Stem Client Roundup for September, 2013

 

Fall is definitely here and it is getting busy again.  Over the past month, our clients have been very active, both online and off:

That’s all for now, but we’ll be back around Halloween with more client accolades and achievements.

Latest Additions to LawBlogs.ca

Just a quick update on the Canadian Law Blogs List at lawblogs.ca. Here’s a look at a selection of the blogs that have been added to the directory since our last round of new additions back in June:

If your site’s URL, feed, authorship, scope, etc., changes, we encourage you to let us know by using the “Update my blog’s listing information” option in the submission form at lawblogs.ca.

17 Heartwarming Photos That Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity

The purpose of this post is to warn lawyers against allowing their published content to become manipulative, formulaic, and hollow. There are no photos, heartwarming or otherwise, in this article.

If you read content online these days, whether from a commercial news site or an aggregator like Facebook, you’ll have noticed a change in how that content is delivered. Startling headlines and tantalizing photos grab your attention with the promise of something uplifting, hilarious, or shocking. Clicking on the links brings you to articles that frequently deliver less than the captioned photos suggested (or to a “sponsored” story that’s little more than a product advertorial). But vertical sidebars accompanying that article feature equally arresting headlines and provocative photos of people or scenery, encouraging you to click and begin the cycle again.

If this sounds like something you’ve experienced, chances are it was courtesy of a company called Upworthy.com, which has mastered the art of exploiting online users’ curiosity and willingness to click links. This article in Bloomberg BusinessWeek explains the techniques behind Upworthy’s remarkable success in generating page views from people browsing aimlessly at work or school. Even if you enjoy Upworthy’s offerings, you should understand how and why your manipulation is being engineered.

The science of manipulation through content is also on display at your local movie theatre (or, more likely these days, in your Netflix queue). If you’ve walked out of a major studio release recently thinking, “I feel like I’ve seen that movie before,” it’s because you have. Hollywood movie scripts have been almost entirely captured by a 2005 screenwriting guide titled Save The Cat, which lays out a step-by-step, virtually page-by-page blueprint for what’s going on and what should happen next. This article in Slate tells the story of the Script Formula That Ate Hollywood, and will probably explain why so many recent big-screen features feel like rote productions — because they are.

Now, little of this is entirely novel. News publishing has always been a more formulaic and manipulative undertaking than most readers assumed. Headlines are written primarily to attract readers’ attention and impel them to start reading the story, not to accurately convey the story’s content, while “front-page news” is the story (and headline) calculated to be the likeliest to inspire a purchase, not the most important thing happening in the world today. As for formulaic writing, anyone who has leafed through a romance novel or a paperback thriller purchased in an airport has experienced that.

But the quick-hit, rapid-fire nature of online content is escalating these forumlae and manipulations to new heights. For a succinct and brilliant analysis of this trend, read this article from The OnionLet Me Explain Why Miley Cyrus’ VMA Performance Was Our Top Story This Morning, By Meredith Artley, Managing Editor Of CNN.Com.

What has this got to do with you, the lawyer who produces content to inform readers and promote her expertise? Hopefully, at this stage, very little. The legal content market is so small, relative to the consumer market, that I don’t think it has yet drawn much attention from these tactics. But I worry that pretty soon, law firms will start getting pitches from “content advisors” who want to help drive traffic and page views with sure-fire article structures and dazzling headlines. I’m concerned that lawyers will be susceptible to these offers: many lawyers would happily outsource all responsibility for their content, and since much lawyer writing already leans towards being rote and pedantic, it’s not a long journey from there to arrive at content that’s packaged, sterile and manipulative.

The real promise of lawyer blogs, to me anyway, is the ability to open up a line of authentic communication between a lawyer and her current and potential clients — to display not just the lawyer’s expertise, but also her personality, opinion, passions, and sense of humour. Connecting with a lawyer through her online content is the first step towards connecting with her in real life, and from there, towards building a strong professional relationship. But it has to be in the lawyer’s own voice and about her own interests, and it has to be written in hope of genuine connection with real people.

The current trend in commercial online content is a million miles from authentic, and it has no interest in long-term anything: it is short-term, disinterested, exploitative, and more than a little cynical. So remember the real reasons why lawyers publish content, and learn to recognize the danger if and when the other type of content comes calling.

Stem Client Roundup for August 2013

Summer is coming to an end and the days are getting shorter.  Our clients have made good use of the longer summer days, however, and have accomplished a lot in August:

That’s all for this month’s rendition of the Stem Client Roundup.  We will be back again next month with more details on what our clients are doing.

Ghostblogging And The Persistent Problem Of Lawyer Plagiarism

The question of “ghostblogging” has been troubling lawyers for awhile now, but the topic suddenly caught fire over this past week. A post at the Virginia Lawyers Weekly blog noted that both State Bar President Sharon Nelson and Bar Counsel James McCauley agreed that ghostblogging — a lawyer retaining a third party to write blog content and publishing it under the lawyer’s name — was prime facie unethical. According to McCauley:

Essentially, holding out another’s work product as one’s own is deceptive. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with using outside and creative talent to craft a blog, a lawyer that uses a “ghost blogger” without a disclaimer, to publicly advertise the lawyer’s engagement with and competence in a particular area, violates Rule 7.1’s prohibition against misleading statements or claims in public communications about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services.

This helped touch off a vigorous debate online about whether ghostblogging is a breach of professionalism or simply the application of modern communications resources. (Kevin O’Keefe’s Twitter feed is a good place to track the various arguments for and against.) My position on the subject is pretty clear: as I wrote with Steve Matthews in our new book Content Marketing and Publishing Strategies for Law Firms, ghostblogging is fundamentally a misrepresentation to the audience.

A blog is highly individualized and personal; it’s meant to be the expression of the lawyer’s own ideas in his or her own voice (the lawyer’s photo features prominently in almost all such blogs). We believe an ethical line is crossed when someone else writes almost all of a lawyer’s blog posts under that lawyer’s name, because there’s an audience expectation that the opinion and/or words belong to the listed author, not to someone else. 

There’s nothing wrong with a lawyer crediting someone who helped out on a post, so long as it’s just assistance along the lines of writing and editing described above. But if the final post is essentially the work of a different person, we think it’s problematic for the lawyer to take sole credit. “Ghostblogging” is frowned upon in online circles, and allowing it to occur within your law firm runs the risk of a serious reputation hit if it is discovered.

It’s perfectly legitimate (and in fact, I encourage law firms) to enlist the services of a writing or editing professional to support a lawyer’s blogging efforts by providing coaching and assistance along the lines of:

  • suggesting blog topics
  • enumerating bullet points (but only points) that the post could cover
  • reviewing and editing a draft
  • revising a draft, up to but not including a substantial rewrite
  • offering suggestions, recommendations and other guides to make the post better.

But I also believe that if you hire a professional to help you write blog posts, you need to fully credit that person in an upfront and transparent manner, on the blog itself, as a member of your writing team.

Now, to my mind, none of this is especially controversial. But I want to address another, more pernicious problem in the law, one that surfaces when the ghostblogging debate recurs. The most frequent argument in support of ghostblogging is that senior lawyers routinely enlist the services of juniors to write memos, documents, CLE papers and the like, and then place their own names on the resulting product (often, but not always, with a front-page footnote thanking the junior for his or her “assistance.”) If this is legitimate, the argument goes, than so is ghostblogging.

My response is: neither of these practices is legitimate. Just because law firms have always done this doesn’t make it okay. In every other field of endeavour, from academia to journalism to public office, if you take credit for work produced by someone else, it’s called plagiarism — and it has career-ending consequences. The same standard should apply to the legal profession.

Senior lawyers who oblige younger practitioners to draft a document, and then pass off the work as their own, are crossing many professional lines. They are denying the younger lawyer the opportunity to develop her own portfolio of work and take credit for a job well done (and make no mistake, the junior will be required to take responsibility if the document contains an error.) They are exploiting their position of influence over relatively powerless juniors and damaging those relationships. Most problematically, they are misrepresenting to their clients and colleagues that they wrote something when they did not. They are being intellectually dishonest.

As ethical abuses go, I’ll readily admit that this one is nowhere near the top. But it’s a bad habit that lawyers developed in a bygone era, back when it was considered fair to appropriate the efforts of less experienced colleagues in exchange for the privilege of a position and the promise of future promotions. That is not the profession or the society we inhabit today. If a lawyer, regardless of rank or position, did the majority of work on a document, that lawyer should receive top billing (in both senses of the word) for it. It does our profession no credit to perpetuate the equivalent of a legal writing hazing ritual.

What the present controversy over ghostblogging really means is that lawyers’ pernicious practice of taking credit for the work of others has now spread beyond the confines of the firm and the courtroom, and the results are circulating across the internet and throughout the entire legal marketplace. It’s time we called this practice what it is — plagiarism — and moved to eradicate it from lawyer culture.

Why I’m a Big Fan of Twitter Lists

I keep promising myself that I’ll make better use of Twitter lists.  It’s probably my favorite feature on the network, and to be honest, one that I underutilize.

Here are a few reasons why I think so highly of them:

  1. You don’t have to ‘follow’ a user on Twitter to track what they are saying. Twitter lets you add users to a list without following them individually, and without having to add more congestion to your timeline.
    [An aside...  I find this technique is great for monitoring subjects that don't necessarily fit with my online persona. For example, I love soccer and enjoy lurking in on conversations regarding my local football club. I use a list to monitor that group of individuals, but don't follow them -- thus keeping my timeline a little cleaner, and a little more 'legal' in focus.]
  2. You don’t have to create each list by hand! Lists are public. So when you’re scoping out the people you know on Twitter, check to see if they have any lists. If you click on “subscribe“, their list is added into your account and available for you to monitor. You can’t edit it, of course; but if you wanted that much control, you’d make your own.
  3. You can see who has added you to their Twitter lists on your memberships page. Located under your profile name, like this: https://twitter.com/stevematthews/lists/memberships
  4. If you block someone on Twitter, that will stop them from adding your profile to any of their public lists. It will also eliminate them from any other form of Twitter interaction, so I’d use this one with caution! (Otherwise, there really isn’t any way to stop people from adding you.)
  5. Twitter lists help us know who to follow.  IF you trust the person who built the list, you can often find interesting people within the group’s members. Each list has two alternate views: Tweets and Members. If you click on the tab marked Members, you’ll probably see more than a few people that you recognize.

Once you start following more than a hundred people, most Twitter users feel the need to manage their participation. No one should ever feel compelled to read every tweet published — Twitter is a river, after all.  But having a few filters up can help us catch the important topics, or conversations among certain peer groups. That’s valuable.

At one point in time, I solved this problem by using Tweetdeck.  Which worked fine, but as time passed I found myself gravitating back to Twitter’s web and app interfaces. The UI on Twitter’s core products had improved, and I couldn’t find a good reason to log into another product… Part of that transition back was my increased use of saved searches (which maxes out at 25) and lists (which now caps out at 1000).

I can’t see myself using Twitter lists as a replacement for an RSS reader, as Tim Baran suggests, but I do want to invest more of my time building and subscribing.  What RSS Reader technology delivers in terms of monitoring publishing, Twitter lists can clearly deliver for monitoring individuals and companies. Using the same technology for both situations (publications vs. ideas & voices) doesn’t work for me, but both are important tools.

Regardless, whether we’re trying to segment groups of people (by interest, industry, geography), or wanting to isolate the latest news feeds from key companies, Twitter lists is one of those social networking features that is worth investing more time in.

Stem Client Roundup for July 2013

Warm summer weather, picnics, beaches, vacations… you would think that would mean a slow down in activity this month, but not for our clients!  Stem clients are as busy as ever with lots to report:

Enjoy these beautiful summer days and we will be back next month with more client news to share!

Practice Group Publishing Strategies: A Book Excerpt

You may have heard that Steve Matthews and I recently published our first book, Content Marketing and Publishing Strategies for Law Firms, with The Ark Group. Our mission was to help law firms place a strategic framework around their content marketing efforts — to identify and implement the “Why” of publishing, rather than just the “How.”

Today, we’d like to offer an excerpt from our book that deals with an important and underrated aspect of law firm publishing: the practice or industry group. Without further ado, here are our analyses and insights on practice group publishing:

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As the dwindling number of daily newspapers and weekly newsmagazines demonstrates, publishers that “bundle” myriad types of information into a general-interest format are struggling to succeed in an “unbundled,” highly segmented media world. In a similar way, larger law firms often struggle to effectively create and distribute legal content, because they too are full-service “bundlers” of specific legal expertise that is actually based in their individual practice or industry groups.

This is why practice and industry groups are critical to the success of a law firm’s publishing strategy. If your firm is a sole practice or a highly specialized boutique, then effectively, you might have only one “practice group.” But even modest full-service firms have several such groups, and the largest law firms in the world have dozens. You cannot discuss law firm publishing strategies without addressing the role of these groups.

Practice and industry groups are, of course, the engines of law firm productivity. They are the business units that drive client development and revenue by identifying and executing the tactics that fulfill the firm’s strategies. In many firms, each practice group has its own tactical business development plan, aligned with and supporting the firm’s overall business development strategy.

Similarly, each practice group within a firm also needs to create its own tactical publishing strategy, based upon and integrated with the firm’s publishing strategy. It should specify:

  • The group’s strategic content marketing goals;
  • The group’s chosen tactics;
  • The group’s preferred vehicles;
  • The group’s anticipated resource needs; and
  • The group’s expected results.

Once the practice group’s strategy has been determined, then comes the tricky part: ensuring that its strategy is sensible, realistic, and fully aligned with other groups’ plans and with the firm’s overall efforts. Suppose the firm’s most important industry group, responsible for 40% of revenue, throws together a lackadaisical and unambitious content plan; simultaneously, a tiny startup niche within the firm creates an industrial-grade content production machine that would effectively rebrand the entire firm in its image. What to do?

These are the situations in which leadership is required to provide a firm hand. Just as practice group business plans can be reworked and reconfigured to ensure the firm’s overall goals are achieved, so too should publishing plans be re-examined and reconceived to better ensure the success of the larger publishing strategy. Perhaps the two groups in the preceding hypothetical could combine forces, marrying the expertise and market dominance of one group with the enthusiasm and creativity of the other.

You might have noticed that smaller firms and boutiques frequently produce some of the best law firm content. This is in part because they must adopt a narrow focus to the work they offer and the markets to which they offer it; accordingly, they need to dig deeper and deliver richer content to a smaller and more specific audience. Once upon a time, that narrow focus and small audience might have been impediments to effective marketing, which required extensive resources for advertising efforts. Today, however, in a million-channel, long-tail market in which people can find precisely what they’re looking for, a deep and narrow subject focus has become a strength.

Full-service firms can replicate this boutique advantage by supporting multiple niche divisions within their overall “publishing houses,” each with its own publishing strategy. Firms that give their practice and industry groups the opportunity to develop their own narratives and readerships, to dive deep into a subject, and to engage readers on the specific issues that concern them, will reap the benefits.

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You can purchase your copy of Content Marketing and Publishing Strategies for Law Firms at The Ark Group’s website today.

Stem Client Round-Up for June 2013

As June turns into July, schools are out  and the lazy days of summer begin.  Our clients, however, have been busy in June:

We’ll have more updates at the end of July!

Latest Additions to Lawblogs.ca

Just a quick update on the Canadian Law Blogs List at lawblogs.ca. Here’s a look at a selection of the blogs that have been added to the directory since our last round of new additions back in April:

We’ve also recently completed our annual review of all the blogs in the directory, removing any that are dead or haven’t been updated in a year, and checking for changed URLs and wonky feeds. Despite removing a fair number of outdated blogs from the directory, we’re happy to announce there are still 415 listed. That’s about 65 more than this time last year.

We know that it’s a challenge for even the most dedicated bloggers to keep up a posting schedule, and recognize that sometimes folks take a (lengthy) break. If your blog is one of the ones that was removed from the directory, please feel free to resubmit it once you’ve starting blogging and met the criteria outlined on the “Submit your blog” form (in short, we want to see posts for the past three months, to establish a commitment and pattern of regular blogging).

Also, if your site’s URL, feed, authorship, scope, etc., changes, we encourage you to let us know by using the “Update my blog’s listing information” option in the submission form at lawblogs.ca.

 

Extend the Reach of Original Content: Adapt and Distribute

In last week’s Friday’s Five at Attorney at Work, Joan Feldman highlights five great tips from the Third Annual Super Marketing Conference. I’m especially fond of this one:

“Recycle your writings. Developing good, targeted content is hard work. So, to get the most leverage from all those hours you put into it, be smart and develop a content plan that maps out all the different ways you can repurpose what you write. “If you’ve written something one time,” says [Beth Marie] Cuzzone, “you can reuse it at least nine times. A newsletter can turn into a few tweets, or a blog post, a checklist and a link on your website bio.” How does that work? Sometimes you’ll write a speech from a 30,000-feet perspective, explains [Cynthia] MacCausland. To repurpose it, you can focus in and expand on the brief bullet points you made to write a different article, posts or even a press release. She adds that if you write for local business or bar publications, be sure to link to those articles on your website, blog and social media sites: “Cross-posting exposes your work to a broader audience and increases the chances that others will share it, too.”

One word of caution: Repurposing doesn’t mean publishing the exact same content in different places. Excerpt, rewrite, expand, condense—but don’t copy. For one thing, it can be obnoxious. But also, White notes, Google doesn’t like to see duplicate content spread around the web and could punish your search rankings.”

It frequently takes a lot of time and effort to produce just one really good piece of content – so it makes sense to extend the mileage one gets from its circulation. Cuzzone mentions a good piece of content can be reused “at least nine times”, so I decided to brainstorm some methods for extending the reach of existing content – either through distribution or adaptation. Here’s what I came up with.

Adapt it:

  • For presentations: take note of the questions that attendees asked, during or afterwards. Turn them into a follow-up paper, blogs post, or FAQ collection.
  • For articles or papers you’ve written, produce a blog post announcing it. Again, not copying, but simply creating referential pointers to its existence.
  • If you’ve produced a number of content items on the same topic, write a roundup post (hat tip to Allison Shields via her Slaw post “Maximize your Content Marketing: Get New Traffic from Old Content“).
  • Turn an article into a checklist.
  • Keep a list of client questions you get over and over again. Turn it into a series of blog posts, an article, or an FAQ collection.
  • If you have the skill, inclination and resources, record it and deliver that advice via podcast or video.
  • For blog posts: consider publishing an e-book or printed collection of your most successful writing.
  • Turn a stats-heavy article into an infographic.

Distribute it:

  • Convert your longer content pieces into downloadable print-worthy PDF Guides. Be sure your name, date, and the topic are clearly visible on every page of the PDF; making it both search-friendly and readable in printed form. Invite the reader to contact you with any questions about the paper or the topic.
  • Copyright permitting, submit it to a relevant journals or industry publications, whose readers would find it informative and helpful.
  • Distribute via JD Supra, Lexology, or Mondaq.
  • Share on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, G+.
  • If you’ve created any infographics or charts, add them to Pinterest.
  • Post your slide decks to Slideshare, and make sure you’ve got the widget in your LinkedIn profile, on your blog, or your website.
  • Write news items about any form of third-party publishing on your firm website. Link out to the publication, any journalists involved, and the article itself.
  • Within new blog posts, link liberally to your older posts.

Should you do every one of these things for every piece of content you craft? Absolutely not. But taking even a few carefully considered extra steps for each piece can significantly extend the value of your original work.  Most authors would be well advised to step-back from their writing post-publication; consider who their intended audience was, and then hand-select a few “adaption or distribution” tactics to push that piece a little further.

For more ideas, check out these articles:

Much Ado About ‘About’ Pages

Last week, I noted 10 tips for better blogging from Bob Ambrogi, and one of those tips was not to neglect your blog’s “About” page. Today I want to focus a little more on the topic of “About” pages in general, by highlighting some excellent advice that Allison Shields recently published.

Writing on the ABA’s Law Technology Today, Allison shares a bunch of dos and don’ts for creating better “About” pages for law firm websites. Several of them stood out to me and I thought I’d build a bit on them. Allison writes,

“Don’t … Treat your About or Firm Overview page as an afterthought.”

Agreed. When Stem works with clients on re-doing their websites or creating one from scratch for a brand-new firm, the “About” page is often the very first piece of content we hash out. Its message and contents set the tone for the whole website – get this page right, and developing complementary content for the rest of site is far easier. This likely won’t be a quick process, but it’s well worth the effort and investment. Allison goes on,

“Do… Spend time making your About page a good representation of your firm, its culture, philosophy and clients. Think of it as a summary or introduction to the specifics contained in the rest of your site. As with all online properties, your About page should keep keywords in mind. That doesn’t mean keyword stuffing, but it does mean being strategic about how you describe your firm and including those keywords in your About page with links to places on the site where visitors can find more information about that topic.”

Similar to the other core landing pages on your firm website, the “About” page may well be the first page a visitor arrives at. Ask yourself:

  • Does it convey an accurate message about how your lawyers can help?
  • Does it encourage them to keep looking around the site?
  • Has the message been written using the audience’s language?

We always tell clients that whatever terms they’d like to be found for in the search engines must be included in the copy of the website. Make sure your “About” page includes the topics and phrases that people actually search for.  And on a related note, Allison touches on adding some substance within the message itself,

“Do… Demonstrate your expertise, rather than talking about it. Instead of saying you have experience, show you know you’re doing by providing resources and information, answering frequently asked questions and explaining the process.”

The best lawyer-authored content is immediately useful to the client – it provides step-by-step instructions or practical advice on what happens in the “real world” of legal process, it’s written in simple language, and offers real value. As Allison mentions, the “About” page is your chance to link freely to that content, which is helpful for potential clients. (Same goes for your practice or service pages!) And from a technical standpoint, it’s an SEO best practice because it improves internal link relationships and results in a deeper crawl of your website.

Finally, Allison notes,

“Do…Use real photographs of your firm, including partners, associates and staff. Your clients may deal with staff more than with the lawyers in your office. Humanize that contact.”

Absolutely. Nothing sets off a bigger red flag than when there are no “real people” to be found on a website. Especially in law; this is a people business. Including photography of all the core members of your firm – which as Allison reminds us, includes staff – sends a clear message both externally and internally about what each person delivers back to the client. Not many people love having their photo taken, so try to make it a pleasant experience by hiring a professional photographer, and giving your lawyers and staff lots of notice and time to prepare. Avoid making it seem like a chore or obligation. (And while you’re at it, make sure your staff also have website bios.)

For more of Allison’s sage advice, be sure to also check out her post: Law Firm About Pages: Just Platitudes?

The Stories We Could Tell: Differentiating Your Law Practice

Our friends at Attorney At Work promise “one really good idea every day.” Today, they’ve provided us with 12: specifically, they’ve given us a dozen ways to differentiate your law practice in a great post by Susan Saltonstall Duncan that will reward your time and attention. Read the whole list, and implement as many as you can.

To Susan’s original 12, I’d like to add a baker’s 13th, which is this: “Be yourself.” I don’t mean that in the self-actualizing, feel-good, special snowflake sense. I mean that differentiation is about providing a demonstrably unique feature for the market to consider — an interesting and attractive X-factor that the market can’t get anywhere else. You can try setting yourself apart with your accessibility, your pricing, your client experience, and so forth — but ultimately, other firms can replicate these efforts. What they can’t copy is you.

I’ve written here before about the importance of making your online fingerprint unique. But I recently came across an outstanding example of a law firm that publishes its lawyers’ fingerprints: allowing lawyers to tell their stories and open up about themselves and about what’s important to them. Check out the website for Graydon Head, a full-service law firm based in Cincinnati (HT to my friend Gerry Riskin, who alerted me to this site). The lawyers’ online biographies contain two elements: a fairly standard professional biography, and a companion section called “Read My Story.” This latter feature is really good.

Go to the firm’s Professional Profiles page, pick any lawyer at random, and Read Their Story. Each entry is an interview with the lawyer that frequently keys in on particular incidents in their lives or aspects of their personality that make them memorable, and that tie in not only with their decision to become a lawyer, but also with the kind of work they do and what they’re like to deal with as professionals and people. Here are a few excerpts:

A real estate lawyer: “On the evenings when Amanda’s mom was working, her father would read stories from the Bible or Mark Twain to the kids. If they weren’t good that day, their punishment would be no stories that night. So the kids were almost always good. She credits her father with her love of reading and wordplay. ’Words should never be taken lightly,’ she says. ‘I’m very conscious of how words can be interpreted or misinterpreted. For me, it’s about communication. I put a lot of thought into the words I choose. It goes against my nature to just dash off an email.’”

An employment litigator: “At Georgia Tech, Brian was a sprinter. He ran his first marathon, the Flying Pig, in the spring of 2008. ‘All my life, I’ve been running short distances at top speed, so this was quite different. It felt good to set the goal, to set my mind to it and achieve it. … With the client, a good relationship makes it easier to understand each other’s perceptions. It also helps to have a good relationship with opposing counsel. If I have a weakness in my case, we can talk about it – which makes it easier to avoid all the gamesmanship that runs up the bill for the client.’ You could compare it to the difference between sprinting and long-distance running.”

A bankruptcy lawyer: ”Jeff grew up on Cincinnati’s West Side, the son of a Cincinnati police officer, now retired. … He mentions a conversation he had with one of his dad’s cop buddies. ‘He likes to kid me, calls me a shyster. He asked me, “What do attorneys do that’s good for society?” I told him lawyers defend people’s rights. The best ones have handled the cases that have determined the direction our country has taken. That’s what I’m aiming for. I want to be a part of something important.’”

Every story is unique (and extraordinarily well-written, I might add), painting a memorable picture of the lawyer in a few paragraphs and tying his or her background, personality, interests or experiences into the law they practise and how they deal with the people they represent. That’s real differentiation — something every lawyer can do and that’s impossible to duplicate, because every lawyer has a unique story to tell.

What’s your story? Who are you, and how does it integrate with the kind of lawyer you are? Ask and answer those questions, and you’ll be even farther down the road towards true differentiation.

Stem Client Roundup for May 2013

The flowers are all in bloom, the leaves are on the trees and Spring is in full swing.  It must be May.  Our clients, as usual, are full of news to share:

That’s all for this month – we’ll be back in a few weeks with more client news and accomplishments.

Link into a single paragraph within a Google Doc

We do a lot of collaborative drafting in Google Docs/Drive here at Stem, and I recently came across an interesting way of referencing paragraphs or sections within longer documents.

For drafting discussions that are relevant to everyone collaborating, the “Comments” feature is often your first choice to propose changes or highlight problem language.  But there are also times when you want to take a discussion outside of the document in question; and an email exchange is often the next logical step. The problem I was running into, was how to highlight specific sections of text within these email exchanges.

By using the Bookmarks feature,  you can embed a ‘deep link’ or anchor, right into your Google doc; sending your recipient directly to, say, paragraph 4 on page 39. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Open your doc, and scroll to your page of choice;
  2. Place the cursor at the beginning of the paragraph in question;
  3. Choose the insert menu, and select ‘bookmark’
  4. Right click on the word ‘Link’, and copy the URL.
  5. Paste that link into your email or IM message.

I can’t say I’ve used the bookmark feature much in the past, as it isn’t included in the ‘right click’ context menu by default, but I might have to weave this one in. Having a little more context never hurts!