Carnival of Trust – November 2009

Carnival of Trust

Regular readers will be familiar with Blawg Review, which encapsulates the blawgosphere’s best posts over the previous week (and which I hosted earlier this year). In a similar vein is the Carnival of Trust, the brainchild of Charles Green of Trust Matters, which highlights the best posts about trust in the business and professional workspace over the previous month. Charles invited me to host the November 2009 edition of the Carnival, and I was more than happy to accept.

Trust lies at the heart of successful lawyer-client relationships. The term “trusted advisor,” made famous by the title of one of legal consulting’s best-known books (written by Charles and co-authors David Maister and Robert Galford), remains the gold standard that lawyers and law firms want to achieve for themselves. I’ve written about trust here at Law21 on a few occasions, and you’ll probably find this edition of the Carnival to be perhaps a little more lawyer-heavy than some past versions. But there was no shortage of good candidates from numerous fields this month, and it wasn’t easy whittling them down to this final list of ten. In no particular order, here we go:

Adam Smith Esq., “The billable hour debate is not about the billable hour.”

I’m cheating a little on the first entry, since this post by Bruce MacEwen appeared in September and is therefore outside the range of this Carnival. But the post was so appropriate that I think it demands inclusion here. Bruce discusses the storms raging around the question of how lawyers bill clients, specifically the age-old practice of selling legal services by the hour, and reaches this apt conclusion:

Sadly, for too many of us, clients don’t trust us with their money and we don’t trust them to reward us fairly. If you hark back to those old-fashioned typewritten bills “for professional services rendered,” didn’t they positively reek of a close, trusting relationship? The lawyer would no more exploit the client than the client would expect (hope?) the lawyer would price representation at bargain-basement levels.  This seems to me to be the enormous unspoken issue in today’s debate over the billable hour. If you don’t trust someone, you want something quantifiable.  And you want the “most favored nation” rate and 10% discount on top of that.  If you don’t trust someone, it’s all perfectly understandable.  And uneconomic.  Is this what we’ve come to? So perhaps more than anything else, I find the seemingly perpetual debate about the billable hour sad.  Because I can’t think about it without thinking about forfeited trust.

Legal Business Development, “An AmLaw 100 senior executive talks about the implications of alternative fees.”

Continuing this theme is consultant Jim Hassett, who is compiling an unprecedented survey of law firm leaders on the subject of alternative fees. If hourly billing is a substitute for trust, then shifting to predictable, fixed, or value-based billing systems necessitates the development of trust — and that starts with transparency and a willingness to engage in actual conversation. Here’s what one managing partner had to say on the subject:

[When we are] able to sit down in a very open dialogue with our clients regarding their needs, what works best for them, and what works best for us – including how staffing impacts our economics and how we focus on trying to put the right person on the right task at the right cost – we believe that we can tailor a fee arrangement that will work for our clients and will work for us.

Legal Ease Blog, “Are you alienating your best potential clients?”

The theme of honest communication also runs through this post by Allison Shields, who reminds lawyers that trumped-up claims, fear-mongering tactics and generally aggressive marketing can undermine efforts to build business. Accidentally or otherwise, over-promising — either from overconfidence or insecurity, both of which are not uncommon in lawyers — can have disastrous results.

[T]he essence of the lawyer-client relationship is one of trust. If the client feels that your marketing efforts amount to a bait and switch, or if you’re hiding behind what your potential clients feel are ‘fake’ offers or false promises (whether that’s your intention or not), that trust will be lost – and trust lost is difficult, if not impossible, to repair.

The Greatest American Lawyer, “What’s wrong with the merits? How gamesmanship has taken over the courtroom.”

If there’s anything more important than a client’s trust in his or her lawyer, it’s the citizen’s degree of trust in the institutions of justice. Although this doesn’t get a lot of attention in the blawgosphere, the whole idea of “access to justice,” which lawyers prize so highly, assumes the reality and trustworthiness of both access and justice. Here are two posts that address this issue. The first, by Enrico Schaefer, is direct and to the point:

Except for the contingency fee lawyer who may choose to represent a person without any financial means, America’s civil courtrooms are dominated by wealthy Americans and wealthy companies.  If that were not bad enough, many lawyers simply get paid to play games in court.  Their goal is to keep cases from reaching the merits of the action, even when they’re the plaintiff.  In many instances, the courtroom is simply another business tool to exert economic leverage over a competitor.  Private arbitration has not proved to be much competition to the near-monopoly that federal and state courts have over dispute resolution.  Until true alternatives to the courtroom become available, civil justice will remain a constitutional right primarily for the rich.

What About Clients?, “Is that an elected judge in your pocket?”

The other post, by Dan Hull, raises an issue that has long puzzled many of us in the Canadian legal system: the election of American judges. A fundamental right upon which many people rely is “their day in court,” when they can present their case before an impartial judge who will decide the matter before her on the merits. But can you trust the judge’s impartiality? Although there’s plenty to question in a strict appointment system too, Dan points out the flaws of making judges run for office:

The popular election of state judges–permitted in some aspect in a clear majority of the states–gives the appearance of justice being “for sale.” Elected judges can be especially “bad” for good clients who do business all over the U.S. and the world. Even when elected judges are “good”–and, to be fair, there are some great ones–state systems of popularly-elected judiciary will never inspire much confidence. Elected jurists who hear and decide business disputes are steeped in a taint. The point: Judges should not have “constituents,” i.e. law firms, and their clients, who make campaign contributions. Right now, in most American states, they do. And there is no way to dress that up.

Simple Justice, “The meaning of referral.”

Scott Greenfield is a criminal defence lawyer who’s never reluctant to challenge the justice system’s institutional failures. But this month, he touched on a topic that every lawyer can relate to and that goes directly to matters of trust: referrals. Enormous numbers of clients, having no other way to find a lawyer, request referrals from other lawyers. This is a tricky business, Scott writes, one that poses difficulties for the lawyer who receives the request:

When I refer someone to a lawyer, it’s a personal endorsement.  I am saying to that person that I vouch for the competency and ethics of the person whose name I give them.  It means something to me, and I feel responsible. Sure, I’m not my brother’s keeper and can’t do the other lawyer’s work myself.  Sometimes things go wrong. Sometimes things just don’t work out well, or the fit isn’t there.  But I cannot, and do not, send clients to just a name.  Names are easy to come by. I can get you a name pretty much anywhere, but getting a name means nothing.  … I would require far, far more to have the requisite faith to entrust them with a client.

Buzz Machine, “The collaboration economy.”

Shifting gears slightly brings us to my former profession, journalism. Jeff Jarvis, crusader for new and better approaches to news coverage, focuses on the myths that struggling news media leaders tell themselves and others about how journalism “ought to” work. In a collaboration economy, Jeff says, traditional scarcity disappears and new relationships develop among crowd-sourced reporters and their readers. Not surprisingly, trust is at the heart of these relationships:

All those “extra” people add new value and efficiency – if you see the opportunity in it and enable them to. They’re us. That’s how Google sees us, capturing our links and clicks to discover the value of those million – no, trillion – flying pages. That’s how Wikipedia and Craigslist created their value, dealing in trust and membership as a new currency. That’s how I want next-generation news organizations to look at us, as the people who will create news while the news orgs add value to it: vetting, correcting, organizing, training, promoting, selling. The news orgs and their journalists then become so much more efficient because they work collaboratively with the public. That’s how they become sustainable and profitable again. But this happens only if you trust and value the others and understand the economics of collaboration.

Innovation Tools, “The critical connection between trust, collaboration and innovation.”

Another topic I’ll never tire of discussing is innovation, something lawyers are still grappling with but that other professionals have long since recognized the value of and adopted. Put innovation together with collaboration and you have my full attention, as does this post by Ruth Ann Hattori, which draws the connections between trust and innovation. How would these questions be answered in your office?

The first step toward high collaboration is trust-building. … But what does that really look like in your workplace?

  • Who can you trust and how do you know it?
  • Will your colleagues “have your back,” no matter what (short of something criminal or unethical)?
  • Does management give credit where due?
  • Who can be relied on 100%?
  • Do you keep/manage your promises?
  • Are people really competent or faking it?
  • Do your colleagues truly care if you are successful?
  • Are you happy or jealous or envious for their success?
  • Does everyone truly keep confidences… even when it doesn’t matter anymore?
  • How open and honest is competition for promotion?
  • Who is trying to gain favor of others?
  • Do people admit what they don’t know?
  • Do people ask for help without insecurity?

A-List Bloggers Network, “Starting with trust.”

None of the articles I’ve highlighted so far, nor indeed any of the candidates for this Carnival, suggest that trust is a bad thing. Obviously, we proceed in any discussion of trust on the basis that it’s a virtuous and beneficial thing. But that’s not to say it’s easy. Trust, in fact, is hard, and that’s an important point that doesn’t get noted often enough. This post does us a service by reminding us of the risks of trust:

If you start from a position of trust, you are starting from a position of risk. There is no trust without risk. When you trust someone, you are putting your interests in their control. They have the ability to muck things up for you, and you are trusting them to take care of you (think about it: if they can’t really do anything that affects you negatively, then it’s not really trust). So it’s not just starting with the belief that your people want to do the right thing. That’s too easy. It’s easy to assume people have good intentions. Trust is about counting on them to behave in a way that is consistent with your interests, intention or not. There is, of course, a huge benefit to this kind of trust…. But it’s hard work for people in authority to give up that kind of control and accept that kind of risk.

Heavy Machinery Agency, “The case for basic instinct: why trust counts for more than contracts.”

The editor in me likes to start an article with a good anecdote, but in this case, I think I’ll use a good anecdote to finish this post. Jonathan Weber’s small-business blog makes the case for trust in business, and uses a small but powerful success story to make a very important point: trust works.

When we started NewWest, the domain name was owned by a furniture store in Wyoming, and the owner was not inclined to sell it. We worked out an informal arrangement where he would put a link to NewWest.Net on his site, and we would run advertising for his store. We checked in every now and again and had a few glitches with the link not appearing properly, but it was all friendly, and neither of us worried too much about the exact value of the trade. A few months ago, the owner of the store got in touch and said the domain name might be for sale, as he was closing the company. He said he’d sell it to us if I made a reasonable offer. I made an offer, he countered, we agreed on a price, and then his wife transferred the domain name to us, and we put a check in the mail. I hesitated briefly on this—should we have some kind of escrow arrangement?—but decided that, based on our previous dealings, I trusted these folks, and they felt the same. Frankly, I think if we had not had this kind of friendly, informal business relationship, we might not have been able to acquire the domain so readily.

So there you have it — ten excellent blog posts about trust from the last 30 days. But if those entries aren’t enough, here are ten more that will reward further reading:

– Build A Solo Practice @ SPU, “Social media platforms becoming the new content portal – lawyers included.”

– Cultivating Creativity, “Whole-hearted leadership.”

– Ecademy, “Trust is the foundation for both successful networking and business.”

–, “How important is the spirit of the organization?”

– Legally UnBound, “How to trust: It requires common goals and personal disclosures, among other things.”

– New York Law Blog, “Review of Chris Brogan’s Trust Summit: Be a priest and build a church.”

– Strategic Legal Technology, “Deconstructing O’Melveny chair’s remarks on BigLaw.”

– Seth’s Blog, “Notice me.”

-The Business Ethics Blog, “Should consumers trust Big Pharma?”

– The Small Business Blog, “Trust makes  a comeback in business.”

My sincere thanks to Charles and to Ian Welsh for asking me to host this month’s Carnival and for all their assistance throughout. For more information about the Carnival of Trust, a list of past hosts and entries, and information about how you can host a future edition, visit the Trust Matters site.

Charting a new course

There’s big news at Law21 today — some major announcements that I hope you’ll find as exciting and energizing as I do.

After more than ten great years with the Canadian Bar Association, I’m stepping down next month from my position as editor-in-chief of National magazine and executive editor of CCCA Magazine. This was anything but an easy decision, because the CBA has been a fantastic employer and my colleagues have been terrific since day one. I’m immensely grateful for such a valuable experience with one of the world’s best bar associations. But after a decade editing the CBA’s and CCCA’s magazines (and two years prior to that editing The Lawyers Weekly newspaper), I’m ready for new challenges — and here they are:

I’m joining global advisory firm Edge International as a partner. I’ll be offering both strategic and tactical advice to lawyers, law firms and legal organizations, centered around my very clear vision of a legal service marketplace undergoing massive and irreversible change. It’s an extraordinary opportunity to work with world-renowned colleagues like Gerry Riskin and Robert Millard, and we’re looking forward to the services we can offer together.

I’m also joining the dynamic team of rising stars at Stem Legal as a senior consultant and principal of our new Legal Media Strategy service,  providing media and communications advice to lawyers and law firms across the U.S. and Canada. It’s going to be a tremendous experience working with the talented Stem team and with one of the leading thinkers about the emerging science of lawyer SEO, marketplace identity, and client communication in the online world: Stem founder Steve Matthews.

Throughout all this change, I’ll continue to post here at Law21 and outline the unfolding nature of the new legal profession. I aim for Law21 to be even better in the months and years to come, thanks in no small part to my new colleagues and the new client opportunities to come. I’m excited and incredibly positive about what the future holds — and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you.

My podcast with Charon

I had the great pleasure this morning of recording a podcast with Mike Semple Piggot, better known as Charon QC, the well-known UK-based lawyer, law professor, raconteur, and indispensible member of the blawgosphere. I’ve listened to many of Charon’s podcasts with lawyers I admire, so it’s an honour for me to be asked to join that club. We had a great time during our 40-minute conversation, which touched on private equity in law firms, fixed-fee billing, legal education, outsourcing to India, and other subjects.

You can  hear the podcast at the Insite Law Magazine page, or connect to it through the Charon QC blog. My sincere thanks to Mike for the invitation — I hope you enjoy the podcast as much as we enjoyed recording it.

Legal Research & Writing Pro Tele-Webinar

If you have an hour or so to spare next Thursday and would like to hear what I actually sound like, tune into my appearance on this month’s Legal Research & Writing Pro Tele-Webinar. On July 16 at 3:00 pm EDT, I’ll be sitting down with the LRWP ‘s host, the incredibly bright and engaging Lisa Solomon, for a tele-webinar titled Leveraging the Media: How to Establish Your Name and Expertise in the Mainstream and Legal Press.

Wearing my legal journalism hat, I’ll be talking with Lisa about how lawyers can interact with the media to build relationships and help promote their practices. I’ll be giving listeners the perspective of a legal periodical editor who’s received more than his share of pitches and wishes more people designed these pitches with the publication and its readers in mind. I’ll be talking about the difference between dealing with the mainstream and legal business press, and looking at the impact new media is having on legal marketing and business development.

The full description of the program and information on how to register for it are available at the Legal Research & Writing Pro website, with a copy below. If you’re going to attend and there’s a particular topic you’d like me to touch on, leave it as a comment below and I’ll do my best to get to it during the webinar.


Who says mass media is dying? As newspapers and magazines migrate onto the web, the reach and brand power of these periodicals is actually going to grow—along with their capacity to promote your practice. With reporters and editors hungrier than ever for low-cost, high-quality copy, there has never been a better time for lawyers to build relationships and leverage their expertise with both mainstream and legal media.

In this course, you’ll learn how to get noticed by, published in, and interviewed by the publications that lawyers—and clients—read:

  • initiating contact and building relationships with editors and journalists
  • establishing your credentials as the go-to person in your area of practice
  • understanding the media perspective: what they need, when they need it
  • writing for print versus web publications; writing for lawyer versus client publications
  • preparing for an interview: setting the ground rules, preparing for surprises
  • turning your media profile into a marketing advantage

Presenter Jordan Furlong is a lawyer, journalist, award-winning legal magazine editor, and award-winning legal blogger. His blog, Law21: Dispatches From a Legal Profession on the Brink, tracks the extraordinary changes underway in the legal marketplace. He is the Editor-in-Chief of National, the magazine of the Canadian Bar Association, and chairs the InnovAction Awards at the College of Law Practice Management.

This program will be presented as a “tele-webinar.” In a tele-webinar, you call in to a conference call line to receive the audio portion of the program. If you have access to your computer, you can follow along with a Power Point presentation as well. There is no need to install any software on your computer. If you will be calling in from outside the office, don’t worry: you can view or print the slides before the program, if you wish.

Join us for this tele-webinar on Thursday, July 16 at 3 p.m. Eastern (noon Pacific).

Your registration includes participation in the live teleseminar and a copy of the program recording (mp3). To register, visit our Products page and add a Silver Membership to your cart.

Blawg Review #207

Blawg Review #207: All the News That Fits

April 13, 2009

Section A – News

  1. The Recession
  2. Prosecutors on the Ropes
  3. Same-sex Marriage

Section B – World

  1. International Justice
  2. Spotlight: Canada

Section C – Business

  1. Law Practice Innovation
  2. Google
  3. Copyright

Section D – Life
Section E – Sports
Section F – Technology
Section G – Education
Section H – Community
Section I – Religion
Section J – Comics
Section K – Editorial

Newspapers are dying, right? We all know that — at least, all of us except the Associated Press, The Atlantic, and a few others. Jeff Jarvis at Buzz Machine and Scott Karp at Publishing 2.0 get it, and they’ve been trying to explain the new rules to the surviving members of the print publishing industry, but it’s a little like teaching dinosaurs to have warm blood. The legal press hasn’t yet succumbed as badly as its mainstream relations, but its day is coming soon: Omar Ha-Redeye at Law Is Cool (one of the many Canadian law blogs we’ll be featuring during what Michel-Adrien Sheppard of Library Boy reminds us is Law Week in Canada) explains how the internet is already changing legal media too.

What many observers seem unable to grasp, however, is that while newspapers, magazines, even TV — all the hallmarks of traditional media — are suffering or dying, journalism is not. Journalism is a vocation and a social good — Seth Godin once called newspapers “two cents of journalism wrapped in ninety-eight cents of overhead and distraction.” Journalism is alive and it will be well — and Blawg Review is a tremendous example of what it will look like in the 21st century.

So this week’s edition has been structured to resemble your local newspaper — the one that showed up on your doorstep this morning  — to demonstrate the collective range, depth and acuity of the legal blogosphere. As with all papers, you can read the sections that interest you and simply skim the rest. Check out the “newspaper” that the legal community turned out this week — and keep in mind that this is only a sampling, and all of it was provided absolutely free. (And if you read nothing else, please skip down and read Section K – Editorial.)

A1 – News – The Recession

The recession continues to pound away at economies worldwide, and the legal marketplace continues to feel the pain. Law Shucks’ Layoff Tracker reported 100 more lawyers and 253 more staff were cut last week — and that was one of the quieter periods since the year began. Here in Canada, leading national firm McCarthy Tétrault cut 3% of its workforce, reported Jim Middlemiss at the Legal Post. Not only that, rumour has it that McCarthys intends to close its office in the national capital Ottawa, which would be an unprecedented move for any big Canadian firm in a downturn.

So just what are we experiencing here, and how bad will it get? Bruce MacEwen at Adam Smith Esq. suggests that this isn’t a normal “income statement” recession, but a potentially longer and nastier “balance sheet” recession. “Everyone — households, small businesses, big businesses, banks, investment banks, and yes, law firms — has seen their net worth hosed,” he points out. “The problem with recovering wealth is that it takes so much longer than it does to recover income.”

But Bruce also thinks we in the law should keep things in perspective. “Law firms are not, permit me to suggest, the worst industry to be in right now,” he observes. “Would you rather work for a large retail chain? A resort or hotel or entertainment complex? A bank? An investment bank? A hedge fund or private equity house? A magazine or newspaper publisher? An auto company?” Echoing the call for a more positive attitude, Charles Maddock at Maddock on Marketing presents a slate of ways lawyers facing some downtime can use it productively, including waking up dormant clients and engaging in business development training.

A2 – News – Prosecutors on the Ropes

It’s not been a great week for the prosecution in the United States. Not only was the high-profile conviction of Senator Ted Stevens overturned, but the judge ordered an investigation into the conduct of the case’s federal prosecutors. Douglas Berman at Sentencing Law and Policy worries that this is more than just a case of a few bad apples — that it’s a fundamental problem of federal prosecutorial culture — while Mike at Crime and Federalism wonders about the realpolitik at work behind the scenes on this case.

The DoJ is taking hits beyond the Stevens case, though. Mark Tushnet at Balkinization suggests the Justice Department, which many observers saw as highly politicized under President Bush, remains politicized under President Obama, despite the promises of change. Tim Jones at the Electronic Frontier Foundation argues that warrantless wiretapping has actually become more of a problem under the new president. And Beth Van Schaack at IntLawGrrls traces the etymology of “enemy combatant,” a term that has surfaced a time or two in each administration’s tenure.

A3 – News – Same-sex marriage

The same-sex marriage wave continued to crest in the U.S., as Iowa’s Supreme Court ruled that a state ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. Tony Infanti of Feminist Law Professors explored the court’s detailed deconstruction of religious arguments in favour of the ban, while blogging colleague Kathryn Frank characterized the court’s “distinctly Midwestern approach” to the issue and Balkinization’s Jack Balkin debated those who criticized the court’s intervention.

Meanwhile, Mark Wojcik of International Law Prof Blog noted that Vermont’s legislature overrode its governor’s veto of same-sex marriage legislation, and that the D.C. City Council (which legislates for the District of Columbia) voted to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. In light of all these developments, Brian Cavner of Family Fairness set out to tackle and rebut the numerous arguments he’s heard against same-sex marriage.

B1 – World – International Justice

What is the reach of international criminal law, especially over people and entities outside a court’s jurisdiction? Three interesting developments, each noted in the blawgosphere, might help answer that question. Betsy MacKenzie at Out of the Jungle notes that a Spanish court has agreed to consider a criminal case against six former Bush administration officials over allegations they enabled and abetted torture by justifying the abuse of terrorism suspects. Attempts to argue a “wartime” defence against the charges could be met by an article published by Mary Dudziak of Balkinization that examines the whole concept of “wartime” itself.

The “Bush Six” may also not be happy to learn that, as Mark Trumbl reported at PrawfsBlawg, former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori was sentenced last week to 25 years in prison by a Lima court for crimes against humanity. But that was an entirely domestic conviction.  A more interesting parallel may be found in a report by Joe Palazzolo of the Blog of Legal Times: a Manhattan judge has allowed some claims under the Alien Tort Claims Act to proceed alleging that companies such as Ford, GM and IBM aided and abetted the apartheid government of South Africa late in the last century.

But you don’t need to look back in time to find situations crying out for the application of international criminal justice, as Christopher Rama Rao of Decoupling points out in reporting on the Congo Rape Crisis and what lawyers are doing about it right now.

B2 – World – Spotlight: Canada

A number of Supreme Court of Canada decisions prompted a flurry of legal blog posts hereabouts. The SCC made legal headlines worldwide when it ruled, in the course of a criminal case, that people have no right of privacy in the garbage they set out by the curb. David Fraser of the Privacy Law Blog and Dan Michaluk of All About Information explained the ruling and noted its consequences for everyday citizens’ privacy expectations.

Two other Supreme Court decisions led to detailed blog posts. Jonnette Watson Hamilton and Jennifer Koshan of Osgoode Hall Law School’s The Court analyzed a high court ruling that created a new framework for analyzing the equality provisions of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. And Jeremy Grushcow of The Cross-Border Biotech Blog noted a Supreme Court decision that redefined the nature of non-compete clauses in employment contracts. Farther from the top court but closer to the front pages, Bob Tarantino tackled the merits of an upcoming prosecution of a band of polygamists in British Columbia.

C1 – Business – Law Practice Innovation

Upheaval and innovation in law practice and the delivery of legal services are gathering speed. Both Bob Ambrogi at Legal Blog Watch and Larry Bodine noted that big law firms are losing clients to smaller competitors. Rees Morrison of Law Department Management adds that clients are taking their cost-cutting measures very seriously. Will this finally cause big firms to cut associates’ salaries? Only if someone else goes first, notes Ashby Jones of the WSJ Law Blog.

But Tim Corcoran of Corcoran’s Business of Law Blog thinks that firms focusing on associate salary cuts are missing the point: “it’s time to take a good hard look at how law is practiced.” Absolutely, says Patrick J. Lamb of In Search of Perfect Client Service: “When firms abandon leverage in favor of efficiency and quality … [w]hen the focus is on providing materially greater value at materially lower costs … [w]hen the focus is on winning (however a client defines that objective) instead of body count, real change will have occurred.”

Jim Cotterman of Cotterman on Compensation chimes in that “innovation is achieved only when creativity and invention are connected to the customer in a way that meaningfully changes their lives.” We could start with pricing our services rationally: Toby Brown of 3 Geeks and a Law Blog talks about the application of “mark-to-market” practices to the law, while both Chuck Newton of Chuck Newton Rides The Third Wave and  Peter Olson of Solo in Chicago warn about underpricing your services.

How will big firms make these kinds of adjustments? Not easily, according to Ron Friedmann of Strategic Legal Technology. “Large law firms must adopt more cylindrical structures to succeed,” he says. “This would require major changes in how they operate. The huge and costly infrastructure supporting partners and other lawyers would need to shrink.” Laurie Mapp of Halo Secretarial Services suggests they start by learning to partner with a virtual legal assistant. And Holden Oliver of What About Paris? ends with a fairly straightforward request for some lawyer innovation: “Stop writing documents which sound like mental patients talking to themselves.”

C2 – Business – Google

It’s nothing like what the DoJ has gone through lately, but Google has probably had better weeks too. David Canton of eLegal notes, and questions, a US Court of Appeals ruling that Google’s sale of a trademarked term as a keyword to a competing company may be a “use in commerce” and therefore illegal. Robert Richard of the Law Librarian Blog points out that Google also lost a key trademark infringement ruling in a Second Circuit court. And Canadian privacy authorities are investigating whether Google StreetView violates privacy laws: you can get the bilingual story from Brian Bowman of On The Cutting Edge and Vincent Gautrais de Chaire en droit de la sécurité et des affaires électroniques.

C3 – Business – Copyright

The US District Court for Colorado’s decision in the Golan case ruled part of the US Copyright Act unconstitutional: Tyler Ochoa’s guest post at Eric Goldman’s blog and Mike Masnick of TechDirt examine the impact.  Michael Geist picked up the Canadian Recording Industry Association’s plans to develop a (heh) grassroots campaign against music piracy. And the EFF’s Fred von Lohmann noted President Obama’s gift to Queen Elizabeth of an iPod filled with music and questioned whether it violated copyright laws: “You know your copyright laws are broken when there is no easy answer to this question.”

D – Life – Access to Justice

As previously mentioned, and as Stan Rule of Rule of Law reminds us, it’s Law Day/Week in Canada;  fellow British Columbian Shannon Salter of Rights and Remedies tells her readers about the extraordinary services provided by that province’s LawLINE.  (But John C. Bouck  of Boucks Law Blog condemns what he sees as the BC government’s attacks on litigants in the civil justice system there.) It’s a good time to remind ourselves that the whole point of lawyering is to deliver justice and satisfy clients; as Victoria Pynchon of Settle It Now puts it, “Money is the instrument.  But justice is the issue.” Hull and Hull LLP‘s latest podcast asks: just what do we expect from clients, and they from us? Ken Adams of Adams Drafting thinks a little less Latin could go a long way to delivering what clients need.

A major access to justice story these days is the growing lineup of deferred or fired biglaw associates who’ll be paid by their firms to take work at legal clinics and public interest  law services.  Kashmir Hill of Above The Law went to Newark, NJ, to see an innovative public interest law job fair in action, while  Mike Monahan of Lawscape described some of the developing rules of engagement between non-profits and hard-luck first-years; between them, it’s clear that there are more than a few issues still to be ironed out. But any assistance for otherwise lawyerless litigants will be welcomed by the courts, according to the WSJ Law Blog: “the well-intentioned but often clueless hordes are clogging already overly taxed courthouses as clerks spend more time helping people unfamiliar with forms, filings and fees.”

But Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice, while warning against do-it-yourself litigation, nonetheless says: “Don’t begrudge pro se litigants the opportunity to make their case on the merits despite the roadblocks the law places in front of them.” And he has harsh words for the judges who encounter pro se litigants. “[M]any judges aren’t capable of dealing with regular people,” he says. “Most judges in the New York City civil courts never represented human beings, but worked as law secretaries for other judges, or prosecutors, or corporate counsel, their entire careers.  When they take the bench, they see people as annoyances, drains on their time, interferences with their orderly process.”

E – Sports

Turning to sports (I’ve always wanted to say that)….  As UNC emerged victorious from March Madness, Alfred Yen of questioned whether recruiting violations committed by NCAA tournament contender UConn jeopardized the integrity of the tournament. At the lighter end of the spectrum, Above The Law completed its own March Madness for Law Firms by announcing the firm least likely to lay off people (congratulations, Williams & Connolly). NCAAers who make it to the NBA might want to read Doug Cornelius of Compliance Building‘s account of a Memphis Grizzlies backup center who’s apparently a walking violation of the US trade embargo of Iran.

Even before Angel Cabrera won (or Kenny Perry lost) the Masters, David Dawsey of republished his popular post about the impressive trademark portfolio of Augusta National. Brian Baxter of The Opening Day Chronicles chronicled the legal aspects of baseball’s Opening Day and more. And if you prefer your games indoors, Michael Webster of The BizOp News has some detailed insights into how poker can come in handy for litigators.

F – Technology

Was there anyone in the legal blogosphere who wasn’t (a) at TECHSHOW, (b) following the conference through Twitter or (c) tired of reading about all the #techshow Twitter talk? Detailing all the posts from and about TECHSHOW would be a Blawg Review unto itself, so take some time to sort through the posts by Mazyar Hedayat, John Sirman, Amy Derby, Reid Trautz, Sharon Nelson, Conrad Saam, Nicole Black, Rick Borstein, David Sparks, The Posse List, Joshua Poje, Alan Klevan, Allison Shields, Rex Gradeless, Jim Calloway, Lisa Solomon, Brett Burney and Erik Mazzone.

Worth special attention: Dennis Kennedy live-blogged the keynote presentation of Richard Susskind; Craig Ball of EDD Update found the conference nice but a little tired; and Carolyn Elefant of thinks all this talk of innovation in the law will come to nothing unless “archaic, protectionist ethics rules” are addressed. But TECHSHOW wasn’t the week’s only high-tech event: Connie Crosby at Slaw live-blogged Rob Hyndman’s presentation at Mesh 2.0 on law for web startups, while Rob Hyndman posted videos from the conference.

G – Education – Law School

Law school is arguably even more overdue for innovation than is the legal profession: James Edward Maule at Mauled Again is calling for nothing less than change that reaches “into the heart of law school culture.” That might be why Jay Wexler at PrawfsBlawg decided it was time to tip some sacred cows by chanelling Joe Queenan and creating an “Admit It — It Sucks!” list for law school. Mark Cohen at MinnLaw Blog has a modest proposal: how about a law school that competes on price? And Susan Cartier Liebel of Build a Solo Practice @ SPU sings the praises of an intensive practical training program at Franklin Pierce College of Law in New Hamphsire that lets graduates skip the state bar exam.

Colin Miller of PrawfsBlawg makes the case for “open-everything” law school exams, while another Prawfsblawgger, Eric E. Johnson, argues that “[s]cholarly articles should be freely available on the internet – downloadable, without charge, at a click. And legal scholars should see that this happens for their articles.” Stephanie West Allen of IdeaLawg‘s quest to find fun law classes brings her a law prof who uses rock, reggae and rap to improve students’ learning. And finally, Kevin O’Keefe of LexBlog has a message for all law students: get on LinkedIn already!

H – Community – Social Networks

The legal blogosphere’s community is grounded in social networks, and there’s plenty to talk about this week concerning Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and MySpace. It was on that latter network that a resident of Coalinga, CA, wrote a withering critique of her hometown that, to her dismay, was picked up and republished in the local newspaper. Much abuse and some death threats later, the author sued the paper for, remarkably enough, “invasion of privacy.” As Ken at Popehat and Eugene Volokh of the Volokh Conspiracy reported the decision, you can’t post to MySpace and retain an expectation of privacy — but this case may have other implications yet.

Elsewhere on the Net, Erik Magraken of the ICBC Law Blog and Garry Wise of the Wise Law Blog both noted a BC trial decision that allowed a defendant to examine the plaintiff’s computer to determine his patterns of Facebook usage. Steve Matthews of Stem Legal noted the astonishing one-year increase in the number of lawyers on LinkedIn, from 118,000 in April 2008 to 563,000 in March 2009. David Bilinsky started at Slaw an intriguing discussion of the relative value of Twitter for lawyers. And Ernie Svenson of Ernie The Attorney said thanks but no thanks to Martindale-Hubbell’s offer to post its rating of you on your website for $59.

I – Religion

In a week that saw Passover, Good Friday and Easter Sunday, the legal blogosphere did not disappoint on the religious front. Heather Milligan of The Legal Watercooler brought us the Passover story as told in Facebook updates. Not to be outdone, Simon Chester of Slaw drew our attention to the Passion Play delivered via Twitter. For Sunday’s holiday, Scott Weese of the Worms & Germs Blog warned against buying children bunnies for Easter, while Brett Trout of BlawgIT brought us the best of Easter patents and Mary Alice Robbins of Tex Parte Blog referenced a new book that “raises questions about capital punishment in the United States by comparing the American system to Jesus’ trial and death.” And no Eastertime Blawg Review could be complete without Charon QC‘s foray to the Vatican.

J – Comics

Finally, every good newspaper has a good comics page — the other 90% have bad ones, or no comics at all. So in that vein, we offer you the best Courtoon of the week, as well as a Dilbert strip that sums up the economic mood nicely.

K – Editorial

It’s true that the blogosphere, legal or otherwise, often relies upon professional journalists to bring them many of the stories they discuss. Blogs are destined to supplement and integrate with journalism, not replace it. But a surprising number of bloggers do their own original research and report the results to their readers, and the legal blogosphere is especially good at that. We shouldn’t underestimate the tremendous capacity for powerful journalism that the legal community collectively wields — we know more, and are better at circulating that knowledge, than we think. Blawg Review is the best demonstration of that, and deserves to be celebrated.

Exactly four years ago this week, Blawg Review made its debut. Two hundred and seven installations later — stop and think about that for a second, of all the work by Ed, Colin,Victoria and others — it’s still going strong. If you’re a law blogger who hasn’t yet stepped up and hosted this brilliant and critically important example of citizen legal journalism, you owe it  — to yourself, to your blawgging colleagues, and most importantly, to the public at large that needs to hear what we know — to sign up now.

Blawg Review has information about next week’s host, and instructions how to get your blawg posts reviewed in upcoming issues.

Law21 to host Blawg Review!

I’m delighted to be hosting the next edition of Blawg Review (#207)  on Monday, April 13. For those not familiar, Blawg Review is a weekly collection of the best of the legal blogosphere, assembled each week by a different law blogger. This post is to invite all Law21 readers to nominate great posts made during this week (April 6-12) for consideration for Blawg Review #207. Not all entries will make the final cut — there’s a tremendous amount of content submitted for these things, and I’m actually hoping that my version will be a little briefer than some recent entries — but I still want to encourage as many submissions as possible.

The mid-April date for the Law21 Blawg Review reflects both the founding of the Canadian Bar Association and the establishment of Canada’s constitution and Charter of Rights. Accordingly, I’d like to make an extra effort to showcase Canadian law blogs for the rest of the world. (This week’s edition of Blawg Review, as it happens, by May It Please The Court’s J. Craig Williams, referenced Tartan Day’s Canadian connections). So this post is also an open invitation to Canadian law bloggers (and their readers) to submit their favourites — it’d be great to see a lot of nominees from our incredibly deep pool of law blog talent in Canada.

It’s best to make your submissions through the official Blawg Review channels rather than by direct email to me. You can submit your nomination by going to the “Submission Guidelines” page at Blawg Review and following the directions there. Thanks in advance for your assistance in showing off the week’s best law blogs!

Join “Legal Innovation” at LinkedIn

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m serving as Chair this year of the InnovAction Awards, an annual presentation by the College of Law Practice Management (which, by the way, has announced the September dates for its high-powered Futures Conference).  The InnovAction Awards recognize and promote law firms, legal departments, and other providers of legal services that are blazing new trails in how lawyers conduct their business and serve their clients. It’s been a tremendous success, and I strongly encourage you to look to your own and your colleagues’ practices to see if you have an initiative that meets the InnovAction criteria.

Anyway, as part of the promotional process for the Awards, I created a “Legal Innovation” group at LinkedIn. The purpose is twofold: to raise awareness of the Awards and encourage people to submit entries, and to help lead the accelerating conversation within the legal profession around innovation.  Here’s the group profile:

Innovation is finally breaking into the mainstream of law practice. A combination of technological advances, competitive pressures, and client demands have led to a tipping point for innovation in legal services. This group is dedicated to furthering the cause of legal innovation. We build enthusiasm for doing things differently and better in the law. We talk about how legal innovation can be encouraged in law firms and law departments. And we identify examples of legal innovation for others to follow.

Membership is open to all legal professionals (and their clients) everywhere who care about making the profession better through a willingness to innovate. The College of Law Practice Management’s InnovAction Awards, which recognize exceptional innovation in legal practice and client service, helped launch this group.

Please consider this an invitation to all Law21 readers to come join the more than 200 lawyers, clients, consultants, and law practice professionals who’ve already become part of what looks to be a really interesting and dynamic community. Applications to join require approval, but I’ll get to them as quickly as I can, Monday through Friday. Thanks, and look forward to seeing you at LinkedIn!


Just a quick note this morning to take part in an Internet meme I can get behind: a two-day promotional effort for ABA TECHSHOW in Chicago April 2-4. If you don’t know (and if you read this site, that’s pretty unlikely), ABA TECHSHOW is the world’s premier legal technology CLE conference & expo. It’s a three-day CLE conference with more than 50 legal technology CLE and training sessions attended by more than 1,500 legal professionals. The quality of the programs is uniformly excellent — the 60 Minutes sessions are only the most well-known — but as a four-time attendee, I can say that it’s the people who make the difference.

The faculty list includes some of the best-known and most respected legal tech and practice management experts in North America. Here are just 20 for your consideration: Reid Trautz, John Simek, Ben Schorr, Catherine Sanders Reach, Dan Pinnington, Nerino Petro Jr., Sharon D. Nelson, Tom Mighell, Erik Mazzone, Steve Matthews, David Masters, Adriana Linares, Dennis Kennedy, Dominic Jaar, Ellen Freedman, Laura Calloway (Chair), Jim Calloway, Brett Burney, David Bilinsky and Andy Adkins. Leading off as the keynote speaker is Richard Susskind, who has just published a book you might have heard about.

But the highlight of TECHSHOW for me is always the social and networking events. Last year, they launched an After Dark cocktail party in the Chicago Hilton’s Grand Ballroom (trivia question: what hit movie’s big climax was filmed there?), which was a blast. Every year, they hold “Taste of TECHSHOW” evenings, whereby two faculty members organize a pay-your-own-way dinner at one of Chicago’s three million amazing restaurants during which up to a dozen attendees can talk about a specific legal technology or practice management topic between courses and drinks. I’ve met dozens of fascinating people and had many illuminating conversations at events like these.

There’s an early-bird deadline of February 28  by which delegates can get a discount on registration, and members of sponsoring organizations (including, for my Canadian colleagues, the CBA) are entitled to a further discount again. I’ll be there, and I’d love to meet any Law21 readers in attendance — pull me aside if you see me (I’m hoping to have a new photo on the About page by then, one less dated than the 2002 model currently in place, by which you might even recognize me). If you’re on the fence about attending ABA TECHSHOW, consider this an unconditional recommendation.


Less than one week left! If you haven’t already, please take Law21’s reader/market survey and enter a draw for a $100 gift certificate. If you have taken the survey, thank you very much!

Please take Law21’s readership and market survey

Whether you’re a subscriber, a semi-regular reader or a first-time visitor, I’d be tremendously grateful if you could take a few minutes to fill out Law21’s first readership and market survey. Working with renowned market research firm The Strategic Counsel, we’ve put together a brief (10 questions) survey to help find out three things:

  • demographic information: who you are, where you live, where you work, that sort of thing;
  • what subjects you’re most interested in reading about here; and
  • your level of interest in a potential new offering at Law21: premium content (articles, interviews, roundtables, etc.)  available exclusively to paid subscribers.

The questionnaire takes less than ten minutes to complete. In appreciation for your time and responses, you’ll have the option of entering a draw for a $100 gift certificate at the end of the survey. Entering the draw will require your name and e-mail address, but this information will be used solely for the purposes of the draw and will not be shared, sold, made available or in any other way used for any other purpose. All other responses will be completely anonymous.

You can take the survey by clicking here. Your time, your responses, and as always, your continuing interest in Law21, are incredibly and inexpressibly appreciated by me. Thank you.

Law21 honoured with CLawBies

I don’t have any other words for it — I’m honoured and humbled that Law21 received the Best Canadian Law Blog Award, and tied (with David Bilinsky’s marvellous Thoughtful Legal Management) for the Practice Management Award, in the 2008 edition of Steve MatthewsCLawBie Awards for Canadian legal blogging. It’s just a huge compliment when measured against the remarkable breadth and quality of the other winners and the Canadian legal blawgosphere as a whole, which I’ve been saying for awhile is one of legal blogging’s best-kept secrets.

As part of my congratulations to the other winners, I urge you to go through the list and visit each of the winning sites — your time will be more than amply rewarded. My sincere thanks and appreciation to Steve and to those bloggers who suggested Law21 for an award — I’m touched, and I’m all the more determined to keep giving Law21 my best in 2009 on your behalf.

Just a quick note for regular readers — family and other matters will be taking me away from the keyboard for about a week or so. I hope to be back blogging towards the end of next week.