Who Will You Nominate For the 10th Annual Clawbies?

You know the feeling.

That little jolt of excitement and anticipation when you see a new blog post is available from one of your favourite blogs. Maybe you read it right away, or maybe you save it to read on your bus ride home (or in the bath with a glass of wine?).

Either way, you savour the post, maybe share it on social media or with a colleague or friend, and file it away in your mind, because you know at some point you’ll probably refer back to it – that’s the quality and usefulness of this blog.

So, that blog you’re thinking about? There’s your Clawbies nomination right there – and we’d like to hear about it.

This year marks the 10th annual Canadian Law Blog Awards, and until December 23rd, you can blog or tweet your nominations of up to 3 law-related blogs, using the hashtag #clawbies2015 or #ClawbiesAt10. (No need to nominate your own blog – by nominating others, your blog will earn an automatic nomination.)

Then, watch for the announcement of the 2015 Clawbies winners on New Year’s Eve, subscribe to the new favourites we’re sure you’ll discover, and look forward to more of that “can’t wait to read it” feeling all next year.


Stem Client Roundup for November 2015

Everything seems to really kick into high gear around this time of the year – work gets busy as we try to clear our plates a little before the holidays, and our family and social calendars are quickly filling up with engagements. Here at Stem we’ve been preparing for one of our favourite times of the year: the Clawbies, which kick off tomorrow morning. Our clients have been busy as well; here’s a look at what November held for them:

We’ll be back next month to wrap up the year with a final installment of client news for 2015.

Neil Melliship: Blogging is “a very good and relatively low cost marketing tool”

This week we bring you a new installment of our Original Clawbies Winners Interview Series with these blogging insights from Neil Melliship. Melliship is an IP lawyer and trade-mark agent at Clark Wilson LLP in Vancouver, BC. He is founding member of the firm’s Canadian Trademark Blog, which launched in 2006.

Neil Melliship blogs at the Canadian Trademark Law Blog.

Neil Melliship blogs at the Canadian Trademark Blog.

You’ve been blogging for more than a decade. Do you remember what prompted you to start blogging in the first place?

Our webmaster of the day suggested it would be a good way to improve our SEO based on how it was, at that time, quickly gaining traction as a marketing tool.

Have you ever taken a hiatus from blogging or considered shutting the blog down? Why?

Different members of our team have taken turns writing blog posts over the years, but as time has gone on, the initial enthusiasm has waned. We have considered shutting the blog down in the last year or so, but we haven’t as we still see it as potentially a very good and relatively low cost (time wise) marketing tool.

How do you make the time to blog regularly? i.e., how does it fit into your schedule? Do you do it as part of your work day, write on evenings/weekends etc?

It’s evolved. At one time it was a first thing in the morning task and gradually it has shifted to evenings or weekends – due primarily to increased work flow generally.

Where does your blogging inspiration come from? Do you use an RSS reader or social media to be alerted to topics of interest?

There are a few services that provide very prompt notice of new Canadian trade-mark decisions and I review those every morning.

How do you decide what topics to cover?

Our blog is targeted very narrowly – we only post on stories that relate to Canadian trade-mark law.

Do you ever include items of a personal/less-serious nature?

We are always on the lookout for ways to make the blog more readable and less formal, so that writing style reflects that as do some of the topics we write about.

How do you spread the word about a new blog post? Through social media or other channels?

Our marketing department pushes all new blog posts (and newsletter articles) out through various social media channels, as do I.

Do you mention your blog in your (firm website/faculty) biography?


Thanks, Neil, for this! This was the sixth installment of our series – if you missed the earlier interviews, check them out here:  David Canton, Michael Geist, Vincent Gautrais, Allison Wolf, and David Fraser.

Autumn Additions to Lawblogs.ca

It’s been a few months since our last update on what’s new at Lawblogs.ca, so here’s a quick look at some of the more recent additions:

As always, if you know of a blog that meets our listing criteria for lawblogs.ca, please let us know about it.

On a related note, in just a couple weeks, we’ll be heading into the 10th annual Canadian Law Blog Awards, and looking forward to seeing lots of participation from the Canadian legal blogosphere. Check out Clawbies.ca on December 1st for all the details on how to nominate your favourite blogs!

UX and the Future of Law Firm Branding

If I were in charge of marketing at a law firm, I’d be trying to learn how my firm could incorporate design principles and the user experience (UX) into its client-facing activities. Here’s why.

Most law firm branding efforts aim to create a reputation within the firm’s target markets for some specific quality by which the firm wants to be known or for which it wants to “stand out.” Traditionally, this quality has been lawyer-focused: the firm possesses elite expertise in a particular practice area or industry. More recently, firms have tried branding themselves through buyer-focused qualities such as client service, affordable prices, “business thinking,” and so forth.

Regardless of what brand the firm chooses to adopt, however, the branding efforts are always applied by the seller to the buyer, a one-way message from the firm to its market: the firm wants to influence what the market thinks of when it thinks of the firm. The law firm believes, as do most companies in other industries, that it’s in control of that “branding process.”

In reality, of course, law firms have very little control over their brand. Partly, this is because law firms have almost no mechanisms for quality control and no power to enforce protocols for lawyers’ behaviours and relationships with clients. A law firm that tries to force a partner to strictly follow a specified regimen when performing work and communicating with clients will usually be down one partner in short order. As for “expertise,” most clients assume their lawyers have it, and very few know or care enough to distinguish the fine gradients of expertise that separate one lawyer from another — and in any event, with partner movement rampant among firms, expertise has become mobile to the point of peripatetic, and therefore an unreliable foundation for a brand.

But there’s a more important reason why law firms can’t really create a brand: clients are already doing that for them. Clients don’t need any help, thanks very much, in deciding what a firm’s brand actually is.

This is because a company’s true brand is based upon the actual experiences of its users — hence, on its “user experience.” The key to a successful UX is design. Good design maximizes the quality of the experience by which a user reaches his or her desired outcome, by optimizing the process through which the outcome is achieved — not just the best result, but the best path by which the result is reached. Apple understands design and the UX, as the iPhone and iPad demonstrate; very few other computer makers ever have. BMW uses the tagline “The Ultimate Driving Experience” for a reason. Apple products work just as well as PCs. BMWs get you from A to B just as well as any other vehicle. But the experience of people when using these products is outstanding. That is the brand these companies enjoy.

Notice, however, that these brands were not built through advertising slogans or marketing campaigns — they weren’t manufactured by the company through repeated one-way messaging directed at consumers. The consumers themselves identified and validated the brand through their own experience. This is the real shift that’s taking place in markets of all kinds: people are deciding for themselves how they will relate to companies and products, rather than waiting for advertisers to tell them how they should feel. The rise of ad blocking software is a good illustration of newly empowered consumers deciding that they, not the products they consume, will determine the nature of the relationship between the two.

Every lawyer and every law firm has a brand, but most of these brands are inadvertent and invisible to their owners. When a lawyer fails to respond to email inquiries, or interrupts a client in the first seven seconds of their conversation, or sends a bill 20% more expensive than the original estimate with no warning or explanation, that lawyer has created a brand more powerful and authentic than anything the Marketing Department will ever come up with. The user experience of that lawyer is terrible, and therefore so is his or her brand. Multiply that effect across law firms with tens or hundreds of lawyers and staff: every point of contact between the firm and its clients is another data point in the firm’s true brand. Are clients delighted by their experience of using the firm? Or are they confused, frustrated, bewildered or infuriated? Tell me the answer, and I’ll tell you the brand.

That’s why law firm marketing professionals (or, in smaller firms, the partners in charge of marketing) should step away from tagline debates and advertising campaigns and instead pay close attention to improving the firm’s user experience. Your brand is what it’s like to deal with you. Figure out exactly what it’s like to use your firm: walk through the process of finding, assessing, contacting, conversing with, being served by, and paying your firm. These are among the most critical points of the law firm user experience. Upgrade these, and you’ll be well on your way to meeting your firm’s branding objectives.

David Fraser: “Blogging has helped me become a better lawyer”

This week’s interview is the 5th in our Original Clawbies Winners Interview Series, and features blogging insights from David T.S. Fraser. Fraser is a privacy lawyer at McInnes Cooper in Halifax, NS. He has been blogging at the Canadian Privacy Law Blog since 2004, and blogged at Slaw.ca from 2008 to 2011.


David Fraser blogs at the Canadian Privacy Law Blog

You’ve been blogging for more than a decade. Do you remember what prompted you to start blogging in the first place?

What prompted me to start was simply being an avid reader of the first generation of legal blogs, learning a lot from what I was reading and wanting to “join the conversation”. The privacy portion of my practice was growing and while a number of internet law bloggers were talking about privacy as an aspect of internet law, there didn’t seem to be anyone out there who was singularly focused on this area. I have always enjoyed writing and I felt like I could make a contribution to the growing community of lawyers who were doing internet law. As a privacy law practitioner, I knew that I’d have to do a lot of reading to keep on top of this rapidly changing area of law. Since I was reading a lot and enjoy writing, it simply made sense to share what I was finding and what I was learning.

Has blogging changed your professional or personal life? Can you share an anecdote or two?

For me, blogging has been the single most transformative aspect of my practice. I am based in Halifax and started blogging when I was just beginning to grow my practice in privacy law. Now, more than a dozen years later, my practice is national and international with most of my clients coming from far outside of Atlantic Canada. In-house counsel and sophisticated clients are looking for the right lawyer for the job, they first try to find them online or via reputation, and for advisory work it doesn’t particularly matter where the lawyer’s desk is. Thanks to my blog, it’s pretty easy for anyone looking for experienced privacy counsel to find me. And my blog hopefully shows that I know what I’m talking about.

Has blogging helped you become a better lawyer/librarian/etc? In what way?

I don’t think there’s any doubt it has helped me become a better lawyer. One of the reasons for starting blogging was that I had to do a lot of reading to keep on top of my practice area and I was happy to share what I’d found through my blog. As that took off, it was an additional incentive to keep on top of developments.

How do you decide what topics to cover?

My blog is 100% devoted to Canadian privacy law. I don’t often blog about anything unless there is a connection with the theme. So blogging ebbs and flows according to developments in the area. I’m pretty opinionated and often feel the desire to write about a bunch of other things, but I do that on Twitter or Facebook.

Do you ever include items of a personal/less-serious nature?

I try not to include anything personal or off-topic. I expect that people read my blog or follow it via RSS because they are interested in hearing about Canadian privacy law. Though I hope my personality shows through, but the blog is not about me or my personal life. And it’s not that I’m paranoid about privacy. You can follow me on Facebook or on Twitter to get a more personal glimpse.

How do you spread the word about a new blog post? Through social media or other channels?

I’ve set things up so that each blog post goes to LinkedIn and Facebook, and I always tweet each new blog post. My firm will usually re-tweet my postings.

Do you mention your blog in your (firm website/faculty) biography?

I make it clear that I practice with McInnes Cooper, but I do have the usual disclaimer that my content is only my own opinion and shouldn’t be attributed to the firm and its clients. When I started blogging, I didn’t ask my firm for permission and purposefully didn’t try to put it under the firm’s branding. I wanted to be a bit more free to say what I wanted and I was also pretty sure that the firm’s management at the time didn’t have much of an understanding of what a blog was. Things are different now and, if I were starting this today, I’d at least give my managing partner a heads’ up.

Thanks for your insight, David! Missed the previous installments of this series? See them here: David Canton, Michael Geist, Vincent Gautrais, and Allison Wolf — and check back next Wednesday for out chat with Neil Melliship.

Allison Wolf: “Blogging about topics important to lawyers is another channel for helping”

This week we bring you a new installment of our Original Clawbies Winners Interview Series with these blogging insights from Allison Wolf. Wolf is president of lawyer coaching firm Shift Works Strategic Inc. in Vancouver, BC. She blogs at Shift Works’ Lawyer Coach Blog, at Slaw.ca, and at Attorney with a Life, a new collaborative blog she launched this past summer).

Allison Wolf blogs at the Lawyer Coach Blog and Attorney with a Life.

Allison Wolf blogs at the Lawyer Coach Blog and Attorney with a Life.

You’ve been blogging for more than a decade. Do you remember what prompted you to start blogging in the first place?

I was launching my coaching practice and wanted a part of that to be blogging.

Has blogging changed your professional or personal life? Can you share an anecdote or two?

Blogging is an essential part of my coaching practice. I am in a helping profession and I do that many different ways, some paid, some unpaid.  Blogging about topics important to lawyers is another channel for helping.

How do you make the time to blog regularly? i.e., how does it fit into your schedule? Do you do it as part of your work day, write on evenings/weekends etc?

Blogging used to just happen when I felt like it! Now that I have launched the community blog attorneywithalife.com (for Canadian readers lawyerwithalife.ca) I have a schedule of contributions every month and I know I have to have my “Monday Morning Practice” up on the blog by Sunday night so I schedule that into my work week.

Where does your blogging inspiration come from? Do you use an RSS reader or social media to be alerted to topics of interest?

My inspiration comes from my life and from my coaching practice. I will sometimes write about challenges I am grappling with or with challenges I see many lawyers addressing. Other times I just am reading something inspiring in print or on-line and blog about that.

Do you mention your blog in your (firm website/faculty) biography?

I sure do! It’s an important part of what I do, and it allows people to get to know me virtually before we make a connection over the phone or in person.

What are you best tips for lawyers or other legal pros thinking of starting a blog, or struggling to maintain one?

You’ve got to like writing! That’s the BIG qualifier. And it helps if you are not a perfectionist about your writing. In fact, that is essential too. Otherwise you will drive yourself crazy. If you don’t want to start a blog but would like to contribute one, please consider writing for me at attorneywithalife.com. I am looking for lawyers who want to write about their personal interests – basketball, skiing, travel, yoga, cooking, whatever you really enjoy and would have fun writing about.

Thanks, Allison! This was the fourth installment of our Original Clawbies Winners Interview Series (previous bloggers featured were David Canton, Michael Geist, and Vincent Gautrais). Check back next Tuesday for our interview with David Fraser (a day early since Remembrance Day falls on the Wednesday).

Stem Client Roundup for October 2015

Happy (almost) Halloween! This past month, our clients were busy with blogging, volunteering, and sharing news and information on the topics that matter to their clients. Take a look at some of the things they’ve been up to:

That’s all for now; we’ll be back next month with another update.

Vincent Gautrais: “Blogging allows you to keep your professional network alive”

We’re very pleased to present the third installment of our Original Clawbies Winners Interview Series with these blogging insights from Vincent Gautrais. Gautrais is a professor of law at the University of Montreal, began his eponymous blog in 2006. He founded Droitdu.net, a francophone collaborative technology and law blog, in 2013. He was also a contributor at Slaw.ca from 2006 to 2008.

Vincent Gautrais blogs at www.vincentgautrais.com and droitdu.com

Vincent Gautrais blogs at www.gautrais.com and droitdu.com

You’ve been blogging for more than a decade. Do you remember what prompted you to start blogging in the first place?

Mon premier billet fut publié le 13 mars 2006, quelques mois après avoir obtenu une chaire (2005 – 2015) dont la portée était de considérer les nouvelles voies d’enseigner le droit en utilisant les technologies. À l’époque, bloguer était à la mode mais totalement absent du monde académique (mis à part Michael Geist !!). Il me semblait cependant, intuitivement, que l’exercice était davantage en lien avec mes obligations d’enseignement que celles de publication.
I published my first post on March 13th, 2006, just a few months after getting a research chair whose purpose was to find new ways of using technology to teach law. At the time, blogging was highly fashionable, yet totally absent from the academic world (except for Michael Geist, of course). I nevertheless felt, intuitively, that blogging was as much in line with my teaching duties as with my publishing obligations.

Has blogging changed your professional or personal life? Can you share an anecdote or two?

Pas vraiment! Bloguer, c’est densifier son audience; ses audiences qui sont au nombre de quatre. C’est d’abord un moyen de garder un lien avec ses étudiants pour compléter une question que l’actualité apporte quelques semaines après un cours. C’est aussi une façon de garder contact avec la communauté juridique, qu’elle soit professionnelle ou gouvernementale. À cet égard, j’ai déjà eu un contrat de recherche suite à un billet de blogue afin de compléter la position défendue dans ses quelques lignes. Bloguer permet également très souvent d’avoir des contacts avec les journalistes qui souvent nous lisent. Enfin, parfois, plus rarement, nos blogues permettent de créer un lien direct avec la société civile en général. À cet égard, et c’est sans doute un de mes « trophées », j’ai déjà eu un message « peu sympathique » suite à une position défendue relativement à un procès où des personnes anonymes avaient proférées des insultes envers la mairesse d’une petite ville au nord de Montréal (http://ancien.gautrais.com/Jugement-interlocutoire-relatif-a#forum2728).
Not really! Blogging still means increasing your audiences. There are at least four main audiences. First,  blogging allows you to stay connected with your students. For example, it will allow you to address issues that current events will make particularly relevant a few days or weeks after you’ve covered them in class. Second, blogging allows you to keep your professional network alive, and, even, to create new contacts.  I once got a research contract on a topic I addressed in a post. Third, blogging allows you to reach and communicate with journalists or reporters. Finally, blogging will sometimes connect you to civil society and the public at large. As a matter of fact, I even once got a “less than friendly” comment on a post where I took a position on the outcome of a trial relating to a case involving anonymous individuals insulting the mayor of a small town in northern Montreal. I consider this to be a “trophy” (http://ancien.gautrais.com/Jugement-interlocutoire-relatif-a#forum2728).

Have you ever taken a hiatus from blogging or considered shutting the blog down? Why?

Clairement oui. L’exercice prend du temps et après l’enthousiasme des premières années, le réflexe s’estompe; l’envie s’évapore. Également, même si la donne change un peu, cette « littérature grise » n’est pas toujours reconnue avec le sérieux qu’elle requiert par le monde académique. En ce qui me concerne, le moyen de perpétuer l’exercice fut de le communiquer à mes étudiants. Depuis 2008, j’ai donc intégré dans mon mode d’évaluation de mes cours en droit des technologies, la rédaction de 4 ou 5 blogues, et ce, pour 40% de la note finale. L’idée de www.droitdu.net était née avec un contenu provenant en grande partie des étudiants (Clawbies 2013).
Yes, absolutely. Blogging is a very time consuming exercise, and after the excitement of the first years has faded away, one can lose the will to continue. Moreover, this type of grey literature, as we might call it, does not get the respect it deserves from the academic world, even if things are changing a bit.  I personally have been able to find and nourish the will to continue my blogging activities by sharing them with my students. Since 2008, I have integrated blogging into my evaluation processes. Students are invited to write 4-5 entries for my class on law and technology. These posts account for 40% of the final grade. As a matter of fact, www.droitdu.net was mainly put together with student-produced content.

Where does your blogging inspiration come from? Do you use an RSS reader or social media to be alerted to topics of interest?

De 2006 à 2010, les sujets de blogues provenaient des fils RSS; depuis 2010, principalement de Twitter.
From 2006 to 2010, topics mostly came from RSS feeds, but since then, I’ve relied mainly on Twitter.

Do you ever include items of a personal/less-serious nature?

Bien sûr que non! Ma vie personnelle n’intéresse personne et je ne suis pas intéressé à la dévoiler.
Of course not! My private life doesn’t interest anyone and I’m not interested in disclosing it.

Do you mention your blog in your (firm website/faculty) biography?

Un hypertexte est une invitation au voyage. J’en ai donc mis 7 dans la signature de mon courriel. Seulement 7, pour le moment.
A hyperlink is an invitation to travel. So, I put 7 of them in my email signature. Only 7, for the moment.

 Any tech tools you use to make blogging easier?

C’est vraiment ma question favorite qui peut se résumer en un mot: OpenUm et un lien: www.openum.ca. Openum est un projet que nous dirigeons et qui cherche à favoriser la diffusion de contenus académiques tout en permettant aux chercheurs de maitriser leur image numérique. Aussi, près avoir utilisé pendant 8 ans le logiciel Spip (www.spip.net/), il nous semblait intéressant de développer des outils (sous WordPress) qui puissent être réutilisés par d’autres chercheurs académiques. En matière de blogue individuel, ForceRouge entend propulser près d’une centaine de sites en 2016 et parmi lesquels, déjà, plusieurs ont obtenu des Clawbies (www.gautrais.com (2010) + www.eloisegratton.com (2014) et www.administrativelawmatters.com (Paul Daly) (2014)). Une plateforme existe aussi pour les blogues collectifs, ForceBleue, dont bénéficie www.droitdu.net (Clawbies 2013).
This is my favorite question! One word, OpenUM and one link, www.openum.ca. OpenUM is a project that aims to increase the distribution of academic work and to allow researchers to control their online image. After using a Spip (www.spip.net/) platform for 8 years, I thought it would be interesting to develop a tool (using WordPress) that other researchers could also use and rely on. For individual blogs, “ForceRouge” is the platform behind a number of sites that have already won Clawbies: (www.gautrais.com (2010), www.eloisegratton.com (2014), and www.administrativelawmatters.com (Paul Daly) (2014)). Our goal is to launch close to a hundred sites in 2016. ForceBleue also exists for collective blogs. It’s the platform I use for www.droitdu.net (Clawbies 2013).

 Merci, Vincent! Next week we’ll bring your our interview with Allison Wolf (see also our previous interviews with Michael Geist and David Canton).

Michael Geist: “Blog posts are often used as a testing ground for new ideas”

This week we’re presenting the second installment of our Original Clawbies Winners Interview Series with these blogging insights from Michael Geist. Geist  is a law professor at the University of Ottawa and started his eponymous website/blog in 1998.

Michael Geist blogs at michaelgeist.ca

Michael Geist blogs at michaelgeist.ca

You’ve been blogging for more than a decade. Do you remember what prompted you to start blogging in the first place?

I’ve run a webpage since 1998 and the site gradually evolved to include blog posts. At first, the posts were a bit stiff, used primarily to alert readers to a new column or article.  Over time, I found it much more interesting to use the blog to post original content that might not appear as a column elsewhere.  As the readership grew, so too did the frequency of the posts.

Has blogging changed your professional or personal life? Can you share an anecdote or two?

Professionally, it has provided a much wider audience than my conventional scholarship or my mainstream media columns.  I’ve found that some posts can generate hundreds of comments and tens of thousands of views.  I think it’s fantastic to have a large, interactive and engaged audience on digital policy and I’m grateful for the steady stream of readers that keep coming back.  Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the blog has come when I’m posting regularly on a hot-button policy issue.  For example, the blog was very active during the copyright reform battles in Canada or the contentious negotiations over the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). The media and politicians seemed to regularly consult the blog and it was frequently cited in various reports and debates.  That was exceptionally gratifying and provided a valuable reminder of the potential of the Internet to provide everyone with a platform to share their views and opinions.

Has blogging helped you become a better lawyer/librarian/etc? In what way?

I think it has definitely helped me become a better academic, lawyer, and advocate. Blog posts are often used as a testing ground for new ideas and when you get it wrong, your readers are not shy about letting you know.

How do you decide what topics to cover?

I try to cover all matters Internet and digital policy.  That typically includes copyright, privacy, telecom, and a myriad of other emerging issues.

How do you spread the word about a new blog post? Through social media or other channels?

I’m active on social media with posts immediately promoted on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.  I also have a fairly large Twitter following (about 85,000 followers), so that provides a natural place to alert people to new posts.  I also include a picture – all the photos on my site are openly licenced under a Creative Commons licence – which makes the site look better and may attract a bit more attention.

How do you know people are reading? In other words, what kind of reader feedback do you get? comments – social media feedback – email – media calls – blog traffic monitoring, etc.?

All of the above.  I get comments, email responses, and media calls on many posts.  My site also contains some basic analytics that I consult from time to time to see traffic patterns for various posts.

What are you best tips for lawyers or other legal pros thinking of starting a blog, or struggling to maintain one?

I would offer four main pieces of advice.  First, just do it.  Writing regularly is hard, but making the commitment provides many professional and personal rewards. Second, stick with it even when the audience is small.  It takes time to find an audience (and for them to find you), but regularly postings will eventually gain traction with search engines, word of mouth, and a steady growth in readership.  Third, actively use social media to promote your work.  It is hard work to write regular, original posts and you might as well promote it as much as possible.  Fourth, find your own voice. Blogs that adopt overly conservative or “legalistic” postings will have a hard time finding readers beyond the profession.  Making your work accessible and personal is important.

Thanks so much for your insights, Michael!

P.S. Check out last week’s interview with David Canton here, and watch this space for our chat with Vincent Gautrais next week.

Moments In Time: Twitter’s Newest Feature And The Future Of Legal News

Most articles about Twitter in the legal market focus on helping lawyers make better use of the service for marketing and business development purposes, and that’s all to the good. But Twitter serves another, arguably more important function: to supply its users with up-to-the-second information, either through tweets from accounts they follow or by tracking hashtags attached to updates from Twitter users everywhere. (A good example yesterday here in Canada, where a federal election took place, was the #PollWatch hashtag that followed reports of voting difficulties or irregularities at polling stations across the country.)

I use Twitter first and foremost for this purpose: to stay on top of news, insights, developments and trends in the legal market, as reported by about 200 personal and commercial accounts that I follow in the legal sector. I frequently retweet the best or most interesting of these to my own Twitter followers, sometimes with a piece of my own micro-commentary, but that just flows from my primary use of Twitter to remain informed. This is why I’ve always felt Twitter would be a valuable tool for a lawyer even if he or she never issued a single tweet: following informative accounts in your practice, industry, and community sectors is enough on its own to justify your investment of time and effort in Twitter.

So I wanted to bring to your attention a possible quantum leap forward in the utility of Twitter as a knowledge-gathering resource. Earlier this month, Twitter announced the launch of “Moments,” a new service that will identify and collect within a single stream the most useful, insightful, or engaging tweets issued on any given subject. Whether it’s the Emmy Awards or the Packers-Bears game, a natural disaster or a political demonstration, Twitter users can “tune into” the Moments stream of tweets on the subject and follow along to be informed, enlightened, amused and engaged by the commentary. When the event that triggered the stream of tweets ends or peters out, the Moment for that subject is automatically removed from the system; you don’t need to “unsubscribe” from it.

Technology strategist Ben Thompson thinks that Moments is a potential game-changer for Twitter and for social media generally, because he sees Moments as the natural evolution of, and replacement for, the newspaper. Moments offers Twitter users pre-determined categories such as News, Sports, Entertainment, and the like, no different from what your local daily broadsheet provides (or used to provide, anyway). The difference is that Moments is, by definition, moment-by-moment, whereas your newspaper is updated once a day. Unlike traditional media or even many new media, Moments also costs Twitter nothing for its content: all of its content is provided free by Twitter users. Moments is also perfectly designed to offer the most targeted type of online advertising the Web can currently deliver, potentially even better than what Facebook can pull off.

There are all sorts of angles to consider as Moments begins to roll out. (The update hasn’t yet reached my smartphone, as Twitter is evidently rolling out this new feature in stages.) Media analyst Jay Rosen points out that by adopting a curation function, Twitter has given itself an editorial dimension, one that requires certain choices be made about what is and isn’t going to get covered and which in turn creates new public expectations and social responsibilities for the company. Tech entrepreneur Josh Dickson is extremely disappointed with Moments’ debut, finding it to be a haphazard collection of celebrity tweets, with little evidence of advanced analytics or AI underlying its operations at this stage. If this is the kind of thing you find fascinating, I invite you to read these posts and explore the links provided therein.

What most interests me, however, is the eventual potential impact of Moments on the legal industry. Let’s think positive and assume that Twitter straightens out its tracking systems and makes defensible editorial choices, and that Moments really takes off in the ways that Ben Thompson envisions. In short order, Moments would develop far narrower and more sophisticated categories than just “News” and “Sports,” and eventually it would get around to industries and professions. What would “Moments: Law” look like? What “legal moments” would you want to follow?

More arrestingly, would you strive to have your own tweets on a subject included in a “Moments” stream? Think about the impact of having one of your tweets, linked to your home page and profile, included in a stream of updates that reaches millions of interested people worldwide, simultaneously. Would that be less or more attractive than trying to get your article published in your local legal periodical? Would that possibility pose any challenges to those legal periodicals themselves? If “news” and “analysis” continue to become more real-time, crowdsourced, and viral, what might that mean for your firm’s publishing strategy? For legal periodicals? For public legal education?

I don’t have any answers to these questions, and I’m not even sure they’re the right questions yet. But when I look at Moments, I can see a potential successor to the traditional periodical — and there are a whole lot of periodicals in the legal market, serving both the sellers and buyers of legal services. Even if Moments crashes and burns on the launchpad, something else like it will eventually emerge and catch on, because we still need news to maintain and grow our knowledge of the world around us and inform our actions in response, and social media has changed our conceptions and expectations of what news is, when we can find it, and how we can engage with it.

Twitter Moments, regardless of its own eventual success, foreshadows the emergence of a very different world for legal news, legal marketing, and legal knowledge management over the next decade or so. Stay tuned.

David Canton: Blogging was “a chance to become my own publisher”

We’re excited to present the first installment of our Original Clawbies Winners Interview Series with these blogging insights from David Canton. Canton is a trademark and technology lawyer at Harrison Pensa in London, Ontario and started his blog, eLegal, in November 2004. He’s also been blogging regularly at Slaw.ca since 2008.

David Canton blogs at eLegal.

David Canton blogs at eLegal.

You’ve been blogging for more than a decade. Do you remember what prompted you to start blogging in the first place?

There were a number of things that came together. I have an interest in new tech in general. At the time I was writing a regular newspaper column on tech law. And you could probably count the number of lawyers with blogs in North America on two hands. So having my own blog was a way to write, to promote, and get on the ground floor of something that I saw at the time as being a game changer. It was a chance to become my own publisher. To put it in perspective, at that time there was no social media – no twitter, no LinkedIn, and Facebook was just a college ploy.

Has blogging changed your professional or personal life? Can you share an anecdote or two?

It generally takes a certain number of times to meet with an individual before they are comfortable enough to do business with you or treat you as a peer. Blogging and social media in general can act as those first meetings. There have been times when I’ve met people in person for the first time where it seems like we have already met several times.

Where does your blogging inspiration come from? Do you use an RSS reader or social media to be alerted to topics of interest?

Since I practice in the tech and IP area, there is always something new and changing in both the tech and the law. I find inspiration for most topics on social media – which is what I use generally to keep on top of both tech and legal changes. The topics I write about are a combination of what I think my clients and client influencers would be interested in, spins on tech topics that are different than I see being expressed in the press, and sometimes just things I find interesting.

Has blogging helped you become a better lawyer/librarian/etc? In what way?

After blogging for a while, one builds up a fair repository of posts. I often find that when a new topic comes up with an existing client, or a new client comes to me with an issue, I’ve already written something about it that I can immediately send to them. That helps inform the client and adds to credibility.

Writing also makes one think about the topics in a way that often adds clarity and simplicity, as blog posts have to be expressed in a clear, easy to understand way.

How do you spread the word about a new blog post? Through social media or other channels?

I have my blog set up to automatically send out notices via twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Harrison Pensa also cross posts them on the Harrison Pensa website blog.

Thanks, David, for sharing with us! Coming up next Wednesday: Michael Geist.

The Original Clawbies Winners 10 Years Later: An Upcoming Interview Series

Hard to believe that this December will see the announcement of the 10th annual Canadian Law Blog Awards, a.k.a. the Clawbies – but it’s true. Since the inaugural awards in 2006, we’ve had the privilege of highlighting dozens of Canada’s most insightful, committed, and articulate legal bloggers.

Legal blogging is so commonplace now that it’s easy to forget how relatively rare it was just 10 years ago. When Steve rounded up and published a list of Canadian legal bloggers in December 2005, there were only a couple dozen names on it (now that list, which evolved into lawblogs.ca, has close to 500). The folks named in the first edition of the Clawbies awards truly are pioneers.

In anticipation of this year’s 10th annual Clawbies, we looked back at those original winners and runners up, and were glad to see so many of them still blogging regularly. Curious about the secrets to their longevity, we asked them to answer a few questions about their decade of blogging expertise. The result is a series of mini-interviews that we’ll publish over the coming weeks here on Law Firm Web Strategy, starting tomorrow with London, Ontario trademark and tech lawyer David Canton. Stay tuned!

Stem Client Roundup for September 2015

Is that pumpkin spice I smell? Do I hear leaves rustling underfoot? And yep, there’s definitely a chill in the air… it must be fall. Despite it being the end of summer, there’s always something welcome about this time of the year, isn’t there? Here’s a look at what our clients have been up to throughout the month of September:

Enjoy the start of scarf and sweater season, and we’ll be back again next month with more news to share.

The Least Useful Page On Your Law Firm Website

The least useful page on your law firm website is the one titled “Our History.” It puzzles me that so many law firms, even (or especially) smaller ones, take the time and effort to provide visitors with an extended recital of the riveting story of how the firm came to be.

Many such recitals start with the firm’s founding in the 19th or 20th centuries and provide biographies of various name partners. Then they dive into unaccountably detailed genealogies that cover various name changes, the retirement/death/judicial appointment of original partners, several periods of expansion, and long-ago achievements like drafting community property legislation in 1947 or developing rate-fixing expertise in 1958. One firm’s history runs twice as long as its “Client Service” page. Another tells the firm’s history through a series of videos. Quite a few identify the local address or street corners where the firm originally practised, or the nearby men’s clothing store, or the partner’s father-in-law who ran the local bank. It’s not quite “I had an onion on my belt,” but it can come pretty close.

I’m not suggesting these pages should be removed. There’s value to highlighting the firm’s longevity to underline its reliability: a firm founded in 1889 can reasonably present itself as a trustworthy institution. (Query the value of a firm history that dates back to 2006). And if a firm wants to emphasize its local community roots for marketing purposes, there’s no harm in playing up its sepia-toned memories. But there’s a self-seriousness about most law firm histories that invites a certain degree of mockery, whether it’s the bulletin-style historical flashpoints (“1947: John Smith retires. The firm is now called Jones and Robinson”) to the intricate recitation of letterhead changes “(Jones and Robinson merges with Peterson & Williams. The new firm is called Jones & Peterson until 1956, when Al Richards joins the partnership.”) It’s like being stuck on the couch next to that uncle who mapped out the family tree five generations back.

My biggest problem with “Our History” pages on law firm websites is that they illustrate the huge gap between what lawyers think is important and what clients think is important. Most lawyers are proud of their law firm’s history, especially when they or their ancestors are prominently featured. Most clients will glance at the year the firm was founded and read no farther, because they don’t care what the firm was called in 1963, they care about what the firm can do for them by next Tuesday. They want to know what the firm does, who it does those things for, what results the firm has achieved, how much the firm’s services cost, and how they can connect with someone at the firm right now. Law firms should make comprehensive and reliable answers to those queries conveniently available before spending any more time on their “Our History” page.

Here’s my challenge to law firms: If you have an “Our History” page on your website, keep it there. But start developing another web page, called “Your Future.” This page tells visitors, in the same loving and painstaking detail with which you relate your genealogy, exactly how your firm meets its clients’ needs in ways other firms don’t. Be specific: don’t just say that you’ll “solve their problems” and provide “excellent service,” because everyone else says that. Explain precisely how your customer service is demonstrably better, exactly how your client experience has been engineered for maximum convenience, and specifically how your prices are reliable and come with a 100% satisfaction guarantee to serve the client’s interests and help achieve its goals. If your firm doesn’t have these kinds of service guarantees and protocols in place, I suggest you start developing them now.

Start thinking about a “Your Futures” page to both complement and supersede your firm’s “Our History” page. Show visitors to your website how their tomorrow is more important to you than your yesterday.