Ann is the author of a fine new book, A Short & Happy Guide to Advanced Legal Research. This book was originally written for academic audiences, but I have found it to be very useful in my own practice. I am working on a considered review, which should be published soon.
My 1999 book, The Complete Internet Handbook for Lawyers, contained many predictions. I missed on a few, but was right on target for many. I am proud of one prediction in particular:
Legal work, including work normally performed by lawyers, will be outsourced to countries like India.
Outsourcing to India for non-legal work is not particularly controversial. For example, Galaxy Web Links (Twitter contact Erica Sadler) has developed many lawyer websites. They have a U.S. office, but most of the work is performed in India. More about Galaxy Web Links later.
On the other hand, my prediction about outsourcing legal work was quite controversial. It provoked widespread skepticism at the time, even ridicule, but it has been well vindicated.
Legal tech guru Ron Friedmann noted that by 2005 (6 years after my prediction), U.S law firms and law departments were indeed outsourcing legal work to India. Friedmann maintains an extensive list of law firms outsourcing work to India at his Strategic Legal Technology blog. This includes the following types of work:
- Document drafting by lawyers
- Legal research
- IP legal work, substantive or administrative
- Review of discovery documents
- Paralegal services
- Administrative and secretarial support services, excluding digital dictation
We’ll be discussing the implications of this trend in future posts.
Should companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google be free from antitrust scrutiny merely because their business practices cannot be shown to result in higher prices for consumers?
The Bradley Law Firm‘s award-winning Declassified blog, a premier source of information about class actions, recently examined this conflict in an article by Charles Elder entitled “Hipster Antitrust” Movement Takes Center Stage in Congress.
The article focuses on a recent Judiciary Committee hearing in which representatives questioned CEOs from Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google about allegedly anticompetitive business practices. The hearing was prompted by a 2017 Yale Law Journal article by Lina Khan, which gave rise to what became known informally as the “hipster antitrust” movement:
Since the Reagan administration, the development of antitrust law has focused on consumer welfare – typically indicated by low prices – to determine whether competition had been harmed unlawfully. This development was based on then-professor (and later judge) Robert Bork’s influential book, The Antitrust Paradox, and the libertarian “Chicago school” of economics. If prices stay low and customers are happy, then courts are typically reluctant to find any antitrust violation. If the complaining party was a competitor whose business was harmed, it is often met with the response that the antitrust laws exist to protect competition, not individual competitors.
More recently, scholars such as Khan have argued that this historical view is too narrow, and they advocate for a broader focus on market structure and the power and influence large tech companies wield. They argue that, rather than merely analyzing whether corporate actions result in lower consumer prices, the law should recognize that the excessive concentration of economic power in a handful of large companies is inherently bad, because it exacerbates other ills, such as income inequality and labor abuses, and gives undue political influence to too few people. Khan’s article was specifically about Amazon, a company that famously offers low prices on a wide variety of consumer goods and that has for the most part been well-liked by customers, but which, she argued, exerts a dangerous amount of power to effectively control the online retail economy.
The answer to this question is critical to the future of the Internet. Elder concludes that it’s unlikely that the largest Internet companies will be broken up because they are popular with users.
I tend to agree, but at the same time I think it’s a mistake to underestimate the potential for change. The attacks on these Internet giants are motivated in large part by bipartisan displeasure at their power and how it impacts the national political scene.
Notes on Use of Lawyer Use of Blog Format
This article is a great illustration of how lawyers with little technical expertise can use blogs to promote themselves and their law practice.
Declassified also illustrates the benefits of a team approach. In addition to Elder’s excellent article, it featured recent high quality articles by Jeffrey R. Blackwood, Kristina Allen Reliford, J. Thomas Richie, Dylan C. Black & Richard W.F. Swor.
Finally, the Bradley firm’s website illustrates one of the biggest blog advantages: They tend to attract backlinks, one of the best methods of improving SEO (Search Engine Optimization). In other words, backlinks tend to cause websites to rank higher in Google ratings.
After all, I would most likely never have seen this article, let alone written about it and linked to it, if it had not been published in the blog format.
Many vendors can provide blogs, some very inexpensively, but the legal industry focus of Lexblog (founded by the estimable Kevin O’Keefe, himself author of the Real Lawyers blog) makes it one of the best choices for lawyers.
Subscriptions have been one way lawyers have made money for years. The Atlantic and the New York Times have information about using email newsletters for this purpose. They provide an alternative that may be preferable to social media for some lawyers.
Substack is one way to market your law practice and/or monetize an email list through subscriptions. It is a sort of echo/distribution service for lawyers. You can start a mailing list at no charge, using it to build a community. You have the option to begin charging subscribers for your content. Legal tech guru Tom Mighell uses this service.
Substack is free initially. They provide:
- Your own email list
- A website archive of all your posts
- Community features
- Control over what’s free and what’s only for your paying subscribers
Setup is quick and easy. Your email subscription list will be in the following format:
There is no fee until you begin making money from your subscriptions. Substack then takes a 10% commission, so it is risk free (except for investing your time).
There are two drawbacks. Their use of the substack.com domain name:
- Reduces the effectiveness of your branding, and
- Makes it difficult to move your mailing list to another host/sponsor, should you decide to do so later
Despite these drawbacks, Substack looks like a good alternative for lawyers who would like to establish an email mailing list to expand their reach.
Medium.com has more information.
Good primer-type IT security article in ABA Law Practice Today:
Locked Down: Practical Information Security for Lawyers by Sharon Nelson and John Simek is a few years old, but remains a worthy treatise, supplemented by Sharon‘s Ride the Lightning blog. If epic fails amuse you, check out her post about the school board member who revealed more than intended during a virtual meeting.
A couple of her recent posts caught my eye:
This book will make many lawyers think about “cutting the cord” from the major online legal research services, and will be a great starting point for those who try it. Check it out.
Personal Note: The high quality of this book was no surprise to me. I’ve known and respected Carole for over two decades (her Internet for Lawyers website was the Netlawtools “MVP” way back in January 2000). I’m looking forward to meeting Judy.
Irwin Kramer notes that law firms who suffer a ransomware attack may have an ethical requirement to report the incident to clients:
Because law firms maintain huge repositories of sensitive data, they are particularly vulnerable to such attacks. You may not be able to prevent all attacks, but you should consult with a cybersecurity expert to improve your resistance to them. When all else fails, don’t compound the problem by concealing it from affected clients. If you do, your data breach will morph into a breach of ethics.
Another major incentive to take measures to reduce vulnerability to such attacks. The threat is real and the consequences for your legal practice can be severe.
Is it a good idea to spend a lot of time disinfecting your law office? Possibly not, but make sure your clients are aware of this, and other security measures you take. Security theater is real. Make sure it works for you.
Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell had a nice discussion of security theater in the June 19 edition of the Kennedy-Mighell podcast, prompted by my question. (Yeah, I’m a little behind in my podcast listening). It has become a timely topic in light of Covid-19.
Another example of security theater at Talking Points Memo provides context:
I’ll have some additional comments on their analysis later, but those interested will want to give it a listen. Check out the show notes (i.e., transcript) at the same link if you’d rather read than listen.
[Disinfecting schools] is mostly mitigation theater, taking action that is high profile and relatively easy because things that would actually make a difference are either too hard or have been ruled out in advance because of difficulty or politics. It’s the germ theory version of looking for the missing keys under the street lamp because that’s where the light is.
The bulk of evidence from the Spring and Summer is that COVID transmission is mainly through the air, either exhalation and inhalation of people in immediate proximity to each other or airborne contagion through recirculated air or contagion that persists in the air for some period of time.
Of course, same thing applies to your law office. That doesn’t mean security theater is necessarily a bad idea. If it makes those in your organization or potential clients feel more secure, it could be a great idea.
As explained in Presentation Tip 12, the first step in online training is deciding on your level of ambition. What quality level do you need? What is your level of technical skill? How much time do you have?
Once you decide on your preferred quality level, you can decide what level of equipment you will need. We provided some advice on camera selection in Presentation Tip 12. Let’s consider microphone selection.
Which is more important for online presentations, video or audio?Most lawyers would say video is more important.
Dennis Kennedy knows better: Audio quality is more significant. The microphone in your typical desktop computer or laptop is usually pretty poor. Most computer purchasers prioritize things like processor speed, memory or display quality. It makes sense for them to cut corners on microphone quality.
Unfortunately, it’s harder to get good audio. Again, the Kennedy-Mighell Report podcast provides a good starting point for analysis:
Microphone built into your laptop or desktop. Use this only if high quality is not important to you.
Headset with built-in microphone. These can be better than a laptop or desktop. Exercise some care in your selection. Mighell likes the Plantronics Voyager Focus UC.
Lavalier mic. These are generally comparable in quality to headsets. which then again allows you not to have great microphone technique, but will still pick
Stand alone microphone. The Kennedy-Mighell Report uses a Shure 58. Many other high quality mics are available.
More in our next Presentation Tips post.