turn out to be real changes or where they have legal questions or something to tell me. But a lot of it’s not, and even the stuff that is — I have to open a million different matters and bill each one with .1 or .2 and it’s just a real pain.

Patent Law Weblog

I am always amazed when I look at the weblogs referring traffic to this site. Today, I found someone who came to this blog from Patently Obvious, a legal weblog about, obviously, patent law. The author, Dennis Crouch, “is an attorney at the law firm of McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP in Chicago where his practice focuses on patent law in the areas of mechanical and electrical engineering.” After reading his bio, I am certain he is a lot smarter than me, but what impressed me most was the last line, “Dennis Crouch grew up on a farm near Pittsburg, Kansas.” One of my grandfathers farmed, as did two of my uncles. My other grandfather taught High School Ag, has a small truck farm, and still works (at 94 years of age) for the U.S.D.A. as a crop surveyor. I never grew up on a farm, but I remember fondly the times I spent with my uncles on theirs. I am sure that Dennis’ impressive resume has won him his share of clients, but am more certain that his farming background has helped him relate to many in a way his formal education never could.

Interesting New Weblog.

Great new weblog by Brace McEwen called Adam Smith, Esq. Bruce’s blog is subtitled, “An inquiry into the economics of law firms,” and has some really interesting stuff.

Making Donuts, Part II

Getting a lot more traffic from the search engines lately, and found out why. Google “how to make donuts” and this site is number two. If you change the search string to “time to make the donuts,” this weblog moves to number one. All because of this post. I know that blogging is a way to drive search engine traffic to your site, but this is ridiculous.

According to Rick Bruner, President of Executive Summary Consulting, “Blog” should stand for “Better Listings On Google.” (Thanks to Kevin O’Keefe for the Bruner quote.)

Techshow Registration

I just registered for Techshow yesterday. As Jeff Beard points out in LawTech Guru today, February 26 is the last day for “early bird” registration and the $100 discount that comes with it. However, if you miss the deadline, try calling (800)888-8300, extension 5909, and mention priority code TS100 to get the “early bird” discount until March 12. I got this info in a flyer from the ABA yesterday, so this should work. ABA Law Practice Management members get an additioanl $100 bucks off, for a total conference cost of $595.00.

Also, if you are going, don’t use the Sheraton downtown to stay. Get on Hotwire and search for Chicago hotels in the North Michigan Avenue/Water Tower Place or Magnificant Mile/Wacker Drive areas and your hotel will be no more than a $4.00 cab ride from the conference site. I got the 4.5 star Swissotel across from the Sheraton for $103 per night. At last check, ABA’s “discounted” hotel rates for the Sheraton were $177 per night!

UPDATE: Just got this tip: Go here and enter your arrival and departure dates and you should get the Sheraton for $129.00 per night. Thanks, Patricia Joyce.

New York Times Link Generator

David at ethicalEsq. gave me this great tip today. When linking to a New York Times article, run the original URL for the story through the New York Times Link Generator to get a weblog-safe link with no subscription issues. David credits Howard Bashman for this pointer.

Life Balance

I have been playing around today with a new kind of time management tool called Life Balance. Life Balance is a kind of goal setting/to-do management/calendaring program that purports to help you strike the appropriate balance between your personal and professional life. A great review can be found here. I’ll post an update next week after I’ve had some time to work with it. It seems pretty promising so far.

Multiple Monitors for Lawyers

I have had an old 17 inch Dell CRT monitor sitting around the office. My computer has a Radeon 9700 video card which supports multiple video outputs. After looking around a bit for the approprite adapter cable, I hooked up the second monitor to my computer. Very, very cool. Now I can keep my PCLaw timesheet (I know, I haven’t abandoned them totally yet) open on one monitor and my e-mail and web browser open on the other. I just need to upgrade to LCD’s to reclaim some of my desk real estate.

Not sure if two monitors are for you? Take a look at this article: Multiple Monitors Increase Productivity.

Great Brainstorming Tool

I’ve been looking for a good outlining/brainstorming tool to use as I rethink my practice and my life. I have spent a bit of time with Mindmanager and really like its features, but was a bit put off by the $300 price tag. Thanks to Joyce Wycoff and her reader Matt Vance, I happened upon Freemind. Freemind is a free mind-mapping tool that allows you to brainstorm, create outlines, and do other free-form thinking on your computer screen. Learning the basics takes about two minutes. Check it out. A screen shot can be found here.