Listserves: The Problem or the Solution For Improving Lawyer Competency?
When I'm asked to list the resources that have helped improve my competency as a lawyer, I'd place blogs and listserves high on the list. In particular, the guidance that I've received from that mother-of-all-solo-listserves, Solosez has helped me tackle issues far more effectively than I could have on my own, while other feedback has enabled me to avert unwanted conflicts and difficult clients.
But the lawyer LISTSERV has become a place where lazy lawyers fool themselves into thinking they can get questions answered and avoid associating with more qualified lawyers. I suspect they do this for several reasons, none worthy of discussion because no excuse is good enough for me when the client's interests are being subjugated to the lawyer's...The lawyers I'm referring to who misuse the LISTSERV are lawyers with enough experience to know better. They are usually on their own, sole practitioners with a history of taking cases they have no business taking and who regularly settle cases without ever trying one. They advertise themselves as being trial lawyers but have very little trial experience.
Lombardi argues that trial association listserves must do a better job of monitoring the lists to weed out or discourage "inexperienced lawyers" who "con their way into a case" and use the listserve as a fallback.
I don't agree with Lombardi. In my view, the availability of a listserve doesn't give lawyers added incentive to take cases beyond their competency. Even before listserves, lawyers accepted cases beyond their skills for a variety of reasons: sometimes to gain experience, sometimes because of greed and sometimes because they don't even know that they're out of their depth. Rather than exacerbate this problems, listserves offer a solution, by serving as a lifeline to lawyers in over their head. Cutting lawyers' access to listserves will guarantee that they'll be flying blind in a case, which will harm the client even more.
In addition, on some of the best listserves, lawyers will exchange advice as a matter of professional courtesy and build relationships with other lawyers, who may eventually bring the other lawyer on board or refer the case out. In fact, some of the lawyers who gain the most business from listserves are those who give the most freely of their advice, just like some of the bloggers who are most generous with free information (think for example, the Miller and Zois help center that posts dozens of free documents that help other PI lawyers) are also the most respected.
Lombardi sounds as if he's tired of giving away advice. Fair enough. If that's the case, Lombardi ought to leave the listserve - not shut it down for everyone else.
Note: I'm made some minor stylistic changes since the original post.
Google Yourself...For Fun and Necessity
AP is reporting here on a recent study by Pew Internet and American Life Project that found that 47 percent of US adult internet users have searched for information about themselves through Google or some other search engine. That's double the percentage of users who did so in 2002. Mary Madden, a Pew research specialist quoted in the article expressed some surprise that more users don't engage in "self-searching," particularly with the increase in content that's posted about us on the Internet.
For lawyers practicing in an Internet age, self-searching isn't just an act of fun or vanity, but one of absolute business necessity. In this electronic era, we must assume that existing and prospective clients and colleagues will search for us on Google, so we need to stay ahead by always keeping on top of what's out there.
Me and My Mac
Following in the footsteps of bloggers like Ernie the Attorney, Adriana Linares and of course, Grant Griffiths (I'm sure that there are many others, feel free to out yourselves in the comments), I finally broke down and succumbed to the appeal of the Mac. But as I describe in this guest post at Home Office Lawyer, buying a Mac isn't a technological advancement, but instead, a return to my law schools days when I bought my first Mac and realized the power of technology. But you'll have to visit Home Office Lawyer to read the post....
Quick Tech Tips for Solos
For those planning a technology "spring cleaning," consult this article, Ten Must Have Web Sites for Solo Practitioners (law.com, 3/12/07) by Rick Georges, of Future Lawyer and Solo Lawyer. Georges identifies ten nifty applications, some of which like Zillow, Wikipedia, Google Maps and e-fax I'd consider myself a power user, while others like I'm eager to try, such as Jott and Joopz I'm eager to try after reading what they do.
Don't Forget to Self Google
Over here at my beat at Legal Blogwatch, I posted an article that shows the importance of regularly running Google searches on yourself, not for the sake of vanity, but necessity. Through searches, you may find that you're the subject of defamatory comments in various chat rooms. Though there may not be much that you can do to remove the offending commentary, if you're aware of negative commentary, at least you can offer an explanation to prospective clients.
Technolawyer Ad: A Tip for Solo Law Firms, But Is This Fair Advertising
Via Denise Howell comes word of this well done ad by Neil Squillante of Technolawyer. The ad, entitled "When Google Fails You," is set up with a new solo is looking for reviews on case management, but has no luck on Google, so he follows a lead to the Technolawyer archives. However, as Denise points out, Google doesn't "make you be a member" to pull results, nor does it charge for access, as Technolawyer does for the archives (which I discovered for myself by following the links at the site). Still, the ad is worth watching, if only to remind yourself of what life was like back when you were setting up your office.
Share Your PowerPoint Online: A Cool New Tool
A decade ago, back in the dark ages of the Internet, I'd often put presentations that I delivered at conferences into HTML so that I could readily display them on my website (check out this old chestnut on using the Internet for legal research, circa 1997 - it predated Google!). Posting a PowerPoint presentation online proved cumbersome with the tools then in place, and listing it as a link for users to download wasn't really an effective option.
So imagine my delight at discovering SlideShare (www.slideshare.net), a site that allows users to upload Power Point presentations and embed them in a blog or website, in a manner similar to YouTube. Last week, I spoke at a Symposium sponsored by the Texas Journal of Oil, Gas and Energy Law and in a matter of minutes, I posted my presentation
online here in a user friendly format. And I envision uses for this tool beyond just creating a virtual paper trail of past presentations: bloggers might put together a 4-5 Power Point "how to" on one topic or another and post it online for users to flip through or download.
Word of caution: be sure to copyright your slides. I can't tell you how many times I've sat through my own presentations, delivered by other attorneys with no attribution. I'm a huge supporter of free information, but my support ends where other lawyers appropriate my work for their advantage without giving me credit.
Take 4 Minutes for Web 2.0
My good friend Lisa Solomon posted a link on one of my listserves to this amazing video that explains the history of Web 2.0. Take 4 minutes and to get inspired by 2 - Web 2.0, that is:
The ROI of Blogging
Over at my Legal Blogwatch beat, I posted about measuring the ROI of blogging. Specifically, should lawyers attempt to quantify the value of blogging in dollars and cents, or evaluate the benefits of blogging in the same way that we evaluate the benefits of other marketing techniques like dining with clients or networking. Let me know what you think.
Running A Law Firm on Web 2.0
In this article, Tools of the Trade: Web 2.0 Top Ten List (1/29/07), attorney Lee Rosen shares his top ten list of internet tools that can "make the practice of law easier, faster and more convenient for attorneys and our clients." For those unfamiliar with the term Web 2.0, Rosen describes it this way:
Web 2.0 is a vaguely defined phrase, and there is not yet one universally accepted definition. I like to think of it as "software as a service" - sort of “borrowing” software and a server to run it rather than downloading the software to your own machine and being forced to maintain both the software and hardware yourself.
Rosen's list of Web 2.0 applications for small firm lawyers include Google Docs (http://docs.google.com) that allows for collaboration on word processed documents via Internet and Google Spreadsheet, a related application for spreadsheets. Rosen notes that neither Google program is as robust as its Microsoft counterpart, but "they have all the features required by the average lawyer." Other applications include online meetings or web conference tools such as gotomeeting.com, Jacuba Charts (http://charts.jacuba.com) for creating full color charts for courtroom use and Wufoo (http://www.wufoo.com) which is a form building application.
As Rosen concludes:
In the Web 2.0 world, you can run an entire law practice without any software residing on your computer. Nearly every kind of application is now available online. It’s an exciting time on the web, and the opportunities for improving collaboration, productivity and freedom in serving your clients and managing your practice are greater than ever.
I have to admit that I personally have not sampled most of these applications. I tend to get stodgy, set in my ways with whatever works and only learning about something new when I perceive a powerful incentive to do so. There's simply no time for any more than that.