Socha and Kennedy Look into the Electronic Discovery Crystal Ball

The latest “Electronic Discoverers” column by George Socha and me (Dennis Kennedy) has been published on the excellent DiscoveryResources.org site.
In the column, called “Looking into the Electronic Discovery Crystal Ball for 2005—Predictions, Observations and Opinions,” George and I serve up our images from from our looks into the crystal ball for electronic discovery in 2005 and beyond. Perhaps not surprisingly, any look into the future use of technology by lawyers brings back memories of technology discussions from the past. Interestingly, many of the lessons you need to know have already been available for several years.
I think the money quote from the column this month might come from me, for a change:
“In many ways, George, I don’t see much mystery about 2005, although I’m sure that we’ll see some surprises. The winners in 2005 will be those who make the efforts to learn all that they can, develop personal relationships and potential partners with those in the electronic discovery space, and, perhaps most important, seek out and listen to the wishes, concerns and recommendations of their clients. It will be a year to get out from behind your desk and work with people rather than paper.”
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

Looking for a Few Good Sponsors for a Variety of Events and Other Opportunities (Not for Me), Plus a Few Thoughts on Apply Open Source Business Models to Blogging

I’ve become involved lately in a number of projects where people are asking me if I can help them attract and sign up exhibitors and sponsors. I’m always happy to help out, but I’d prefer not to go back to the same pool of vendors over and over again.
In most of the cases, the events or publications focus on legal technology and will have audiences of lawyers, IT people, office administrators and others interested in law and technology topics. Illustrations would be the ABA TECHSHOW or the Missouri Solo and Small Firm Conference. Often these will be events at which I’ll be speaking and I’m just trying to help the organizers out and provide ways to connect the audience to relevant vendors who provide useful products and services for that audience.
There are also other areas that arise from time to time. For example, consider events or publications involved in broader, though still related, topics like those to be addressed at LexThink! Chicago or even charitable or educational events, such as at my daughter’s school and elsewhere.
In almost every case, I’m talking about a modest amount of marketing dollars from a vendor. For some events, I can also point out higher dollar / higher exposure opportunities. I like to ask only when I see a “fit” between audience and vendor.
I’m not looking to get involved in the process with each event or opportunity. I simply want to help match up appropriate vendors to these audiences and make vendors aware of opportunities that might be attractive and useful to them. In most cases, I’ll make the appropriate introductions, route people in the right directions and step out of the process. I’m just trying to help out the nice people involved in these activities when they ask if I can help them on the vendor side.
If any of these opportunities might appeal to you or your company, let me know and I will follow-up with you. If I get enough indications of interest, I might set up a web page or other means of creating a “clearinghouse” so legal tech vendors, especially, are aware of these opportunities.
Although I’m not looking to turn this into a part-time job, I guess I’d also be willing to hear from vendors who might be looking for appropriate marketing opportunities at these types of events, publications and the like and set up something to help match up interests and events.
Please email at denniskennedyblog @ gmail.com if you have an interest in opportunities I’m already involved with or any of the “match-making” ideas I mentioned. I’d greatly prefer emails to phone calls.
Moving on to a Related and Important Point
For purposes of clarification, at this point, I’m not talking about anything that has to do with my blog, LexThink or other related projects of mine. Those will be handled differently (of course, I’m always happy to talk to you about opportunities with those projects).
As many of you know, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and talking with people about advertising, sponsorships, ads in feeds and the like in connection with DennisKennedy.Blog. As I see more and more blogs covered from top to bottom with GoogleAds, I’ve become far more hesitant about adopting an advertising model for my blog.
Credibility, trust and at least the sense of “objectivity” (I minored in philosophy, so it’s difficult for to discuss objectivity as something that really exists – we all are loaded with points of view and assumptions) are precious commodities and the going rate for advertising models strikes me as way too small a price to charge for risking a significant loss in any of those categories.
What’s the answer? I’m not sure yet. My latest thought is that some kind of “relationship” model (think of the entertainment industry – a package of appearances, “endorsements,” and other elements of an actual win-win relationship that places a fair value on the benefits gained) probably makes the most sense for bloggers, if it can be handled carefully and with disclosure. I’m convinced that the randomly-served ads model is a disaster for bloggers and sponsorships, which initially appealed to me greatly, have their own set of complicated issues. I’m also happy to talk with anyone about these issues, either conceptually or in the sense of something real, because they are difficult issues with significant potential consequences, ranging from impact on credibility to ability for a blogger to pay his or her bills.
I spoke last year for half a day on the legal issues involved in the Open Source licenses. I started to think that blogging had many similarities with Open Source software. For one thing, it seems that some core aspect of blogging – the blog itself, the feed (or perhaps an excerpt feed) – must be free (both as in beer and as in freedom). As in Open Source, the potential for making money from your efforts should(?) come from what you surround the free part of blogging with – services, products, “combinations/distributions,” merchandising, seminars, and other things that have long been discussed by Stallman, Raymond, Perens and others in the Open Source (and/or Free Software, in deference to the distinction that Stallman and FSF make about Open Source) movement.
While I have sometime had some fun with the “making money with blogs” vs. “making money from blogs” distinction (which (surprise!) often seems to let the person asserting the distinction justify his or her commercial efforts while criticizing others), there is a core of truth in that notion and bloggers would do well to study Open Source business models (here, here, here, here and here, for starters) before jumping into advertising approaches.
I checked my web traffic stats for DennisKennedy.com recently and saw that I was just shy of 200,000 hits in December, the majority to my blog. That number is staggering to me. Two years ago when I started my blog, I was very pleased with hits in the 10,000 to 15,000 range. However, even if I were to assume a total of 2.5 million hits for 2005 (and, believe me, I know that hits is not a good number to use), I don’t know of advertising models that would net me more than a few extra bucks.
On the other hand, if I write about a product or service for lawyers in 2005, it clearly has a significant impact on the level of attention and probably sales of that product or service. However, part of the reason for that impact comes from my credibility and “objectivity.” The irony of the situation is that my mention of a product can help the company selling it, but to keep my independence that mention probably cannot benefit me.
Somewhere, in a place far away from advertising, should be a model that accommodates the various issues and addresses the economic realities. I’d love to find an answer that works for me, so I’m always happy to talk with people who have thought of ways to address this issue.
As I suggested, lately some variation on the “entertainment” model seems to hold the most promise.
P.S. A lot of people have mentioned me, my writing and my blog in very favorable terms lately. I greatly appreciate that and try to thank everyone (privately) by email. Sometimes that takes me longer than I might hope, so let me send a big public “thank you” to those people. The feedback on my writing I’ve gotten lately has been best I’ve ever received and I’m thrilled that many people find what I’m writing to be helpful and, in some cases, even inspiring.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

Passion is No Ordinary Word

The Graham Parker fans out there will get the reference in the title.
J. Matthew Buchanan has been in a groove lately on his great Promote the Progress blog. I liked his recent comments on my recent post answering a question about the future of small firm bloggers (short answer: the future is so bright we gotta wear sunglasses).
I recommend his post, which focuses on the word “passion,” in large part because he makes the point I was trying to make in a succinct and convincing matter.

By Request Tuesday – Is There Still Room for Small Firm or Solo Lawyer Blogs?

Are you serious? There’s more room than ever and better prospects than ever.
The recent focus on blogging by large firms has caused some bloggers at small law firms and solo lawyers to become concerned that there will no longer be a place for them in the blawgosphere.
I must admit I had a bit of concern about whether blogs by individual practicing lawyers could survive when a number of law professor/ law school blogs launched last fall. My concern was that, given how difficult it is to maintain a consistent pattern of posting to a blog, blogs staffed with law student interns gathering the latest and greatest information would overwhelm the efforts by solitary lawyer bloggers. My concern lasted only a few weeks.
Here’s what I noticed.
1. In the blog world, the clear individual voice carries more weight than a more homogenized group voice.
2. In both the law school group blogs and the big law firm blogs I’ve seen to-date, there is a tendency to move toward a high quantity of posts on a daily basis. At the same time, there is also a tendency to move away from assessing the importance of the information in each post. If you make 20 posts a day and do nothing to differentiate them or identify the importance of them, you reduce the utility of your blog to your readership and make your blog’s feed a likely candidate for deletion from my newsreader. I’ve practiced law for more than 20 years, I don’t recall many days where there were 20 items related to my practice that were must-reads.
3. In a related sense, blogs staffed by students or associates often have posts that do not show an appreciation of the context of the information being presented or its importance to the audience. In other words, you may not find the experience, expertise and judgment that you find in the blog of a practicing lawyer with significant experience. Note that I used the word, “may.” There are blogs that fit these categories that do a great job. If you combine heavy volume and doubts about the understanding and judgment of the posters, you have the perfect recipe for losing audience.
4. Let’s face it, big law firms are looking at blogging for marketing purposes. The long-time individual practicing lawyer bloggers (and other individual legal bloggers) are blogging because they have passion for their topics and blogging itself. Blogging has become part of who they are and they understand their audiences’ interests and needs. Marketing might be part of why they are blogging, but it’s not the only reason – not by a long shot.
5. Personality is a big part of any successful blog. Personality is hard to develop in any group blog. In an official big law firm blog – fuggettaboutit.
6. You want to know how to do a great big law firm blog? Get the star partner who really knows the stuff to blog about his or her area of expertise. Go back to the early days of the lawyers with web pages. Look at Lew Rose and his advertising law website. Yeah, it was Arendt Fox’s website, but we all knew it was Lew and it showed his expertise and personality. Look carefully at upcoming big law firm blog launches and you’ll see fingerprints of marketing departments all over them. That approach might work, but I’m taking a wait-and-see approach.
7. Big law firms are notorious for twice-a-year “quarterly newsletters” and other efforts that got off to a flashy start and then went . . . nowehere.
Blogging has been the realm of individual voices. The entry of “official” blogs, blogs by large firms and various group blogs with make the blawgosphere more varied, probably richer and perhaps more “professionalized,” but it ain’t going to displace all the individuals. Solo lawyers and small firm lawyers will continue to set the pace and drive the most interesting innovation in legal blogging.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

By Request Tuesday – What’s Your Take on All These Big Law Firm Mergers?

This question is sometimes asked in this way: Will medium-sized firms disappear?
Bruce “Adam Smith, Esq.” MacEwen posted an important analysis of this issue a while back. I like Bruce’s analysis but I’m not as positive about the megamergers.
What’s my take when I read about the stream of mergers of large law firms?
Excuse my language, but I don’t have an effing clue what’s going on in the case of most of the ones I’ve read about.
Most of them seem like there’s been a failure of imagination and some sense that getting bigger is the best route to take because it’s better to do something than do nothing.
I’d expect to see enormous levels of lawyer attrition, IT integration headaches and puzzlement on the part of clients.
Here’s one example of my take on the subject. I understand “cherry-picking.” I understand going out and getting superstars to staff areas where you plan strategic growth or where clients need additional services. However, why would you pick up an entire firm to fill those needs? You are begging for attrition on both sides of the merger, and likely to lose plenty of people that you’d like to keep.
Integrating two large firms, in terms of people, systems, IT and everything else, is likely to be a long, involved process that will inevitably take most the eyes of most lawyers and staff off the ball for a significant time.
I’m a big fan of Tom Peters and his approach informs my own. Read some of Peters’ comments on recent business mergers and his negative responses to some of them. I simply don’t see the business case in most of the stories I see about large law firm mergers. I’ve never felt that combining two struggling organizations gives you any guarantee that you’ll end up with one combined, successful organization.
So, I don’t even pretend to understand this trend. I’d put my money on leaner, faster, client-focused firms, boutique firms and creative affiliations like consortia and even the so-called “virtual” law firms.
Just my opinion. FWIW.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]