Hand-crafted audiotapes may teach us a lesson worth remembering.

Hand-crafted audiotapes may teach us a lesson worth remembering.

Where can I get some colorful examples of audiocassette liner notes—like the ones we used to create for friends and others?

Why do I ask? Well, this Friday, I’ll address a banquet hall filled with legal leaders. The Chicago event is the Bar Leadership Institute of the American Bar Association. I was privileged to speak last year on the topic of written communication (primarily how bar presidents can increase their engagement and effectiveness in their presidents’ column, whether in print or online).

This week, my ABA-assigned topic is broader: strategic communication (the program is here). After my remarks, I’ll be joined by three smart communicators from bars around the country, who will speak on communication in print, online, and in person.

So why was I searching online for images of cassette liner notes? (That’s right; cassettes, created in about 1962.)

Well, among the messages I’ll impart has to do with the way all of us want to consume information today. Among the many items I read and watched to prepare my 30-minute presentation, one by Don MacKinnon stood out. He explained what had occurred in the music industry, and how listener interests had led to the downfall of the one-size-fits-all album. And not only have we begun to yearn for the mixtape again in music; we can see the same in various kinds of entertainment.

If in entertainment, why not in law, I wondered? Many of the people I’ll speak to on Friday can recall the heyday of associations. That’s when they controlled most of the means of production, in print and in professional education. It’s when competitors such as podcasts, apps, and downloads didn’t exist. It’s when—kind of—bar associations were record producers. And when we dropped a new album, we could be assured our audience would consume it. The lifting on the part of bars was pretty light.

That’s all changed, of course, and our audience wants a mixtape. That is, they want to curate great content from multiple sources. Smart associations will still be part of that mix, but we’re no longer the only game in town.

mixtape 2 disco mix

So my liner-note search was for some punchy visuals, as well as to serve as a model for my conference handout (a list of additional reading).

I’ll report back on how it all went (maybe I’ll even Slideshare my Powerpoint). And if things go well, I may have an audience selfie to share with you. What’s more mixtape than that?

David Bodney, of Ballard Spahr, chairs the upcoming ABA Forum on Communications Law

David Bodney, of Ballard Spahr, chairs the upcoming ABA Forum on Communications Law

One thing that always draws me in to speakers and conferences is their occasional attempt to offer some hands-on learning.

That is one of the pluses I spotted in the upcoming ABA Forum on Communications Law. The 20th annual conference will be held February 5-7, 2015, at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess.

Besides that interactivity, I also was pleased to see Arizona’s own David Bodney is the conference chair. Whether you’re a lawyer or a journalist (or both), you know David is a national leader on the topic of media and communications law.

Back to that interactivity.

Among other things, the conference will include a one-day “Media Advocacy Workshop” on February 5. I understand that in the hands-on advocacy training, participants in small groups will focus on media-law problems and will:

  • Argue a motion to quash a subpoena to a blogger in a civil case based on the First Amendment
  • Argue a summary judgment motion involving an invasion of privacy claim based on a leaked sex video and a defamation claim based on comments by an anonymous blog poster
  • Review a television story and related social media promotions based on public records and confidential sources

This is relevant, timely stuff, which would benefit attorneys and maybe even journalists.

Another highlight is the keynote speaker, Mary Beth Tinker, a plaintiff from the landmark students’ rights case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District, which involved the freedom of speech.

You can view the conference brochure here.

Early conference registration is December 15; the deadline to register for the Workshop is January 30, 2015.

I plan to attend parts of the conference (and hopefully the workshop too). I’ll let you know how the hands-on learning goes.

ABA blog question and data (Chart via Bob Ambrogi's Law Sites Blog.)

(Chart via Bob Ambrogi’s Law Sites Blog.)

Recent data from the American Bar Association suggests that fewer lawyers are blogging than have in the past. What this means … well, it could mean a few things.

Many folks—myself included—have advocated for the power of a blog to alter an attorney’s work life. Will a blog transform your law practice and rake in the clients? Probably not. Just like any tool at your disposal, this one can serve your particular needs—but you still have to identify what those needs are.

The hard work of determining your blog’s goals may have resulted in disappointment in the results—which were never clearly aimed for in the first place.

A very good roundup of the ABA’s new data is written by Bob Ambrogi. Among his mentions:

“Blogging was down among lawyers in all firm sizes except those in firms of 10-49 attorneys, where the percentage of lawyers who blog rose a point from 5% in 2013 to 6% this year. Among solos, the percentage who blog dropped from 12% to 10%; among those in firms of 2-9 attorneys, the percentage dropped from 11% to 8%; and in firms of 100 or more attorneys, the percentage went from 10% in 2013 to 9% this year.”

One interesting element of the ABA’s queries relates to its asking lawyers whether they “personally” maintain a blog (see chart above). Well, what else would they do?

As I have mentioned before, a debate exists over whether a lawyer’s blog is just another marketing tool, which no one (let alone potential clients) expects is penned by the lawyer herself.

Others (like me, for instance) see the blog as an opportunity to share your own thinking. It is not just like a lawyer bio, which we know a PR pro wrote. Neither is it like a brief, which everyone understands was drafted with the assistance of partners, associates and clerks.

As long as lawyers believe they can “farm out” the drafting of their own insights and legal perambulations, I’d wager that the decline in blogging may not be a bad thing.

What do you think?

 

ABA Section of Litigation logoLater this week, I’ll attend a conference focused on litigation. Just in case you can’t be there yourself, I thought I’d ask what you’d like me to cover.

The event is the annual conference of the American Bar Association Litigation Section (follow them on Twitter here). We are fortunate that the national event will be held April 9-11 right here in our state, at The Phoenician in Scottsdale. (The State Bar of Arizona CEO, John Phelps, is an Honorary Chair.)

The three days will have a boatload of seminars, 40 of them:

“including 3 plenaries and feature 150 of the nation’s most respected judges, academics and trial lawyers,as they address litigation development and techniques in trial advocacy. In addition to the education portion, the Section Annual Conference provides for an opportunity for meeting and networking with our distinguished guests and fellow participants.”

Wondering what the seminars include? You can breeze through the brochure here.

The ABA makes it even easier. Here is an abbreviated guide.

the phoenician scottsdale

The Phoenician Resort, Scottsdale, Ariz., site of the annual conference of the American Bar Association Section of Litigation, April 9-11, 2014.

I’ll be in and out of the conference this week, seeking stories and great new article ideas for Arizona Attorney Magazine. I’m developing my week’s calendar now, and I’d appreciate knowing which seminars sound most interesting to you.

Here are a few I may drop in on:

  • General counsel forum reveals the real deal
  • Janet Napolitano keynote
  • New technologies of evidence coming to court
  • Essential apps and websites for litigators
  • A lynching that forever changed law practice
  • DOMA’s dead: Now what?
  • Hot Internet litigation trends
  • Lean In for lawyers
  • Social media’s implications for litigation
  • Communicating about mistakes with clients
  • Litigating privacy and data breach issues
  • Dealing with difficult judges
  • Business divorces

… and, of course:

  • The Trial of Wyatt Earp

And then after lunch …

Only kidding. I may not have time to attend all of these. But look over the program and tell me what you’d love to hear a synopsis of.

And if you plan to be there yourself, let me know. Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org. Or reach me on Twitter @azatty. I’ll also be tweeting, and here’s the conference hashtag: #14SAC

Let’s get litigious, shall we?

ReInvent Law Laboratory at Michigan State: You've heard that in Detroit they build things? They do the same in East Lansing. Some smart people have your law profession up on the lift, and they've got some bad news.

You’ve heard that in Detroit they build things? They do the same in East Lansing. Some smart people have your law profession up on the lift, and they’ve got some bad news.

Sometimes—especially on Twitter—uttering a great witticism can prove irresistible. Tossing out a touch of snark may even be appreciated. But it may also miss a bigger picture.

Three days after I posted a heartfelt and humorous (I think) tweet, I’ve come to reassess it.

A Funny But Misleading Tweet

Here’s the sitch: I had just arrived at the ABA Bar Leadership Institute on Thursday. I landed at Chicago Midway and took the subway in (oh how I miss reliable mass-transit—the Orange Line to Roosevelt, change to the Red Line, walk three blocks from the Grand station, 25 minutes total!). But that meant I strolled into a session about halfway through.

The speakers’ subject was “Opportunities for Innovation in a Changing Legal Landscape.” And the style was unique: Each of the seven speakers got about 8 to 10 minutes, TED-talk-style.

Arriving late, I got to see about two and a half of the presentations. But that meant I did get to see the amazing Will Hornsby, of the ABA, as his presentation closed out the session.

Will is a smart and talented man. In fact, I had met him when I had been in the editor job for only about five months. Back in 2001, I decided to host a roundtable on lawyer advertising. Much to my pleasure, Will agreed to travel from Chicago to Phoenix to participate (yes, it was in February; what are you getting at?). You can read the result here.

Personally effusive and digitally adept, Will and his humorously delivered insights carried the audience along on a very engaging stream. And so I tweeted:

Great innovative ideas at #BLI14. Someone call the police, cuz @willhornsby is stealing the show! http://t.co/PUU1zRM8i6 #closer

— Tim Eigo (@azatty) March 13, 2014

Was I wrong? No, for Will spoke eloquently on that changing legal landscape we’ve heard so much about.

Rethinking Engagement (and Law)

But then I got to thinking—maybe the tweet wasn’t entirely fair. I mean, you can’t review a movie if you walk in halfway though. So this weekend I started looking at the handouts of others in that session.

R. Amani Smathers, Innovation Counsel at the ReInvent Law Laboratory.

R. Amani Smathers, Innovation Counsel at the ReInvent Law Laboratory.

That takes me (and you, finally) to the work of a lawyer named R. Amani Smathers. Though I stand by my assessment of Will as a primo closer, I am very impressed by the vision and approach of Amani. Here is a video of one of her presentations (similar to the one she delivered in Chicago, which I missed).

That video drew me in and made me interested in the work of the ReInvent Law Laboratory, where she has the job title “Innovation Counsel” (yes, I’m jealous). I had heard about ReInvent Law, but it took her video to make me explore further.

What is unique about this effort, sponsored by the Michigan State University College of Law? Well, let’s start with the website, which is designed with curious legal innovators in mind, rather than law-journal-loving traditionalists. So from the get-go, they are signaling a new day.

Building a New Legal Profession

Others may have their own favorites, but among the Lab’s action words is my number-one evocative verb “Build.” Here’s what the organization says about build:

“Law firms should have research and development departments, but they don’t. ReInvent Law fills the R&D gap for law firms, in-house legal departments, and other legal service providers. We conduct experiments. We beta test new products. We engage in market research. We take risks. We question. We explore. … Learning by doing, learning by building is what we do. Talk is cheap. We build.”

A little in your face, right? Well, what part of “everything in the profession is changing” did you not understand?

What To Do, Who To Follow

Here’s how I can spot a compelling vision for our shared legal future: When I see another of their verbs is “Join Us,” I want to. But short of an offer to take an energetic work sabbatical in East Lansing (which would be pretty cool), I have opted to sign up for their email updates—which is what you should do, as well.

And if you want more news from the Lab, follow them on Twitter here. You should do the same with Amani Smathers here, and for good measure, take a look at her own site, which explains more about her “search of what it means to be a 21st-century lawyer.”

So in my defense: Will did steal the show, at least the part I saw. But more shows are a’comin’, folks, and I look forward to seeing how Amani and her colleagues bring the legal house down.

American Bar Association Bar Leadership Institute 2014 BLI logo

Last Friday, I had the chance to present to leaders of three sizes of bar associations—small, medium and large. Among the three, the best audience was those from bar associations that were —

Hold it. Let me pause before revealing who was the most engaged of my audiences at the ABA Bar Leadership Institute.

creating content that influences member engagement requires a plan and support.But I will tell you now that one thing I learned most as I prepared for my presentation was this: Everyone—even a bar president—seeks to be engaging. Even when we get the opportunity, though, we must have a plan, preparation and sufficient support to execute well.

To kick things off, here is what I opened with to each group:

“My modest charge this morning is to recommend ways for each of you to create phenomenal written content, fearlessly and with joy.”

“How hard can that be?” I may have continued.

It was a real privilege to be able to address attendees on one of their reported biggest concerns—Presidents’ messages or columns. My overall message to them—which I hope they appreciated—is that the primary job of a bar president is Chief Engagement Officer. And that there are techniques they could adopt that would help them create compelling content.

I wrote about this presentation a few weeks ago, and I thank those who offered suggestions for content and messages. As promised, those who shared ideas that I borrowed got a shout-out in my PowerPoint. Thank you especially to Dan Wise of the New Hampshire Bar, Brad Carr of the Alabama Bar, and Rick DeBruhl right here at the Arizona Bar. I also benefited from the insights of the past 15 years of Arizona Bar Presidents, a huge portion of whom responded generously to my queries about what makes an effective column.

My PowerPoint—minus its animated possibilities—is here. (It begins on the fourth page.) If I can figure out how, I may upload the robust version to SlideShare.

In my 14 years as editor at Arizona Attorney, I’ve read more than 150 such columns in our own magazine. Plus, I receive about 20 other bar magazines monthly—and yes, I try to read those, too. So I’ve come to be highly attuned to the challenge a president faces when she or he takes pen to paper. That’s why I ended my presentation with a toast (PowerPoint style).

Law and Order: "If you can lead your bar well, while making your practice thrive and keeping your family happy, I toast you."

“If you can lead your bar well, while making your practice thrive and keeping your family happy, I toast you.”

Finally, let me share the unofficial results of my assessment of audience engagement. I’d have to say that, all else being equal, the small and medium-sized bar groups were each highly engaged. If I were forced to choose, I suppose the medium group came in a nose ahead.

Let's give it up for ... the ABA BLI 2014 medium-bar group!

Let’s give it up for … the ABA BLI 2014 medium-bar group!

Both of those groups laughed and nodded in all the right places and ended with a bunch of questions. And the medium-bar group shouted out queries that even surprised me (“What was your favorite president’s column?” is something I am chagrined to say I had never considered—though I managed a response.)

Small but mighty: ... the ABA BLI 2014 small-bar group

Small but mighty … the ABA BLI 2014 small-bar group

So the large-bar group—my own people, you could say—take the number-three spot. But I won’t be too critical. After all, it was the final session of three, so they may have been a little shell-shocked. And as I headed into my third presentation, I faced a dry-mouth quandary, so my own delivery may have been on the decline. We got through it—together.

Don't be a (sleeping) giant ... the ABA BLI 2014 large-bar group

Don’t be a (sleeping) giant … the ABA BLI 2014 large-bar group

But what a privilege: To take some time to consider an important subject and to share ideas with smart and curious people—that may be one of the markers of a rewarding day job.

Tomorrow, I recommend to you the efforts of a law school that examines how the legal profession should be reinvented. I had heard of its work, but I learned more from someone who also spoke at the Bar Leadership Institute. But you’ll have to wait another day to know more.

magazine column dull + cats. What makes a compelling magazine column? Hmmm, let’s see. The truth probably lies somewhere between these two.

What makes a compelling magazine column? Hmmm, let’s see. The truth probably lies somewhere between these two.

I started out thinking today’s post was mainly for the lawyer readers. But now I’m not so sure.

In a few weeks, I’ll be presenting in Chicago at the American Bar Association’s annual Bar Leadership Institute. That’s where incoming leaders (often Presidents) of bar associations gather to get a crash course in numerous elements that go into guiding associations of attorneys.

My charge is to lend insight into what makes A-1 written materials—op-ds, letters to the editor, and the oft-feared President’s Message.

For the uninitiated, the President’s Message is a column-length essay published in a bar association’s magazine, newspaper or newsletter.

That message gives more agida to incoming leaders than virtually any other part of the job. And why shouldn’t it? Bar leaders are adept at many parts of the new job: They know how to run meetings, garner support and reach consensus (OK, “adept” may be a stretch). But how many of them have written a column?

Of course, most people have a good column in them. We have a powerful hankering to share the One Big Idea that has guided us, in life and practice. Without doubt, we can hit that column out of the park.

OK, that takes care of Month 1. Whatcha got for the other 11 months of your year? Gulp.

magazine column visual - Is it too much to expect bar leaders to write less and to think visually? Probably. Because law.

Is it too much to expect bar leaders to write less and to think visually? Probably. Because law.

I’ve read and edited President’s columns since 2000 (and I write my own monthly column; here’s January’s), so I have a pretty strong sense of what makes a good leader essay. But many of you read them; what do you think?

Because one of my messages to the presidents will be to crowdsource great ideas, today I am practicing what I preach. So …

In publications you enjoy (legal or not), what causes you to read a column (rather than a feature article)? What draws you in? What repels your gaze? Put another way:

  • What is the one piece of advice you would give a column writer?
  • What kind of content or approach do you find draws you in and leads you to respond?

If you have a thought that is not captured in my questions, please feel free to share that instead.

I am developing my presentation now. I’d be pleased to share your insight with the BLI attendees. And if I use your idea, I will credit you in my PowerPoint—so there; you, too, will be published!

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