I have been writing writing for some time (and before that, talking to anyone who would listen) that lawyers must become makers: we have to create, we have to write, we have to make videos.
From a purely mercurial standpoint, it’s good marketing. You can easily stand out from the crowd when you create. Who do you think your prospective clients want to work with: the lawyer that shares themselves and their knowledge, or the one who hides it under a rock?
Creating also helps you, the lawyer, because it forces you to verify what you think you know about the law. You end up strengthening your knowledge and giving that knowledge to others.
Watching this TED talk with Chris Anderson on “Crowd Accelerated Innovation” resonates with all of those points and many others. Creation and sharing makes us all step up our game, and everyone benefits. This is truly an example of a high tide raising all boats. And we can all be a part of it.
Go ahead a watch. It’s only about 15 minutes long (not counting the commercial at the end).
I am sitting here writing with tears welling up in my eyes. I feel as breathless and excited as the first time I watched Carl Sagan’s Cosmos as a child. Any knowledge was within our grasp and potential understanding. You could grow up to make a difference and add to the wealth of the world’s knowledge.
We are not on the verge of a new Gutenberg printing press; the technology is already here.
As lawyers, we are the guardians and keepers of hidden knowledge. Through training and hard won experience, we know processes and shortcuts that are hidden to others. Let us not be recluses with this information. I have been trying to encourage you to create and share. Let’s take it a step further:
I am offering to help any legal professional create a video or screencast (actually, the offer is open to any kind of maker — I have already been profiling artists and crafts makers). If you do not have the equipement or the skills to do this on your own, I will help you. It’s that simple.
Show how to file a restraining order.
Show how to contest a petition to modify custody.
Show how to file for patent.
My conditions are that I am not going to volunteer my time if you just want a commercial (that is still a paid Planet10tech service). You have to be willing to create a valuable “how to” guide. I also can’t do a 30 hour series. Let’s keep it short, to the point, and watchable. Last, it has to be within my power to help you. However, if I can’t travel to you, as one example, I still may be able to help you remotely.
Are you willing to take me up on my offer? Add to the pool of publicly available knowledge. Test yourself and set a new high mark for clearly explaining how to handle a legal issue. Make something!
Lawyers: are you asking jurors for their twitter handles during voir dire?
You should! Do you know if your client is on twitter? How about opposing counsel? Do you know what is being said. If you are not on twitter, and if you do not know where to look, you probably don’t.
Why is this important? Because Twitter is a HUGE back channel.
When you attend a meeting, people are tweeting. At every conference, there is a back channel about what’s good, what’s bad, and where to get a beer and steak afterward. The more people feel they are trapped somewhere they do not want to be: in line at the post office, stuck at the Social Security office, or in trial; the more likely they are to be tweeting about it to their friends. And their friends are tweeting back! There are entire conversations going on!
But, how can I listen in? Twitter is private, isn’t it?
NO! Unless a person specifically checks the “Protect my tweets” box, their tweets are publicly viewable. That is the whole point: you talk to the whole world, and interested people can follow your tweets and join in the conversation.
Keep in mind this isn’t limited to just what a juror may be tweeting about. Some courts are letting reporters tweet from the courtroom. The opposing counsel may be tweeting. Your own client may be tweeting!
Watch this video covering how to get a Twitter account, how to find someone on Twitter, and how to create and save searches. It looks awesome in full screen!
Ok attorneys, SPEAK UP! Do you keep an eye on social media when you go to court? How do your judges view tweeting in the courtroom?
Today’s guest article is written by Virtual Assistant Paula Hill:
Virtual Assistants, or VAs, provide administrative support to business owners who need help but are not ready for full-time, or even part-time, in-house assistance. Many VAs specialize in specific industries, like Real Estate, Law, or Accounting and only work for businesses who need that type of support.
In fact, there is a special type of VA called a “Legal VA” or “Paralegal VA”. Many of these VAs are paralegals, or even attorneys, who have chosen to become Virtual Assistants in order to enjoy the flexibility and rewards of owning their own businesses.
The benefits for attorneys are compelling because VAs, as independent contractors, pay their own taxes, provide their own office supplies, are available “as needed” and “when needed” and only charge for the time they work on YOUR projects.
Unlike a full-time employee you don’t have to pay for down-time, socializing around the water-cooler, long lunches, sick days, taxes, etc. Additionally, there is no need to provide office space, computers, phone lines or parking for them.
Here are the slides from “Practicing in the Cloud” presented at the Colorado Trial Lawyers convention and Colorado Bar Association Hanging Your Shingle CLE. This covers the best of cloud based solutions for attorneys!
One of the things from OpenCamp that resonated with me, was the idea that most people simply consume content, few people create it.
This is clearly true from film to novels to music. However, it is not limited to those areas.
People are out there looking for legal information. There is nothing stopping lawyers from filling that need. And yet, so many don’t bother to. It’s not that they don’t see the need. I haven’t met an attorney who hasn’t gone to the web to clarify a legal point.
It is just that most people are simple consumers. They will never create.
Thankfully, this provides an amazing opportunity for lawyers who are willing to invest the time to create content. And best of all, creating content puts you into an exclusive club.
So, do you just want to be a consumer, or do you want to join the much smaller, and more exclusive, ranks of creators? You CAN do it. Start a blog! Put up a presentation! Make a video!
After the El Paso County Solo-Small Firm Section meeting, I was talking with one of the attorneys about blogging. While he has decades of experience, he debated whether he had anything to add to the information already available on the web.
A lot of attorneys feel this way about starting a blog: “It’s already been done, and by more experienced attorneys. What can I possibly contribute by adding to the din.”
The answer is simple: you are adding your unique voice.
Think back to your school days. Remember that special teacher that finally helped make sense of a subject. Maybe it was geometry, maybe it was calculus or chemistry. Perhaps it was the “bundle of sticks” that is property law. You had the information before, but you just couldn’t grasp it until that teacher helped you. Afterward, your mouth formed a perfect “o” and it suddenly became clear (or at least the first crack of light appeared in the darkness).
You have your own unique, personal knowledge of the law. You have your own experiences that have taught you the difference between the black letter and the way the law is actually applied in your practice area.
You have knowledge that readers are craving.
You also have your own unique way of describing things. Whether you are lyrical or halting, jumping between subjects or jumping up and down in fury or exuberance; there is no one who can explain the law just like you can.
When people look for a lawyer on the web, they are looking for three things:
Someone who can help them.
Someone who can explain the law.
Someone they can get along with.
The first is a given: the public expects lawyers to know the law. The other two, being able to explain the law and being likable are how people decide which lawyer to work with. By blogging you get to show the public that you can make sense of the law and it lets people get to know you.
Are you on the fence about starting a blog? What’s holding you back? If you are blogging, what got you started? Let me know in the comments!
Here’s my 2009 presentation on taking your law office paperless. I cover the benefits of a paperless practice. The equipment lawyers need, and techniques for setting up an electronic file system. An excellent primer for any attorney thinking of going electronic!
I was recently asked why I chose the name, “Planet10tech”?
A short email response turned in to much longer treatise on the philosophy behind the name:
I was in a particularly whimsical mood when I choose the name Planet10tech. However, it also reflects a philosophical difference.
So many businesses marketing to lawyers put on an extremely serious persona. They want you to feel that if you can’t be a serious lawyer unless you buy serious (read: expensive) products/services.
They are trying to sell you the equivalent of a massive copier (plus service contract) when you can do everything you need with a ScanSnap and a printer.
There is a sea change happening. It reminds me of the 1984 Apple commercial. Most everything a lawyer needs to practice law, from going paperless, using the cloud, collaborating online, even marketing, is available for free or at a very low price.
There is also a shift toward a “maker” culture. If you want to engage with your customers, you have to be creating content: posts, tweets, videos!
It’s exciting, and it’s new, and it’s scary, but it’s not that hard either. I want more lawyers to use these tools!
When you have all your files on your phone; when people thank you for finally helping them understand something you discussed on your blog; when people call because they saw you on YouTube… It’s awesome!
To answer your question, I named my business Planet10tech because
it’s fun, and it’s awesome, and well, because I’m a geek at heart.
I’m thrilled to be doing Mac Tips section in the Colorado Bar newsletter. Here’s the first one:
One of the great things about being an Mac based attorney using is the built-in option to save any document as a PDF. You don’t need any plug ins or even Adobe Reader to do this. It’s all built into Apple OSX.
Unfortunately, Apple still makes you go through a number of clicks to save to pdf:
1. You have to hit Cmd+P to bring up the Print Screen.
2. Select the PDF button in the lower left corner of the Print Screen. Then select the save as PDF selection.
3. Finally, you get to select where to save the PDF.
Over the course of a day, having to move your mouse to the PDF button and select the correct option quickly becomes a drag.