The Many Unexpected Benefits of Electronic Discovery

George Socha and I write a column called “The Electronic Discoverers” at DiscoveryResources.org. Our new column, The Many Unexpected Benefits of Electronic Discovery, has just been published.
Our premise is that all is not gloom and doom in the world of electronic discovery. There are some unexpected benefits for clients, lawyers, law firms and even the legal system.
From the column:
“Focusing on the search for the �smoking gun� may cause you to overlook some of the many other benefits of electronic discovery, many of which fall into the ‘better, faster, cheaper’ category. ”

KM or Chaos – My LawNet Presentation

I’ll be speaking on August 25 at LawNet on knowledge management in law firms. The session, presented by SydneyPlus, has the title “KM or Chaos: Choosing the Best Paths for KM in Law Firms” and will focus on practical tips to make law firm KM efforts more successful. I’m quite pleased with the way the presentation is shaping up and I’m putting the finishing touches on a set of handouts that will be my most complete effort to collect my thoughts on KM to date. And, it will have a great list of resources. For more info, see the program description here. I see SydneyPLUS’s kmBuilder as a tool that can help work around many of the well-known difficulties most IT people have found when working with lawyers.
If you are attending LawNet, I hope to get the chance to see you and say hello, either at my session or elsewhere around the conference.

Is Evan Schaeffer the “Anonymous Lawyer”

It wasn’t until I read Evan Schaeffer’s lengthy and detailed analysis of the Anonymous Lawyer yesterday that the realization suddenly hit me – Evan could in fact also be the Anonymous Lawyer.
Think about the following:
1. Evan is way, way too interested in the details of the Anonymous Lawyer and the hidden identity of the Anonymous Lawyer. Way, way, way too interested, if you ask me. Very suspicious.
2. Evan and the Anonymous Lawyer are, by wide consensus, the only two humorous legal bloggers. Think about it, what are the odds that there are actually two lawyers who have a sense of humor and can write humorously?
3. Evan is the only legal blogger who has kept multiple well-written blogs going for a long time. Might he not have one more (Anonymous Lawyer) also going, hmmm?
4. Evan’s knowledge of the details of the Anonymous Lawyer posts is encyclopedic – not what you would expect from the casual fan.
5. Evan’s never let himself be seen in person. Neither has Anonymous Lawyer. QED.
6. Evan’s entire post yesterday appears to be a trial balloon that floats future plot lines for the Anonymous Lawyer.
7. Most importantly, Evan’s blog is replete with characters he has invented. He’s no amateur at creating fake characters. My favorite character, by the way, the one who is always defending trial lawyers – that one cracks me up every time.
8. There have been other clues that I am not yet ready to divulge.
Perhaps we can find an expert text analyst to determine if Evan’s blogs and the Anonymous Lawyer are, in fact, written by different people, or whether the multi-talented Mr. Schaeffer has created yet another masterful ruse. I hope that the answer is the former, because, if it is the latter, I would be forced to proclaim that Evan is not only the funniest lawyer blogger, but also the king of all lawyer bloggers.
[DISCLAIMER: This post includes multiple attempts at humor and should be regarded by lawyers as such, to the extent possible, rather than taken literally in each instance.]

How to Attract Clients: Sell Nothing

Ned Steele has a good little article called “How to Attract Clients: Sell Nothing in today’s Smart Pros newsletter.
It has a simple message and five easy little steps to conduct a low-key and effective marketing campaign that has the virtue of its regularity, its focus on helpfulness, and its ease of implementation.
To summarize briefly:
Have a good database of clients, prospects, referral sources, and potential prospects.
Use your database often.
Use your database smartly.
Mix your tools.
Go to the media.
Then, as he concludes, “Finally: REPEAT THE ABOVE REGULARLY. And watch the prospects come calling.”
A short, wise and highly recommended article, perfect for a slow August afternoon in your office.

Six Ways to Unmuddle Your Legal Writing

I’m a big fan of Evan “Notes from the Legal Underground” Schaeffer. Evan offers guest blogging opportunities on his blog. He wrote a great series of articles on improving your writing recently and I wanted to highlight his great series of articles as well as add a few comments of my own.
The result is a piece called “Six Way to Unmuddle Your Writing,” which distills some of my observations about legal writing.
It goes something like this:
Six Great Ways to Unmuddle Your Writing
1. Know Your Subject Matter. I find most muddled writing in places where the writer does not fully understand their subject. It�s no different from when you are asked a question about a point about which you are uncertain. You stammer, start to use jargon, reach for more polysyllabic words, ramble around in circumlocutions, and generally try to change the subject. The same phenomenon happens in writing. Take a close look at something you wrote on a subject that you know very well. Then take a look at something you wrote where you didn�t really understand your subject. Notice the difference. Try to write in the former style more often.
2. Write with the Action You Want to Obtain Firmly in Mind. What do you want your reader to do after they read what you have written? It�s endlessly surprising how often lawyers, whose job, after all, is to persuade people, forget this point. Read what you have written and when you finish, ask yourself, �so what?� Focus on the action you want your reader to take in response to your writing. Then go back and edit, remove and rearrange what you have written so that your revised draft leads the read to the desired action. It is hard to convince a reader to do what you want even if you write clearly, but it is impossible when your reader has to try to figure out what action you want.
3. Put Yourself in the Place of Your Reader. Remember that your reader is at least as tired, distracted and unable to concentrate as you are. You want to write in a way that anticipates that state of mind. What is your reaction to receiving a ten-page, single-spaced letter with no headings, bullet points or executive summary? Why do you expect your reader to have any different reaction? Do you like section headings, numbered points, short paragraphs, executive summaries, a one-paragraph conclusion at the end or other reader-friendly techniques? Lots of other people do too. Do not forget that your writing is meant to be read by another human. Make it easy for them to do so.
4. Write in Your Own Voice. Many lawyers spend the early part of their careers learning how to write for one or more partners. Other lawyers tend to write in ways that they think that lawyers should write. In each case, they are not writing in their own voice. Writing clearly in your own voice is difficult enough. You may not be able to avoid writing for your supervising lawyer, but avoid making your life harder and your writing even less clear by pretending to be someone else when you write. Reading aloud what you write is a great exercise to help you develop your voice.
5. Copy Your Best. I have interviewed hundreds of law students in the law firm hiring process. I tried to learn a few lessons from this experience. In fact, as some of the people I have �coached� on interview skills will tell you, I learned quite a few lessons. Here is an important one. If a candidate becomes convinced during the interview that he or she really wants the job, their demeanor, approach and even posture change radically. It is quite striking. Interestingly, whether or not you are interested in the job, you can easily mimic this response in any interview that you have and your likelihood of success increases greatly. Is it �fair� to do this? I will leave that question for you, but there is no reason not to take a similar approach to your writing. Find examples of your best writing � the ones that got you the results that you wanted � and study them. For example, compare how you wrote a slam-dunk winner of an argument to how you wrote a sure-fire loser. Then start to copy your best and most persuasive writing, even in places where you don�t have your best and most persuasive arguments.
6. Realize that It�s a Journey, Not a Destination. There is always room to improve and lessons to learn. The goal is to write in the best way for your audience to understand and respond in the way that you want. Be open to hear constructive criticism and make adjustments that further this goal. In most cases, criticism of your written work is not criticism of you. There are many roads to this goal, but a long way to travel. Take it one step at a time.
*****
You can read the article in full form on Evan’s excellent Notes from the Legal Underground blog.
By the way, I really enjoyed doing a guest blogging gig and would be happy to consider other guest blogging spots that might fit my interests and schedules.