The End of a Chapter: My Time at the ABA

June 29, 2011 · Posted in Articles, Feature · View Comments 

Hard to believe I was at the ABA almost 10 years.  Time flies and I can still remember saying to myself, fresh out of college, “someone shoot me if I’m here five years from now.”  Well I almost doubled that time and never regretted any of it.

As I look back I have indeed done a lot. I’ve grown an organization as much as it has grown me as a professional.  I was given opportunities that I tried to take full advantage of and created a few of my own, including creating my own department — Interactive Services.  While I somewhat feel compelled to write a novel about my time at the ABA, I am not.  My passion was focused on making the ABA a better place, either through the website, our email marketing efforts, and ultimately the member engagement experience.  I feel I brought the ABA a long way in those spaces, but not without a lot of help from others.  I’d like to thank them here and now.  While this list won’t be exhaustive, they are the ones who stand out the most.  They include Amy Peebles, Joe Andrews, Chang Ahn, Hank White, Ed Adams, Jack Rives, Tom Howell, and my fellow ISD staff.  On the counter part of staff our some fabulous members who have supported me through thick and thin.  They include Tom Mighell, Dennis Kennedy, Steve Weiss, Vince Polley, Lucian Pera, and Bob Clifford.  Thank you to each and every one of you.

A reflection wouldn’t be complete unless you look backwards at what has past.  Here is a quick history of the different looks of the ABA website while I was there.  My direct involvement started in late 2005 through 2011.

I believe in the fundamental fact that you should always leave a place better than when you came to it.  Maybe it is part of that Boy Scout values, or just the values I had growing up.  I believe that I left the ABA a better place than when I first came to it.  I was not alone in the changes that were made during my time.  Thank you to the many who helped me along the way – from encouraging me to take the lead on projects to believing in me even when I didn’t sometimes.

I move on to bigger and better adventures.  Some of which will be described here in the next few weeks.  Needless to say I will be taking my passion, knowledge, and expertise and helping other organizations be successful online…making them better than when I found them.

Balancing Social Convenience with Privacy

May 10, 2010 · Posted in Articles, Social Media, Strategy, Technology, Web · View Comments 
Evolution of Facebook Privacy

Evolution of Facebook Privacy - Matt McKeon 2010

In a world where being able to connect with old friends, family, co-workers, and connections is now the “norm” it surprises me when we start to see backlash as we are with Facebook recently. Especially when these are FREE services. However, everyone in the Internet age has been foregoing bits and pieces of their privacy for the convenience of connecting with each other and interacting in a social way online.

The thing is that when we interact online we are always leaving a little digital signature of who we are, where we came from, what we did, etc. Part of this is an aspect of the Web in general through cookies and GPS coordinates. Another part is just by virtue of how the Web works and how analytics are tracking site behavior. While Web sites may not know who you are specifically (unless you log in), they will certainly get a good idea of what you like and deliver better content next time.

Free sites have to make money. Running Web servers, development costs, etc all costs money and no investor or venture capitalist is going to invest in a company without the potential to get their money back. So for companies like Facebook, Twitter, Hulu, (insert name of cool website with free service), they all have the same issue; how will they make money? For many, it will be in online advertising. Google does this with most of its products from Google Search to Gmail to YouTube. Facebook does it with ads and virtual gifts. Even LinkedIn does it with their online recruiting (job board), research arm, and advertisements. However, nobody really seems to care about it when it is advertising because most often it is what keeps the service free to use. Do you remember when Google first rolled out ads that were contextual to your search, or your email messages? Everyone was outraged, yet millions of people still use those services. When you go onto Amazon and you see products that are based on your behavior, your information you have shared and more. No matter what we do online, the more we want convenience of personalized information and use of free services we will have to give up a piece of our privacy. When you check-in at a restaurant using Yelp, Foursquare or Gowalla, you are sending out your location over the web. “I’m here!”

Surprisingly I?ve seen little mention of the possible reasons why Facebook has shifted their privacy policy. I was recently at Facebook?s HQ and the light bulb went off for me when it came up in conversation. Facebook doesn?t want to be a social network anymore, they want to be a single source of your online presence. They want to provide you, the user, with news, communications, and ability to interaction with all your social graphs (friends, family, co-workers, and brands). Facebook has become a platform and stopped being a social network.

The easiest way that Facebook, and other social networks, are integrating your personal information is via their authentication tools. In Facebook?s world this is Facebook Connect. It allows you, the user, to log into another website with your Facebook credentials. In some cases, like a registration for a site, you can populate certain fields and share your activity with this new site with your Facebook friends. This is where everyone is getting their arms up air over this privacy invasion. But if you want the convenience of not having to remember dozens of usernames and passwords, using one, like what you use for Facebook becomes convenient.

The other big discussion is around Facebook?s social widgets. These are actually less intrusive as one might think. They are what we call iframes, which means the ?Like? button that they just rolled out is actually a page within a page. The Web site that the ?Like? button is on actually doesn?t get any information about that person. So for me, I have the ?Like? button on this blog post. If you see other people who ?like? this post, I get none of that data. It doesn?t go into a database of mine, or into an email to me. Zip. Nada. What makes them attractive to Web site administrators, like me, is that it provides a level of personalization that I couldn?t achieve otherwise. And because Facebook is 500M strong, the chances are of that personalization working on my Web site is pretty good. The same goes for CNN and thousands of other sites which have integrated these new features into them.

The next time you think about your privacy and where your information is being shared, or even sold, think about he conveniences you have online when you use Web sites. You are giving up your privacy every day, but you are also willing to do so. In fact, if you really want to know who else is using your personal information just look into the fine print of the following:

  • Your Bank
  • Your Credit Cards
  • Your Loyalty Cards (Grocer, Movie Rental, Book Store)
  • Google Account (Oh, how quickly we forget about them)
  • Professional Association or Trade Association

You may be surprised on what you read.

Why Advertising in Print is Still Smart

January 13, 2009 · Posted in Articles, Marketing, Strategy · Comments Off 

This isn’t a researched post.  It isn’t one that has a lot of stats or basis to stand on.  It is a pure observation that may or may not spark a conversation.  I read headlines and hear from colleagues that all the advertising spending in print continues to decrease.  It’s moving to online advertising or being cut out completely.  This is accelerated even more with the economy saying hello to the ground floor when it has been on an express ride to the skydeck the last few years.  However, I think companies and advertisers are missing a point, an opportunity.  Better, I don’t think companies “get it” when it comes to marketing their products and services.

I heard on the morning news today that despite the economy, companies are still willing to spend $3M for 30 seconds on NBC for the Super Bowl.  30 seconds in one of the most popularized, entertainment sporting events of the year.  Sure, your exposure is to millions of viewers (and a few football fans while you’re at it).  Some companies will spend about that much money to nail that 30 seconds for your attention.  To resonate with you to take some action.  What will be the return?  How can it be measured?  Sure there are ways, but the measurement is a conversion from one medium to another.  TV to Brick and Mortar or TV to Online.  Let’s repeat this, the measurement of success will most likely be a measurement of a conversion from one medium to another.  That’s where advertisers are missing the point in print.

Traditional uses of print advertising has been mostly around awareness.  It’s about branding.  But the problem is many companies haven’t adjusted their print strategies to consumer behavior.  They see that print isn’t returning results like it used to, and it’s too hard to “measure” a return.  The reality is that the C-level management want faster results, and print isn’t one for “timely” analytics compared to online advertising.  Additionally, circulation is still a “best guess” number, not as hard-core as actual pageviews/impressions that can be given in online advertising.  I get it, make sure you receive value for what you are paying for.  However, it’s reality. 

Arguments for why online advertising is better than print are completely valid.

  • Better tracking
  • Instant measurement
  • Smaller buys can render bigger results
  • Target, segment, target, segment
  • Test, tweak, test, tweak

Yes, the are all good.  But let’s not forget that people still read magazines and journals.  They still like flipping through pages at stuff they can’t buy, or may want to buy, or are interested in. Online advertising, while instantly measurable, still has banner blindness.  The fear that a click on an ad will mean they will get more ads, or spam, or more pop-ups.  Seeing a full page ad in your favorite magazine means you can read it, flip past it, come back to it, read it again, and then make a decision to do more.  No fear.  They are in control.

Advertisers need to continue to understand consumer behavior.  Understand that your opportunity to grab one’s attention is still valuable in print publications.  Understand how you can create an effective campaign to go from offline to online and still measure success.  They need to accept the fact that the return on that media buy for an ad in a magazine isn’t going to show results for weeks after delivery.  But the incentive has to change.  You have to get the consumer to change mediums.  Print to online is possible.  The messaging has to be right, valuable, yet still enticing enough for somone to go online to do more.

Go back to my Super Bowl example.  How long of a lead time do you think companies are taking to get a campaign together for that $3M investment.  Weeks?  Months?  Now how long do you think it could take to put together a campaign and media buy for a print pub?  Yes, publishers still need weeks of lead-time, printing, and delivery.  So it may be on par with a TV advertisement, but not as expensive.  Not a one-time 30 second shot.

Integrate your marketing campaigns into multiple channels.  Print shouldn’t be ignored.  It still holds value, especially when it is being adapted to new mediums.  For instance, Digital publications.  Migrating to the Kindle and other digital readers.  When evaluating your marketing dollars, don’t forget the print publication.  It’s not dead.  It’s still valuable.  While patience is a virtue, management needs to know print can still return results.

Are You Ready for the Web-Based Office?

June 6, 2007 · Posted in Articles, Law / Legal, Solutions You Can Use, Strategy, Web · Comments Off 

Example Scenario

This article originally was published in the May 2007 issue of LLRX.

You have worked for a large firm for many years and you have made the decision to either go solo or start a small firm. You were used to having access to all your information via an Intranet, file server, and your desktop. You could practice law and let the IT department worry about when the printer jammed or if you got a virus. Now that you are solo, you are the one that has to deal with all those problems as well as practice law.

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BIG in 2007: How the Web Will Continue to Change How We Do Business

January 23, 2007 · Posted in Articles, Law / Legal, Technology, Web · Comments Off 

Originally published January 15, 2007, on LLRX.

Two years ago I wrote about what was going to be BIG in 2005. It was a fun take off on the VH1 BIG in 2004. With technology and the Web changing at an ever-quickening pace, I thought it would be good to predict what I think is going to be BIG in 2007. So let’s get started.

Content Syndication – My News, My Way

Two years ago I predicted that RSS was going to take off. It did, but not in the way that it should have. Many factors contributed to the lack of wider adoption of RSS, but now the playing field has changed. Publishing companies are seeing the value in RSS and how content can be syndicated to other Websites, and more importantly, delivered directly to readers. The software companies have also caught-on to the power of RSS and are integrating the RSS format directly into their applications. Much of this can be attributed to the explosion in the number of blogs over the last five years. Microsoft will help expand RSS adoption with the introduction of their new operating system Vista, and with user migration to Internet Explorer 7, released several months ago. Both have integrated features to facilitate the use of RSS.

RSS will be the vehicle for syndicating content, but it won’t just be text and images anymore. The popularity of content such as video and podcasts will continue to grow this year. OPML will also start to gain some traction as well.

OPML stands for Outline Processor Markup Language. It will have many useful application as a content syndication vehicle as it continues to develop. The most common use at the moment is to bundle a number of RSS feeds into one file, which you can then in turn import into another aggregator. So if I wanted to share my Legal Blogs folder from my news aggregator with you, I would export the folder as an OPML, allowing you to import that file and use all the feeds to which I am subscribed, via your own aggregator. This saves both of us time because I monitor about 50 legal blogs, and it would cumbersome to copy and paste each feed URL into a document to email to you.

The Social Web Becomes the Regular Web

Last year was all about the "social Web." In 2007, we will see how the social Web will be absorbed into the "regular" Web. Blogs and Websites will for the most part become one and the same. We won’t differentiate them as much because blogs will continue to be integrated into mainstream Websites and their core features, such as blog comments and RSS, will become an accepted part of all Websites. This integration has already started with the re-launch of Time.com, along with use of these applications in mainstream media sites such as the WashingtonPost.com and NewYorkTimes.com sites, to name just a few. These publishing giants have taken social Web concepts and placed them directly into their respective Websites. These features include a blog aggregator which is summary content from many sources (Time.com), columnist blogs with comments enabled, podcasts, and a "save and share" feature on all their articles which allow you to bookmark or share links to articles via social communities like Sphere, Newsvine, Digg, and Del.icio.us.

The next generation of the Web will continue to prominently include online community building features. Websites like Second Life will continue to change the way we interact with each other. Companies will no longer just be on the Web, they will interact on the Web. The legal community will, to a certain degree, follow suit. Advertising rules and regulations will continue to evolve regarding how blogs and Websites are treated by the state bar associations [Link].

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Planning Your 2007 Web Strategy

December 29, 2006 · Posted in Articles, Law / Legal, Strategy, Web · Comments Off 

Originally published December 17, 2006 at LLRX.com

The end of the year is closing in fast and you will undoubtedly ready many "year in review" articles this month. Rather than writing a column referring to what we covered this past year, I want to get you thinking about next year, so you can start the year off right – with a strategic plan for your website that is integrated into other firm goals for 2007.

Reviewing Your Current Website

Hindsight is always 20/20, so – what didn’t you accomplish with your website last year? Do those unaccomplished goals still hold value within the scope of your overall marketing strategy? If so, do you want to make sure these goals figure prominently in your plans for next year?

In following with what website plans were not implemented, did you perhaps add a new feature or features that failed to generate the response you anticipated or simply did not work? To what can you attribute this lack of success?

Looking at what you have done and how your website has contributed to your overall goals and marketing efforts will help you to focus your plans for improvements and enhancements for 2007. Review all aspects of your website, from design to content to traffic statistics to clients who engaged your services through the site. Having a complete picture of what happened over the course of the last twelve months will provide you with valuable data. 

The next step in this evaluation process is to draw up a short list of ideas and changes that you want to make to your website in the next year and put it aside. Then take a look at the competitive landscape that surrounds you.

Competitive Analysis

Knowing what you have worked on over the last twelve months is a good starting point, but information about what your competitors have accomplished is an essential component of your future planning process.  Has your competition taken specific business away from you? Is another firm or practice providing a service that is within your field of expertise? Do other firms have value-added services that you offer but have not properly communicated or marketed, or that you can enhance to extend the range of your services to clients? Remember, you do not have to be the first to offer a online service or implement a technology application (such as a blog, wiki or an extranet).  The objective is to determine how to implement one or more of these applications in a manner which keeps you competitive and expands your services.

Ideas that you will want to consider include the following?

  • coordinated offline and online branding
  • e-mail updates on topical subject matters
  • client portals
  • web-based client intake forms

After taking a quick look at your competitors within the context of the "marketplace" (location, industry, etc.), you can add more context and content to your wish list of ideas to implement over the next year.

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Do Something More With Your Web Browser Homepage

November 26, 2006 · Posted in Articles, Law / Legal, Solutions You Can Use · Comments Off 

This article was originally published in my column, Faulkner’s Practical Web Strategies, November 12, 2006 at LLRX.com

It is probably the most taken for granted webpage you visit every day—the infamous homepage that appears each time you open your Web browser. Many see it as just another page that they immediately click away from once their browser is open. Others actually change it to something more meaningful or interesting. Traditionally, the homepage, is usually set by someone else at first, but with the expansion of the Web 2.0 era and the greater adoption of RSS you can actually do more with your homepage than ever before.

The problem with homepages is that you only get to choose one page. If you are lucky enough to be able to switch this page (some companies lock down their computers so this feature is disabled) you are forced to make the difficult choice of picking a page that suits your needs. Many choose a search engine, a news site, or another favorite website. With personalized pages becoming more common place, it only makes sense to maximize that experience to get the best of both worlds. At the end of this article I’ll take you step-by-step on setting up a personalized homepage with one of the services I mention below. So let’s see what is available for you to use and how you can get the content you want all in one spot.

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Is Your Web Site Successful? Tips and Techniques to Get More Out Of Your Web Site

May 31, 2006 · Posted in Articles · Comments Off 

This article was published in my column Faulkner’s Practical Web Strategies for Lawyers in the April 15 issue of LLRX.

I am often asked, “Is 200,000 hits a month good for a Web site?” when talking with lawyers at meetings and other events. Of course the number changes every time, but the general inquiry is the same: how does someone determine if their Web site is successful or not? For some it is all about the numbers. The bigger the numbers, the more successful it is. To others, they want to track a specific ROI to their Web site, which could be I receive x amount of clients for every y amount of phone calls via my Web site.

My typical response to these types of questions is that the success of a Web site is determined by a variety of factors that are weighted differently by each individual asking the question. In reality, the success of a Web site is in the eye of the beholder, and it is the management of the expectations put on a Web site that determine if it is successful or not. While that may sound like a cop out for an answer to some, it is very true. For a large firm, a Web site may be largely a marketing tool for exposure, but their focus to gain more clients is through their partners and rainmakers. For a solo or small firm in a suburb of a metropolitan area, a Web site may be a great way to bring in clients and distinguish them from the lawyer down the street.

Reasons Why People Visit Your Web Site

Before you can make some adjustments to your Web site, it is best to understand some basic behaviors of the types of visitors that come to your Web site. Visitors to your Web site are most likely doing one or more of the following:

  • Shopping around for legal services
  • Looking for someone they can trust
  • Looking for someone who has expertise and success with the problem they have

Like many services, visitors to law firm Web sites are shopping around for legal services. Many have a problem that they cannot solve on their own. They want someone who can help them solve their problem, whom they can trust, and who will accomplish the assignment without breaking their bank account. Your Web site is one of the first exposures a potential client has to you and your firm. Building initial trust via your Web site is crucial to get that visitor to even consider filling out a client-intake form or making that initial phone call.

Tips for Improving Your Web Site for Success

Assuming that your Web site, at the bare minimum, gives your firm exposure to someone seeking a lawyer who is on the Internet, the following tips will help you identify ways you can improve your Web site to meet your expectations.

Look at Your Web Site Statistics

Every Web site host should provide you with some statistics about your Web site. It is best to look at these statistics before you make any other adjustments to get a baseline of what is really happening on your site. Looking at these statistics can help you identify problem spots as well as traffic trends. Some key statistics to look at are:

  • Entry Pages
  • Most Visited Pages
  • Search Terms
  • Bounce Rate
  • Referrers

Entry Pages. This is the first page a visitor comes to when they are on your Web site. This is a key report to know if your visitors are entering on your homepage first, or going to a specific content page. If visitors are entering your Web site on your homepage, you will want to take a look at your Exit Page report next. More on that when we get to bounce rates. If visitors are first entering your Web site on a deeper content page, such as a practice area, you will want to see if that matches with the types of clients you may be gaining from your Web site.

Most Visited Pages. Consider these pages as your most popular pages. Most visited pages, or most page views generally are ones that visitors look at the most. This report consolidates all the pages, by ranking, into one nice listing of what visitors are looking at. You may be able to identify a page that has important information regarding one of your services is not being looked at a lot you may need to investigate why. Is it your navigation? Is it how the teaser on your homepage is phrased? This report helps identify those types of instances.

Search Terms. Search terms are another key indicator as to what visitors are using to find your firm’s Web site. If you have tailored your Web site correctly with terms that describe what type of services your firm provides, you should see the same terms in this report. If you do not see them, you may need to adjust the copy on your Web site so that it is more in line with what visitors are searching on. It is not uncommon for a law firm Web site to use terms that do not match those for which a visitor is searching. Remember, more often than not a potential client will not be searching on the technical or legal term for a type of case, but rather the type of problem they have.

Bounce Rate. The bounce rate can be determined by dividing your exit page by the entry page that matches it. For instance, if your top exit page is your homepage with 100 exists, and your homepage is on your entry page report with 200 visits, then your bounce rate is 50%. This means that 100 visitors entered your Web site at your homepage and then immediately left without going to any other pages. Some analytics programs, like Google Analytics, provide a report that shows the bounce rates for your Web site. Others will require you to do some comparison to determine your bounce rate for certain pages.

Referrers. Knowing how your visitors found you is also important. A referrer report will tell you the site a visitor was on just before coming to yours. Often the first couple of referrers will be search engines. Other times you will see directories that list your Web site. If you register your Web site with a directory listing, or pay for search result listings, you will want to make sure those Web sites are in your referrer report.

Building Trust with Proper Design

Did you know that you have less than 30 seconds to make a positive impression or grab a visitor’s attention to continue reading your Web site? If you have a home-grown Web site that was built in Microsoft’s Front Page or Publisher, or by your nephew, it is time to trade up.

Professionalism is what immediately starts to build a potential client’s trust in you and your firm, not the standard clip-art of the scales of justice that is on that template you used. There are many firms that can provide you with a professional looking Web site for minimal costs. Some will even help write the copy that goes on the site and make sure it is search engine optimized.

Having a cleanly designed Web site is a start to building trust. Use colors that are inviting, not dark or heavy. It is best to put a dark font color on a light background, not the reverse. Make sure your Web site will print out easily without cutting off text on the right side of the page margin. If you want to see some of the best designed and formatted Web sites, take a look at Internet Marketing Attorney’s Nifty Fifty. These independently evaluated Web sites cover areas such as design, content, usability, interactivity and more. You can get some good ideas from these Web sites concerning features to include when developing your Web site.

Design goes beyond pretty pictures and clean lines though, to how your navigation is written. The how your page "scans" is also important. That is a key thing to remember; Web users scan Web sites, not read them. It is only when they see something that catches their eye will they read more about that topic. So if your Web site is very text heavy, you will want to break up those paragraphs into readable, scannable chunks of content. This is where the words used in the headlines are always key. It is also important not to bury content that is important so your visitor can contact you. Make sure you phone number, or client intake form is readily accessible from anywhere on your Web site. Once that visitor decides they want to call you, don’t make them search too hard for how to do it. Having your contact information in your footer is always best.

It’s About Them, Not You – Evaluating Your Copy

The problem with many legal Web sites is the copy in them. More often than not, the Web site content will focus on what the firm has to offer; what the firm can do; what areas of law in which their lawyers are experts.. What the content should address is how your firm can help a visitor solve their problem. An easy way to see if you have self-centered copy on your Web site is to count up how many times you have "we" in your copy vs. "you." You will want phrases like "Thomas Jones, LLC can help assist you in a child custody hearing," or "The Bill Smith law firm are experts in the new bankruptcy laws to help you get back on financial track." The focus is on them, not you; it  is important for a potential client to see that you care about their needs. Just this slight change of text and content orientation will help bring clients to your firm versus them moving on to the next one.

Conclusion

Web site success is based mostly on the owner’s expectation. If they have a certain expectation that their Web site should bring in 10% of their firm’s clients, then their Web site needs to be geared to bring in clients. By analyzing your current Web site statistics and visitor behaviors you can determine where you can make improvements. Cleaning up the copy on your Web site to make it client focused and adding phrases that target their needs will help you build trust. Having a professional design will also build trust. It is through that initial trust where a prospect will have the desire to call your firm, or fill out a client intake form to contact you.

I’ll Take My Legal News to Go Please: A Intro to Podcasting

May 26, 2006 · Posted in Articles, Law / Legal, Web · Comments Off 

Originally published in the March 15, 2006 issue of LLRX. This version has since been updated covering additional resources.

Where do you get your legal news and updates from? Law journals? Your state bar association? Online searches and watchlists? LexisNexis or WestLaw? The problem with those resources is that they require reading. You have to sit down and read text on paper or a screen. Enter the podcast, an audio file that can be downloaded or burned to a CD that can be played anywhere, anytime. Here I will explain what a podcast is, describe their potential, and how to find and subscribe to them.

What is a podcast?

At its core, a podcast is nothing more than a recorded audio file, just as a blog is nothing more than a website. But like blogging, the value of podcasting comes from the content that is written and how widely it is distributed. According to Wikipedia a podcast is:

"…the distribution of audio or video files, such as radio programs or music videos, over the internet using either RSS or Atomsyndication for listening on mobile devices and personal computers."

Legal podcasters, like legal bloggers, share knowledge, opinions, and commentary on topics that can advance the profession while keeping us up-to-date on legal topics or new legislation. In many cases, they are produced by the same person creating content in both mediums, written and spoken.

The Future of CLE?

In 2004, Duke University gave its entire freshman class an iPod. Why? It was an experiment, with professors recording their lectures and making them available as podcasts to students to listen to and reference. It is an experiment that has taken off, and now many universities are producing podcasts for students. Why is this relevant? Today, over forty (40) states require mandatory continuing legal education credit for lawyers licensed in that state. Regardless of the state, all lawyers need to keep up on what is happening in their areas of practice, to maintain a competitive advantage inside and outside the courtroom. Podcasting is just one more way to keep up to date on what is happening in your area of law.

The biggest difference, though, is that you may not receive CLE credit for your efforts. At least not yet. Robert Ambrogi, a lawyer and contributor to the Law.com network believes that podcasting could be the next wave of how to obtain CLE credit.

One of the great things about podcasts is that it is a listening medium, which makes it much more flexible to stay up-to-date on legal information. For instance, I, like many others, have a decent commute to work. Truth be told it is about an hour and twenty minutes each way. In that time I will work on my computer, gaze out the window, listen to music, and more recently listen to podcasts. That commute time is a perfect opportunity for me to catch up on topics and commentary on the web and legal industry.

Self Study

One way many lawyers will obtain CLE credit is through self study. This is where podcasts have their current potential, though there is no official report of a podcast being accepted as a self study CLE course. Many CLE courses are submitted by approved organizations. Individuals producing podcasts may not go through this process of getting approval before publishing them, and thus lawyers listening to them may not receive credit for listening to them.

Regardless, if you apply for self study CLE credit with your state, if you find the right podcast that covers topics in your area of law, the information is valuable no matter what source it comes from. We should all strive to continue to educate ourselves to be the best in our fields, whether credit is given or not.

If you are not sure about what your state allows for self-study CLE, check out the ABA’s MCLE center or your state bar’s website.

How to Find Podcasts

There are many directories that list available podcasts to which you can subscribe to. Often you will find them by accident if you are reading a legal blog or one is referred to you by a friend or colleague. Popular directories such as iTunes, Odeo, iPodder, and Podcast Alley provide listings to many legal podcasts, though none have a specific legal category at this time. At the end of this article, I have links to several legal podcasts, directory listings, and legal information provider’s podcasts.

How to Subscribe and Listen to Podcasts

If you are not familiar with the process of subscribing to a podcast, here are the basic steps. Note, you do not need an iPod to listen to podcasts. You can listen to them on any MP3 player or computer.

First you will need to download a podcast aggregator. If you already use a news aggregator like FeedDemon, you can use it. iTunes is another popular software if you have an iPod.

Second, select a podcast directory to search within. For this example, I’m using Podcast Alley and doing a search on "law". The first result is May It Please The Court by J. Craig Williams. Click on the link which gives you some additional information about the podcast as well as an option to "subscribe" to it. Click the "subscribe" link and you are then presented with a URL to copy and paste into your podcast aggregator. If you are using iTunes open the program and do a Ctrl U and paste the URL into the subscribe screen. If you are using FeedDemon, copy that URL into a new Channel.

Third, connect your MP3 player of choice to your computer and transfer the audio files to your portable player. If you are using iTunes, it will transfer automatically after it downloads the most recent podcast. If you are using another aggregator such as FeedDemon, you may download each individual podcast from each entry in the RSS feed.

Once loaded onto your portable music player, you can listen to the podcast from anywhere. If you download the audio file to your computer, you can burn a CD and listen to it on the go as well.

Will Podcasting Catch On?

In February 2006, eMarketer reported that more companies are looking to advertise or sponsor podcasts due to the targeted audience that a podcast can provide. PEW Internet for Life Project in July 2005 reported that 13% of Internet users even know what a podcast is. That number has undoubtedly increased since then. I recently saw a billboard driving into Chicago for the new AT&T that said "Podcasting Delivered," referring to their Internet access service they provide. Adam Curry, the one often referred to as having started podcasting, recently stated on his show the Daily Source Code that it may take another three years for podcasting to become really well known. Though still in its infancy, the legal arena has seemed to adopt blogging quickly, and they may just do the same with podcasting.

So Who’s Podcasting in the Legal Industry?

While there are many podcasts available on a variety of topics and subjects, there are just a few as of today that are specific to the legal industry. There are a couple of lawyers podcasting as well as a few legal information providers. The following is a beginners list of podcasts to subscribe to.

Lawyer Podcasts

Legal Information Providers

  • FIOS Podcasts on Demand – FIOS podcasts featuring hour long seminars covering a wide range of E-Discovery topics.
  • Merrill – Legal solutions provider has several on-demand seminars for download in mp3 format.
  • Ten Minute Mentor – The State Bar of Texas’ podcast on mentoring and practical information to lawyers.
  • The Westcast (Podcast Feed) – Thomson West podcasts on legal news.
  • Update Philadelphia Bar Association – The Philadelphia Bar Association has a variety of podcasts covering topics from Practice Management to Interviews.

Directories

Update: Since publishing this article, the Creative Common’s Podcasting Legal Guide was released with some great information on the legalities surrounding podcasts.

Maximize Your Browsing Experience: Toolbars, Bookmarklets, and Extensions

February 28, 2006 · Posted in Articles, Web · Comments Off 

How often do you use the Internet during the day? Two hours a day? Four? Whether you are filing a brief, searching for new legislation in your state, or researching legal information about a particular case you are working on, the Internet has become an integral part of our lives. Traditionally, web browsers are pretty similar in functionality. Out of the box you can bookmark favorite web pages and organize them. That’s about it. There are, however, some great additions to web browsers that can make your experience better, faster, and more efficient through the addition of toolbars, bookmarklets, and extensions.

Security Warning

Security is always a risk when installing any third party plug-ins on any computer. Before installing any new software, extension, or plug-in on your computer, contact your system administrator.

Toolbars

Toolbars are great additions to web browsers. They allow you access to information right from Internet Explorer (IE) and Firefox instead of going to search engines or specific websites. Google, Yahoo!, and now LexisNexis all have toolbars that can speed up your search process and allow you to focus on matters that require more attention.
– Similar in function, the Google and Yahoo! toolbars are among the most popular toolbar around for both IE and Firefox. These toolbars allow users to search the Web, provide a pop-up blocker, auto-fill, access to news, spell-checking and other features.
Yahoo! Toolbar
Google Toolbar
In typical Google fashion, they currently have a beta of their next version available at http://www.google.com/tools/toolbar/T4/. This version offers a more streamlined approach by incorporating additional icon buttons versus text-based buttons. The toolbar also allows you to create custom buttons to your favorite websites or RSS feeds. Finally, the new toolbar allows you to send clips or links to web pages via SMS messaging, or through your Gmail account.
The nicest thing about the Google Toolbar for IE is that you can search Google instantly. Those who use Firefox may not see the need for the toolbar as there is a search bar already built into the browser. The next version of Internet Explorer, IE 7 will incorporate a similar feature.
LexisNexis released a toolbar for IE in January 2006. Those who have a LexisNexis account can conduct specific searches directly in its databases via this toolbar. The interface is very simple, with a basic search box and then a “Select Source” drop menu where you can drill down to specific areas ranging from Codes and Regulations to Federal Litigation. It even lets you search Shepard’s. Get the LexisNexis Toolbar at www.lexisnexis.com/toolbar/.

Bookmarklets

Bookmarklets are small pieces of JavaScript that allow browsers to access websites or perform specific requests to websites right from your browser. Bookmarklets are usually placed on a toolbar and not in your bookmarks, which make them easy to access.
– There are many bookmarklets available on the Internet, but none are more efficient than TinyURL. Have you ever received a link in an e-mail that wraps to the next line, but it breaks? You then have to copy and paste the URL into your web browser and hope that you got it all in order to open it. A frustrating process to say the least. TinyURL solves that problem. TinyURL is a website that allows you to paste large URLs into its interface, and it will in turn automatically create a shortened (“tiny”) URL that is easy to use and will not break when placing in an e-mail message or posting on a website. This bookmarklet allows you to create that “tiny” URL without having to go to their website. You can create a tiny URL from any web page just by clicking on the bookmarklet link in your toolbar. You can get the TinyURL bookmarklet at http://tinyurl.com/#toolbar.

Extensions

Extensions are somewhat similar to bookmarklets, but they provide more features. Often they work like min-programs or scripts that extend the functionality of a browser far beyond its original framework. Currently extensions are only available for Firefox. Personally, I use Firefox solely for the use of extensions. They allow me to leverage my browser to accomplish tasks and access information quicker than IE. If you use Firefox, here is a short list of extensions that you may find valuable to assist with your tasks on the Internet.
– This extension allows you to use your mouse to navigate, or perform other macros within your browser. Move forward, back, open a new tab or window by holding down your right mouse button and performing a specific gesture. Use pre-defined gestures, or create your own. After using this extension, you’ll never surf the web the same way again (the URL is http://tinyurl.com/cg6xy).
– While Google is the most popular search engine around, it is not always the most relevant when it comes to search results. CustomizeGoogle adds links to other major web and blog search engines to perform the same search you just did in Google (the URL is http://tinyurl.com/df242).
– PDFDownload is a nice extension that gives you options when you click on a PDF in your browsers. You can open it in a new tab, download it, view as HTML in a new tab or cancel the download. These options come in handy when you click on a link that you didn’t realize was a PDF, or when you want to view other pages while the PDF is opening up (the URL is http://tinyurl.com/bfkpy).
– Sometimes we don’t use the best search phrase when looking for certain information. GoogleSuggest adds a list of other suggested search phrases that are similar to the one you are typing in. It dynamically narrows your search phrase as you type it in (the URL is http://www.google.com/tools/firefox/suggest/index.html).

Additional Search Engines

Another advantage to Firefox is that it allows you to load additional search engines into it’s default search box. Do you prefer to search Yahoo! vs. Google? No problem. Do you like to search Wikipedia for certain topics? Adding Wikipedia to your search box is as easy as clicking a link. You can add many different search engines to your Firefox browser by heading to https://addons.mozilla.org/search-engines.php?application=firefox.

Conclusion

Armed with the right arsenal, your browser can be configured to be much more functional than visiting website to website. While Firefox has the most customization possible, using the right toolbar can enhance your experience using Internet Explorer as well. At the end of the day, using a toolbar or extension is about accomplishing the task at hand faster so you can move on to other tasks.
Originally published on my column on LLRX, Faulkner’s Practical Web Strategies for Attorneys, February 15, 2006.

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