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Denise Howell Denise Howell
( Profile | Archive )

Dennis M. Kennedy Dennis M. Kennedy
( Profile | Archive )

Tom Mighell Tom Mighell
( Profile | Archive )

Marty Schwimmer Marty Schwimmer
( Profile | Archive )

Ernest Svenson Ernest Svenson
( Profile | Archive )

Denise Howell is a seasoned appellate and intellectual property litigator based in Los Angeles. Denise writes one of the first and most popular law-related blogs, Bag and Baggage, coined the term "blawg" and helped pioneer podcasting for lawyers. Microcontent obsessed since 2001, she is frequently quoted in the media on legal issues involving intellectual property and technology law. "Sound Policy" is Denise's show at IT Conversations, and it's also what she hopes results from the briefs she submits to court. Email Denise at dhowell@gmail.com.

Dennis Kennedy is a computer lawyer and legal technology expert based in St. Louis, Missouri. An award-winning author, a frequent speaker and a widely-read blogger, he has more than 300 publications on legal, technology and Internet topics, many of which are collected in his e-books. Dennis has been described as someone who knows almost every rock song in existence and, more importantly, how they apply to technology and law. Email Dennis at his gmail address.

Tom Mighell is Senior Counsel and Litigation Technology Support Coordinator at Cowles & Thompson in Dallas. He has published the Internet Legal Research Weekly newsletter since 2000 and blogged about the Internet and legal technology at Inter Alia since August of 2002. With Tom's singing, Ernie on guitar and Dennis' encylopedic knowledge of rock music, we may have the beginnings of a good band, if this whole blog thing doesn't work out. Email Tom at tmighell@swbell.net.

Marty Schwimmer left a partnership in the largest trademark practice in the world and founded Schwimmer Mitchell, a full-service IP micro-boutique in Westchester County, New York, where he represents owners of famous and not yet famous trademarks. He founded The Trademark Blog, the first IP law blog and the one with the most pictures. He is the first to come in and the last to leave in his firm. Email Marty at marty@schwimmerlegal.com.

Ernest Svenson practices law with a mid-sized law firm in New Orleans, specializing in business-related lawsuits. Most of his practice takes place in federal court, especially the Eastern District. He is best known for his weblog Ernie the Attorney, which he started as an experiment. Like many experiments it got out of control. Nevertheless, he continues to practice law and, occasionally, to seek enlightenment. Email Ernest at esvenson@gmail.com.
About this blog
Between Lawyers provides just-in-time group commentary on the issues raised when technology, culture and the law intersect. We take you behind the firewalls and conference room doors to show you how experienced lawyers deal with these issues and help you prepare for the new challenges we all face. For more, see our introductory post.

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Between Lawyers

Entries by Tom Mighell

July 27, 2006

May 13, 2006

April 21, 2006

Between Lawyers in the Windy CityEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Tom Mighell

Whilst Denise is blogging about blogging (and talking about it as well), 60% of the Between Lawyers gang gathered in Chicago for ABA TECHSHOW. We'll be looking for Marty here next year.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: BL on Tour

March 29, 2006

March 7, 2006

Data about MetadataEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Tom Mighell

Has this whole metadata thing got you down? Does the recent Florida opinion have you wondering which way to turn when it comes to the data that's hidden in your documents? Well, it has Ben Cowgill thinking, too, and he has assembled a fantastic collection of resources to help you Make Sense of Metadata -- the links include introductory material, ethical considerations (including links to relevant state opinions), metadata in litigation, and practical advice. Great set of links there.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Ethics and Technology

March 3, 2006

Law Practice Today: The TECHSHOW EditionEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Tom Mighell

The March issue of Law Practice Today is out, and it's devoted to one of my favorite events, ABA TECHSHOW (and no, it's not just because I'm on the planning board). For those of you who aren't familiar with TECHSHOW, it's a 2-1/2 day technology conference for legal professionals -- it features over 50 educational sessions on technology issues ranging from electronic discovery to disaster recovery, Internet research to advanced IT. In this month's issue of Law Practice Today there are some TECHSHOW-specific articles as well as articles with the type of high-level content that you'll find at TECHSHOW. Of the articles featured this month, I'll highlight a few:

-- Dan Pinnington's How to Make the Most of ABA TECHSHOW is a great overview of the conference, and how you can extract the maximum technological goodness from it;
-- Want to learn more about some of the featured speakers before you go? Many of them are also bloggers, and in my article ABA TECHSHOW Bloggers you not only get to meet some of them, you can also find out the topics on which they are speaking; and
-- If you're still not sure your boss will approve a trip to TECHSHOW, check out Tips to Get Management to Approve Attending Your Next Professional Conference by Bob Weiss.

Something else you can mention to your boss is that if you register for ABA TECHSHOW by March 10, you'll save $200 off the regular registration ($300 if you're a Law Practice Management Section member).

Okay, enough of the sales pitch. Check out Law Practice Today and see what all the fuss is about.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Legal Technology

February 28, 2006

Are You a Blawgr?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Tom Mighell

Whether you call them blogs or blawgs, you have to admit that law-related weblogs (and the people who publish them) occupy a pretty special place on the 'Net. The guys at Rethink(IP) and Kevin Heller recognized that uniqueness when they created Blawgr, a community weblog "where blawgers and attorneys discuss whatever is on their minds." They freely admit it's a weird concept -- and yet it also makes perfect sense. Check it out.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Blawgs

February 9, 2006

All Your Data Are Belong To Google (the latest chapter)Email This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Tom Mighell

The latest version of the Google Desktop is out, and among its newer features is the ability to "search across computers." Let's say you have a computer at work, a laptop you use for travel, and a PC at home. If you have the Google Desktop installed on all three computers, you can enable the "search across computers" feature, so that if you're at work and you need something from a Word document at home, you can search for it. But to be able to do that, your data has to reside on Google's servers.

The feature is turned off by default, your data is encrypted online, you can delete all the data on the Google servers with a click of a button, and Google is falling all over itself to ensure its users that their private data will remain private. I'll be interested to see how many people really take advantage of this new feature.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: Privacy

February 5, 2006

RSS and the Average LawyerEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Tom Mighell

If you're a regular reader you'll already know that we here at Between Lawyers are big believers in RSS, and the power it holds to convey information to lawyers (and the rest of the world, of course). The problem with RSS is that it's still too darn complicated for the average lawyer to use. That's why many blogs are using services like FeedBlitz, to make sure readers who don't "get" RSS can still read blog posts via e-mail.

Today, in How RSS Can Bust Through, Dave Winer responds to VC Fred Wilson's comment that "RSS has to become brain-dead simple to use." He's absolutely right -- in order to get to the point where RSS becomes easy to use, it's going to require a pretty big shift in the way RSS is currently handled on the Internet.

Maybe the answer lies (somewhat) in reading lists, which you may see us talking about here in the near future.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: RSS

January 2, 2006

Your New Year's Tech ResolutionsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Tom Mighell

The January 2006 issue of PC Magazine has a nice list of tech resolutions you should be making this year. You will no doubt know that you should be doing all of these -- but we can always use a reminder. So here goes:

-- Back up your data. A few suggestions for easily backing up your important files: 1) buy a stand-alone hard drive, like the Maxtor One-Touch. An automatic back-up software program like Dantz Retrospect is great for using with an external hard drive. 2) a slightly more advanced option is the Mirra Personal Server -- it comes with all the software to automatically back you up, and you can also access your computer files from any computer that has an Internet connection. 3) Finally, an online solution I've been trying out lately called Mozy. You get 1GB of online storage for free, and an extra gig if you answer 3 simple demographic survey questions. 2GB for free is pretty good, and Mozy works great.

-- Keep Your Operating System Up to Date -- security researchers uncovered a record 5,198 flaws in operating systems last year -- gee, that's 14 a day. If you're using Windows XP, make sure you enable Automatic Updates. Then you don't even have to worry about this -- Windows will download and install critical updates without you having to do a thing.

-- Keep Your Antivirus Software Up To Date -- any antivirus program worth its salt has an automatic update feature. The antivirus companies are generally very good at keeping up with the latest viruses -- take advantage of their expertise and let them automatically update your computer with the latest definitions.

-- Run antispyware software -- if you're using Firefox, you probably don't have any problems with spyware. I certainly don't. But I still run three antispyware programs every few weeks. My favorite is Microsoft Antispyware; it updates automatically, and provides real-time protection. I also use SpyBot and Ad-Aware, and I'm wanting to try Spy Sweeper, which is regarded by many to be the best anti-spyware software out there.

-- Check System Restore Disks, and make them if you don't have them -- here's how to build an XP-SP2 Recovery Disk.

-- Check your firewall regularly -- enough said.

-- Change your passwords regularly -- learn how to create strong passwords, and keep them safe with a program like Roboform.

-- Check your credit reports regularly -- everyone is entitled to one free credit report per year; sign up for yours at www.annualcreditreport.com. If you want to check it more often, contact one of the credit agencies: Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion.

-- Back up again, and keep a copy in a safe location -- because it bears saying again.

Have a happy (and secure) 2006!

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Technology

December 19, 2005

December 14, 2005

December 11, 2005

Well, it was nice working with you folksEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Tom Mighell

Gary Stein writes about the end of blogs as we know them. He believes that next year this whole blog phenomenon will fold back into the Web, and become part of the plumbing, like RSS. More people are going to read the content published on blogs, but they may not know where the actual content is coming from. That reminds me of a recent Yahoo! survey that found that while a small percentage of Internet users knew about RSS and used it on a daily basis, 27 percent of Internet users consume RSS content through sites like My Yahoo! and My MSN.

There are some great things to think about in this article, such as the rise of syndication and blog networks, as well as the effect of advertising on weblogs.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Blawgs

December 5, 2005

November 20, 2005

Watch what you Google for....Email This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Tom Mighell

If you're planning on committing murder, make sure you research your crime anonymously. In a murder trial going on in Raleigh-Durham, an inspection of the defendant's computer revealed that he had searched the words "neck," "snap," "break," and "hold" on a search engine before his wife died. The computer evidence also apparently indicates that the defendant allegedly researched lake levels, water currents, boat ramps, and access to the lake where his wife's body was later discovered.

When we talk about e-discovery, we're not just talking about e-mail and Word documents with embedded metadata -- we're also talking about your browser's search history. Properly harvested, it can definitely yield some interesting evidence.

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: eDiscovery

November 7, 2005

You've got mail, dudeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Tom Mighell

Which causes the mind to be more distracted -- marijuana, or e-mail? If you picked e-mail, you'd be right. A recent study found that people who had to check e-mail and instant messages while taking an IQ test scored lower than those who took the test while they were stoned.

It definitely raises an important question: are we doing our best thinking while we are in front of the computer?

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: E-Mail

November 6, 2005

A natural extension for podcastingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Tom Mighell

It was only a matter of time before universities jumped on the podcasting bandwagon. Stanford recently released its Stanford on iTunes project, which provides faculty lectures, interviews, music and sports for Stanford alumni and students. And now it's coming to law schools. The terrific Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Education has been featuring lectures and other educational materials at CALI Radio, otherwise known as the ClassCaster, for several months now. And the brand-new University of Chicago Law School Faculty Blog, which has only been posting since late September, is already featuring talks and events via a podcast feed.

How long before our law school classrooms are empty, with everyone attending via podcast? It would sure deal a blow to the Socratic method, eh?

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: Podcasting

October 9, 2005

I Gotta Wear ShadesEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Tom Mighell

Matt Brodie over at Prawfsblawg asks the question: what is the future of [legal] blogging? He offers three suggestions for where law blogs are headed in the future. Orin Kerr at Volokh offers a fourth future with which I'm more inclined to agree: "A continued increase in the overall amount of law blogging until we reach a natural equilibirum, and then a roughly constant amount of blogging with frequent turnover among active law bloggers."

I've been tracking blawgs over at Inter Alia for over three years now, and if there was a year for a "gold rush" in lawyer blogs, it was 2003 -- by my highly unscientific count, over 260 blawgs were created that year; just over 200 were created in 2004. 2005 stands an excellent chance of beating the 2003 total, however. I suspect that the numbers are increasing for a few reasons: 1) blogs are now considered much more "mainstream," and the average Internet-using lawyer is getting in on the act; and 2) lawyers are realizing (thanks to folks like Kevin O'Keefe) that blogs are good marketing tools.

Here's where I think growth is going to come in law blogging over the next year or so: 1) Law professors. Blogs by law profs have exploded over the past year, and as blogging becomes a tool not only for communication but for scholarship, more professors will look to participate. 2) Group blogs. Lawyers that started out on their own will find blogging partnerships beneficial, leading to virtual collaboration. 3) Solos, small firms and large firms alike who see blogs as a marketing tool will continue to enter the blogosphere. 4) Law student blogs, I think, are a constant -- they are continuously coming and going, and a few of them have made successful transitions to full-fledged lawyer blogs once they graduate.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Blawgs

Making RSS More User-FriendlyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Tom Mighell

I'm going to steer the conversation here back towards technology just for a bit. Those of you who read this blog no doubt have a good handle on RSS technology and its implications for the future of information delivery and management. But one reason it is still being used by only 6% of Internet users (according to one survey) is that it's just too darned complicated. When I try to explain that subscribing to an RSS feed is just as simple as "clicking on that little orange RSS or XLM box, then copying the URL of the feed, then going back to your news reader and pasting it into the subscription box..." I get a lot of blank looks.

People who use online newsreaders have it a little easier; there are specific links that provide "one-click subscription" to My Yahoo! and Bloglines. But that relies upon the feed provider to set up specific My Yahoo! and Bloglines buttons. It certainly would be easier if the newsreaders themselves came up with a "one-click" solution.

Here's a product that's certainly a step in the right direction. A company called KnowNow is providing Enterprise RSS services to companies, but it also has a nifty product called eLerts -- just download the toolbar (for IE only, unfortunately), and it provides real-time notification of new content posted to the feeds you select. But here's the great part: to add a feed, all you need to do is drag the RSS or XML or ATOM button to the toolbar, drop it in, and you're subscribed. Although I wouldn't necessarily recommend the KnowNow toolbar as a newsreader, this drag and drop idea is a terrific advance in making the subscription process more user-friendly.

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: RSS

October 2, 2005

The Between Lawyers Artists' ColonyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Tom Mighell

All right -- as they say in poker, I'll call your poetry, and raise you a song. Unlike Denise, Ernie and Dennis, I'm no poet; but I do love to sing. My usual outlet is Bar None, a yearly show we put on for charity -- here are a couple of tidbits from the show:

First, a pretty tame picture of me singing "Always Billing Time" (to the tune of "For the Longest Time") at this year's show.

Next, here's a link to a song we recorded a few years ago -- it's a barbershop quartet number called How Could You Believe Me?

Hopefully I haven't just compromised any remaining integrity I had around here.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Humor

September 28, 2005

September 4, 2005

King-MakingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Tom Mighell

Yesterday Larry Bodine announced that there is a new "King of Blawgs," and it's Patrick Lamb, of the great In Search of Perfect Client Service blog. Larry's pronouncement is based on the fact that Patrick's blog is now listed as the Number One "Most Popular All-Time" blog as measured by clickthroughs at Blawg.org.

With all due respect to Patrick (who has a great blog and who is indisputably the current "King of Blawg.org"), I don't think this is a measurement of anything other than what people are clicking on at Blawg.org. Furthermore, when I listened to J. Craig Williams' and Bob Ambrogi's great new podcast Coast to Coast this past week, I learned that they are "America's Top Webloggers in the Legal Profession." By what standard? It got me to thinking, how do you measure the popularity of a law-related weblog?

-- Back in 2003, Jerry Lawson proposed (in a Net-Lawyers listserv message, as well as Lessons from Ernie the Attorney) that one way to measure a weblog's popularity was to run a Google search, and count the links. I didn't agree then, and I don't agree now. If you create a large number of links in your blog pointing back to your blog, those links will show up as results in a Google or Yahoo! search. That doesn't make your blog any more popular.

-- Some of the blog search engines are better at judging blog popularity through link popularity. Technorati has its Top 100 Blogs list, and Feedster recently came out with the Feedster 500 (a great new tool is TalkDigger, which aggregates the results of a number of blog and traditional search tools). Are the number of links to a blog a good judge of popularity? Partially, I think. They are certainly evidence that somebody thinks enough of a blog to link to it. But just because I link to a blog one day doesn't mean that I like it enough to visit it every day.

-- And that's where I think real blog popularity lies -- readership. The best blogs are those that bring readers back on a regular basis. But measuring popularity by this standard is not easy, because currently it can only be done on a blog-by-blog basis. You can use a service like Sitemeter to measure the actual visitors to your site, but with the advent of RSS, that number is likely to be deceptive; individuals who subscribe to an RSS feed don't register as "site visitors." A service like FeedBurner helps you determine how many subscribe to your RSS feed, but those figures are not available to the public.

Until we can come up with a reliable way to measure readership combined with link popularity, it may be premature to crown a king (or queen) of the blawg world.

Comments (7) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Blawgs | Provocations

August 30, 2005

Our Resident Citizen JournalistEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Tom Mighell

You may have seen how CNN is encouraging regular folks to become "citizen journalists" and share their experiences of Hurricane Katrina. We here at Between Lawyers have our very own Citizen Journalist in Ernie Svenson, who is blogging (via a special SMS-to-blogging-friend connection) about how New Orleans is recovering from the hurricane. Check it out at Ernie the Attorney.

Ernie, take care, and contact us when you're able!

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: BL News

August 28, 2005

Another reason to start a blog: better customer serviceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Tom Mighell

If you follow Jeff Jarvis' great Buzzmachine blog, you'll know that he has been on a tear this summer about some terrible customer service from Dell (his own "Dell Hell," as he terms it). You can read the whole saga here. As a result of his posts, Dell has now instituted new policies for dealing with the blogosphere. The company is going to monitor blog posts for customer dissatisfaction and then contact those who can be identified.

This is great news for Jarvis and for other Dell users with blogs, but what about the rest of the Dell users? Dell's response seems to be saying that the only customer complaints they care about are those that can easily be made public, via a blog. I'd love to see some details about how all Dell customers will see improved service. Until then, the moral of this story is: get your own blog.

Comments (6) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Provocations

August 20, 2005

August 7, 2005

E-Filing and The Learning CurveEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Tom Mighell

The Electronic Filing and Service for Courts blog has a nice piece titled The Benefits of Mandatory E-Filing, with which I mostly agree; while there are clearly major benefits to e-filing, I'm just not sure making it mandatory (at this point, anyway) this soon is the right strategy. Yes, I know e-filing is mandatory in the bankruptcy courts, I just wish they had handled it a different way.

The reason why: like it or not, many attorneys are not equipped with sufficient technological skills to grasp the intricacies of e-filing. I write this with a trace of sarcasm; while the average reader of this blog would no doubt find e-filing a snap, many attorneys are still way behind the technology learning curve. I'm talking mostly about solo (and some small firm) attorneys here -- large firm attorneys may not have the skills, but they certainly have staff capable of processing an e-filing transaction.

A case in point. My firm subscribes to the Courthouse News, a great service that delivers an e-mail to us each day with descriptions of the latest court filings, both state and federal. A few months ago, the Courthouse News described a lawsuit filed in federal court by a lawyer here in Dallas, actually against the Northern District of Texas. The lawyer alleged that he lacked the computer skills necessary to e-file, and therefore the mandatory e-filing system here was discriminatory. We'll see how far this lawsuit goes, but the point is made: some lawyers are not equipped for this brave new world of e-filing.

A solution? Before a court system decides to go mandatory, they should offer e-filing as an option, with the notice that at some point in the future, e-filing will be the only option. At the same time, the court system should offer some sort of class to teach the basics of e-filing to lawyers and their staff. The classes can be online, at the courthouse, or in seminars through the bar association. I know some of the federal courts here in Texas require the attorney to take such a class before registering to e-file, but so far the state courts that have e-filing don't provide any obvious training -- at least in Texas, anyway.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Legal Technology

August 3, 2005

July 31, 2005

July 28, 2005

July 19, 2005

Wayback in Trouble?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Tom Mighell

I'm a bit behind in discussing this (and Copyfight has already mentioned the issue here and here), but it appears the Internet Archive has been sued for making archived web site pages available after the plaintiff had attempted to block them from being displayed.

I'm no copyright lawyer, and there's a terrific discussion of the legal issues at the Patry Copyright Blog, but this whole thing seems pretty flimsy to me. Any thoughts from the more IP-enlightened here?

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Copyright

June 15, 2005

Tom Re: Dennis Re: Tom Re: Gadgets for LawyersEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Tom Mighell

Dennis, Dennis, Dennis. There you go again, changing the rules. Where in your first post did you say "coolest" gadget? You said "best gadget for lawyers," and "best bang for the buck." Which clearly points to the Treo. Now suddenly we're talking fun and cool. My thought about the iPod is similar to yours about the Treo -- to me, it's wholly "fun"-related. I'd never use it for work. I'd rather use a 1GB flash drive to hold my work files than an iPod.

Then again, given that you admittedly have difficulties operating even a regular cell phone, I can understand why a Treo might be challenging for you.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Technology

June 14, 2005

Tom Re: What's the Best Gadget for Lawyers Today?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Tom Mighell

C'Mon, Dennis -- an iPod? Sure, it satisfies the "cool" factor of a gadget -- who wouldn't want an iPod? But if I'm giving away a gadget in a prize drawing for lawyers, the answer is obvious -- the Treo. (I knew this the moment you asked me the question on the phone - I just didn't want to discourage you from posting due to the obvious rightness of my answer...:-) )

Sure, with an iPod you can listen to podcasts, store and view pictures, and even use it as a backup system for your files, but my guess is most lawyers would use an iPod simply to listen to music if they got one. A Treo, on the other hand, provides real practical value for the lawyer, PLUS it has the "wow" factor of a great gadget. Phone, e-mail, and you can listen to music or podcasts on it too, if you want.

Not even a close race here.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Technology

June 9, 2005

Unsubscribing in (Relative) ComfortEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Tom Mighell

I frequently give seminars on e-mail management, and one of the mantras I try to hammer home is this: unsubscribing from spam doesn't work. Well, that's not quite true; most reputable vendors will honor your Unsubscribe request, and remove you from their lists. But if you request a spammer to remove your address from its list, you can find yourself the recipient of an even greater amount of spam -- often the spammers will take your Unsub as proof of a valid e-mail address, which increases its value for sale to other spammers. The problem: how to tell the reputable vendors from the spammers?

Here's one way: try Lashback, a company that claims to be able to safely unsubscribe you from spam. Just install the toolbar (Basic is free, Advanced is $29.95), and click a button when you want to unsubscribe. Lashback checks its database -- if it's a reputable vendor, it submits an Unsub request, and you're off the list. If it's a known violator of Unsub requests, it essentially does nothing.

So at best it's a half-solution to the problem of unsubscribing -- it identifies spammers from whom you may safely unsubscribe, but it does nothing to eliminate the spam you receive from other spammers. But half a solution may be better than none at all.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Technology

May 4, 2005

Tom Re: How, if at all, will Blogging Affect the Practice of Law?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Tom Mighell

Is it too early to think about the virtual practice of law? In bringing together lawyers from across the country, blogs have made it possible for lawyers to communicate and collaborate with each other across physical boundaries; it will only be a matter of time before these folks begin to truly test the limits of "multijurisdictional practice."

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Future of Legal Blogging Article

Tom Re: Will You Be Blogging in Five Years?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Tom Mighell

Ditto to what Denise said. I'll be interested to see how many law blogs that we see today are still around then. I have been keeping track of new blawgs through my "Blawg of the Day" at Inter Alia since 2002. During that time, I have tracked more than 500 law blogs, and I have also kept track of some 150+ other law blawgs through sites like Blawg.org and Blawg Republic. I was expecting to find a pretty high turnover rate among lawyer-bloggers, but that was not the case. Of the blawgs I have been tracking, almost 85% are still going strong.

Of the blawgs that are not active anymore, I found that the average life of these blawgs was just over six months. So I've been using that period of time as a benchmark -- separating the dabblers from the blawgs that will likely be around for some time.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Future of Legal Blogging Article

May 3, 2005

Tom Re: What's More Important in the Future: RSS, Blogs, or Collaborations Among Bloggers?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Tom Mighell

My answer: Yes. I largely agree with both Dennis and Denise on this, but I think it's almost impossible to answer this question -- they will all play an important role. Blogs will become even more mainstream for the casual reader, who I don't think will be ready for Blogging 2.0 by that time. Denise, I agree that the idea of blogging without syndication is silly, but syndication without blogging.......?? The power of the RSS feed is where we are headed -- just see what the folks at FeedBurner are doing. It's not all about blogs, and it doesn't have to be.

Weblogs (legal and not) began as solo activities -- individuals wanting to find their own particular voice on the Internet. The medium has evolved, however, to allow for and encourage collaboration between bloggers -- as Dennis intimates with his "virtual law firm," this has tremendous implications for the future.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Future of Legal Blogging Article

Re: What Makes a Legal Blog Successful or Unsuccessful?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Tom Mighell

Dennis is absolutely right about content, so I won't spend time talking about that. My thoughts:

1. Frequent updates. Providing that great content on a regular basis ensures your audience will keep coming back for more.

2. Legalese. A blog post should be conversational, less formal than what you're used to in motions or briefs. Lighten up and have some fun.

3. Publicize Your Blog. Even if you regularly post terrific content in a light, conversational style, it won't matter if no one knows you exist. There are a couple of ways to do this. The best and most obvious is to announce the blog a select group of law bloggers -- this will usually guarantee you instant exposure, because everyone likes to announce a new, cool blog. Also make sure the major blawg directories (Blawg.org and Blawg Republic) know you're out there.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Future of Legal Blogging Article

Re: Is Blogging Wildly Over-Hyped?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Tom Mighell

Yes. There has been so much blog-mania lately, most people roll their eyes when I start to talk about blogs. I hope (in the legal space, anyway) that the negative reaction will ultimately be replaced by a realization of the benefits of blogs.

I mostly agree with Dennis about RSS -- while I believe that RSS feeds are the future, and blogs are just the fancy window dressing for the technology, it's the weblogs that will draw the readers in. If you tell the average internet user and potential client that the Smith & Jones firm has 3 RSS feeds on different legal issues, his or her eyes will glaze over with confusion. Show them a blog, however, and you can hook them with the RSS later.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Future of Legal Blogging Article

Re: Should Every Lawyer and Law Firm Have a Blog?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Tom Mighell

The question here should really be, "Is it a Good Idea for Every Lawyer and Law Firm to Have a Blog?" The answer to that, I think, is yes. However, the answer to the question stated is "No." Blogging is not for everyone; if you are going to start a law-related weblog, be prepared to invest the time and energy necessary to making it a credible Web presence. Lawyers who either don't have the time to write posts, or who post very infrequently, should not undertake the effort. A poorly-maintained weblog understandably will have the opposite effect of a well-written, frequently updated weblog: the blogger will lose credibility with her/his audience.

In other words, don't just have a blog so you can say you have a blog.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Future of Legal Blogging Article

May 2, 2005

Re: What are the Three Biggest Benefits of Blogging for Lawyers?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Tom Mighell

1. Marketing potential - by publishing regularly-updated content in your area of practice, you will become known as a "go-to" person in that field. Clients and would-be clients will (hopefully) send you work because of the valuable information you provide to them, and other lawyers who read your blog will refer work to you because you are a trusted authority in that area of law.

2. Becoming a Better Writer -- I know that I have become a better writer overall since I started blogging. It forces lawyers to drop the stuffy legal-speak that infests so many briefs and motions.

3. Collaboration, and Being a Part of Something Bigger Than Yourself - the law bloggers I know are people who "get it" -- people I never would have met were it not for my weblog. If it weren't for weblogs, would Steve Nipper (Invent Blog), Matt Buchanan (Promote the Progress), and Doug Sorocco (PHOSITA) have gotten together and started rethink(ip), which discusses how to change the way we think about intellectual property law? Would the five of us have ended up talking here every day about issues that interest us?

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Future of Legal Blogging Article

Re: What is the Current Landscape for Legal Blogging?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Tom Mighell

I agree with Denise -- the field for weblogs is wide open. I have always believed the "niche" weblogs -- those following a particular area of law - are more likely to be followed by "regular" internet users than the more general blogs, law student blogs, etc. The average internet user will not be as voracious a reader of blogs as those of us who are early adopters; but the average user will, I think, take the time to receive information that is useful to them in their practice, whether it be practice area-specific or more related to the business of running a law practice.

So as long as lawyers are putting out quality content regarding their practice areas, the demand should continue to grow. Right now large firms are underrepresented in the "blawgosphere," but I expect/hope that will change as more law firms recognize the numerous benefits of blogging.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Future of Legal Blogging Article

May 1, 2005

Eliminate Spam, Commit Malpractice?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Tom Mighell

Dan Pinnington wrote a great article in April's issue of Law Practice Today called Malpractice Claims Are Very Real - And Easily Preventable: The Key Is Improving Lawyer/Client Communications. In it he quoted the stat that 14 percent of his company's (LAWPRO) claims involve time, deadline and calendaring errors. He's mostly talking about using good practice and time management, including calendaring software, to avoid these problems.

But today's improved technology has introduced another wrinkle to this problem: missed deadlines due to e-mails mistaken for spam by filtering software. A recent study in the United Kingdom found that "false positives" caused four in ten workers to miss a deadline. Wow -- 40% is a significant number. I am aware of at least one case where a spam-blocker caused an attorney to miss a status conference; fortunately, the lawyer did not get sanctioned for his conduct.

How to avoid this problem? There are two ways, as I see it. First, make sure your spam filter is using "white list" technology, so that approved e-mails always get through. Second, firms that don't use white list technology should consider giving users access to their spam quarantine folders.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Ethics, Decorum and Manners | Technology

April 8, 2005

April 6, 2005

Re: AV Squad/CC LicenseEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Tom Mighell

Okay, I'll wade in and offer the insurance defense lawyer's take on this whole CC business. Denise says we need a CC license to protect our content, while at the same time allowing it to be distributed as widely and effectively as possible. Dennis is not convinced; he believes the CC license is poorly worded and confusing. He does not say, however, that we don't need a license to protect our content (at least, I don't think he says that).

That's it? As the son of a mediator, I say we can get this settled and make it home in time for dinner. I don't think anybody disagrees we should have some sort of protections for the materials posted on this site -- after all, we expect to do great things here, right? That leaves us with two choices, as I see it: a CC license, or our own license (no doubt drafted by Dennis). I agree that certain portions of the full license are pretty dense, although I have to say the human-readable summary provides an easy-to-understand (if somewhat incomplete) description of what publishers can and cannot do. If the consensus is that language is unreasonably confusing, we need to either edit it or come up with our own license. Easy for me to say, I suppose, when the most complex documents I draft are settlement agreements and motions for summary judgment.

Should our uncertainty of how a publisher or court will interpret the license prevent us from obtaining a license at all? I don't think so. We won't be in any better or worse position than anybody else with a CC license -- we are all in the same boat from an interpretation standpoint, until some case law comes down that sheds light on what these provisions really mean. If the rest of you IP-types aren't comfortable with that, then Dennis, pull out your tablet PC and start drafting. Otherwise, I say let's go with the CC license.

So there's my vote, and my incredibly simplistic reasoning for it. I'll go back now to my torts, mental anguish, and soft tissue injuries.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Copyright | Creative Commons

April 5, 2005

U.S. Code Annotated -- Your Wish Is GrantedEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Tom Mighell

All right Marty, so maybe no one is annotating circuit court decisions, but you can get your U.S. Code, annotated at GovTrack.us -- just sign up to follow a particular piece of legislation pending in Congress, and you'll receive updates whenever the House or Senate takes action, or when anybody in the blogosphere mentions the legislation by name. Can court opinions be far behind?

By the way, I happen to agree with the Scobleizer that while the NYT Annotated site is pretty cool, Memeorandum is a better annotated news site -- it pulls comments from more than one news source, and it's a heckuva lot easier to read.

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Open Source Lawyering | Participatory Law

March 29, 2005

Re: How to Lawyer When Everyone's WatchingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Tom Mighell

Marty, your post on the TAUBMANSUCKS page raises some larger questions about lawyers and their blawgs:

1. To what extent should a lawyer blawg about his/her own cases? and
2. To what extent should a lawyer use his/her blawg as a weapon?

[okay, these are actually questions you raised in an e-mail, but I found them sufficiently compelling to respond in public.]

With a few exceptions, I think the answers to both are NONE and NONE, for a few reasons:

1. I have seen lawyers blawg about specific lessons they have learned from their own cases, and I think that's a fine and appropriate way of educating other lawyers who may find themselves in similar situations, as long as it's done in a generic and professional way.

Do such posts cross a line when they are openly and personally critical of opposing counsel's conduct, or they set forth, word for word, correspondence between lawyers in a particular matter? I think so -- such posts do nothing to advance the concept of professionalism. I would hate to find words I had written in supposed confidence posted for all to see on the internet, whether my name is used or not.

2. You're right that a blawg has the potential to be a powerful weapon -- a lawyer doesn't like the way he/she is being treated in a case, and here's a forum to complain about it (and the other lawyer) to the entire world. But let's say weblogs didn't exist -- would you then send those thoughts about opposing counsel to your local or state bar journal, or any other publication for that matter, for printing? Probably not. Nor would you post it on your firm web site. Unfortunately, the informal nature of the blog makes it easier to speak your mind, and it can lull us into forgetting that we are still lawyers, communicating with the public at large.

At the risk of spouting off a bunch of cliches about "using a weapon for good," or "with great power comes great responsibility," I think weblogs have the power to transform the practice of law in amazing ways. That said, just because we build ourselves a soapbox doesn't mean we always have to use it.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Ethics, Decorum and Manners

March 28, 2005

Re: Corporate Blogging Policies and Deja VuEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Tom Mighell

You're both right: an internet/technology use policy should cover blogging, but lawyers (or corporate employees) should also at least educate themselves on the niceties of blogging -- how it's different from other types of publishing, and the particular rules of blog-etiquette.

A properly-drafted technology use policy should cover each and every method a lawyer may use to communicate with the outside world -- e-mail, chat rooms, bulletin boards, weblogs, and any other type of online communication.

In addition, I think the surge in law firm blogs may require technology use policies to place more emphasis on compliance with your state bar's particular rules relating to lawyer advertising. More so than any other type of electronic communication, blogs have the potential to contain representations about a lawyer's practice. In Texas, the representations on our firm web site must be approved by the state bar -- in advance of publication, if possible. That's just not realistic with a blog post -- but there may be an even greater risk of violation on blogs, given (as Marty states) the fact that bloggers often post with less introspection than is probably warranted.

Dennis, I know you are giving a presentation on "The Annotated Technology Use Policy: Reining In Your Click-Happy Firm," at ABA TECHSHOW -- will you be able to provide us with a sample policy to share with our readers?

Comments (0) | Category: Blogging Policies