Yesterday, I wrote a post here about the debut of Law Ratchet, a site that aggregates legal news and blog posts. Afterwards, a reader emailed me asking a key question my post did not address — that of whether Law Ratchet is violating the copyrights of the publishers and bloggers whose stories it is picking up. For [...]
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With Google Reader set to shut down on July 1, many of us have been scrambling to find a substitute way to keep up with news and blogs. Yesterday, a new aggregation tool was launched, Law Ratchet, designed to enable legal professionals to keep up with the top legal and business news, analysis and commentary.
Available for free both as an iPad app and on the Web, Law Ratchet is essentially an RSS reader, similar in function to Google Reader. Unlike other RSS readers, however, Law Ratchet is preconfigured with news feeds and categories. There are 40 categories to choose from, ranging from administrative law to law and technology to small and solo practice to top 25 blogs. You can add or remove any one from the list of categories you follow.
A press release yesterday described it this way:
Law Ratchet offers a fast, easy and engaging experience. Users may check the latest top stories, see what legal topics are trending on blogs and social media, or find articles in their practice areas through one of over 40 curated categories. The app also provides industry news about law firms, law schools and legal jobs, as well as lighter news, gossip and pop culture articles. For individual topics, Law Ratchet provides a powerful, flexible search function, and searches may be saved as custom news categories.
For those of us who are persnickety about our news readers, there is a downside to Law Ratchet’s approach. Because the categories and news sources are preconfigured, you cannot add blogs that you like to follow. Law Ratchet’s FAQ invites users to suggest new sites and categories by email, but that is not the same as discovering a blog you want to follow and adding it to your newsreader.
The FAQ goes on to say, “We are also testing a cool new feature to allow users to create their own custom categories, giving you even more flexibility to configure the Law Ratchet experience.” But that cool new feature is not yet available.
For that matter, I could not find any search function, as promised in the press release. Perhaps this is available only in the iPad version, which I did not try.
Law Ratchet’s design is clean and straightforward. It is easy to navigate and to add or remove categories. Articles and posts are displayed as they come via the source’s RSS feed and you can click through to the original source. Individual articles can be saved for later viewing or shared on social media or by email.
Given that you cannot add your own feeds, Law Ratchet is not a replacement for Google Reader. However, I found it to be a great way to skim current legal news items and blog posts.
Clio, the cloud-based legal practice management platform, announced today that it will host the inaugural Clio Cloud Conference Sept. 23 and 24 in Chicago. I am proud to have been invited to speak at the conference, which will feature various presentations focusing on the evolving relationship between law and technology.
According to Clio’s announcement, a focal point of the event will be an “unconference” format that will run in parallel with other conference sessions. This format will give attendees a hands-on, interactive venue to engage with other attendees as well as with Clio’s support and product teams.
I will be speaking on the security and ethics of cloud computing. Other conference sessions will cover going mobile, accounting, virtual law firms, customer service, online marketing, social media, going paperless, document automation, and branding. Several sessions will focus on specific aspects of using Clio’s practice management platform.
In addition to myself, others who are scheduled to speak at the conference include:
- Jack Newton, Clio’s co-founder and CEO.
- Andy Daws, vice president North America – Riverview Law.
- Ed Walters, CEO and co-founder of Fastcase.
- Chad Burton, founding attorney of Burton Law, a virtual law firm.
- Doug Edmonds, assistant dean for IT at UNC School of Law.
- Matt Homann, founder of LexThink.
- Joshua Lenon, Clio’s director of communications and outreach.
- Gwynne Monahan, Clio’s communications manager and community manager for Small Firm Innovation.
Early bird registration for the two-day conference is $299. After July 1, the regular registration rate will be $399. Registration includes access to all sessions and events, all meals and snacks (including dinner), networking events and conference materials.
To learn more about the 2013 Clio Cloud Conference, visit www.cliocloudconference.com or follow on Twitter using the hashtag #ClioCloud9.
An update from LinkedIn this morning indicated that a connection of mine had endorsed me as being skilled in litigation. The person who endorsed me is someone I know only through the Internet. We have never met or spoken, that I can recall. That means that the person has no first-hand knowledge of my skill in litigation. I do sometimes write about litigation-related topics, here and elsewhere, and arguably that could provide some basis for this person to decide that I am skilled in this area. But, frankly, it happens with some frequency that I receive an endorsement from someone I have never met.
That got me wondering about the ethics of these LinkedIn endorsements. Under ABA Model Rule 7.1, a lawyer is not to make any false or misleading claims about his or her services. If a lawyer permits an endorsement to remain on the lawyer’s LinkedIn profile that the lawyer knows to be misleading, even if someone else posted the endorsement, that would seem to be a problem under Rule 7.1.
Turning to Google in search of an answer, I discovered that smarter people than I had already considered this question. Their answers, however, are not in agreement.
LinkedIn introduced endorsements in September 2012. Now, users’ profiles include a “Skills & Expertise” section where you see all the rows of tiny faces representing the people who have endorsed you for various skills.
Last January, Andrew Perlman wrote a thoughtful post about this at Legal Ethics Forum. In addition to teaching professional responsibility at Suffolk University Law School and directing its Institute on Law Practice Technology and Innovation, Perlman was chief reporter for the ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20. Here is what he says about the scenario I described above:
[L]et’s imagine that someone offers to endorse me who has no basis for assessing my skills in a particular area. Perhaps the endorser is a friend who has never worked with me. Or imagine that someone offers to endorse my skills or knowledge in an area I know very little about. For example, one of my contacts offered to endorse me in the area of “International Law,” even though I know very little about the subject. If I accept endorsements of this sort (i.e., endorsements from people who have not worked with me or endorsements of skills/knowledge I don’t have), it seems to me that my acceptance of the endorsement and making it visible to my contacts would be misleading and violate Rule 7.1.
Perlman goes on to say that it would be OK for a lawyer to accept an endorsement from someone who actually knows the lawyer’s skills and abilities and assuming the lawyer actually has those skills and abilities. (Some states, however, prohibit testimonials of any kind.) One other issue to be wary of, he adds, is the reciprocal endorsement (or the quid pro quo endorsement), which could violated Model Rule 7.2(b).
In an article in the Illinois Bar Journal, lawyer Adam W. Lasker interviews Michael P. Downey, the former chair of the Illinois State Bar Association Standing Committee on Professional Conduct, on the ethics of LinkedIn endorsements. Endorsements are OK, Downey says, provided they contain no false statements and are not given as a quid pro quo. Just because the endorser does not know you directly does not make it a false statement, he argues.
[H]e feels justified accepting some endorsements from strangers who may have indirectly come to honestly appreciate his abilities and integrity as a lawyer.
“I’ve written about 60 or 70 articles on legal ethics, so maybe they’ve endorsed me because they’ve read my articles,” he said.
In comments posted to Andrew Perlman’s post, Joshua M. King, general counsel for Avvo, takes a somewhat contrary view. He argues, first, that lawyers cannot be held liable for endorsements posted by third parties, because any ethics restrictions would be preempted by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. He further argues that the endorser’s actual familiarity with the lawyer’s skills does not matter, provided the lawyer actually has the skill. He also notes that if someone endorses you for a skill you do not have, it will not appear on your profile unless you allow it to.
At High Tech Intellectual Property Legal Blog, California lawyer Judith Szepesi takes the position that these endorsements do not violate Model Rule 7.1 because they are not statements by the lawyer about his or her own skills. She adds, however, that under California’s rules, these endorsements may constitute testimonials and require the lawyer’s LinkedIn profile to carry a disclaimer.
I am no ethics expert. However, I think it is significant that LinkedIn provides the ability to “hide” endorsements others have given you. (You can hide any single endorsement or choose to hide all endorsements by default.) If someone gives you an endorsement that you believe is false or misleading, and if you do not remove it, then you are effectively accepting it and allowing it to be communicated to anyone who views your LinkedIn profile. To my mind, that brings it within the purview of Model Rule 7.1.
Paul F. Kenney is a well-known Boston-area personal-injury lawyer and a partner in the law firm Kenney & Conley in Braintree, Mass. Now, he is also a published novelist. This week, Kenney published his new book, Paths Along the Way, which tells a story that he says was inspired by his own life experiences as a criminal defense and trial lawyer.
I will confess that I have not yet read the book. However, I know Paul and I can attest to the fact that he can spin a story with the best of them. According to the book’s description, the story starts in 1967 with two white brothers, Christopher and Michael, living in a Boston housing project. Christopher’s evening out with his black girlfriend ends in a shooting that changes the course of his life.
Years later, the two brothers — Christopher now a prominent Boston trial lawyer and Michael a State Police detective — are reunited when the nephew of Christopher’s long-ago girlfriend is framed for the murder of a Boston cop. Christopher takes on his defense and enlists Michael as his investigator. Along the way, he risks all that he has built and hoped for.
Below is a screenshot I grabbed from the ABA Journal Blawg Directory. At first glance, it looks like a typical screenshot. But something is different — the hyperlinks are all live. Go ahead, click on one. Do you want to use the same screenshot? Click on the kwout name beneath the screenshot and you’ll go to a page that gives you the embed code (or lets you post it to Twitter or email it).
This is done via a tool called kwout (pronounced like “quote.”) It operates via a bookmarklet you add to your browser’s toolbar. Better than the bookmarklet are kwout’s Firefox add-on or Google Chrome extension. These let you grab (or “quote”) any part of a web page quickly and easily. You choose the portion of the page you want by dragging your mouse.
After you’ve grabbed the part of a page you want, you’re taken back to a kwout page (see below) that lets you set the embed size, add a border or shadow, and change the background color. Rather than embed the screenshot, you can also choose to email it or post it to to Twitter, Facebook, Evernote, and various other sites. You can also add an annotation or add a video or audio comment.
There are plenty of other screen capture tools out there, of course. But while most capture only a static image, Kwout creates an image map, retaining the active hyperlinks. This makes it a great tool for embedding screenshots on blogs and web pages.
A website launched yesterday claims to be the largest freely searchable database of contracts extracted from the SEC’s EDGAR database. Called Law Insider, it says that it has indexed and made searchable more than 250,000 contracts, ranging from business loan agreements to employment agreements to redemption agreements.
Contracts can be searched by contract type, company name, law firm or state, as well as by text. Contracts can also be searched by tags, such as “debt conversion agreement.”
Search is free and no registration is required. The site encourages users to register and create an account. Registered users are able to add their own tags to documents as they search.
The site is the creation of Preston Clark, a San Francisco-based lawyer and business person who writes the eponymous blog, Law Insider. Clark was formerly assistant general counsel for the University of Miami and is listed as the vice president of business development at ThinkHR.com and as the former director of business development for 1800Accountant.com.
Within the SEC database, contracts are generally filed as attachments to forms and filings. The advantage of using a site such as this is that it extracts the contracts and indexes them directly, making it easier to find the specific contract or type of contract you seek.
It has been three years since LexisNexis introduced Lexis for Microsoft Office, a product that integrates the legal research tools of Lexis.com directly within Microsoft Word and Outlook. In the years since, Lexis also launched Lexis Advance, its next-generation legal research platform. But the Office integration remained tied to Lexis.com.
Yesterday, Lexis released a new version of Lexis for Microsoft Office that integrates with Lexis Advance. Because Lexis Advance offers features and functionality not available through the traditional Lexis.com research platform, that means that Lexis for Microsoft Office now incorporates many of those added features and functions.
For the time being, Lexis will continue to offer the version that integrates with Lexis.com. However, in keeping with its goal to migrate all its products to the Advance platform, all future development for the Office integration will focus on the Advance version.
The basic idea of Lexis for Microsoft Office remains the same. The product splits the screen within an Office application and adds buttons to the ribbon bar that bring search and citation functionality directly into Word or Outlook. For a lawyer drafting or reviewing a brief or other legal document, the result is a more natural and efficient workflow. Rather than jump back and forth from document to research platform, the two work in unison.
As an example, say you have just received an opposing party’s brief that you need to review. Click “Shepardize Cited Docs” in the ribbon bar and the tool finds all the cites in the document, formats them as hyperlinks to Advance, and adds Shepard’s icons to signal the status of cases. Click on one of these added icons in the document to see the Shepard’s treatment in the right pane.
Similarly, you could click “Get Cited Docs,” and the tool will pick up every citation in the document and present them in the right pane. As you move through each successive reference in the right pane, the document on the left moves to the location of that cite.
If you are drafting a document, two tools you might find useful are “Check Cite Format” and “Check Quotes.” The Check Cite tool reviews all the citations in your document and verifies that they conform to the appropriate citation style. (You can set this to Bluebook style or use either New York or California styles.) The Check Quotes tool searches your document for quotes and matches it against the actual cited text to verify its accuracy.
These citation tools are “smart” in that they recognize the placement of a citation and use the corresponding citation form. If you cut and paste text, the citations are updated to proper form. For example, if the text that contains the first reference to a case is cut and moved further back in the document, the resulting first reference is put in proper form and all subsequent references, including any that use “id,” are updated.
Overall, the differences between the older Lexis.com and the new Advance versions of Lexis for Microsoft Office reflect the differences between Lexis.com and Advance. Lexis sums up the differences in the new version as:
- Expanded content. The available research content now aligns with a user’s Advance subscription and includes additional types such as jury verdicts and settlements, expert witness analysis, administrative materials and administrative codes and regulations.
- Search preferences. Users can select alternative search configurations including the ability to toggle between natural language and Boolean searches as well as using search term synonyms and equivalents.
- Results review. Enhanced document display and more options to navigate within a document give users quicker access to the relevant content, for example jumping to document sections such as core terms, case summary and outcome.
- Document delivery. Additional print, download, email and formatting tools allow for more customized results documentation and information sharing.
Use of Lexis for Microsoft Office requires an additional subscription beyond what you pay for Advance or Lexis.com. Lexis would not provide me with a specific price, but said that it is charged on a per-user per-month basis.
Below are screenshots showing some of the features of the new release.
If you’re planning to launch a blog, you can take either of two routes to get there. One is to pay someone to start it for you. The other is to be a skinflint like me and do it yourself. The do-it-yourself route is surprisingly easy and can result in a blog every bit as professional as the toll route.
If you’re not a do-it-yourselfer, there are several very good companies that specialize in creating blogs for lawyers, including LexBlog and Justia Legal Marketing. They will design your blog, help you come up with a theme and title, give you tips on getting started, and help you publicize it. For many lawyers, this is money well spent.
If you’d rather do it yourself, let me offer five tips to get you started.
1. Use WordPress. There are several blogging platforms to choose from. Take my advice: Ignore the others and pick WordPress. WordPress is a versatile publishing platform that you can use to create a simple blog or even a complete website. It is ridiculously easy to use. It allows you to choose from thousands of themes to customize the design of your blog and thousands of plug-ins to customize the functionality of your blog.
Note that WordPress comes in two flavors – WordPress.org and WordPress.com. The former is the home of the WordPress software, which is open source software that you are free to use without paying a licensing fee. The latter is a commercial, hosted version of the WordPress software, offering both free and paid plans.
Because WordPress.com hosts the software, it makes it easy for a new blogger to get started. However, it restricts the full functionality of the WordPress software and does not allow third-party plug-ins, which add even greater functionality. For this reason, I recommend WordPress.org. You will have to have it installed on your own web host, but most web hosting companies will automatically install WordPress for you. The WordPress.org site lists hosting companies it recommends.
(Recently, I reviewed Ernie Svenson’s book, Blogging in One Hour for Lawyers, in which he focuses on an alternative platform, Typepad. As I noted in my review, far more blogs use WordPress and, having used both, I recommend WordPress over Typepad.)
2. Develop your theme. Give some thought to what you want to focus on in your blog. If you’re blogging as a lawyer, you’ll probably want to pick a topic that relates to your area of practice. Don’t be put off by the fact that someone else – or several someone elses – is already blogging about your topic. Your goal is to find a topic about which you’re passionate and knowledgeable. If you write with those ingredients, others will pick up on your passion and knowledge and your blog will build a readership.
3. Practice before you publish. Do not make the mistake of announcing your blog to the world with your first post. Many bloggers do this, only to embarrass themselves by never writing a second post. Before going public with your blog, take some time to settle into the routine and make sure it is comfortable for you. Write several posts. Figure out where and how you’ll get your topic ideas. Find a good time in your day or week to research and write your posts. If you can stick with it for a month or two, then you can confidently announce your arrival in the blawgosphere.
4. Develop your voice. Writing a blog is not like writing a brief. With a blog, you want your own voice to come through. You want at least a degree of informality in your words. You want to write as if you’re having a conversation with your readers, not as if you’re lecturing them about law. Some lawyers find it hard to break out of the rigidity of legal writing. Trust me, as you begin to blog and do it regularly, you will find your voice. In fact, that process of finding your voice is one of the rewards of writing a blog.
5. It’s not about you. We call it “social” media for a reason. Blogging is part of a continuum of various forms of online conversations that extend through Twitter and Facebook and beyond. Don’t start a blog purely for SEO. Don’t start a blog just to boast about your accomplishments. If you’re going to blog, do it because you believe you have something useful to contribute to your readers.
And then engage with those readers. If they comment on your blog, reply. Visit other blogs and post comments. Read other blogs and cite them on yours. Give credit to others’ good ideas, even if that other person is a potential competitor. If you treat blogging as a conversation, and contribute to the conversation in a meaningful way, your blog will develop an audience.
A new guide to the legal protections available to reporters in Massachusetts was published this week by the Digital Media Law Project at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society and the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard Law School.
The PDF guide, Newsgathering in Massachusetts, covers core topics related to news reporting in Massachusetts, including open meetings and public records laws, access to courts and courtrooms, recording courtroom proceedings, recording the activities of public officials in public spaces, and protection for anonymous sources.
The guide, which is 24 pages long plus footnotes, was written by Cyberlaw Clinic and DMLP staff. In addition to describing the applicable law, it includes several case studies that illustrate how the law was applied to actual events.
The guide is free to download and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.