Mandatory Use of RSS for Lawyers… Just a Dream?

Last week, Kevin O’Keefe blogged about a bold prediction. Or maybe it was more like wishful thinking. He wondered,

“…shouldn’t it be a requirement that lawyers stay abreast of the law and hone their skills in as good a fashion as they can? And if so, could that make an RSS reader and the use of feeds an ethical requirement for a lawyer?”

I can’t remember when I first started using an RSS reader – probably 2003 or 2004? – but I just can’t imagine life without one now. For work, it’s a priceless tool. (In my personal life, it’s a blessing and a curse. Blessing: it makes it remarkably easy to keep track of hundreds of blogs and sites I’m interested in. Curse: see “Blessing”.)

But Kevin’s idea is an interesting one. At the risk of sounding completely smug, I am always blown away at how many professionals don’t take advantage of RSS feeds (seriously? People just keep… going back to the same website to see if there’s anything new, over and over again? Or worse, they don’t go back at all?). As one commenter says, and I can’t disagree,

“It really is inexcusable to be out of touch given the availability of technology and the wealth of information”

Obviously, keeping on top of developments in your profession is paramount. But for lawyers who are trying to build profile online through social networks or blogging, a well-stocked feed reader offers a constant stream of interesting, relevant content to blog or write about, or share via social networks or personal emails of the “Saw this and thought of you” variety. Now that most websites worth their salt have feeds, it has never been easier to read exactly what you want and need in one convenient place, on any device, at any time.

At one of my old firms, my library colleague and I ran lunch ‘n’ learn sessions on using RSS, but truth be told, back in those days, the argument for using a reader wasn’t as strong as it is today. RSS wasn’t nearly as widely-used as it is now, and the subscription process has become drastically simpler over the last five or six years. Even so, if this prediction of mandatory lawyer use of RSS ever comes true — which is highly unlikely, but would certainly be advantageous — hands-on training would have to be part of the implementation. As a brand-new concept, it’s a tricky thing for some folks to wrap their heads around. They really need to see it in action to understand how it can benefit them.

If you’re not using a feed reader to keep tabs on things you’re professionally and personally invested in, get thee to Google Reader (or one of the other readers Kevin mentions in his post) ASAP!

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