Content Curation for Law Firms: One E-mail a Week Could Transform Your Social Media Training

Before you launched your firm’s social media platforms — blog, LinkedIn, Twitter — you made sure to conduct a training session for the attorneys and staff you’d being relying on to create content and engage in conversations. You might have even brought in an outside speaker to reinforce and expand on your guidance.

A few months later, the early enthusiasm has died off. Authors are struggling with ideas for their next blog post, LinkedIn profiles are complete but networking on the site is dormant, and Twitter just doesn’t make sense to anyone.

So what’s the next step? More training? And how much training will be required going forward?

Maintenance Mode

If reality TV weight loss programs have taught us nothing else, the gains achieved during a period of intensive training can quickly reverse without consistent ongoing support, encouragement and self-help resources. As a hedge against backsliding and “yo-yo” social media participation between training sessions, try a simple content curation technique that reminds, encourages and enables your team: a weekly digest of links to “how to” posts and videos.

  • DIY curation — A robust RSS feed is a curator’s best friend, providing a continual stream of fresh ideas from your favorite content creators. Its downside, of course, is continual vigilance. That RSS mailbox can fill up quickly, and it takes time to sift the wheat from the chaff.
  • Curating the curators — Why add to your workload when plenty of people are already curating the best “how to” tips for you — for free. Just subscribe to a few sites that regularly post lists of links to useful and interesting posts. “Fetching Friday” is a weekly feature on kikolani.com comprised of links to noteworthy posts from around the interwebs on blogging, business, SEO and social media . My own twice-weekly “Endeavor to Be Useful” feature takes a similar approach, but focuses more on law firm marketing. Also worth following is the LexisNexis Best Practices in Lawyer Blogs weekly e-newsletter.
What are your favorite sites for content curation and “how-to” tips?

 

 

 

Endeavor to Be Useful: Legal Marketing Tips 02.17.12

A digest of social media “how-to” advice and tips for legal marketing.

Endeavor to Be Useful: Legal Marketing Tips 02.15.12

A digest of social media “how-to” advice and tips for legal marketing.

Social Media for Law Firms: Ignite Internal Collaboration with Yammer

On last Friday’s #LegalChat on Twitter, the topic of using social media for internal collaboration came up. Several of us mentioned Yammer as a platform worth considering for large and multi-location firms.

Although the companies are not affiliated, a simple way to describe Yammer is a private version of Twitter.

“Enterprise social networking empowers employees to be more productive and successful by enabling them to collaborate easily, make smarter, faster decisions, and self-organize into teams to take on any business challenge. This new way of working drives business alignment and agility, reduces cycle times, increases employee engagement and improves relationships with customers and partners.”

If you’re open to a SaaS solution for enhancing organizational effectiveness and improving client service, Yammer offers some powerful capabilities:

  1. Connect subject matter experts and facilitate real-time online conversations across the firm.
  2. Create a dedicated team workspace for a matter, a practice area or a cross-functional group.
  3. Use it with, or as an alternative to, a content management system to share, store, and manage documents, presentations, images and videos.
  4. Create a secure external network to communicate/collaborate with clients and vendors — fewer phone calls.
  5. Stay connected through mobile devices — just like Twitter.
I expect data security paranoids will dump on this idea, but as social media-based solutions for law practice management go, Yammer is pretty slick and worth considering.
I’d love to hear from any law firms currently using or considering Yammer.


Content Marketing for Law Firms: More, More, More

Blogging has moved from top billing in social media marketing to an ensemble role. A blog is still an important player in the markting ecosystem, but it now shares the stage with other major and minor players in a much bigger, more robust production called content marketing.

The following BlueGlass Interactive infographic illustrates the variety and range of content types and distribution models. BlueGlass executive Chris Winfield notes, “Instead of just investing in their blog and blogging strategies, [companies are] investing in content people will actually want to share. Even if it’s not directly related to selling something, it’s still branding.”

The top 20 content marketing tactics according to a recent Content Marketing Institute survey:

  1. Articles
  2. Social media
  3. Blogs
  4. eNewsletters
  5. Case studies
  6. In-person events
  7. Videos
  8. White papers
  9. Webinars/webcasts
  10. Microsites
  11. Print magazines
  12. Traditional media
  13. Research reports
  14. Branded content tools
  15. Print newsletter
  16. eBooks
  17. Podcasts
  18. Mobile content
  19. Digital magazines
  20. Virtual conferences
WARNING: This does not mean use ALL of these tactics. Rather, it suggests that your marketing program can benefit from thinking beyond the usual suspects: blog, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Greater depth, breadth, variety, ubiquity and frequency of content will generate more opportunities to be discovered.

 

Endeavor to Be Useful: Legal Marketing Tips 02.09.12

A digest of social media “how-to” advice and tips for legal marketing.

Twitter for Law Firms: Better Tweeting Through Science

Dan Zarrella is one of the most influential people in social media because he takes a rigorous, empirical approach to proving, disproving and improving the basic elements of online networking and marketing.

In the following infographic, Zarrella illustrates how various factors affect click-through rates (number of clicks / number of followers = CTR) of hyperlinks embedded into tweets. The variables tested include:

  • The tweet’s length.
  • The position of the link within the tweet.
  • Your tweet frequency.
  • Common terms and phrases that stimulate click-through.
  • Best times of day to tweet.

As the saying goes, “individual results might vary,” but the beauty of Twitter is that it doesn’t cost you anything to run a test of your own.

Do you have any secrets for getting followers to click through? Retweet?

 

Endeavor to Be Useful: Legal Marketing Tips 01.18.12

A digest of social media “how-to” advice and tips for legal marketing.

The Law of Flash Mobs and Pranks: An Interview with Ruth Carter

“Niche development” in legal marketing typically entails becoming known for a deep focus on particular aspects of a practice area or business segment, expertise in arcane and/or complex issues, or both. What interests me about Ruth Carter’s work in the law of flash mobs and pranks is that she drew from her own experiences and tapped into the cultural zeitgeist to pioneer an entirely new category of law.

Q:  From reading through your blog archives, it seems like your interest in the law of flash mobs and pranks originally derived from your passion for improv and guerilla theater and took root while you were in law school. Is that a fair description? Was there an “ah ha” moment for you, where you decided that it was a niche you wanted to explore in depth?

A: That’s a fair description. My first flash mob was the 2009 No Pants Light Rail Ride when I was a 1L. During that flash mob, I met the people with who I founded Improv AZ.

My real “ah ha” moment came during my 1L summer during my internship with the U.S. Army JAG. I got to spend a few days sitting in on criminal law classes for military police trainees. During my criminal law class, the only crimes we focused on were homicide and manslaughter. We skipped the crimes that are more common and easy to commit. At the military police class, I learned about crimes like solicitation and conspiracy – two crimes that flash mob organizers can commit just in the planning stages of a flash mob. That’s the experience that showed me that flash mob organizers need to be mindful of the legalities of their events at all stages of planning and executing flash mobs.

 

Q: How do you describe your engagement with the topic today? Is it an avocation, or are you developing and marketing your expertise as a unique practice area?

A: I live and breathe flash mob law. I absolutely love it.

I don’t know how much of a demand there is for flash mob law practitioners. I am opening a law firm in January 2012 and I will be listing “flash mob law” as one of my areas of practice.

 

Q: To a layman like me, it appears that the challenge of this niche is understanding the interaction of criminal law, property rights, torts and even constitutional law as they apply to public performance — a classic example of balancing rights and responsibilities. How do you describe it?

A: That’s about right. I describe flash mob law as a combination of criminal, property, tort, First Amendment, intellectual property, and entertainment law.

 

Q: The transgressive nature of flash mobs and pranks is central to their appeal. As an attorney, how do you reconcile those tensions?

A: There is a huge difference between violating cultural norms and breaking the law. One the keys to organizing successful flash mobs is knowing how to push the envelope without crossing the line.

Flash mobs are about doing the unexpected but it should never go so far that it interferes with others’ rights or gets you arrested. It’s about entertaining, amusing, and surprising an unsuspecting audience.

 

Q: Wikipedia takes pains to distinguish between “flash mobs” (brief, seemingly pointless) and “smart mobs” (promotional stunts). Is that a distinction without difference, or are there substantive issues that attach to one or the other type of activity? What about “pranks”?

A: The difference between flash mobs and smart mobs is the intent. Flash mobs have no underlying motivations except to do something entertaining and unexpected. Smart mobs are a form of advertising. They exist to promote causes, services, and products.

My troupe, Improv AZ, only does entertaining flash mobs and pranks. We would entertain the possibility of being hired to do a smart mob, but it is not something we actively seek to do.

The difference between pranks and flash mobs is mainly the size. Pranks are small scale activities that we do not invite the public to join. The only people who are involved in pranks are the organizers, our videographers, and our photographers. No one knows that a prank was planned until the blog and video appear on the internet. The prank that Improv AZ is best known for is the Coroner Prank. The first time we did it, the only people involved were the 4 “coroners” and 2 people who videotaped us.

Flash mobs are large scale events where we invite the hundreds of people on our email list or the general public to participate. Some of the flash mobs that Improv AZ has organized are the annual No Pants Light Rail Ride, the Fake Protest, Welcome Back, and the Epic Super Hero Battle.

 

Q: In your view, what are the biggest public misperceptions about what we can and can’t legally do with guerilla events, stunts, pranks, etc.?

A: From the organizer perspective, the biggest misperception is the idea that you can do whatever you want as long as you have good intentions. That’s not true – your actions matter more and you can be arrested for breaking the law even if you meant no harm. Additionally, some people assume they can do whatever they want in a public place, like shopping malls.

There were a few incidents at the end of 2010 where flash mobs ended badly. There was a dance flash mob at Scottsdale Fashion Square in Arizona that resulted in some people getting banned from the mall for a year. The security there has made it clear that they don’t want any flash mobs on their premises. There was another incident at a mall in northern California where people were invited to come and sing the Hallelujah chorus. So many people showed up to participate that the fire marshal had to come to evacuate people and there were reports that the floor felt like it was giving way.

 

Q: YouTube and shows like “Punk’d” and “America’s Funniest Home Videos” have elevated pranks to an entertainment genre. As average folks chase fame and/or fortune with their Flip cams and mobile phones, what legal issues do they need to be aware of?

A: The main thing that people need to be aware of is when they do a prank or flash mob that involves illegal activity, and they put the video on the internet, they may have just published all the evidence that law enforcement needs to charge them with a crime.

 

Q: Flash mobs are increasingly associated with civil disobedience and intentional criminality. Have you found that this conflation is creating more problems for group actions intended for artistic expression, entertainment and commercial purposes?

A: Yes. I cringe every time I read an article that refers to a criminal incident as a “flash mob crime.” These group assaults and robberies hurt the reputation of the real flash mob community when the media refers to them as flash mobs. As organizers, we put significant time, thought, and energy into making sure that our events are legal. We don’t want to be associated with any illegal activities. Some of us argue that the term “flash mob crime” is an oxymoron, because flash mobs cannot include criminal acts.

 

Q: Can you share some lessons you learned the hard way about the legal consequences of flash mobs and pranks?

A: Oh yes. I learned the hard way that just because we planned a prank to be legal, someone still might freak out and call the cops. During Improv AZ’s Coroner Prank #2, we took our body bag for a walk through a mall. The mall cops detained us and called the real cops claiming that we had committed “dozens of felonies.” The police didn’t cite us for anything and the worst thing that happened was some of us were banned from the mall for three months. That was the prank that convinced me to take a criminal procedure class so I would know what authority mall cops and real cops have. Looking back, we probably could have left the mall when the mall cops confronted us despite their instructions to remain there.

 

Q: What are your top five tips for flash mob and prank planners?

  1. Never assume that your flash mob or prank is legal – always look up the applicable state and local laws. When in doubt, consult an attorney.
  2. Be prepared for encounters with the police. Know what they can and can’t do and be ready to respectfully explain why what you’re doing is legal.
  3. Make sure your participants know their do’s and don’ts going into a flash mob. For example, before the No Pants Light Rail Ride, we remind our participants that they must have their genitals and anuses covered per Arizona law. We encourage people not to wear thongs and to wear briefs under their boxers to prevent any unexpected exposure when they sit down.
  4. Don’t do anything in public that you wouldn’t put on the front page of the newspaper. Once the photos and video are on the internet, you have no control over who is going to see it – your family, your friends, your employer, etc. It’s not uncommon for the press to be tipped off about upcoming flash mobs and for the footage to end up on the evening news.
  5. If you are arrested, immediately tell law enforcement that you’d like to exercise your right to remain silent and ask to speak to an attorney, and then don’t say anything to anyone until you speak with an attorney.

Known for her daring antics and outgoing personality, Ruth Carter is a co-founder of Improv AZ and the owner of Carter Law Firm, PLLC, a virtual law office specializing in intellectual property, social media, First Amendment and flash mob law. Ruth blogs weekly at UndeniableRuth.com.


The Girl’s Guide to Law School: An Interview with Alison Monahan

After I first encountered Alison Monahan on Twitter and spent time reading her blog, The Girl’s Guide to Law School, I knew immediately I had found a kindred spirit. Balancing gimlet-eyed candor with an encouraging and supportive tone, Alison’s insights and actionable advice are a welcome tonic.

Clearly, other people have had the same experience. Only a few months into her blog, Alison’s distinctive storytelling is already widely sought and shared.

Q: A clear POV is essential to effective blogging. I love your blog’s tagline because it succinctly and clearly communicates what the content is about: “Get In, Get Through, Stay You.” Is law school basically an ordeal to be endured? A survival exercise?

A: I’ll be honest – I enjoyed many parts of law school. I found it intellectually interesting, and I liked that I was gaining insight into things I’d been vaguely aware of, but had never thought much about. Now, when I read a newspaper article about a Supreme Court decision, I understand nuances that I would have completely missed before, and I generally know why the case came out the way it did. That’s pretty cool!

The actual day-to-day experience of law school, however, left a lot to be desired. I’d done a previous graduate degree (in architecture), so I had a point of comparison that a lot of law students don’t have. I knew what it was like to work really hard and learn something that was challenging, but I found law school much, much more unpleasant than I’d expected. Part of it was probably that I went to a fancy school in New York City, and I was coming from California, but I just didn’t think most people were very nice! That, more than anything, made it an ordeal to be endured.

 

Q: In addition to the keen insights and impeccable writing, in my mind what distinguishes your blog is its highly personal nature. In the “About” page of your blog you write: “Looking back, with the benefit of hindsight and lots of research, I understand more about why law school is so unpleasant, particularly for women. I started this website to share what I’ve learned, and I hope you use my knowledge to make your own law school experience more satisfying and less unpleasant.” Is the blog also therapeutic for you?

A: Interesting question! I think I got most of my law school angst out with my actual therapist, who was really fantastic and helped me reframe the challenges of law school as something I could chose, or not chose, to flip out about. She was absolutely life-changing, and I encourage anyone who’s struggling with law school stress, or any other aspect of your life, to take advantage of the student health services at your school. You almost certainly get free therapy sessions, and it’s a great thing to take advantage of. You’ll learn all kinds of useful coping skills, which you’ll be able to employ throughout your life as a lawyer (trust me, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to practice). Even if it’s scary to call and make that first appointment, you’ll be glad you did.

As for the blog, there are a few posts that were somewhat therapeutic, I suppose. The post I was most reluctant to publish, and held on to for weeks before I put it out there, was about getting a cold offer from a law firm. Some variant of this story happens all the time at law firms, but it’s something no one ever talks about. Ultimately, I published it for a few reasons. One, just to let people know that this does happen, and that it could happen to them, even if they’ve got great credentials, and worked hard, and have always been successful. Two, to show that, if this sort of thing does happen to you, it’s not the end of the world. Your life will go on, your career will go on, and you’re not a total failure just because one particular law firm doesn’t want to hire you. And, finally, I published it because I could. In the end, it was cathartic to realize that I could tell this story, which is customarily shrouded in secrecy, and nothing bad would happen. At that point, the experience lost any power over me. I think I was holding on, at least a little bit, to the idea that this was somehow my fault, and that I should be ashamed of it, but, after publishing the post, I don’t feel that way at all!

 

Q: When you launched the blog in September 2011 there were already several prominent blogs and Twitter chats addressing current and aspiring law students, and legal education is a frequent topic across the legal blawgosphere. What do you see as your unique contributions to that discourse?

A: I try, above all, to be helpful. That sounds simple, but it’s not. There’s a ton of information out there for prospective, and actual, law students, and some of it is very good. But a lot of it misses the mark, in my opinion, because it’s not particularly action oriented.

For example, I read a law school guide, which said something along the lines of “It’s important to make an outline in law school, and there are various ways to do this. Try several and see what works best for you.” This is true, as far as it goes, but it’s not very helpful. If I’m a new law student reading this, I have no idea how to make a law school outline. Telling me there are various options doesn’t help – it just confuses me even more.

What I try to do instead is to get down to the nitty-gritty: Why do you need to make an outline, and what are some ways you might do it? Hopefully, after reading these posts, a new law student would have a clear idea what the goal of outlining is (which might enable them to come up with a unique way of getting to the goal), and they’d have some practical options to try.

 

Q: Judging from site analytics and comments, what topics/individual posts have resonated most strongly with your readers?

A: My most popular post ever was Why Every Law Student Should Be on Twitter, which got picked up by Above the Law. Beyond that (which was kind of a one-off), the most popular content is the posts debunking myths about law school and the legal profession.

 

Q: While some blogs embrace the frustration and bitterness endemic to law school and the legal profession, your content by contrast seems preternaturally calm and pragmatic. Is that your nature, or is it a byproduct of your experience in the crucible?

A: Probably a little from Column A, and a little from Column B. It’s definitely easier to be calm and collected about the law school/law firm experience when you’re not in the middle of it! If you’d caught me during law school exam time, I most definitely would NOT have been calm! More like completely crazy. But I think it’s good for people who are in the middle of these stress-inducing situations to know that it won’t always be like this – they too can come out on the other side and live a nice life, even if it doesn’t seem like that’s a possibility at the moment.

 

Q: Your bio on the site is a bit cryptic, with a whiff of mystery: “I’m a 2006 graduate of Columbia Law School. I was a member of the Columbia Law Review, I clerked for a federal judge, and I did a stint in BigLaw. In short, I did what lots of people think they want to do when they apply to law school. Trust me, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Be careful what you wish for.” Are you still a practicing attorney?

A: Right now I’m only doing pro bono work. A couple of times since I left BigLaw, I’ve explored starting a small practice with friends. For various reasons, the stars haven’t aligned yet on that, but it’s a possibility going forward. I don’t think I’d work for another firm, since I have a more entrepreneurial mindset, but I’m not completely opposed to practicing law again at some point in the future. My California bar membership is active, but I’ve officially “retired” in Massachusetts.

 

Q: What have you enjoyed most about your legal blogging journey so far?

A: This sounds like a cliché, but it’s the people I’ve met. Lawyers get a bad rap, but many of them are interesting, intelligent people who want to make a difference in the world. Having a legal blog is a great way to reach out to people, since I can ask them to share their experiences and advice. Most people are happy to help, and have really useful info to share with aspiring lawyers.

 

Q: Can you share any “ah ha” moments – good or bad?

A: Sure, I had two very early on, in the first week or so after I launched The Girl’s Guide. In all honesty, I didn’t expect anyone to find or read the site for awhile. I’d told all of my friends about it, of course, and I reached out to some old law school professors (shamelessly, I admit), but the idea that a random person on the internet might find it, and read it, seemed a bit farfetched.

So, I launched it and went on about my life. Within a few days, one of my posts on scheduling clerkship interviews was a top Google result, and someone had found me on Twitter and asked me to guest post regularly on their site. I was shocked, on both accounts.

The “ah ha” moment was twofold. One, search engine optimization and social media really work and can help you spread ideas very efficiently. Two, people might actually want to read this stuff!

 

Q: How’s Twitter working out for you? Do you actively participate on other social media platforms (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn discussion groups)?

A: Twitter’s the best! I was reluctant to join (and only did so because my web designer added a “Follow me on Twitter” button to the site), but it’s turned out to be awesome. I love how there’s such a community vibe to the whole thing, where everyone’s trying to post useful content that other people will appreciate. And it’s amazing how easily people can connect. I’ve got a bunch of “Twitter friends” now, that I’d never have met otherwise.

I’m also on Facebook and LinkedIn, and I think those have their place, even if they’re less active (at least for me). LinkedIn groups for law students and such are useful, because you can spread content and build a reputation as someone who knows what they’re talking about and is trying to help. My own LinkedIn group is pretty small, and I generally forget to update it. Facebook’s getting more active as I make more connections, but Twitter’s the clear winner for me!

 

Q: Do you have any plans to add other media to your mix (e.g. videos, webinars, conferences)?

A: Actually, yes, there are a couple of exciting things I’m working on. I’d like to start doing some podcasts, so I’m talking with Ann Levine about possible topics for her Blog Talk Radio show. I’m also working with Lee Faller Burgess, of Amicus Tutoring, on a course to demystify the law school experience, which we hope will be really helpful, and make law school less of an ordeal. Stay tuned!

 

Q: What do you say to prospective law students who ask “Is it worth it?”

A: I guess I’d ask what they mean by that. My question in return would be, “What do you want to get out of it?” If a prospective law student can answer that question with a decent level of detail, then we can start evaluating whether law school can meet their expectations.

I don’t think you can say, in the abstract, that law school is “worth it” or “not worth it.” Sure, you could calculate the cost to attend and your expected level of earnings over a given career path, and say you’ll be financially better off (or not) if you go to law school and everything goes according to plan. But that calculation leaves out a lot – Will you like your job? Will your work be meaningful? Will you be able to eat dinner with your kids (or even have time to have them)? Will this path make you happy?

These are big questions, and most of them can only be answered in retrospect. The mission for the prospective law student is to get as close to an answer in the here-and-now as they realistically can.

The way to do that, I think, is to find out as much as possible about the profession, and to talk to lots of practicing (and former) lawyers. When people are gathering information, it’s critical to be aware of natural heuristic biases (paying more attention to information that confirms your preexisting opinion, for example, and less to information that contradicts it).

The hardest part of this analysis is to find a way to really listen to what people are telling you. There’s a lot of wishful thinking out there, and law schools, to be frank, sometimes prey on this. The reality is that law’s a difficult profession, and it’s not a path to guaranteed riches. For the right person, it’s a good option. But far too many prospective students either fail to do their research, or put aside the feeling that maybe this isn’t a good idea, and end up bitter and disgruntled.

Don’t let this be you! Make sure you know what you’re getting into, before you commit to a legal career. Only later will you know if it was worth it.

Thanks a lot for having me on Shatterbox!

 

Alison Monahan started The Girl’s Guide to Law School to help aspiring lawyers have a better law school experience. She’s a 2006 graduate of Columbia Law School, where she was a member of the Columbia Law Review. After graduation, she clerked for a (totally awesome) federal judge for a year, then worked as a patent litigator in a San Francisco BigLaw firm.

If you’d like, feel free to follow The Girl’s Guide to Law School on Twitter at @GirlsGuideToLS, join our Facebook or LinkedIn groups, or sign up for our highly-coveted weekly newsletter.