The Freemium Practice of Law and IgniteLaw 2011

I did a presentation called “The Freemium Practice of Law” at IgniteLaw 2011 last Sunday night, produced by my good friends Matt Homann and JoAnna Forshee.

IgniteLaw takes a unique approach to presentations – 12 presenters each presenting for 6 minutes using only 20 slides apiece. And the slides advance automatically every 18 seconds.

It’s a challenging format for any speaker, no matter how experienced, especially if it doesn’t fit your usual style. Perhaps I understate that. It’s the speaking equivalent of riding in a top fuel dragster.

I found the presentation fun – in a challenging sort of way – but quickly struggled with time management. I got my points made, but not quite in the way I had hoped. My main points seemed to get across and I hope I was able to contribute in a small way to what was a fun evening with lots of high-quality presentations.

The videos will be posted soon, but I thought it might be fun to post the final version of the “rehearsal script” I had written. On that evening, the “script” turned out to be more ambitious than I’d hoped it would be (especially since I couldn’t refer to it), but I really liked the way this version of the script read. See what you think.

The Freemium Practice of Law – Rehearsal Script

1. Several years ago, when I was in the private practice of law, I had a meeting with a potential new client, a technology start-up. Things went well and they wanted to hire me. The initial project would be preparing terms of use and a privacy policy for their website.

2. I gave them an estimate and the president of the company joked that lawyers probably all used the same base documents and just changed the company names. Or at least we created documents with one push of a button. We laughed, although I felt the need to mention that even standard documents had nuances.

3. I thought a lot about that client’s view of legal work, especially documents, and the question kept coming back to me: “If clients assume we can use technology in this way and, technically, we can, why aren’t we”? I first implemented document assembly more than 20 years ago, so the issue is less technology than business model.

4. One of my favorite innovation techniques is to reverse my assumptions. I recently listened to a podcast with William Ury, co-author of a great book on negotiation. He said, “to change the game, you must change the frame.”

5. Here was my reversal. What if standard documents actually were provided to clients for free, perhaps as part of a service package? How would that work? I didn’t get very far myself, but Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson wrote a book in 2009 called “Free” that looked at the growing Internet phenomenon of successful businesses based on giving away what would traditionally be core products and services for free, and then making money in a variety of other ways.

6. Anderson’s book tells about Monty Python deciding not to sue the thousands of people who started to put video clips from their shows and movies on YouTube. Instead, Monty Python created its own YouTube channel and made high-quality video clips available for free. In exchange, they simply asked people to consider buying their products. The result: a 23,000% increase in DVD sales in 3 months, even though they were giving the same video content away.

7. That’s Freemium. Make something available for free, use that to extend your reach and audience, and then provide options for people to willingly pay for enhanced value. My definition of freemium tonight would be: Giving away “something” in order to create educated customers who better understand how to use your services and products in ways that better help themselves and for which they will happily pay to do so.

8. There’s been a lot of discussion about Richard Susskind’s custom vs. commoditized approach and you’ll be hearing more about that in the next few days at TECHSHOW. The most interesting thing about freemium, at least to me, is not so much that it will work in both contexts, but that I think it can work extremely well in the custom context.

9. Another example. Open Source software and Larry Lessig’s Creative Commons licenses. The free “something” is the software or the standardized license. The Open Source model, where the software itself is available for free, but a company like Red Hat can be quite successful selling maintenance, support, consulting services, and even T-shirts around the software, is perhaps the best example of the freemium approach.

10. Stewart Brand famously said, “Information wants to be free.” We clearly live in a world where we expect to get digital versions of music, video, books and information for free. How do lawyers fit into that world?

11. My favorite new band is Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. They let people post recordings of their live shows on the Internet. I doubt that I would have bought any CDs or even known of them if not for this approach. Now, I buy albums and would attend a show in a heartbeat. Bands can now be thought of as music services providers, giving away what we once thought of as core content and value – the music – to create revenue from shows, merchandise and other channels.

12. Now think about a “legal services provider” model. Law is certainly an information business. Are we like music? Encyclopedias? Newspapers? Other fields challenged by Internet models, aging business approaches and innovative competitors? Change the frame, change the game.

13. Lawyers often will say that clients buy documents or hours – a lawyer-centric view. When I did estate planning, I concluded that, at heart, clients were really buying peace of mind – assurance that their family would be taken care of after they were gone. In other practice areas, they might also be buying things like judgment or risk management – something they’d happily pay more for than a document or a unit of time.

14. That is the big disconnect between lawyers and clients and where the opportunity for freemium law practice comes into play. Change the frame, change the game.

15. Some ideas. Start with Anderson’s book. It has plenty of ideas that might Anderson has a lot of freemium ideas in his book that could apply to the practice of law. Here’s one of mine to start you thinking – moving from highlights to insights to personalized. Highlights: a free annual summary of important cases prepared by an associate. Insights: an audio or video where partners explaining why the cases matter. Personalized: Half-day customized presentations where your best people show a client’s legal and executive team how to address those new cases.

16. Barriers. Oh, there are a few. Not done before. It’s change. How do we bill? Bar regulation still applying a 20th century framework to 21st century client needs. Don’t underestimate – these will be difficult frames to change, but freemium is for innovators who like challenges.

17. It strikes me that simple technology can drive this. Document assembly has been around for years. Second graders are making videos these days. So much can be delivered easily via the Internet for free.

18. Where do you get ideas other than buying Matt Homann a cup of coffee? I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Bryan Cave’s Trade Zone extranet application as a model. Other professional services firms, authors and consultants have successful models. Talk to young people, see what’s going on outside the US, and get a diversity of opinions.

19. Let me emphasize that I’m not for a second advocating a wholesale freemium approach. However, I do think that economic survival for the long term depends on taking a diversified portfolio approach. Using free to create enhanced-value freemium revenue streams should be one part of your portfolio.

20. 3 action steps for you:

1. Read Chris Anderson’s book. Even better, go to iTunes and get the audio version for free, and see if you go ahead and buy the book.

2. Carve out 30 minutes with a piece of paper and brainstorm ways you might try free and freemium, starting with places where you already heavily discount or write-off fees.

3. Change your frame and see if it changes your game

IgniteLaw 2011 was fun, fast-paced and informative. I congratulate Matt, JoAnna, all the other presenters and everyone else involved for putting on such a great event. And it was especially great to meet some other Grace Potter and the Nocturnals fans.

I’m hoping to post some reflections on TECHSHOW 2011 soon.

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]

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Now Available! The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together, by Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell. Visit the companion website for the book at Twitter: @collabtools

Integrating Practice Management Tools in Law School

Tom Mighell and I have recorded another episode of The Kennedy-Mighell Report podcast and it’s now available on the Legal Talk Network and on iTunes, with an RSS feed here. The episode is called “Integrating Practice Management Tools in Law School” (show notes here), and it’s sponsored by Clio. A special thank you to readers of this blog who listen to the podcast – consider trying out an episode or becoming a regular subscriber through iTunes or our RSS feed.

Here’s the episode (#42) description:

With law firms cutting back or eliminating summer internships and law schools focusing on teaching theoretical legal concepts, law students find themselves in a difficult position in a difficult market. How can law students learn needed practical skills, including how to use legal technology? In this episode, co-hosts Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell talk to Professor Clark D. Cunningham from Georgia State University College of Law, Jonathan Call, law school student at GSU College of Law, Jack Newton from Clio and Andy Adkins from the University of Florida Levin College of Law, about the exciting and innovative efforts to bring practical skills training, including legal technology, to law schools and law students.

Tom and I have long had an interest in ways education about legal technology can be improved for lawyers and law students. I especially enjoy the chances I get to talk to law students about legal technology. In addition, Tom and I are contributing editors for the new Legal Skills Prof Blog, part of the great Law Professor Blogs Network.

When we learned about the experiment the Georgia State University College of Law was doing with our podcast sponsor, Clio, we decided that it was a perfect topic for the podcast. A big thank you to Christy Burke and the great team at LegalTalkNetwork (especially the fabulous Kate Kenney), we put together a big show with four guests to talk about the project, put it in context, and, we hope, point to ways other schools might try similar experiments.

We divided the episode into two segments. In the first, we get an “on the ground” report on the Georgia State University School of Law experiment from Professor Cunningham and Jonathan Call. In the second, Jack Newton of Clio gives us his observations and insights from the vendor perspective and our good friend, Andy Adkins, adds his vast knowledge and perspective to talk about where this experiment fits into the history of bringing technology to law students, law professors and law schools.

This is exciting stuff. And it’s important work. If we are going to significant change in the use of technology in the legal profession, it is likely to evolve from these types of experiments to get the next generation of tools into the hands of the next generation of lawyers.

The one great insight I got from this conversation, and I should have thought of this before, is that because cloud-based tools can be used in schools without the need for additional computer infrastructure, it’s possible to move quickly on these types of initiatives.

A big “thank you” to all our guests. Let us know what you think about this episode.

We end the podcast with a Parting Shot about our involvement with the Legal Skills Prof Blog and how we are excited to be part of that project. Check out the blog here.

Give our new episode a listen and let me know what you think. Show notes for the podcast are here. And try some of the back episodes as well. You can also now follow the podcast on Twitter at @tkmreport.

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]

Follow my microblog on Twitter – @dkennedyblog. Follow me – @denniskennedy

Now Available! The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together, by Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell. Visit the companion website for the book at Twitter: @collabtools

April Issue of Law Practice Today Features Diversity / Inclusion Theme

The April issue of Law Practice Today, the webzine of the ABA’s Law Practice Management Section, is out. It focuses on practical aspects of diversity and inclusion in the practice of law and the legal profession.

It’s quite a collection of articles, from an excellent set of authors, that looks at diversity and inclusion from a variety of perspectives, with an emphasis on the practical, not the theoretical. Highly recommended.

As someone who helped co-found Law Practice Today and a current member of its board, I can hardly be expected to be objective about it, so I’ll point to Jim Calloway’s post about this issue. I also guest co-edited this issue, so all pretense of any objectivity goes out the door. But, I definitely think it’s a great issue.

The issue also contains two articles I wrote or co-wrote.

The first is co-written with Gwynne “@econwriter5” Monahan and is called “Will Free Fit into Your Technology Budget? An Open Source Software Primer for the Solo and Small Firm Lawyer.” I’ve wanted to write something introductory and practical about one of my favorite topics, Open Source, and was pleased that I could talk Gwynne into co-authoring the article with me. Gwynne is both very knowledgeable about Open Source and an excellent writer. Once again, I found out again how much I enjoy co-authoring. For more perpsectives on possible use of Open Source software in law practice, check out this episode of The Kennedy-Mighell Report podcast, with my usual collaborator, Tom Mighell.

I also contributed a new article that suggests that diversification and portfolio management should be the primary foundation for defining technology strategies and choices. It’s called “Putting Diversification at the Center of Your Firm’s Technology Strategy-Using a Simple Grid Approach.” The article also offers a simple grid approach to setting strategy. I’d enjoy getting some feedback on that article.

We’ve gotten great feedback on the issue so far, so I encourage you to visit the issue and read all of the articles.

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]

Call for Articles on Diversity/Inclusion: April Issue of Law Practice

I’ll be guest co-editing the April issue of the Law Practice Today webzine ( The issue will focus thematically on diversity and inclusion in the legal profession, more specifically practical approaches to these issue from the law practice management perspective.
We have some room for a few more articles, so if you have an article or a blog post that could easily be turned into an article, get in touch with me at denniskennedyblog @ (or post a comment on this post) and I’ll follow-up to see how we can work together. I’m especially interested in articles that look at these issues from the finance and marketing side of law practice management, but any topic is fair game if you have something that would work for this issue.
Be sure to check out the excellent March issue, with a succession planning theme.
Thanks for your help.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]
Follow my microblog on Twitter – @dkennedyblog. Follow me – @denniskennedy
Now Available! The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together, by Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell. Visit the companion website for the book at Twitter: @collabtools
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Legal Ethics and Social Media – CLE Seminar in St. Louis

Lawyers using or interested in learning more about social media who will be in St. Louis on March 23 have a great opportunity to learn about social media and ethics and pick up a couple of CLE ethics hours. I’m excited to be one of the speakers on an excellent panel with legal ethics expert Mike Downey and The Bar Plan’s Christina Lewis Abate.
The seminar is called “The Ethics of Social Media” and the details can be found here.
We’ll cover differences between LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, the basics of how to use each platform, including privacy settings, ad purchasing and disclaimer requirements, plus how to avoid potential pitfalls including a review of recent case law and rules of advertising, malpractice avoidance, and model social networking policies. We’re also planning to have plenty of Q & A.
The pricing ($95) is great, especially for the number of ethics credit. There’s a special deal ($30) for law students.
The Bar Assoication of Metropolitan St. Louis’ Young Lawyers Division is sponsoring the event at BAMSL’s downtown St. Louis headquarters.
Highly recommended. Help us get the word out about this one. Hope to see you there.
BAMSL members may register here.
Can’t make it on the 23rd? Give the new episode of The Kennedy-Mighell Report podcast, “Social Media Common Sense,” a listen.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]
Follow my microblog on Twitter – @dkennedyblog. Follow me – @denniskennedy
Now Available! The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together, by Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell. Visit the companion website for the book at Twitter: @collabtools
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