Presentation Tip 16: Preparation Is All

Mary Shen O’Connell, Techshow 2020 Keynoter

ABA Techshow Co-Chairs Roberta Tepper and Allan Mackenzie have announced that the 2021 version of ABA Techshow will be held virtually. It’s not too early to start planning for for attendance.

By far my favorite moment at Techshow 2020 was watching Mary Shen O’Connell practice her keynote address–including stage movements and gestures–in front of an almost empty auditorium.

This is the key to top quality presentations: Prepare, prepare, prepare.

Presentation Tip 15: Are “Pitches” Different?

Guy Kawasaki believes most slide shows used as a “pitch” have too many slides, last too long and use too small a font.

His 10/20/30 rule is that a “pitch” (i.e., one designed to reach an agreement, like make a sale or raise capita) should have 10 slides, last no more than 20 minutes, and use no slide smaller than 30 points. He explains further:

  • Ten slides. Ten is the optimal number of slides in a PowerPoint presentation because a normal human being cannot comprehend more than ten concepts in a meeting—and venture capitalists are very normal. (The only difference between you and venture capitalist is that he is getting paid to gamble with someone else’s money). If you must use more than ten slides to explain your business, you probably don’t have a business.
  • Twenty minutes. You should complete discussion of your ten slides in twenty minutes. Sure, you have an hour time slot, but you’re using a Windows laptop, so it will take forty minutes to make it work with the projector. Even if setup goes perfectly, people will arrive late and have to leave early. In a perfect world, you give your pitch in twenty minutes, and you have forty minutes left for discussion.
  • Thirty-point font. The majority of the presentations that I see have text in a ten point font. As much text as possible is jammed into the slide, and then the presenter reads it. However, as soon as the audience figures out that you’re reading the text, it reads ahead of you because it can read faster than you can speak. The result is that you and the audience are out of synch.

There is some wisdom here. “Pitch” presentations have unique needs. It’s most effective if you make your points quickly, and Kawasaki’s recommendations are great for this purpose.

Just don’t let them be a Procrustean bed that prevents you from being more flexible when another approach would work better, as when teaching a complex CL topic, for example.

Ann Walsh Long on Core Legal Research Skills

Prof. Ann Walsh Long shares her thoughts on the core legal research skills law students should master in a guest post at the RIPS Law Librarian Blog.

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.

Outsourcing to India

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.

Ron Friedmann

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.

Hipster Antitrust Movement: What Is the Purpose of Antitrust Law?

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. BlackwoodKristina Allen RelifordJ. Thomas RichieDylan 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.

Presentation Tip 14 Slide Shows & Audience Expectations 

While slide shows like MS Powerpoint have their pros and cons, there is a risk in not having any slide show to help your audiences.

Stephanie Everett‘s Lawyerist article Lawyer Public Speaking & Teaching addresses this and related issues in her great short summary of the topic. It’s all worth reading, and these points are particularly relevant:

Audiences almost always expect a slideshow when they attend a presentation. Without it, they may think you forgot or were just too lazy to put one together. …

The slides should be the starting point for a conversation. This will help frame your topic and remind people where you are. …

The audience is there to hear you and not to read the entirety of your presentation from slides. Keep the information on the slides limited, and make sure you are the one giving the lesson, not the slides.

Finally, have a backup plan. Computers crash. Flash drives get corrupted. Your presentation may not work. That means you need to be ready to roll without the aid of a PowerPoint slideshow.

Self-Publishing by Lawyers

Disintermediation, or cutting out the middleman, is a key effect of the Internet, a disaster for some, an opportunity for others. Uber inserts itself between prospective passengers and conventional cabs. “Cordcutters” bundle antennas and streaming services to avoid TV cable companies. Some lawyers are considering cutting the cord from traditional legal research services.

Dennis Kennedy is showing lawyer/authors a new, possibly lucrative form of disintermediation: Bypassing conventional publishers.

I’m finishing a (laudatory) review of Dennis Kennedy’s new book Successful Innovation Outcomes in Law: A Practical Guide for Law Firms, Law Departments and Other Legal Organizations. I was impressed by the fact that Dennis does not merely talk innovation: He does innovation.

Rather than go with a conventional book publisher, Kennedy self-published the book, working through Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (includes option for on-demand paperback publishing as well as eBook).

I used to think of “vanity press” condescendingly, as primarily for authors whose work was not good enough to interest a “real” publisher. This book has changed my attitude. There are multiple advantages to self-publishing, including speedier development and reducing the cost to purchasers.

Kennedy is in a better position to self-publish than most authors. Having a respected third party (in this case, an established conventional publisher) select a book for publication serves a sort of credentialing function, “validating” the book for potential readers. Kennedy’s track record as a recognized expert and author allows him to “self-validate.”

Dennis found the results of self-publishing so beneficial that he explained in an interview posted at his podcast, the Kennedy-Mighell Report that the odds are 95% that he will self-publish his next book. 

Self-publishing looks like an increasingly attractive option for lawyer authors.

Substack-Mailing List Service

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:

your.name@substack.com

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.