I struggled with the concept of Twitter for awhile. I kept asking a friend who is BIG on Twitter to please explain how it ‘worked.’ Because I just didn’t get it. And I’m usually pretty quick at getting new things. I’m an early adopter, social media fangirl, etc. and so forth.
But Twitter, not so much. Until I got tired of asking about it and I just jumped in and started twittering. And while there was a learning curve, now I get it. At least I get what Twitter is to me. And now I get the Twitter question a lot from lawyers I’m working with on tech and social media projects. Many of them are in my old shoes, trying to figure it out.
One-on-one, we can work through how Twitter works - and whether it’s something for a particular person to investigate. (A golden rule: be selective in your social media choices. Twitter isn’t for everyone. And that’s okay.)
Since I get the query so often, I thought I would share a few of my thoughts on the subject. One to many (or at least the three readers of this tumbler).
Twitter Rule No. 1.
Twitter is what you want Twitter to be.
Lots of folks have written books on how to use Twitter. There’s even one for lawyers, written by a super-nice and tech-savvy guy (who, by the way, is my friend on Twitter). I’ve never read any of the books, although I also will admit that it may have helped me be less confused if I had read one of the books. But I shall never know.
With that said, regardless of what these books may tell you, I am most certain of one thing: there is no one ‘right’ way to ‘do’ Twitter. Based on the flood of tweets I peruse on a (sort of) daily basis, folks use Twitter for all kinds of reasons, and they use it in very different ways.
Some folks are what I call focused yet random tweeters. They may focus on a certain topic (which usually is what drew me to them in the first place), but they also tweet about random stuff, like, say, North Korea, pizza, and the weather. This is probably my favorite type of twitterer because I not only learn some useful stuff (re: that topic that lead me to follow them in the first place), but I also get a real feel for who that person is. Which for me is an important part of engaging via social media.
Then you have the folks who are all business. They focus on their specific topic(s) of choice and nary do they vary. Personally, I appreciate this style less in individuals because I usually get no sense of who the person is. And, for me, this makes what they share less interesting.
On the other hand, if you’re Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, or Mashable? Then staying on-topic is not only appropriate, it’s expected. And if you’re tweeting as a business, it’s okay to be all business — but I’m convinced that you’re more appealing if you show a little personality even with a strictly business account. It will set you apart, and you need all the help you can to be ‘heard’ amongst the millions on Twitter.
You also have the twitterers who mostly tweet about personal things. Like what they just ate, where they are, where they’re going, who they’re with, and so on and so forth. These folks? To me they’re interesting only if they’re already a personal friend (and sometimes not even then), or if they’re particularly witty (which sometimes veers into snarky), or (for some people but not really me) if they’re a celebrity and you like that kind of thing.
There aren’t many folks in category 3 on my following list. Because for me, Twitter is a source of useful information — primarily related to my professional interests and aspirations. That’s what Twitter is for me.
But regardless of your twitterer category, some further rules still apply no matter who you are or why you’re on Twitter.
Twitter Rule No. 2:
It’s important to understand that Twitter, at its most elemental, is a conversation. Potentially with the entire world. What you put out there is out there. Potentially forever. As with data on a hard drive, it can be impossible to forever delete what you put into the twitterverse.
Think you can just delete a tweet? Think again. You tweet something mean or too snarky or inappropriate and someone somewhere is taking a screen shot and your tweet will now live forever. Just ask Dave Ramsey about this.
[Today’s free tip: this is useful advice for you to share with clients, too. Before they tweet stuff that will end up biting them in the arse in court.]
There are more reasons to be nice. A big one: you will attract other nice people who will be more likely to follow you. Nice people are drawn to nice people. And, as a tweeting lawyer, just think of the positive PR you’ll give the profession by being genuinely NICE on Twitter!
Which sort of leads to …
Twitter Rule No. 3:
Don’t tweet it unless you’re okay if it shows up on the front page of the NYT.
I hesitated to even include Rule No. 3 because isn’t it just so obvious? If what you tweet could be read by anyone, and could last potentially forever, why in the world would you even need a rule about this?
If you’ve ever been the unintended recipient of a ‘reply all’ email — that clearly wasn’t intended for your eyes — then you know what I mean. And if you haven’t, then you need to understand that anything you put in writing and share on social media (or via email) could end up where you least want it to be. Because once you hit ‘post’ or ‘send,’ it leaves your control forever.
And as we know, lawyers have an even greater obligation not to blab about stuff we shouldn’t blab about. The regularity with which I receive ‘reply all’ emails from other lawyers that contain information I shouldn’t be receiving continues to astound me. So clearly while we know this to be true, some of us aren’t living it.
Which sort of leads to …
Twitter Rule No. 4
Don’t tweet under the influence.
I’m referring to at least two kinds of influence here. One is obvious - don’t jump on twitter after you’ve had a few too many.
Lawyer or not, it happens. Clearly Scott Brown forgot this rule.
The other kind of influence I’m referring to is ANGER. It’s dangerous to send something into the twitterverse when you’re angry. There’s that thing about not being able to ever, really take it back and all. And about being nice. All helpful things to remember before you hit the post button. Just ask this guy.
The four rules above should apply to anyone who tweets, regardless of your purpose or style of twittering. I have a few more rules which I think should apply, but your mileage may vary because I know from experience that not everyone will agree.
- Follow folks back. If a nice, seemingly normal, real (non-bot) person follows you on Twitter, then you should follow them back. You can filter this decision — if the person tweets only about yoga or aviaries and you just could care less about these things, then maybe not. (They will probably stop following you very soon, anyway.) But since you can filter your Twitter feed with lists so that you see only the tweets of folks who you’re really interested in, what’s the harm? Personally, I think it’s common courtesy. Unless you’re famous in some form or fashion (and please don’t ask me to set further parameters on this - it’s an ‘I know it when I see it’ sort of thing) — then not following back is rude. IMHO.
- Respond to interaction from others. If someone direct messages you, and they’re not creepy or a bot or something else clearly nebulous, then respond, even if it’s simply to say ‘thanks!’ This takes you 2 seconds and is a free way to create good will in the world. If someone responds to one of your tweets, or retweets, or otherwise mentions you? You should endeavor to respond, again if only with a simple ‘thanks!’ Admittedly, there will be times that interactions slip through the cracks. But if you make it a rule, this will happen rarely. And you will establish yourself as a worthy person to follow, when potential followers look through your stream and see that you actively respond to others.
- Create interactions with others. This probably should be a universal rule, and not one of my opinion rules. Because the point of social media is TO BE SOCIAL — which implies interaction. Retweet interesting tweets of those you follow. Or respond directly to the person who tweeted the interesting thing. Engage. You’ll learn more. You’ll make new friends, even. Some folks have created formulas for how many times you should retweet (‘RT’) or otherwise mention others on a daily basis, which is fine but I think it’s perfectly acceptable to simply be genuine and do it when it feels like the right thing to do. Formulas make the whole interaction thing feel less genuine. Although some take a data-driven stance so if Twitter is part of your marketing strategy, then I guess you could read this and decide for yourself.
- Be interested - and interesting. I’m stealing these words (at least the interested one) from a social media/marketing panel I attended recently. One of the panelists proclaimed that we should be ‘interested’ not ‘interesting’ on social media. I’m thinking we should be both. Which really dovetails with my earlier rules about interacting. Think about what you can share via Twitter that will be of interest to your followers - and share that. You can also establish yourself as an interesting person to follow by sharing interesting stuff - that folks find interesting. And how do you know what others find interesting? Because you pay attention to their interactions on Twitter - you express an interest in what they are saying. This is the clearest path to establishing relationships on social media that can enrich your life, both professionally and personally, in amazing ways.
So enough with these rules. There’s a whole other side to ‘twitter rules,’ which I will tackle in my next post. And it has nothing to do with being nice or interested/interesting. Stay tuned.
P.S. I would love to hear from you on Twitter! Interested in my focused yet random tweets? I’m @inspiredcat (my personal account) and @ilawpractice (one of my business accounts). I look forward to connecting!
The doom and gloom, it just keeps a-coming:
We took a look at more than 65,000 reviews submitted by employees in 2012 to determine the happiest and unhappiest jobs in America. In reviews, workers rate several factors that contribute to job happiness, such as company culture, compensation and the work they do. […]
The least happy job? Associate attorney (which has the highest average salary of all the jobs included). [See P.S. below!]
‘Associate attorneys stated they felt most unhappy with their company culture,’ [Heidi] Golledge [CEO and co-founder of Career Bliss] said in the Forbes piece. ‘In many cases, law firms are conducted in a structured environment that is heavily centered on billable hours. It may take several years for an associate to rise to the rank of partner.’
So I’m taking this in right after finishing my latest 52-in-52 book, Steven Kramer and Theresa Amabile’s The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work. I’ll admit that I was reading this book for myself — and not necessarily from the perspective of how our profession could use the data and tools Kramer and Amabile present.
But as I read the book (and take in this unhappiest statistic), it’s shocking how clear it is that the general structure of our profession needs to remake itself. And I’m saying this for completely different reasons than most of the well-known prognosticators on the topic. I’m saying it because the way our profession treats its own SUCKS. I could care less about what happens to the financial structure of BigLaw. What do I care about? That smart, compassionate, creative people are leaving our profession in droves (if they even got a chance to enter in the first place) OR they are avoiding it at all costs.
Money can’t buy a happy work life.
And for good reason. All of those things that are most likely to make us happy in our work — those things that create a positive inner work life (borrowing Kramer and Amabile’s language)? For the most part they’re nonexistent in the work life of many lawyers. Which is exactly why associate attorneys ranked #1 in unhappiest on CareerBliss’s list. Even though they took home the biggest paychecks.
We can talk all we want about reinventing the practice of law through technology, alternative billing methods, innovation or pick another trendy word. But the only way we’re going to really change things? By focusing on the PEOPLE who ARE THE PRACTICE.
Until lawyers at all levels (solo, small, big, virtual, etc.) understand that there are proven ways to make work BETTER and ways to be HAPPIER in your work, and that the change is hard but necessary — nothing is going to change. We’ll just keep talking about technology and alternative billing methods - oh, and let’s not forget legal project management — as the magic bullets.
We may have way cooler tools for doing our work, and perhaps we’re more efficient and thus more productive so we have happier clients paying more fair rates or we may even work fewer hours. But are we HAPPY? Are we doing the things that make our work life meaningful? Are we being treated in a way that supports a happy inner work life? We are not. See reference to the unhappiest job, above.
Lawyers are not special snowflakes.
The case studies offered by Kramer and Amabile (from 20+ years of research) clearly show that it’s possible to be happy doing the kind of work lawyers do — stressful, deadline-driven, sophisticated, demanding. They studied knowledge workers who spent their days doing work very similar to a lawyer’s daily grind. The bottom line: there are GOOD WAYS to work, and to manage and lead people. And their are bad ways. The work lawyers do is not special. It is WORK. And we appear stuck doing our work in a bad way.
Until we wake up and smell the coffee collectively, our profession is going to continue to lose those very people who have the most to give. We’ve got to end our fear of acknowledging lawyers as PEOPLE first - emotional beings with real and important needs. And we must acknowledge that these needs must be met, through our work. Because if it’s not, then those with the most to give are going to go somewhere where they can be happy.
There is a bright spot.
The bright spot? Our needs can be met. But not if we continue to ignore them and instead focus on all that is outside of the personal. And even brighter yet: If we create a way to work that does these things? I guarantee that those we serve through our work will benefit directly.
P.S. While associate attorneys may have reported the highest salary in the CareerBliss survey, I GUARANTEE that they make less per hour than those in other - much happier - careers. An associate making $160,000 is likely working 75-80 hours a week (not billing, mind you - but working). That’s an effective hourly earning rate of $40-43. WTF? But at least the PPP for their firm isn’t suffering …
I’m addicted to my RSS feed. Despite the fact that on any given day I have approximately 5K unread items, one of my happy places? Diving into all of the posts that have accumulated. Undisturbed by clients, co-workers, children, the spouse. Yes, I cherish my ‘reader time’ each day.
Which is why my stomach dropped when I saw a post on Twitter that Google Reader is going away as of July 1. I’ve used Reader for years to manage all of my feeds. Honestly, my first thought was, ‘Oh no, what am I going to do?!’
Then I realized that two other apps I touch daily also work in the same way. I just have to approach the process a bit differently.
If you don’t know what an RSS feed or reader is or why you should care, please scroll to the bottom of this post. You can thank me by sharing with others after you join the anointed RSS devotees.
I’ve used Feedly (screenshot above) as my desktop RSS consumption app for a while now. I’ve always synced it with my Google Reader feed, and thus never considered that I could add feeds directly with Feedly. Well, with a name like Feedly I guess I missed the forest for the trees, no? One can add feeds directly in Feedly. Really.
Feedly also has handy extensions, like the one for Chrome, which make it super-easy to leave the real world behind and immerse yourself in the blogosphere.
What I like about Feedly? It’s easy to organize feeds into categories. And the UX is nice. Clean, easy to maneuver. Waaay better than the unadulterated version of Google Reader (which, by the way, I never used to actually *read* anything - only to aggregate. and snoop - see below).
For the iPad, I adore Mr. Reader (that’s him, just above). The app syncs with Google Reader, as well, so my existing feeds land exactly as I have them organized in Google Reader. But, as with Feedly, I can add feeds directly so no need to worry about Google’s demise any more.
Feedly also has an iPad app. Which I have on my iPad. But I’ve never used it. However, since I now need to sync RSS feeds through an app and not through Google Reader that then syncs through my various preferred consumption apps, I may well be considering the iPad version of Feedly as a replacement for Mr. Reader. Maybe.
Other than the fact that I can’t sync between Feedly and Mr. Reader, I’ll also miss other features of Google Reader. (This is the snooping part.) For example, you can view all kinds of fascinating stats about feeds within Google Reader. Hit the gear icon next to any feed and you can view ‘details and statistics’ which include the number of followers in Google Reader that a given feed has, as well as post frequency and other stuff. Being nosey by nature, I’ve always enjoyed this feature. And I’ll be sad when it’s no longer at my finger tips.
But no more lamenting. I’m moving on. To Feedly, Mr. Reader, and perhaps other bigger and better readers as I discover them (and I’ll be sure to share, if I do).
For those skipping to the end because you don’t know what a RSS feed is or why to care: RSS stands for “rich site summary.” It’s a way to aggregate (collect) posts from your favorite online sources into one place, for ease of access and reading. You can find the RSS feed for just about any blog, video or other publication online and add it to a RSS aggregator (like those I mention in this post), so that you only have to go to one app in order to read all of the stuff that you love to read. (And it also means that you don’t have to sign up for blogs with your email, which only clutters up your inbox.)
[Warning: if you love to read, and you love gathering information, and you love having all that you love to read in one place, then a RSS reader may very well be your new addiction. I don’t want to blow your mind, so I shall save how you can further leverage this addiction with Evernote.]
You should care about RSS feeds and readers because the combination of the two is one of the most effective (and enjoyable - see warning above) ways to curate useful information for your practice. If you’re not delving into what others have to say about what you do and how you do it, then you’re going to be left behind. Staying current means being well-read.
I just learned about MobiLit for iPad (HT @MyCaseInc), and while I haven’t yet had a chance to test out its functionalities, the app shows tremendous promise if it can do all that it claims, and do it well.
With MobiLit, you can …
- import a variety of file types via Dropbox, iTunes, iBooks or email
- connect and present to a ‘myriad’ of iPads via any wireless or ad hoc network
- annotate while presenting: call-out, highlight, underline, draw, rotate, juxtapose documents side-by-side
The developer says that MobiLit is for “[a]ny situation that involves the presentation or discussion of materials with documents or images.” The presenter needs the full MobiLit app (9.99), and viewers need the MobiLit Viewer (free).
MobiLit reminds me of Idea Flight — but that app doesn’t have the editing component of MobiLit. You can share a presentation across multiple iPads (the Idea Flight Passengers), but not annotate the actual images or documents as you go.
I like the idea and if my test-drive proves its capabilities, I may use it in the next iPad workshop for ILP. I’ll check back in with a review soon.
(A version of this post first appeared on the Litg8tor Tech blog.)
Being a better lawyer is as simple as thinking like your ideal client. Or, how your ideal client should be thinking.
I’ve noted before that most of the best ideas I’ve gotten on how to be a better lawyer were ideas not aimed at lawyers. And this approach is one of those ideas.
Most (although not all) folks who offer practice management and marketing guidance to lawyers suffer from the same problem most lawyers and firms suffer from - they’re stuck in a world that probably has already disappeared. Great ideas for a 1990s practice (perhaps). But not a 2020 practice.
To pull ourselves up and into the 21st century, I say we cast the net wide and cull ideas creatively, from other disciplines. From web design, for example.
I recently came across this article on how to hire a great web designer. As I read, it was obvious to me that this advice applies equally to hiring a lawyer. And a creative, innovative lawyer? Not only will she know that these things are important to her clients, but she’ll actively and openly cultivate them.
The five tips:
- Hire for DNA: personality matters. When you’re working with a client on a legal matter - whether business or personal - it’s crucial for the ‘fit’ to be good. As the lawyer, you need to understand the clients’ needs from a personal perspective, and be prepared (and able) to met them. For example, some clients are emotional and needy (even business clients) - you’ve got to meet these needs, not ignore them. If you can’t, you’re not the right fit. Over the past 15 years, my most successful (and enjoyable) client projects have been so because of the right combination of DNA - both mine and the client’s.
- “Test drive” with a small project first: admittedly, this doesn’t apply to every practice. But do it if you can. It’s as much in your interest to start a new relationship with a small project first, so you can assess if the client is a good fit for you. I take this approach whenever I can, and it has saved me more than once from a long-term commitment to someone that was decidedly not a good fit for me or my practice.
- Pick a lawyer with aptitude, not simply a particular skill set: fluidity isn’t a commonly acknowledged skill in the legal profession, but the rapid pace of change in our world requires lawyers to be more fluid - able to change and meet new needs quickly. Our clients deserve counsel with the general skills for a legal project - but the pace of change in the 21st century requires lawyers to have an aptitude for advancing new knowledge and new skills quickly to best serve clients.
- Don’t ask trivia questions about the law: and now you’re wondering, what in the world does this mean? It means that a lawyer should be able to move beyond a basic explanation of legal issues (which most clients can find online anyway). Ask open-ended questions of clients and really, really listen. Then, and only then, do you move into a discussion of the legal issues - which you engage in without using legalese.
- Hire slow, fire fast: This dovetails with hiring for DNA. Clients shouldn’t stick with a lawyer who isn’t working out. And vice versa. If you can’t meet clients’ needs, then they need to work with someone else. And, perhaps equally important for you, if the client is driving you crazy, they need to work with someone else. It took me more than 10 years to really trust my gut and go with it. I now know when I need to fire a client, and I do it as quickly as possible. Of course, I meet all ethical obligations so that the client gets the legal counsel he or she needs - but from someone else.
We lawyers aren’t just competing with each other anymore. We’re also competing with a 24/7 source of a world of information - the internet. Add to this that there are more of us competing with each other every year, and likely more of us going into practice for ourselves than ever before, and you really have no choice.
You have to set yourself apart. Define your differences. Create your value proposition for the client. Be the lawyer that your ideal client wants to hire. Focusing on the five points above? A start.
I’ll admit that I chose this book (#10 of 52) because it was short. I needed a short book, or the book wasn’t going to get read. How fortuitous this choice happened to be. Make Your Idea Matter: Stand Out With a Better Story by Bernadette Jiwa was just the kickstart that I needed.
The book is a series of short posts that offer Seth Godin-ish bits of inspiration, common sense and wisdom. Many of the bits stuck in my head and will be the subject of contemplation as I ponder how to move from the theoretical to applying in actual practice.
[This movement — from really nice ideas (as Seth Godin often shares) — to actual practice is a constant source of both consternation and inspiration for me.]
For the legal entrepreneur — and really aren’t all of us non-biglaw types entrepreneurs? — I found Jiwa’s series-of-questions posts quite helpful. For example, she shares the five questions that Richard Branson asked himself when launching Virgin Airways, and suggests anyone with a biz idea should form the foundation on them:
- Do people want what I’m planning to make or offer?
- How can I create and deliver it at a price they are willing to pay?
- Can this product or service deliver on the promises I make to people?
- How will I let people know about the idea I created?
- Can I generate enough money to build on my idea?
[Make Your Idea Matter, Kindle edition, location 134]
Jiwa also shares ideas on how to think about customers (aka clients). I think lawyers often don’t think of clients as ‘customers,’ for many reasons. But we should. Shifting how we view the client as customer, and what we do to connect with the client as customer, will have a tremendous impact on both how we practice and how we market our practice.
The products and services you want to sell people will not succeed in the market if you don’t address the emotional wants of ‘real people’. It’s not enough just to fulfill the material needs of ‘prospects’.
A business (your business) needs to look past the labels it gives the people it serves, and see their hopes, dreams, fears and aspirations.
[Make Your Idea Matter, Kindle edition, location 185]
‘Brand’ and brand-building also get lots of attention from Jiwa. We’re somewhat inundated with the ‘branding’ concept these days, and I often see a huge disconnect in the legal community when it comes to conceiving of a law practice/firm as a brand. This is touchy-feely, market-y talk that lawyers give short shrift to. But we shouldn’t.
Jiwa maintains that a clearly established brand supported by a brand story makes your service better. It’s what sets you apart from the 1,000+ attorneys who do essentially what you do, likely within 50 square miles of where you do it.
Branding is not something that’s arranged on the surface, like a stiffly coiffed hairstyle on a fashion model. It takes place from the inside out, so successful brands and ideas are founded on a great mission, a story that we want to believe in.
Everything you do to tell that story — from your brand name, to your social media interactions — must amplify what you stand for, and communicate to the world why people should care that you brought this thing into life in the first place.
[Make Your Idea Matter, Kindle edition, location 276]
I know from personal experience that connecting your brand to your “story” affects exactly the kind of client you want to work with. This has happened to me numerous times, most often when a would-be client is searching for information on the web, comes across my blog, and ultimately contacts me for help. My blog communicates my brand story, and resonates with exactly the folks who I want to serve. It’s a nexus that’s made possible solely through the wonderful world wide web. And it’s an opportunity not to be wasted.
More sections not to be missed by legal entrepreneurs: Nine Elements of the Perfect Pitch (location 282), Why You Need a Mission More Than a Website (location 309), and When What You’re Selling Isn’t What You’re Selling (location 354).
I could reference dozens more bits from Jiwa’s book. Every single one brings value. Instead, I urge you to spend the $2.99 and download to your Kindle/app. Take notes as you read. Answer the questions Jiwa asks. Put the theory into practice.
I’m still pinching myself. Can it be true? Can Bitcasa be all that it says it is?
According to its site, Bitcasa encrypts before uploading (thank you!) using AES-256, doesn’t store encryption keys (so no one there can access your data), keeps versions and deleted files (yay!), and offers INFINITE storage. Meaning for $9.99/month (or $69/year through today), you can store as much as you want, from all of your devices linked to your account.
Find terms of service here, including Bitcasa’s promise never to share your info (even with law enforcement) without your permission.
I’ve started mirroring drives on a couple of my Macs. So far, so good.
Bye-bye Backblaze? Perhaps.
A moment of panic led me to discover my latest favorite website, the Internet Archive Way Back Machine. I (quite desperately) needed to look at pages from an older version of a website, and within seconds Google led me to this magic internet time machine.
What the site says about its Way Back Machine:
Browse through over 240 billion web pages archived from 1996 to a few months ago. To start surfing the Wayback, type in the web address of a site or page where you would like to start, and press enter. Then select from the archived dates available. The resulting pages point to other archived pages at as close a date as possible. Keyword searching is not currently supported.
I entered the website I was seeking into the search box:
And moments later, an archived version of the site appeared. In fact, I could choose from five archived versions, dating back to when the site first appeared. It was magical.
Worth noting: the entire site I was searching for wasn’t archived - only the home page and some information on additional pages. Images were available only on the home page. Clearly, the archiving process has some limitations, but I was able to retrieve the information I needed.
I can think of a number of instances where having access to an archived site may be useful to a legal professional …