Merry Christmas... everyone who reads this blog, have a very merry Christmas! and as Tess and Bruce on Strictly Come Dancing might say...keep running!

How to manage those "boundaries"

The Fast Forward Blog published a post earlier this month about the blurring of the "boundaries" between personal social networking and work related social networking. Called "How to Manage Fuzzy Boundaries Between Work, Personal Social Networking"

From the blog post "An issue that social networking is bringing to the fore — and has enormous legal implications for organizations — is where the social networking for an employer stops and personal social networking begins. This boundary keeps getting fuzzier and fuzzier all the time"

The blog post provides some advice on how you can manage this issue, the advice which was provided is as follows:

  • Extend traditional boundaries of etiquette and propriety
  • Teach people the boundaries from a good place
  • Think about whether an employee is a company rep 24/7
  • What is secret needs to say secret, but let’s not obsess about it
  • Risk has always been part of doing business

There is a lot more detail on what these issues actually mean on the blog post itself, so I recommend everyone has a look at these. What I will say is that there is some sound advice here.

Keeping an eye out for social media snake oil

Kevin O'Keefe has published an interesting post called Law firms should beware social media snake oil in it he refers to a post from Business Week, called "Beware Social Media snake oil" in the post from Businss Week the author argues that " entire industry of consultants has arisen to help companies navigate the world of social networks, blogs, and wikis. The self-proclaimed experts range from legions of wannabes, many of them refugees from the real estate bust, to industry superstars"

Kevin goes on to say that "Many legal professionals, reporters, conference coordinators, and bloggers are letting these 'experts' get away with it. They're defining social media expertise by the number of Twitter followers, blog mentions, LinkedIn connections, or website hits one has"

So what is the point of these blog posts? Kevin argues that using Social Media successfully doesn't happen overnight, you have to work on it and importantly it isn't a numbers game. The best advice from either of these blog posts come in the last paragraphs of Kevin's where he says "Go with what makes sense from someone who seems like a trusted and reliable source" very sound advice, not just when thinking about Social Media.

Why Law Firms should stop and think about Social Media

The Real Lawyers have Blogs have published an interesting post on the use of Social Media by Law Firms. In Law firms best not to get ahead of themselves on social media they ask whether it's better to learn how to do the basics well, rather then try to do lots of things badly.

From the blog post "Before just using every form of social media as a law firm, why not just master the basics? Rather than use a whole lot stuff badly and embarrass yourself unknowingly in the process, why not use something well?

Blogging is as basic as it gets in social media. And there's not a better way for a lawyer to demonstrate their expertise, establish themselves as thought leader, and get work the old fashioned tasteful way - by word of mouth.

To start a few blogs, do them poorly, and have lawyers struggling to continue to publish to the blogs while starting off on Twitter and Facebook is the height of folly. You've identified the most effective tool offering the highest ROI, a blog. Rather than learning how to use the tool wisely, you do a crummy job, leave the lawyers hanging, experience no success (other than saying we have blogs), and move on to the next great thing. Lunacy."

This seems like a very sensible approach to Social Media for law firms, but is this what happens in reality? Social Media applications are certainly very exciting to use and I think this is part of the problem. People get carried away with the potential benefits associated with using these tools and don't look at the consequences of rolling several out at the same time. A better approach would be as suggested in the blog post, to start small and basic and once the skills associated with this tool have been mastered move on.

The "Tao" of tweeting

In a recent post on Mashable called "The tao of Tweeting" Soren Gordhamer looks at some of the lessons that could be learned from the ancient chinese book the Tao te Ching

The four lessons that Soren has identified are:

  • Show versus tell - or how we should provide good, quality information related to a subject matter, rather then just tell people how great we are.
  • Have a passion for the process - This is really about being passionate about Tweeting, not only about how many followers you have.
  • Finding a balance - This is about knowing when to Tweet and perhaps more importantly when not to!
  • Focus on what you can add, not the technology - This is about remembering that its not the technology that matters, it's what you add to the "What is happening" box

This is a really interesting post, which surprisingly struck a real chord with me!

[Hat tip - the iLibrarian]

Usability testing toolkit

One of the things I'm likely to be doing in the New Year (yes 2010 is that close) is undertaking some usability testing. So a recent post from the iLibrarian called "Usability Testing Toolkit: Resources, Articles, and Techniques" seemed too good to be true.

The iLibrarian's post is actually a reference to a post called Usability Testing Toolkit: Resources, Articles, and Techniques this post contains links to sites, articles and other resources which can assist anyone who is undertaking usability testing. This looks like a real find and I'll definitely be using some of the resources published here.

Could your next event use Social Media?

Chris Brogan has written an excellent post on using social media at events. Called "How events could use Social Media" Chris highlights three areas where event organisers could use Social Media, they are;

  • Social Media Buzzes Up Potential Attendance
  • Social Media Extends Communities
  • Video and Audio Materials Drive Awareness

I think using social media is a great way to encourage people not only to attend your event but also to talk about it before, during and after. Before an event you could encourage people to post a Tweet indicating that they were attending, they might even find discover other people who are attending the event that they could meet up with.

During the event organisers could post updates and encourage others to do the same, this ensures that anybody who wasn't able to attend can see what is happening depsite this. Finally after the event slides and other materials could be posted to the various social media platforms. Something for BIALL to consider maybe?

Outsourcing Library services

The news from Legalweek that two more Law Firms have entered into agreement with Integreon should come as no surprise, but it's still rather depressing especially this close to Christmas.

The law firms and libraries involved are Beachcroft and TLT Solicitors and according to the article Integreon are also in "discussions" with a number of other law firms, that statement alone is enough to make many Law Librarians not look forward to the new year.

What's quite surprising about the Beachcroft announcement is that the firm just posted a 1/2 yearly revenue increase of 15%, that's not bad considering we're in the worst recession since time began.

Sara Batts of Uncooked Data has also posted about this "news"

Google now includes real time results

In case you missed it Google searches now include "real time results" that is results from sites like Twitter so when you run a search as well as the usual suspects in the results lists you should now also see what people are saying at the exact moment in time.

If you're looking for a bit more information on this new search function, then the video below is a good starting point. Real time search comes to Google : Twitter results displayed also has some more information on this search and if you cant see it how you can add it to your results display.

Measuring the ROI of social media and blogging

How does a law firm measure the Return on Investment (ROI) of its Social media or blogging efforts? that's the question asked in this post "How does a law firm measure ROI on its social media and blogging efforts? from the blog Real Lawyers have Blogs

The short answer is that ultimately it's an increase in "legal business" as long as social media and blogging are part of a well run strategic campaign then this should be the outcome. The post goes on to discuss some of the "milestones" that mark whether you're delivering ROI as well as a set of questions that law firms should ask themselves, these include the following:

  • Am I expanding my reach? Are more people within my target audience seeing me? It could be via search engines, but more importantly do they see you quoted in blogs and by reporters? Do they see you speaking at conferences or seminars they attend?
  • Am I engaging my target audience of clients, prospective clients, referral sources, and the influencers of those three (reporters, bloggers, association leaders, conference coordinators, and publishers)?
  • Am I building my influence among this target audience? Measure influence by how often you are cited in other blogs, Twitter, and the like. Citations are a measure of whether you're viewed as a reliable and trusted authority in your niche.
  • Does your target audience request action? Are they asking to talk with you? Do they want to review with you a matter they are working on?

As the post indicates, if you can answer all these questions with good answers then you're definitely heading in the right direction.

What is the future of legal research?

Quite a big question this and not one that "The future of legal research and search tools" answers, nonetheless this is a really interesting article on how search tools are developing. Providing a search tool that every fee-earner "enjoys" using and makes the most of is a very difficult task, fee-earners are not only looking for different things but individuals search in different ways.

The article looks in detail at some of the distinct issues that legal professionals face when it comes to searching for information within their organisation. The biggest of these in my mind is identifying what documents are going to be most valuable for fee-earners.

From the article "Understanding what lawyers want from their search engine is only one part of the puzzle. Conceptual searching - where the search engine will be able to determine what a document is about, rather than just the keywords it contains - is one of the most prized features of existing legal search tools, and it will only become more important in coming years. In fact, according to North, conceptual searching is not only a dramatic shift in search technology, it will change how lawyers traditionally conduct searches."

The other concept the article discusses is Social Search this is essentially the process of mining informal systems like blogs, wikis, social networks and microblogging sites or tapping into the "activity stream" of lawyers' behaviour to try and "provide valuable information that might otherwise be missed"

The problem with this of course is the culture of law firms and the fee-earners that work in them "Culturally, [lawyers are] nervous about putting things out there that aren't properly scrutinised, verified and sanctioned," she says. "While you would think that because they're effectively trading in information and knowledge, it would lend itself to Web 2.0, [but those] underlying cultural issues oppose the freedom and sharing of that information."

This is a really interesting article which not only looks at how search is being used but some of the issues that law firms needs to consider when they're thinking about implementing a search tool.