Archives for January 2009

Fun music for kids

This is way off topic for our blog, but one of my mother’s old friends, Pennie Sempell, was kind enough to send my family a set of CDs from her company, These are happy songs for kids on health issues, done in a radio talk show format. My 18-month-old is definitely too young to be the target market, but if we don’t have this CD playing, she’ll walk over to the stereo and push the buttons to make it play….or point and say, “uhhh uhhh uhhh”, which I’m pretty sure means, “Play my favorite CD!”

If you’re looking for happy music for kids without the commercialization of a lot of kids music, this is a good choice.

How Lawyers Can Grow Billings Using Online Networks and Internet Marketing

I’ve been engaged lately in several projects for attorneys and law firms, with the objective of expanding their business clientele through an online presence. Consider it “LinkedIn and Beyond for Lawyers.” An online presence — in social networks, blogs, webinars — has become more acceptable, even expected, for attorneys in the last few years.

  • LinkedIn, the largest networking site for professionals across industries, has over 750,000 lawyers and legal services providers with profiles.
  • The American Bar Association site lists over 5,000 ‘blawgs by lawyers.
  • Specialized communities are sprouting. LegalOnRamp is an online network exclusively for corporate general counsel to interact with each other and law firms; featuring more-than-cursory articles, a wiki to freely publish documents, survey results and industry data; and an active Ask the Expert section.

Where’s the benefit? The most common question for those starting to focus online is: “What do I get out of it? I created a LinkedIn profile but haven’t gotten any inquiries.” Of course, your results vary with effort. Consider a few common objectives:

  • You want to maintain contact with affiliates and other lawyers that will refer business to you. In this case, a profile for each professional, inserting the bios from your web site, is a good start on LinkedIn. Once these are published, you can request connections to your colleagues already on LinkedIn. Xing is a comparable social network emphasizing Europe and Asia and Plaxo is another recommended service with 40m subscribers, in which you receive updates about colleagues’ change of contact information. You can also publish quick thoughts or new to all your colleagues on these sites, which will complement regular emails and holiday cards. This assumes you have a solid electronic contact database. For this, Microsoft Outlook is a good start, with Microsoft Business Contact Manager or Avidian’s Prophet to enable contact sharing in a midsize firm, or Salesforce for a larger, multi-office practice (see this LinkedIn Question & Answer Chat about the best contact manager for a small to mid-sized firm). Creating your LinkedIn presence can take less than an hour in this minimal approach, with cleaning up your contact database being the major task. However, the result is that people who know and appreciate you will find you more easily, not that new prospects will seek your counsel.
  • You want prospective clients that are evaluating your practice to find a solid web presence. Here, you’ll want to polish your professionals’ LinkedIn profiles to include a bio written in an approachable first person. Change the standard “Ms. Doe is a patent lawyer representing firms of all sizes…” to include specialties (“I have worked extensively with both manufacturing and non-manufacturing technology entities, such as universities and the NIH“) and benefits (“I… help clients execute on strategies to leverage the value of their IP“). Then, add at least 20 links/connections to clients and colleagues; a photo and a vanity LinkedIn URL with your name, and have several clients publish short testimonials for your work (which you can propose in draft form and have them revise). This may take a few hours but puts you into the realm of credible online presence, beyond your web site.
  • You want prospects you’ve met to keep you in mind. For this case, minimally consider a quarterly e-newsletter with updates on law in their industry, and your publicly-known cases. One effective approach is to orient your content by industry of your client, rather than by legal domain — which few lawyers seem to do. A pharmaceutical client, a telecommunications company and an e-commerce startup use different language to refer to their intellectual property needs — one speaks of protecting an new product pipeline, another defending its technology and the third seeing a competitor copy their online brand. For them, it’s insufficient to state on LinkedIn that “I serve all industries” and leave it at that, or to write about patent /trademark activity across multiple industries. Free or for-fee webinars, or local lunches work well, as does joint presentations with complimentary service providers, such as a local private equity fund or networking association.
  • You want to solicit new business interest through your online presence. This is where substantial time is needed, because so many lawyers are attempting the same thing. Only a few per domain of expertise can break through the clutter, so you’ll want to strive for the frequency and depth of content that only one or two other firms can match when you search Google. You can accomplish this by writing white papers that help clients, or being the most frequent and insightful blog on a particular topic such as food and drug law, as well as a public speaker. Also, consider creative and even bold offers, such as Clock Tower Law’s offer of a free trademark registration for a startup. And combine online initiatives with local business development, such soliciting speaking engagements. One of my clients and I are working with a cost-effective outsourced service to find and monitor industry events for speaking opportunities, and having an executive assistant at the law firm propose the practice leader as a speaker.

Finally, be aware of how others are writing about you on the web. ZoomInfo compiles career biographies of anyone who has had a professional profile published on the web. Two lawyers I tracked shared first and last names (their middle name differed), but very different track records and some information had been confused between them by the automated system. You can fix this by claiming ownership about your data and correcting it. A site such as lets prospective employees write about their experience with your firm. One firm I was tracking had a strong presence on Google, ranking 5th when I searched for “NY intellectual property law firm.”  Yet on Vault, the first comment to appear was from a paralegal job candidate who wrote “If you [even] speak English, they will hire you,”  and another candidate said “the place is in shambles.” Not an attractive situation!

In sum, it takes little effort to get online and stay in touch with those who appreciate your reputation. Actually building your reputation online takes more time, but there are intermediate steps that allow you and your firm to match your business development goals with time availability.

For more thoughts, see the powerpoint I’ve posted below about how law firms can grow their revenues with Web 2.0 technologies. This is an update of a presentation I made a little while ago to the New York County Lawyers Association.

Nine Lives for Executives in Transition

I thought many people would be interested in the insights of Mike Lorelli on “Nine Lives for Executives in Transition”. Mike has been CEO of five private equity-backed companies, and is currently CEO of Water-Jel Technologies.

Nine Lives for Executives in Transition

High ROI Initiatives for the New Obama Administration

I have a number of friends/acquaintances who are involved in various ways in the incoming Obama administration. I wrote to them roughly the following note:

I realize that everyone you know is now deluging you with their advice on how the country should be run, in the hopes that you could get their ideas to the right ears. I wanted to take the liberty to share with you also three ideas which would have no significant marginal cost, and would be of great value in addressing the current economic crisis. I also realize that you and the rest of the transition team have undoubtedly thought of these ideas; I am adding in my vote that these are initiatives with high returns on political and financial capital.

1) Increase immigration by people with capital. There are approximately 2.2 million vacant homes in America. There are far more than 2.2m families in the world who want to move to the US and hope that their child grows up to be President. These immigrants will create economic activity and fill those vacant homes. This fact should allow the administration to override the forces that oppose immigration.

2) Radically simplify the tax code. I’m sure you’ve seen the estimates that the cost of compliance with the 67,204 pages of US tax law is equal to 10 to 24% of total tax revenues. Worse, the cost of compliance is effectively a regressive tax. With the right tax structure, you can increase (or keep flat) government revenues, while simultaneously increasing corporate profits and creating jobs. I realize that many people will oppose a flat tax, but even if you simply introduced a progressive tax with no deductions, exemptions, etc., you would make compliance dramatically more efficient. The big obstacle to reforming the tax code is that every politician has a pet interest that the existing tax code subsidizes. The current air of crisis may create a unique opportunity to get politicians aligned that fundamental reform is necessary….which it is.

3) Promote healthy eating. This is great for the environment, saves money, and promotes health…particularly for lower-income urban residents who tend to eat unhealthy diets. There are non-coercive and money-saving measures that the government can take to promote healthy eating. The easiest way to address our health-care crisis (the elephant in the economic room) is to promote people being healthy, and improving their diet is by far the simplest way to do that.

Composing Music Collaboratively

Sites for posting and sharing music have democratized the music business to the point where any aspiring artist or band can get their music heard. The downside, of course, is with so much music freely available, full-time musicians are finding it more difficult to make a living. The NY Times has written a state of the industry piece, “Songs from the Heart of a Marketing Plan,” about how more musicians are creating tunes designed for licensing in commercials and movies, rather than taking chances on developing a unique identity.

There is another exciting, and growing, upside to music sharing on the web ? the ability for musicians to collaborate online, with others around the world to create new sounds, songs and even bands. I heard the creators of Indaba speak recently. Founded by a pair of modest early 20-somethings, Indaba has put together an easy to use and compelling site for posting tracks – a bass and drums groove; a piano and voice demo, etc; – and inviting others to layer on more sounds – guitar, a better voice, electronic percussion – to build music across borders. Now that the site has become more intensely useful with online track editing and project management, contests with the Berklee College of Music, plus negotiation over copyright use, it’s gained thousands of users and support of artists such as Third Eye Blind who are allowing musicians to remix their basic tracks even before their album comes out.

Then there’s Share My Lyrics, which is encouraging people to post complete lyrics or just snippets, get feedback on their skills, write lyrics together and sell them.

Music could be the easiest art form to create collaboratively online, given the way one person can layer a musical concept on top of the framework of other people’s tracks within minutes. But the same concept can be applied to any art form that can be digitized – manipulated digital photography, video, fiction, poetry, even dance – with the right editing tools. See NPR Radio’s Jan.5 story on wovels– novels on which readers vote an direction for next weeks’ chapter installment and DanceForms for PC-based dance choreography software that no doubt can be translated to a Web 2.0 platform.

Twitter Phishing Scam Alert, Password Safety

I’d heard this was going on, but I just received my first one of these, so I figured I’d better share it with everybody. I received an email that looks like a Twitter direct message notification:


I was a bit suspicious of the message and URL (, and Google Chrome (my new default browser since Firefox went crazy on me) was kind enough to give me a possible phishing alert when I went to the site.

The site looks exactly like Twitter — the URL is the only give-away. But if you put your user name and password in, you’ve just let someone hack your Twitter account.

The notification will appear to be from someone you know — the follower data is publicly available if your profile is open. It doesn’t necessarily mean their account has been hacked. If uou only get an email notification, not an actual Twitter DM, then their account is probably OK. If you receive one of these as an actual Twitter DM, then they’ve probably been hacked and should immediately change their password.

On the topic of passwords, I know a lot of people use the same password everywhere. BAD IDEA!!!

I hope it’s obvious why you shouldn’t do it. The problem, of course, is trying to manage/remember multiple passwords. One approach is to use some kind of password management software, but that only works from your own computer, and you’re in trouble if you want to log on from somewhere else.

In Chapter 16 (pp. 140-141) of The Virtual Handshake (free download or buy at Amazon), we offer a simple scheme for creating passwords that are unique for each site, but not easily decipherable if someone obtains a single password. I’ve found, though, that more and more sites are requiring longer passwords — sometimes 8 characters — and also doing things like requiring both numbers and letters in the password. A couple of years ago, I posted a little more complex password scheme that should meet those requirements.

Developing a secure password management scheme is one of the single best things you can do to protect against online identity theft.