Jan 12 2015

Explaining things in 140 characters is impossible!


I remember a time when you were wary of trying to explain things in email, would you be able convey exactly what you wanted to say in a way the recipient would understand? That now seems child’s play compared to making a point on twitter, a simple “I think A” statement creates a raft of responses “Why not B???” “Hey what the hell is wrong with C???” **

The benefits of having a blog is I have the space to write more than 140 characters to try and explain what I was trying to say in such a tweet this week:

I tend to judge how successful companies will be on their social media abilities nowadays. #LegalIT

This tweet was based on two IT companies who I have dealt with recently, both with good and very similar products. My attitude to them has been shaped by their social media abilities, well OK my perception of their abilities based on their attitude to social media. Both companies have new products or features on the horizon.

One company went out of their way to let me have advanced information about their product in the hope that I would blog about it, they know about this blog and therefore for them it’s a channel to get word out. It’s a risk, as I wouldn’t necessarily give the product a positive spin, but they’re confident enough in their product.

The other company insisted that the information they had told me remained confidential and shouldn’t be blogged about or posted online. I’d actually love to write about this firms new product, I think it’s a great direction and one that would interest the market they’re in.

This scenario was the point of my twitter post. To me the former shows confidence in their product, a real understanding of the modern IT environment, a willingness to engage customers and potential customers and to receive negative as well as positive feedback. The latter, well the opposite. I understand that in certain scenarios there may be a need to stop others getting to market before you release a killer new product, but this isn’t the case here. These attributes for the first company though for me are attributes of a firm more likely to be successful going forward (most other things, product etc being equal).

As an aside the status actually generated a conversation that took a different direction, even though that wasn’t the original intention of the point. So be careful when you tweet, either be prepared to converse on twitter or get a blog to explain yourself!


** thanks to a colleague for the first paragraph, that’s how he explained this twitter phenomenon


Oct 28 2010

Outlook 2010 – a legal viewpoint – part 3


It’s been a couple of months since I last blogged about my thoughts on Outlook 2010. You can read my previous two posts here and here (and on the Legal IT Professionals site, here and here) or you can just use the Office 2010 Series category to the right.

This post is a look at the presence, contacts and social connector features in Outlook 2010.

First let’s look at the contact cards. In the contacts folder there isn’t anything revolutionary, it’s pretty much the same as previous versions. But it’s the exposure of this contact information in other parts of Outlook that is a nice addition in 2010.  Just hover over a contact anywhere in Outlook (on an appointment, an email address etc) and you get the following pop-up displayed:


From here you can do a number of things. You can of course use the arrow in the bottom right to get more details of the contact. This can be information from your contacts folder or information held about people in your organisation address books.

But in addition from this pop-up you can start integrating into other parts of Outlook. So click on the email icon to send an email to the person or the icon to schedule a meeting (where it will show their availability where the contact is in your organisation).

Also from here you start to see the integration into other Microsoft products. So if you have Office Communicator in your organisation, you can see the presence of the contact (i.e. whether they are online, in a meeting, away, busy etc), you can start an IM (instant messaging) conversation or initiate a phone call with the person. Just like the rest of Office 2010 it’s all about having the right functionality available in the right place!

Another nice addition is the “Suggested Contacts” folder. This looks at the emails you send and builds up a collection of contacts for you. Initially you think “in most cases won’t that just be the email address and maybe a name?” Not necessarily!

Let’s look at how Outlook 2010 expands the contact card within the new People Pane and also allows you to expand it further with “social connectors”.


This area, below the email reading pane, works in a similar way to Xobni for those that have used that application. You can see an example above. In the top right of the people pane are all the contacts from the email (To:, CC: etc), click on a contact and you see details of other emails from that person, appointments you have with the person or attachments you have received from the person.

If you’ve got one of the Outlook Social Connectors installed then you can also see social media status updates, RSS feeds etc from the person. In the above image you can see I have the Linkedin social connector installed, this would be an excellent addition to Outlook 2010 for lawyers. As clients or prospective clients email you (or are cc’d in emails to you) you can immediately see information from their linkedin profile!

There are also social connectors for facebook, windows live messenger and myspace available from Microsoft at the moment.

But in addition there is a Social Connector Software Development Kit available from Microsoft, so there is the opportunity for law firms to develop their own social connectors. The obvious one is to pull richer information on internal contacts from intranets or people databases the firm may have.

Looking to the world of third party legal IT vendors, this has to be a great area for CRM in law firms. LexisNexis surely have to develop a connector for InterAction! It would be a perfect addition, allowing lawyers to instantly see up to date information on clients.

Also for Knowledge Management, a connector into the DMS (document management system) or Knowledge Management Systems to see documents or content authored by a particular contact within the organisation.

With all the added functionality and the flexibility in Outlook 2010 the difficult job for those Project Managers having to run the Office 2010 projects is where to draw that line under your project scope!


Vote for Jason Plant - IT Blog Awards 2010


Jun 23 2010

Take time to be bored!


I received a few comments recently asking how on earth I find time to update facebook and twitter all the time? In fact it’s not the first time, my wife asks this question regularly.

The answer I usually give is that I find the time in between other things. I use a Windows Phone with a facebook and a twitter app, so if I’m stuck waiting for a bus I can use my phone to look at facebook or I can post a tweet whilst watching TV. But inevitably whilst I explain I usually get the “But who cares what I’m eating for breakfast? I’m not really that interesting….”.

I could come up with a number of reasons why you should, but I’m reading a book at the moment called “Socialnomics” by Erik Qualman that has a great response to this, you can read the first few pages on the Amazon page linked here (in particular take a look at page 3). The jist of the argument is that social media makes you more productive by turning a previously wasted 10 minutes into a productive 10 minutes.

But when I set out of the idea for this post it wasn’t intended to answer those particular questions. The post was to answer a question that I asked myself after reading the first chapter. I started to think “Should we really be filling every moment of our lives with something”?

It’s been two week since my last post. One of the reasons is that I have been busy (aren’t we all!). But if I think about it I have had spare time, but I’ve ended up filling it just as the chapter highlighted. Also the busy time has been “that kind of busy that leaves you no time to think”, you know the kind that leaves you at the end of the evening just wanting to collapse in front of the TV! But during this time I did read a great post from Peter Bregman that made me see that this need to fill every hour of the day with something can be counter-intuitive. This part was the paragraph that stood out for me:

Being bored is a precious thing, a state of mind we should pursue. Once boredom sets in, our minds begin to wander, looking for something exciting, something interesting to land on. And that’s where creativity arises.

And that’s it, spot on! I’ve been so caught up with things; managing the detail of projects at work, sorting out all those household requirements at lunchtime, three young kids bedtime routine, working on stuff for school governors, spending time on facebook and of course watching the World Cup, that I’ve not left myself time for my mind to wander off. There has been time to write blog posts, but no time for coming up with the ideas of what to write about.

In fact I’m sure this happens in the work environment. There is a push in most companies to fill the day with as much work as possible. If we’re not at our desks beyond our 9 to 5, if we’re not skipping lunch, if we’re not cramming in as much work as possible we’re not doing it right. Sure we get a lot done, we look busy, but if we allow ourselves to be a bit creative we might realise we’re not efficient, we’re doing it wrong or worse going in completely the wrong direction.

I’m not advocating we all drop everything and use this as an excuse to be lazy, but just make sure there’s time to think. Maybe it’s just that hour at lunch spent wandering the city, letting your mind wander. Just some time in the day to break the busy and bring on a bit of boredom, just enough to get those creative juices flowing.

You know maybe Tony Hayward was doing just the right thing by taking time off to go sailing this weekend, maybe as he sailed round the Isle of Wight his mind wandered and he came up with an answer for the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico!


Dec 21 2009

Oh No! Not another Rage against the Machine-Joe McElderry post!


There is one piece of news this week that may have finally brought home to those in business how important social media is, the Joe McElderry v Rage Against the Machine story. It’s one that all lawyers and law firm marketing depts will hopefully be taking note of.

Before you stop reading let me say this isn’t going to be a blog post campaigning to get us all go web 2.0 and set up internal facebook systems. No, this is simply to raise awareness. As I’ve mentioned before Legal IT’ers need to be educating their lawyers (and perhaps some of their colleagues) about social media. It isn’t just generation Z posting pictures of themselves and their friends in uncompromising positions on open facebook accounts or posting about what you had for breakfast on twitter. No, this is about helping your firm and your clients to understand how social media could see their services or products destroyed in a tsunami of negative online comment!

It only took just two people and a facebook group to wreck Simon Cowell’s hold on the Christmas #1, a zero cost campaign against weeks of million viewer pulling X Factor “adverts”.

But still it’s amazing at how few businesses really “get” social media and prefer to just ignore it, rather than engage with it. Even in the IT industry! There are few Legal IT vendors that really “get it”. But they all need to, it’s no longer about good press releases and a good website, it’s about comment, engaging with your customers through interactive online content.

So I’m going to sign off with a challenge to the Legal IT vendors. If you read blogs for comment on your firm, how about letting us know that you’re a step ahead of most IT companies and post a simple comment on this post? Go on, given the time of year ow about just a simple “Happy Christmas from xyz plc”!


Dec 16 2009

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” – social media policies


"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication", Leonardo Da Vinci.

Has your law firm got a social media policy or a set of social media guidelines?

If not it is surely only a matter of time before they do. The rise of the risk management function in firms (not just law firms) means that as social media takes off, guidelines and policies will be put in place (take a look at this site for a raft of policies out there for various companies!).

I’ve been blogging (on this site) for a little under a year now and have already fallen foul a number of times, I have posted something I maybe shouldn’t have or ended up agreeing that it may be best I didn’t say what I had. So I think it’s in the interest of the blogger as well as the firm to have a few guidelines in place.

I recently caught a tweet that led me to a web page that outlined the guidelines for ABC in Australia, these were the best guidelines I have yet seen! The beauty is the simplicity:

  • Do not mix the professional and the personal in ways likely to bring the ABC into disrepute.
  • Do not undermine your effectiveness at work.
  • Do not imply ABC endorsement of your personal views.
  • Do not disclose confidential information obtained through work.

That’s it! Four bullets, brilliant!

If I had abided by these guidelines I would have checked myself in all my afore mentioned cases. As well as offering a good guideline for social media use they underline a trust and belief in the professionalism of their staff.

Those that are following this blog and/or my twitter feed know that I’m working on a number of things around email management at the moment. And this set of guidelines got me thinking, maybe this is the way forward for all policies?

So I had a go at a few points for managing the electronic file:

  • File electronic documents and email in a manner:
    • that would allow you to find and display any document/email on your PC should your client call unexpectedly and refer to that document/email
    • that you’d be happy to show your clients the electronic file

I think that would be enough to ensure a full and proper well organised electronic matter file, stored with others in an easy to find structure.

“Perfection is reached not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away", Antoine de Saint Exupéry.

"Simplify, and add lightness", Colin Chapman.

or simply KISS! (Keep it Simple, Stupid!)


Oct 19 2009

another blocked social site


When I started work for a utilities company during a placement year from university in 1991/92, all personal calls from your desk telephone were banned. If you wanted to make a personal call you had to use the office payphone. That’s right you had to wander out of the office to a payphone that for us was located on a different floor at the other end of the office. Sounds ludicrous now doesn’t it? I can’t recall the exact reason given at the time, but I’m sure cost and time wasting were quoted.

So I have a wry smile when I see articles like this one “One in Two U.K. Companies Block Social Networking Web Sites”.

To me the banning of social sites is just a ludicrous as the scenario I encountered in 1991. The common reasons for blocking given are:

  1. Time wasting costing firms money
  2. Legal risks, i.e. disclosure of confidential or proprietary information

For both blocking sites to me seems totally ineffective. In the age of Smartphones and Netbooks with wireless internet access (either WiFi or 3G) employees can and will use their own personal devices to access sites if they can’t from their work PC.

To me more effective methods are:

  1. For the first, surely a much simpler and effective answer is to manage your staff. This was what the utility industry had decided for the telephone by the time I returned to take a full time role in 1993.
  2. Surely a good policy written to explain to employees what is expected of them in terms of posting online? If you want to start one for your firm take a look at this great resource of social media policies.

I know first hand how social media can be a big distraction if not managed (I’ve started turning off my RSS reader during the day for this very reason), but it can also be a valuable source of information if used the right way. For law firms, in an age where we need lawyers to be as “clued up” as possible on social networks (see my last post!), banning them seems a step backwards!

So what does your firm do? Post in the comments and let us know (you can leave the firm name out if you wish).


Mar 31 2009

We all need to blog and twitter to get news of Workshare 5.2 SR3


If anyone wants an example of why you should blog or use twitter, read on!

Since starting this blog back in January I have built up better relationships with legal IT suppliers than I have ever managed with any “account manager”. Through blogging and through twitter I’ve managed to discuss their products directly with the people inside those companies who are involved with developing them.

An example today relates to comments I’ve made over the past month in regard to Workshares products, first about their recent 5.2 SR2 release and then about a possible protect workflow problem here.I’ve been contacted a couple of times by Workshare through this blog and through twitter (@jesbreslaw), but today I got some good news relating to two specific points I raised in the posts indicated above.

  1. My comment on 5.2 SR2 – “The PDF Combine functionality is only available from the local file system!!”
  2. My comment on how Protect and Autonomy iManage Send & File together could annoy lawyers.

Here’s what Kevin Docherty, Product Manager had to say:

I just wanted to clarify a quick point that you mention… re “The PDF Combine functionality is only available from the local file system!!”- I suspect that you are using the first Beta as the second Beta fully supports DMS interaction.

This is great news as I see this peice of functionality being really useful for things like Bible creation etc. Then on the second point Kevin continues:

yes, we know that this may provide a challenge to the basic Protect workflow. We are obtaining a pre-release version of Autonomy very soon and will be looking to get it set up ASAP. We’re specifically targeting Protect Workflow in the SR 3 version of Professional (Oct/Nov) so I will hopefully have some feedback for you around this area soon – and how we will be looking to cope with the multiple Autonomy pop-ups.

I’ve no idea how Workshare found the blog, but regardless I’m impressed that they took time to read and respond to their customers. More companies should follow suit and get their product development and sales staff on twitter and other “web 2.0” technologies to get dialogue going with people who use their applications.

If you want dates for the Workshare releases I got told the following:

  • SR2 Beta refresh– April 17th
  • SR2 General Availability –  May/June
  • SR3 estimated release – Oct/Nov

Jan 26 2009

Jaiku v Twitter


Is there any point in me introducing Twitter? It’s hit the mainstream press now, so like Facebook if you’re online reading this blog you probably have heard of the latest internet hit. But have you heard of Jaiku? My guess is probably not.

Jaiku was founded in 2006 and then purchased by Google a year later, it’s basically a “twitter clone”. It generated a fair bit of publicity last week amongst Google’s announcements that it was culling a number of it’s offerings.

Now I know Jaiku is never going to beat Twitter just like Microsoft Live Search is never going to beat Google. Twitter is now the defacto standard for micro blogging. So why then title a blog post in such a way that it indicates that there is some scope for a challenge?

The answer is in this paragraph from the Google announcement.

we are in the process of porting Jaiku over to Google App Engine. After the migration is complete, we will release the new open source Jaiku Engine project on Google Code under the Apache License. While Google will no longer actively develop the Jaiku codebase, the service itself will live on thanks to a dedicated and passionate volunteer team of Googlers

I can see so many uses for Twitter internally in a law firm. IT notifications of service interruption, legal project teams working together globally on cases using it to communicate, marketing teams communicating pitch information, you could fill a page with knowledge management use alone etc. The problem though is security. You may use Twitter now, but I bet you keep your tweets vague enough to not give any personal or confidential information away?

Now with an open source Jaiku, you can have an internal Twitter. Hosted on your own secure network. Keeping it in your own network means you don’t have to limit the content. Also with it being open source you can guarantee that soon there will be Adobe Air clients, BlackBerry clients, Mac clients etc etc

This could do for internal social networks what Twitter has already done for external!