Thank you

I was preparing what I figured would be my last post before Christmas, a thank-you card to everyone who reads and has linked to this blog since its inception in January. But then along came another reason to be grateful and another person whom  I want to thank. Dennis Kennedy has released his 2008 Best of Law-Related Blogging Awards, or Blawggies, and I’m extremely delighted to say that Law21 received the Best New Law-Related Blog Award, as well as two runner-up selections in the Best Law Practice Management Blog Award and the Best Writing on a Legal Blog Award. If you follow legal blogs at all, you know that Dennis is, as I referred to him in a comment on the post, the grandmaster of law blogs, so as you can imagine, I’m deeply honoured by and grateful for these selections.

I started this blog almost a year ago, on January 8, 2008 — after stocking the shelves with older articles I’d written elsewhere, I wrote a short piece titled “Waking the neighbours,” the first of what would be scores of posts on a future legal profession that has been resolving itself into the present legal profession faster than anyone anticipated.  I had no idea whether Law21 would catch or hold anyone’s attention, and I’m still more than a little amazed and touched that it has. My next post will be my 200th, but the thrill that came with the very first comment and the very first incoming link hasn’t gone away.

I’ve loved every second I’ve spent here, and I wanted to be able to properly and formally say thanks for that. So, thank you to Simon Fodden, who provided not just great encouragement and advice during Law21’s start-up phase, but also that first incoming link at Slaw (extremely deserving winner of the top Blawggie for Best Overall Law-Related Blog, by the way) that drove an extraordinary amount of traffic this way. Thanks to Steve Matthews of Stem Legal, who has been a tremendous advisor and supporter and was the first person to ask me when I was going to start blogging.  Thanks to Merrilyn Astin Tarlton, whose encouragement during a talk at a 2007 conference made an incalculable difference. Thanks to Jesse Collins, whose wonderful redesign and re-engineering of Law21 over Canadian Thanksgiving made it a better blog in both form and function. Thank you to each of the bloggers below, who during the past year paid me the great compliment of  a link and recommendation (sometimes more than once):

Adrian Lurssen

Aletha McManama

Allison Shields

Amir Kafshdaran

Andis Kaulins

Andre Mazerolle

Benson Varghese

Bob Coffield

Bob Tarantino

Brett Burney

Brian J. Ritchey

Brian LaBovick

Carolyn Elefant

Colin Samuels

Connie Crosby

D. Todd Smith

Dan Hull

Dan Michaluk

David Bilinsky

David Giacalone

David Harlow

Dennis Kennedy

Donna Seale

Doug Cornelius

Doug Jasinksi

Eoin O’Dell

Garry Wise

George Wallace

Gerry Blackwell

Graham F. Scott

Greg Lambert

James Mullan

Jamie Spencer

Jason Goodwin

Jim Calloway

Jonathan Frieden

Joshua Fruchter

Karen Sawatzky

Kevin O’Keefe

Larry Port

Laurie Mapp

Lee Rosen

Mark Gould

Mary Abraham

Matt Homann

Michael Fitzgibbon

Mitch Kowalski

Nancy Soonpaa

Nick Holmes

Nicole Black

Omar Ha-Redeye

Patrick J. Lamb

Paul Caron

Philip Hodgen

R. David Donoghue

Rob Hyndman

Robert Ambrogi

Ron Friedmann

Sandra Bekhor

Scott Greenfield

Sean Hocking

Simon Chester

Simon Fodden

Stephanie Kimbro

Stephanie West Allen

Steve Matthews

Susan Cartier Liebel

Tarun Jain

Tom Mighell

Tracy McGaugh

Vern? Myers

Victoria Pynchon

Wendy Reynolds

But mostly, thanks to you — to everyone who visits this blog, to the hundreds of people who’ve signed up for RSS or email feeds for new posts, and to the hundreds of people who’ve left tremendously helpful and welcome comments here.  I’m immensely, off-the-charts grateful for your interest and patronage — it’s a cliché, but no less true for that, that you’re the reason I’m here and the reason I’ll keep coming back. I’m looking forward to giving you additional features and options at Law21 come next spring, and to take the small community of ideas we’ve started here to the next stage.

I hope to get one more post in before the end of the year — I’ll admit the symmetry of #200 appeals irrationally to me — but I didn’t want to let this season and this occasion pass by without thanking every one of you for giving me the best present possible: the gift of your time.

Law21 makes ABA Journal’s Blawg 100 list

I’m delighted and honoured to report that the editors of the ABA Journal have included Law21 in their 2008 listing of the 100 best law blogs. It totally caught me off guard — I didn’t even know they were handing these things out this month — and I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s an honour to appear on the same list as many of these other blogs that I’ve been following for years. I’m deeply gratified, just as I’m gratified every time you tune in to this blog to see what’s new.

The Blawg 100 includes a Reader’s Choice portion, whereby people can vote for their favourite blog in each of various categories. Here’s the complete list of voting categories and nominees, and here’s a link to the voting page for the Careers blog section, where Law21 resides.

Now, this is emphatically not a suggestion that you cast a vote for Law21; but it is emphatically a suggestion that you vote for one of these great blogs, because it’s important that all this fantastic writing  be recognized. I’m likely to cast my own vote for one of the other blogs, because I so much admire the tremendous quality and insight of what their authors produce.

If you simply must cast a vote for something I recommend, please click here. And thank you, as always, for reading. Your time is the most valuable recognition Law21 receives.

A high-calibre crystal ball

When Dennis Kennedy contacted me a few weeks ago, to ask if I’d like to participate in an online roundtable on the impact of the economic crisis on lawyers to be published in the ABA’s Law Practice Today e-zine, I of course said yes on the spot. But when I logged into the site and realized who my co-panellists were, I was floored. Check out this lineup: Tom Collins, Patrick Lamb, Bruce MacEwen, Patrick McKenna, Edward Poll, Allison Shields and Merrilyn Astin Tarlton. This was an all-star roster, and I suddenly felt a little like the lone representative of the Kansas City Royals.

In the event, the panel delivered some extraordinary insights about the incredibly challenging times directly in front of the legal profession. If you’re going to read only one article this week, make it this one: go to the November 2008 issue of Law Practice Today and hear what the roundtable had to say. It’s a tremendous resource, and I was honoured to be a part of it.

Here’s the contibution I was happiest about. One of Dennis’s questions was: “[W]hat changes to the legal profession will we attribute to this crisis when we look back in the near future – two to seven years?” This was my response.

Probably we’ll see a few changes we’ve been expecting and a bunch that we weren’t. I wouldn’t count on the billable hour being a casualty – I’ve come to conclude lawyers will be billing by the hour until shortly before the sun goes supernova. The biggest change will be the competitive environment – financially squeezed companies will use outsourced and offshored lawyers for 60-70% of their outside work, and recession-battered individuals will be encouraged to self-represent or hire “non-lawyers.”

The result will be that within a decade, there’ll be a lot of “legal process companies,” fewer “law firms,” and hardly any such thing as the “unauthorized practice of law.” A new class of law firms will emerge that make no pretensions to excellence — blue-collar lawyers who pointedly sell legal work that’s “good enough” will become remarkably popular.

Clients will gain more power in the relationship, but not outright control – while process work will become commoditized, high-end work will go even higher, because good legal advice will become more valuable when “bet the company” situations arise once a month, and good legal advisors will be able to name their terms. Outside investment in firms will accelerate in the UK and premiere in North America in part because law firms will require monetary injections to satisfy lenders and cash out partners.

Basically, the state of suspended animation in which law firm business models have existed for decades will come to a jarring halt.

The power of positive blogging

It’s not often I can derive a blog post from a tweet, but Debbie Weil‘s recent Twitter entry sent me to this thought-provoking post at CopyBlogger, and got me thinking about the purpose of the legal blogosphere. Brian Clark’s entry talks about the phenomenon of “social proof” — people’s tendency to judge the quality of a thing, in the absence of other reliable indicators, by its popularity — in the context of social media. Among other things, social proof is the fatal flaw behind Digg’s claim to be a useful news filter, and to my mind at least, connects up with Jeff Jarvis’s recent admission that editors are necessary after all. (HT to Nick Holmes on that one.)

But as Clark points out, social proof is also dangerous because “[s]ometimes, your message inadvertently convinces people to do or accept the opposite of what you want…. [S]ocial proof tells us it’s okay to do what we already want to do. This isn’t all bad, especially when it involves the acceptance of your message. But it can also result in negative social proof, in that it motivates people to do the opposite of what you want because you’re trying to change behavior already supported by social proof.” He cites examples like littering statistics leading to more litter and suicide coverage leading to more suicides.

This got me thinking about law blogs, particularly those that, like this one, want to encourage positive change in how the legal profession views its role, manages its business and serves its clients. You might have noticed, if you read (or write) these blogs or are familiar with the whole LPM genre, that a common tone in these conversations is frustration, if not exasperation, with the irrationality and immovability of the status quo. More hair has been pulled out over the billable hour, the alienated client and the overworked associate than any of us care to think. I now wonder if we haven’t been part of the problem.

If social proof operates in the legal blogopshere, then we run the risk that by constantly returning to the foibles and failings of traditional lawyer business practices, we actually reinforce them. Your average lawyer who happens upon a blog post railing against the billable hour, and promoting all the competitive benefits that would flow from changing your approach, probably doesn’t think, “Ah! You’re right! There’s a better way to go, and I can profit from following it.” That lawyer probably thinks, “See? Most lawyers, like me, still bill by the hour and keep their clients waiting. I’m not the odd one out, and I’m in no danger of being left behind.”

What can we, who write about these subjects, do to avoid reinforcing what we’d prefer to erase? Our options are admittedly limited: when most lawyers are doing it one way, and human nature is to do what most people do, we’re kind of up against it.

But I think we can refocus our efforts to find examples of lawyers thinking differently and acting innovatively, and to broadcast those examples with sufficient frequency and volume so as to disrupt the notion that “everyone’s doing it the old way.” The Financial Times’ innovative lawyers list is a good example, but I’m especially proud of the College of Law Practice Management’s Innovaction Awards (which I’m chairing this year), which specifically seek out the pioneering innovators in the law and promote their achievements. We need to accentuate the positive, to shake the perception that it’s okay for lawyers to walk the old ways because they have lots of company. We should do all we can to make the traditional road feel a very lonely one.

And this gives me a segue into responding to a meme I received a few days ago (on my birthday, no less) from Mary Abraham at Above and Beyond KM, asking a simple question: “How do you decide how/what/when to blog?” The “How” is: at a keyboard, with coffee, whenever I’ve got a story I need to tell. The “When” is: whenever an opportunity presents itself, which I can tell you is not nearly as often as I’d like.

But the “What” is the most important:  I want to write articles that help advance the day when the power of social proof works to benefit lawyers and their clients, not hinder them, because the old ways of doing business have fallen into disuse. I want to write about the legal profession as it should be, as it could be, and as, increasingly, it is.

New look, new features

If you’re reading this post on an RSS feed, you might want to click on the link and check out the original entry. And if you’re reading this directly on the site, you can see that I’ve made some pretty substantial changes to Law21.

So, welcome to the new design! WordPress has been a great host since I started Law21 back in January, and Andreas04 was a pretty good look for our first several months. But I figured it was high time to upgrade and renovate the premises, because I really appreciate all the guests who come here every day, and I wanted to spruce the place up for you a bit.

The resulting look is, I think, a definite improvement: stronger colours, sharper contrasts, bigger headlines, larger typeface, an actual banner design, date and time stamps for each entry, and a professionally designed logo. Let me know what you think, by comment below or by e-mail at my new e-address,

But it’s not just a new look – it’s also a lot of neat new features. The banner across the top and the sidebar box down the right-hand side have been thoroughly revamped with all kinds of cool stuff. Here’s a guided tour, starting from the top:

  • Running along the base of the banner above are the Subscription buttons. We already have a lot of RSS subscribers to Law21, but I’d like to encourage a lot more. You can now receive automatic updates on new activity at this site by e-mail or RSS – just click on your preferred method of delivery. If you’re not familiar with Really Simple Syndication and don’t read this or any other site that way, click on “Learn About Subscribing” to get started.
  • The About page, which you can link to from the blue box on the right, gives you a lot more information about Law21 and about me. As my various appearances approach on the calendar – including my newest one, speaking about blogging for lawyers at a January 2009 Canadian Institute conference – I’ll update the About page accordingly.
  • Latest Posts, Categories and Archives are now grouped together in a tabbed row. To view each individual column, click once on the tab and a partial list will appear; click again on the “Show/Hide Full List” line and the complete list will unfold. Tabbed browsing rocks – thanks, Firefox!
  • Directly below that come Reader Comments, the part of the site that makes Law21 so rewarding for me. You get the first couple of lines of each comment – to read the whole thing, click on the commenter’s name and you’ll be taken directly to the full remarks at the appropriate post.
  • Then come two more tabbed rows, six entries in all. This is What I’m Reading – my blogroll, but broken down into six categories: Innovation, Knowledge, Law Practice, New Lawyers, Strategy and Technology. As before, click on each tab to display the full column.
  • And finally comes my very favourite new feature, What They’re Writing – or as I like to think of it, the blogroll on steroids. We’ve set up an RSS feed for each of the 37 (for now) blogs I’m following, and piped them all into this section of the page. Every time a new post appears at one of these blogs, the first several lines will be reproduced here. Click on “Continue Reading” to be taken directly to that blog post. Even better, there are five slots available for new posts, so that you’ll always receive the five most recent posts from my blogroll on a constantly renewing basis. So whenever you visit Law21, even if I don’t have a new post for you, there’ll always be fresh content for you to review. How cool is that?

The credit for this new look and design goes to two professional designers, one with whom I’ve worked for nearly a decade and one whom I’ve only known a few months. Tony Delitala of Delitala Design in Oakville, Ontario, is the Art Director for the CBA’s National magazine, and has been since before I took over as editor in 1999. Tony is a tremendous talent and an equally tremendous guy, and he contributed both the snazzy new logo at the top of this page and a lot of great insights into the redesign. I’m delighted to be his colleague, and I’m very lucky to be able to also call him and his wonderful wife Vanda friends.

But the redesign, in both look and functionality, is first and foremost the work of Jesse Collins of Moxy Webworks in Mississauga, Ontario. Tony introduced me to Jesse this past summer, and we hit it off right away – we think along very similar lines when it comes to web publishing and user utility. Jesse came up with most of the great new features like the tabbed columns, and even better, implemented my cockamamie ideas, like constantly refreshing blogroll feeds, that I couldn’t begin to know how to do or whether they were even doable. With Jesse, everything is always doable. Without Tony’s and Jesse’s help and support, none of this would have been possible.

So there you have it — Law21 2.0. Ironically, the switchover and this new post will both appear while I’m away for (Canadian) Thanksgiving holidays, so there won’t be any new posts for a few more days yet. But in the meantime, I’d really appreciate your feedback on the new look and feel. This redesign, just like this whole site, is for you — the readers who’ve responded so positively to Law21 and made this such a fantastic experience for me.

So my promise to you, with this new design, is to keep working hard to bring you insights on, and analysis of, the rapidly changing landscape of the legal profession. And just so you know, we’re not finished with the surprises here quite yet – look for something new and pretty interesting in 2009…

5 blogs and 5 blawgers

Eight months into this gig, and I’ve finally received my first “five things” meme! Colin Samuels at Infamy or Praise went and tagged me in his recent post to continue this game: “The idea is to post links to five great blogs (other than law blogs) on your blawg and tag five of your favorite blawgers to do the same under the post title ‘5 Blogs & 5 Blawgers.'” Done and done:

Seth Godin: Seth’s ideas and perspectives are prima facie valuable — I link to him often here —  but what I admire most about his work is, first, his ability to deliver powerful thoughts with the utmost conciseness, and secondly, his unspoken but clear belief that marketing is a profession with moral implications, one that can and should make things better. Here are three of my favourite Seth posts: Responsibility, Price, and Labor Day.

Publishing 2.0: The upheavals that the law is now experiencing hit the mainstream media several years earlier, and that industry, one close to my heart, is still wracking itself trying to adjust. Scott Karp is one of the clearest voices for reform and innovation in the media business, and just as the best law bloggers focus relentlessly on the client, he focuses relentlessly on the reader. Lawyers could learn a lot from Scott’s deconstruction of a traditional profession in turmoil.

The Technium: After co-founding Wired magazine, Kevin Kelly has gone on to do any number of things, including a fascinating blog (really a book in progress) called The Technium. Briefly, it explores technology’s impact on society and business, but it’s much deeper, more innovative and more profound than that. Here are two examples, blog posts titled Better Than Free and 1,000 True Fans, that have particular resonance for anyone, like me, who makes their living creating something that can be copied and pasted.

Indexed: Jessica Hagy has mastered the previously unknown art of being both funny and thought-provoking with nothing more than graph paper and a pencil. Indexed delivers a daily cartoon that relies on nothing more than a standard X-Y chart or a Venn diagram to make some trenchant points about youth, celebrity, suburbia, recreation, media, and the future, among many others.

Astronomy Picture of the Day: Maybe it’s not a blog in the strictest sense, but this NASA-run site provides a stunning new vista every day, from gigantic nebulae and the surface of Mars to the center of the galaxy and the north pole of Saturn. I’m not even a backyard astronomer, but APOD gives you a daily opportunity to pull yourself away from your momentary preoccupations and quietly marvel at the sheer scale and brilliance of the universe.

There you have it — five non-law blogs that I think will reward your time. Time to tag five other law bloggers with this meme: Simon Fodden, William Henderson, Nick Holmes, Susan Cartier Liebel, and Bruce MacEwen.

Interview with the publisher

I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Cole Silver of The Silver Group, Ltd. for his well-known Expert Audio Series. Cole and I talked about finding careers within the legal profession outside of the default mainstream jobs — one point I focused on in particular was that many new lawyers consider a law firm position to be the standard career choice, and when that choice is unavailable or unsatisfying, they don’t know what to do next. The more these lawyers know about the tremendous array of fulfilling jobs that they can pursue, the better off they, and the profession, will be. I’m Exhibit A.

The Expert Audio Series has a lot of these kinds of stories — scroll about halfway down to find my entry in a section featuring people I greatly admire like Stephanie West Allen, Carolyn Elefant, Susan Cartier Liebel, and Arnie Herz. Other luminaries featured in the EAS include Burkey Belser, Larry Bodine, David Maister and Gerry Riskin. It is definitely worth your time to look into the resources Cole offers through his series, and I really appreciated the opportunity to speak to his audience.

A note to regular readers: personal matters are taking me out of the office and the blawgosphere for the next couple of weeks, although I’ll do my best to post intermittently if I can during that time. To stay updated on when I get back to regular publishing, and to every new post thereafter, sign up to Law21’s RSS feed. Looking forward to being back with you soon.

Road trip!

Postings will be intermittent at best over the next week or so — I’m on the road for business and family events, but I’ll try to post a couple of entries if I can. If you’re at any of these events, drop me a line or look for me on the parenthesized dates:

–> Canadian Corporate Counsel Association Spring Conference, Toronto (April 14th)

–> National Association of Law Placement 2008 Annual Education Conference, Toronto (April 18th)

–> Second Annual Leg@l IT Conference, Montreal (April 21st)

Must-see CLE

If you’re a resident of or visiting the Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal corridor over the next few weeks, you should seriously think about attending any or all of three really interesting and important legal conferences taking place in that time. The only real downside for potential delegates is that you’ll have to sit through me speaking at all three.

Starting with the latest date and working backwards: on Monday, April 21, Montreal is hosting the second annual Leg@l IT Conference, a joint production of the Jeune Barreau de Montreal, the Barreau de Montreal and the Canadian Bar Association. “Canada’s Premier Legal Technology Conference” will cover subjects such as e-discovery, e-filing, blogs, metadata, data security, online privacy and (my panel) collaborative technology. Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart highlights a deep and experienced roster of presenters. Spaces are running out, so if you’re interested, register now.

The previous week, from April 15 to 19, the National Association of Law Placement, which promotes the exchange of information and cooperation between law schools and legal employers, is holding its massive Annual Education Conference in Toronto. If you’re a law student, a law school career director, a new lawyer recruiter or trainer, or someone who needs to understand the future for legal talent, this is a must-attend event. I’ll be speaking at a Friday morning plenary roundtable on the future of law practice. For more information or to register, visit NALP’s website.

Finally, this coming Friday, March 28,  the Law Society of Upper Canada and numerous other sponsoring organizations are presenting the Chief Justice’s 10th Annual Colloquium on the Legal Profession in Ottawa. This year’s subject is professionalism, and the roster of speakers includes the Chief Justice of Canada, the Chief Justice of Ontario, the President of the CBA, the Treasurer of the LSUC, and a past President of the American College of Trial Lawyers. I’ll be delivering the keynote commentary, so if you’re in town, register now for a tremendous event.

If you’re attending any of these events, drop me a line and I’ll do my best to meet up while you’re there and say hello!

Canadian law blogs

Sincere thanks and appreciation go out to Gerry Blackwell and the editorial staff of Canadian Lawyer magazine, who paid a great compliment to this brand-new space by naming it as one of the ten best Canadian law blogs.

The fact that you can collect a “top ten” list of Canadian blawgs demonstrates just how much excellent commentary there is to choose from — our northern corner of the blawgosphere is brimming with insights and intelligence. Canadian readers: if you haven’t visited all the blogs on Gerry’s list, do so now — and leave some time to visit Steve Matthews’ Canadian law blogs list and to click on my “Canadian Blogroll” links on the sidebar. I guarantee it’ll be worth your time.