John Robb on News Aggregators

John Robb has one of the most important observations on news aggregators that I’ve seen. And not just because I agree with it.
He argues that:
“One thing everyone needs to understand is that in this syndication debate, the juice [is] in the aggregator tool space and not with weblog tools. Weblog tools are the weak sister in this relationship.”
He continues:
“Additionally, the writing tools are much less important than the tools by which you aggregate and manipulate the data you subscribe to (the ratio of readers to writers will always be 100 to 1).”
He concludes, perhaps, ahem, controversially:
“A smart approach for Microsoft would be to embrace the quirky weblog world’s RSS syndication format, put an advanced RSS aggregator with a world class search engine on everyone’s desktop, and extend the RSS format into everything else.”
In the legal space, I’ve been trying to argue that the excitement is in newsfeeds and news aggregators, far more so than in blogging itself. I’m not finding many takers, but I’ve just finished an article on news aggregators and newsfeeds for the ABA’s Law Practice Management magazine that makes my best case to date for aggregation. It should appear soon, but not soon enough.
Here’s one thing I’ve noticed about blogging – it drives me crazy at times, such as now, when I have good articles written and awaiting publication in print that would contribute to the debate of the day, and I have to wait and honor the publications’s right not to be scooped because I release the article early.

Four Legal Land Mines for CIOs

Kathleen Melymuka has a very solid primer in Computerworld on the big ticking legal timebombs in the IT landscape called Legal Land Mines for CIOs. It’s a straightforward piece that highlights issues but does not delve into them in depth.
She covers security, data retention, privacy and software license violations. Each topic is followed with a brief section on why you should care and what you should do.
Pass this article on to your favorite CIO or anyone else who may have an interest in practical legal issues in the IT area.

My New Online CLE Seminars

One of the things I’m now doing is working with to make collections of my materials and presentations available as online Continuing Legal Education courses.
Two courses are now out and others will be appearing in the new future. They are:
1. E-Commerce: Key Legal Concerns – This course gives an overview of some of the most interesting issues and themes in e-commerce law and shows how developments on the Internet are pushing on traditional legal concepts and raising difficult issues for the lawyers, judges and legislators trying to adapt existing law to these new ways of doing business.
2. Email Management for Lawyers: Taming the Email Tiger – This course is designed to help attorneys more effectively deal with their increasing reliance on communication by email. The course covers dealing with email effectively, dealing with spam and viruses, the ABA Opinion on Email Encryption and offers best email tips for attorneys.
As a bit of warning, it is highly likely that the “Legal Technology Primer” collection of my articles will soon no longer be available for free access in its entirety on my web site.

Second Pair of Eyes – Services for Lawyers

I can’t even count the number of people lately who tell me that I should be offering my services to other lawyers who are unfamiliar with IT and e-commerce contracts.
Even I can get the message.
As a result, I’ll be doing something new, which I call “A Second Pair of Eyes.” Essentially, I will review contracts and agreements related to IT contracts, software and IP licenses, e-commerce and other Internet agreements, for other attorneys who would like to get another set of eyes to check to see if they’ve missed anything major, mishandled an important issue or left important issues unaddressed. I’ll do that with respect to agreements being drafted, agreements being negotiated, and agreements being evaluated and interpreted for further action. And, I’ll do that on a flat fee or hourly basis. The idea is to consult with you and help you out, in the background.
The problem I see is that most attorneys do not see documents in this area often enough to be comfortable working with them or reviewing them. Many attorneys also have little understanding of the underlying technologies and the common issues, let alone the areas that are commonly subject to negotiation.
Sound appealing? Just get in touch with me and we can talk about your needs.

The Current State of Big Firm Legal Tech – unveiled today a trio of important articles on its annual survey of legal technology in the larget firms in the US. All are definitely worth study by those interested in legal technology. As always, I have concerns about drawing too many conclusions based on self-reported answers, but these stats are about as good as it gets and they are worth studying for evaluating trends.
One general comment before touching on the three pieces: if you look at the litigation technology list for a firm that claims to be a major litigation firm and it does not list CaseMap, you really need to question its sophistication in its approach to the technology of litigation.
The first article by Amy Vincent is called The Client Comes First and attempts to draw some conclusions about key trends in legal technology. It’s a solid piece and, since I’ve been preaching about client-driven technology for a while now, it should be no surprise that I agree with the sentiments expressed in the title.
I believe, however, that those not in the legal profession will be surprised at how extranets are still treated as a novel technology. I think that a close reading of the article also shows that technology decisions in law firms are still being made for the convenience of IT departments rather than practicing lawyers. This issue is an important one and will continue to contribute to the decisions of large firm lawyers to leave and start solo or small practices and the heavy attrition of young lawyers.
Finally, there’s an amazing story about a Microsoft rep who couldn’t justify to a firm why they might move from Word 2000 to Word XP. Just a thought: how about the raft of legal-specific features developed with the assistance of a legal advisory board? On the other hand, I forgot that those features benefit individual lawyers, not IT departments, and may be a hard sell.
The second article is the 8th Annual AmLaw Tech Survey itself. As always, this survey is a highly valuable resource. I recommend that anyone interested in legal tech, especially software vendors, study these results.
One question: how many of these firms who are still running Word 97 think that their clients will be impressed by that fact? I’m sure it’s a great recruiting and associate retention tool as well.
The third article is called The Basics and gives the raw data on questions and answers.
Again, the value of this material is really in helping spot trends. One interesting point: over 1/3 of the top firms in the country have not done a security audit in the last year. That might be a reason the Blaster family of worms hit large law firms pretty hard recently.