Making Stupid Comments Online

I was kindly referred to as a lawyer “doing great things with social media” in a blog post today.  Just to prove that flattery gets you everywhere, I’ll gladly link through to Bryony Thomas’  Clear Thought consultancy blog about managing negative feedback.  Click the image below.

Click image to go to blog

I was greatly disheartened yesterday by a stupid comment made on a discussion I was having in a LinkedIn group.

I was happy to leave the comment online rather than fan his flames.  It was only his reputation that was going up in smoke after all.

I figured that a fellow lawyer who had got as far as finding his way into LinkedIn groups might just  “get it” regarding social media.

What might he have got?

  • That you don’t post about masturbation and ejaculation on a professional message board talking about professional conduct and best practice- where your own frikking colleagues are going to read it
  • That if you missed that first point, your comment remains in perpetuity for all to see and makes you look a bit of a dick
  • That social media, as Jonny Ball might have once said “Can be man’s best friend, but it can also be his worst enemy.”

Unfortunately, my companion in that discussion was saved from eternal embarrassment by the LinkedIn group moderator removing the comment.

So, Mr I-Do-Not-Get-It, if you are reading this, I would like to thank you.  I have got several training sessions coming up exploring how we lawyers can use social media effectively and responsibly, in a way which is in keeping with our professional ethics and responsibilities – your bizarre outburst will provide an excellent case study.

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Website for Unemployed Lawyers?

when the recession hits lawyers... again.

Sign of the times?

Forgive the language but I could not resist sharing this.

As far as I can tell, this website just might be for real.  I hope it is not for you.

Click through on the image for the website proper found, not surprisingly at http://www.shitlawjobs.com.

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What if it all ended. Today. POP!

As I write, Twitter is going through some fairly unattractive spasms.

I was anxious for a split second – Oh no!  What if it has all gone POP!

What if I have lost

  • my account,
  • my followers,
  • the people I follow,
  • my Tweets,
  • all those favourites that I meant to get round to reading and following the links from…?

And do you know what I realised?

It would be alright.

It would be a pity, no doubt, but not overly drastic.

The reality has to be that of the 1500 or so that I follow, and who follow me, that there is in reality a much smaller core of people that I communicate with regularly.

If it all came to an end, it would be reasonably straightforward to start out again.  In fact, the process of having to recall who and why is important would be a very useful selection filter.

The problem is that I would lose the serendipity that is found in a non-central follower linking to something random and outside of my sphere.

I lose the potential links and references to other Twitter users that might be of interest.

Perhaps I should find a Twitter back up tool, just in case… anyone got any recommendations?

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Why Lawyers Should Not Use Social Media

The comment I read on LinkedIn yesterday that individual lawyers should only tweet if it is in keeping with the corporate image is horrific.

It reflects an ongoing attitude towards this new fangled social media thing that still persists.  Should lawyers really be meddling with Twitter, Facebook and the like.

Reasons why not?

  1. Client confidentiality
  2. Liability for online comment
  3. Because your clients expect you not to.  Isn’t it for children? I mean, what do you talk about?

Here we go.

Client confidentiality is not a problem, or at least no more of a problem than having conversation with a friend in a pub, at a restaurant, the opera (if you insist), public transport (heaven forbid) or anywhere.  Client confidentiality means you don’t talk about your clients, whether online or offline.  It really isn’t complicated and most lawyers get that.  Really, we do.

Liability for online comment?

I’m not sure this has ever been a problem has it?  Has anyone been sued for someone’s reliance on the legal merit of a tweet, or posting.

Anyway, disclaimers abound, just don’t take my word for it, okay?

The “Client’s expectation” one though is the most pernicious.

Should a profession, whether lawyers, teachers, plasterers, whatever, be debarred or disapproved because they take part in what large parts of society do?  Surely not.

It would be like saying that because you’re a lawyer, you cannot go to a nightclub, or ride on public transport. My! What would people say?

Of course we need to be mature and responsible, as does a bus driver, or councillor, or a dentist, or a parent who runs the home.  But disallowing or disapproving is nonsense.

Rant over.

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Social Media Persona vs Law Website Profile

I am very excited to be presenting a workshop on using social media at next week’s Resolution ADR Conference.  Part of that will be exploring the tension between sanctioned corporate website profiles and a fully, complementary online persona, or presence.

I am grateful to Matthew Homann, author of the excellent NonBillableHour blog for allowing me to use his ingenious venn diagram comparing what website profiles say, and what clients want to know.

I am also musing with adapting the first verse from The Beatles “A Day In The Life…” as follows (join in if you know the words)

I read your profile today, oh boy

About a lucky man who made the grade,

And though the profile was rather dull,

I had just had to laugh…

You know the rest.

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The Bonkers Full Cycle Genius of Google Voice

This morning I have been looking at Google Voice and Google Voice Actions on the Android range of smart phones.

Now this is some genuinely exciting tech.  You speak into your phone and it activates a search on what you have spoken.  I can use it to search for a contact’s number in my directory, or a location on Google Maps, or a straightforward Google search.

Google Voice Actions goes even further with added functionality.  Watch this video…

Now I find that exciting – almost enough to upgrade my Hero to a compatible Android phone. (Voice actions needs newer phones that can run version 2.2 of the Android operating system.  The Hero only goes up to 2.1)

But, as exciting as it is, the tech quickly strays in bonkers territory.

Imagine, I can speak a message to be sent to a friend by typed text message or email.

My friend can then receive it and respond.  Maybe she also has an Android phone with Voice Actions, so she is able to respond by talking into her phone as well.

It will not be long until this technology has become so advanced that we will have real time duplex audio message transmission, where I can say something into my phone, it is heard immediately and the other person is able to respond immediately.

I wonder what we could call that?  A phone, maybe…

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Podcasting – You know, I might be a bit late to this.

I am currently writing my second book,  The Collaborative Law Companion, to be published in true retro paper style by Jordans next Spring.

Part of my efforts in writing, promoting and researching that book will include the website www.collaborativelaw.tv which will host a specific collaborative law blog, articles and my first podcast.

The podcasting process is still in its preparatory stage.

I have prepared a show style/agenda and approached a great colleague to co-present with me who has plenty of fire and passion.

I have approached several guests from the collaborative law community to join us and address a specific issue each show and will be able to interview leading international practitioners when I am presenting in Washington DC next month.

There are just a few things to still resolve:

  1. How to record and produce;
  2. Show frequency; and
  3. What should my theme tune be?

I am toying with the Pamela app for Skype which looks like it can do everything including a Rich Mood Editor, whatever that is.

The frequency might be fortnightly, if not then monthly.  I am hoping that the Pamela add-on makes recording and interspersing other sound effect MP3s so easy that the process will be no more onerous than talking with friends and colleagues for 30 minutes and then pressing “Send”.

I’m slightly surprised to see that Pamela does not seem to support WordPress.  I could be wrong.  Even if I am right, I can still post the podcast mp3 to my domain and then go into WordPress and link through.  I think.

As for the theme, I have recently taken to playing some blues guitar riffs.  I am toying with recording a “Perfect” version or trying to play it live each fortnight and seeing if it comes off or not.

Anyway, the podcast will be going live within the month… more to follow.

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The Cans and The Cannots – The New Social Exclusion

I blogged here about the Ministry of Justice’s program of cuts and, ahem, reform.  You can read the program at the Ministry’s own website here.

This element of the reform of courts and legal aid struck me, as reinforced by a tweet from Richard Moorhead of @lawyerwatch .

Develop options for using technology and alternative dispute resolution to reduce attendance at all courts.

The intention is to commence consultancy in September 2010, concluding April 2011.

As Richard so eloquently put it, is this the “Usual blether about ADR, IT and efficiency?”

The point of Lawyer1point9 is to be curious, provocative and positive about technology and law.  It is not for me to play the luddite and smash the machines.  I do not want to get in the way of progress and technological innovation within the legal system.

But something worries me here.

IT cannot be used as shorthand justification for cost-cutting.

If we run headlong into IT based solutions then we risk prejudicing whole sectors of the public. Some would be hit twice.

The cuts in legal aid availability and eligibility are massive, and ongoing. Many vulnerable people have no access to affordable legal advice or representation.  It is not enough to say to those people “Oh, that’s okay, we’ve implemented innovative technology.”

And this is where the new social divide is emerging.

It is no longer the haves and the have nots.  We need to be aware of the cans and the cannots.

We take our own IT skills and familiarity for granted.  If you are reading this thing called a blog, the reality is that you are way ahead of the massive majority.

Many of the people who will be affected by reforming cuts will lack skills, confidence and competence to access online resources.

This has been highlighted to me by a couple of incidents.

Last week I was trying to talk through to someone, by phone, how to download a PDF.

We were getting nowhere.  I realised that she was putting the web address I was giving her into the google search box and getting bewildered by pages and pages of entries, as opposed to going to the address bar.

To many people, Google IS the internet.

Even when we got through to the page she wanted, the idea of scrolling the page down to get to the necessary link was way beyond her.

In another incident I delivered some of my Conversational Riffs training to a local education authority last week.  I like to put the notes into a passworded blog format so that people can wrestle with the material, comment upon it.

The email I got back from the LEA explained that many people simply were not allowed to access blogs because of local authority firewalls and the like.

So, a cost-cutting dash to IT is not the answer.  We need to keep a broader awareness of what people are able to do and the limits they face from inadequate skills or access to IT.

If we do not, then we risk excluding the less IT literate and the less IT connected from important parts of society.

We will have the cans and cannots.  Who will speak up for the latter?

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Scratching the surface of WordPress

Last Friday I presented one of my conflict dynamics workshop to a Local Education Authority in South Wales.  It was very well received with a very participative crowd.

I have since broken down the participants notes into small “Blog post” size chunks and posted them on WordPress, with password access so that the delegates can re-engage with the material and debate it amongst themselves and with me.

This led me to think what a flexible, beautiful beast WordPress is.

There must be other ways we could use WordPress for our legal work, beyind the obvious blogging.  Networking events could maybe get their own blog with downloadable guest list.  The guests could receive emailed passwords to drive them to the blog and from there to our websites, LinkedIn, YouTube accounts and the like.

WordPress can easily host video from the event, or other resources.

How do you use WordPress, beyond simple blogging?

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Technology is only useful when it is boring.

Apologies at the outset for the above quote.  It is not my line but I cannot recall where I read it.  If you know, of if it was you, please introduce yourself and take the credit in the comments below.

I was discussing social media this morning with freelance marketeer Helen Hammond.

For some reason I was in an unusually downbeat mood. I felt that I didn’t want to talk to about social media.  Sure, I love social media.  I have gained a lot of work from social media and it has massively increased my profile both here in the UK and also in America.  The potential for social media to drive business and new opportunities is immense.

But something was irking me.

There remains an obstructive self-consciousness within social media, where the social media activity becomes the thing itself.

It is not.  It is just the tool, or vehicle, that gets us to our destination.

I recall from my student days reading about how the written word, within literary criticism terms, should be transparent so as not to obstruct what was being described, nor draw attention to itself.  I think that was a liberal humanist approach, but I digress.

Likewise, we need to get used to using social media as a conventional mainstream communication function.  At that point, we will not be fascinated so much with the “Hey, I’m using a new Twitter app” or “Have you tried that new social media hub for… whatever…” and instead we will simply be getting on with the business of communicating by diverse means, including social media, on a daily basis.

The technology itself, at that stage, is as boring and as unworthy of commenting upon, as a telephone.

When technology becomes boring in this sense, it will stop getting in the way of the message we are communicating, and therefore carry the message with less distraction for either the sender or recipient.

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