Dragon Naturally Speaking 10 - Highly Recommend It, 99% Accuracy

I'm getting an updated version of Dragon Naturally Speaking today (version 10) for $30.00.  I highly recommend this product, earlier versions have been a big help to me for several years now.  I'm looking forward to its additional features (skipping between apps., etc.), and the fact that today it's being offered at 70% off the regular price is just a wonderful gift for the new year. 

How do I use speech to text software?

I use an older version of Dragon Naturally Speaking (speech-to-text software) for writing first drafts, as well as a great aid in researching - and organizing my thoughts - accompanied by OneNote.  It's been my experience that 99% accuracy isn't always true, 95%-97% is my usual result.  And that's not bad - spell/grammar check via Word, and the job of correcting those errors is done fast enough. 

Why use voice recognition software?

It's best use for me is saving time.  I get more done by accompanying my typing (I do type fast) with speech to text software.  I'm thinking that the ability to use DNS 10's additional applications will only streamline things even more. 

However, being able to produce a document without the use of a keyboard or mouse is very beneficial to those with carpal tunnel syndrome, back pain, etc. and lots of folks with these physical hurdles swear by DNS. 

For all the details on this speech recognition software, check out my post today on Everyday Simplicity and the glowing review that the software package received at PCWorld.


What is a Pingback, a Trackback, or a Linkback?

It's geeky words like this -- pingback, trackback, linkback -- that send lots of folk up the wall.  Why do they need to know this stuff to have a blog or to write a post?  Well, you don't.  You can post to your blog without knowing what these things mean ... but it's better if you do, if you want lots of people to READ what you write.

So, here's what these words mean, succintly:

1.  Linkback.

This is the catch-all word.  Pingbacks and trackbacks (and refbacks) are all linkbacks.  Each of them offers a way to let the author of content published on the web (say, at a website or a blog) know when someone else has linked to their content. 

Linked?  As in "hyperlinked."  Someone, somewhere has read what you've placed on the web, and they've taken the time to link to that content in their post, article, or other form of website content.  For an example, I'm linking here to Wikipedia's definition of linkback, which I've found helpful in writing this paragraph, and which provides more details on linkbacking if you wish to go there and learn more. 


Law Firm Blogs - 8: Turning Your Blawg Into a Book

News this month is Blogger has teamed with Blog2Print, and you can convert your blog to a paperback book.  Here's the catch:  each paperback will cost you $14.95 -- and that is for a 20 page book. 

Add a page, it will cost you another 35 cents. 

While I like the idea of converting a law firm blog into a book that can be used for marketing purposes, I don't know that this offer is cost effective. 

I think a law firm blog-book would need to have well over 20 pages to be impressive to a client.  Of course, maybe that depends upon the client - and the topic covered by the blog.

However, before I made any final decision I would want to check out the quality of these "soft bound books."  The image provided by Blogger Buzz (shown here) looks nice enough but I would need to see the product in hand before I made any type of commitment.  Of course, that offer of a pdf version for $7.95/each might be a really nice option here ....


My Blog Posts Get Top Spots in Google Search Results Consistently Over Time

This afternoon, I stopped to check the stats for my personal blogs and found some nice results. I do this a lot, but today I actually stopped to make a little tally.

I've listed some of them here, and these searches are accurate as of today's date - using only Google. I have results in Yahoo, Bing, Ask, AOL, etc. but I chose only to check Google Search Results and only through the past couple of days results as recorded by StatCounter. For some, I saved the search results in OneNote, but this got to be time-consuming so I didn't do this for everything on the list.

And while I write professionally for several blogs/blawgs, these results are only for my personal blogs - as well as a little tidbit at the end where I blogged for a couple of friends and kept track on StatCounter for them, too. No waiver of client confidentiality here.

The biggest search result?
2 out of 1.75 billion for a two month old post

1,750,000,000 and my post is number two, after being published in June 2009 (see no. 1 under Backseat Lawyer).


Lawyer Writer News Flash: AP May Not Believe in Fair Use - They Want Payment for Excerpts Over 4 Words Long

This has been up for awhile over at the Associated Press site, but I think most folk are either ignorant of this fee schedule, or they're just blatantly ignoring it.

Me, I think it's stupid. AP wants you to pay for ANY excerpt of any of their content that you use on your blog. That's right. Quote as little as FIVE (5) words, and AP wants you to pay them $12.50.

Are we being punked? No. Apparently the AP is serious. Stupid, but serious.

And rather than rant, I refer you to the article written by Derek Bambauer for the Harvard University blog, Info/Law.

They are so ... well, polite. They call it "overreaching."

Stupid, overreaching. Po-tay-to, Po-tah-to.


Law Firm Blogs - 7: Duplicate Your Blog Posts on your Facebook page

So you have a blog (or blawg) and you've got a Facebook page. Great. Your time is valuable, so let's save some.

Multitask those two marketing spots by taking your blog content and republishing it on your Facebook page. Just go to Facebook, log in and go to the Notes page. From there, follow the directions to import the blog posts to your Fan page. Easy enough.

Edit your Feed settings so your unabridged blog posts show up on the Feeds of all your fans, as well.

There. Have questions? Email me and I'll walk you through.


Bing is up and running but I'm more interested in WolframAlpha

There's another "thinking" search engine for you to try out -- Bing -- and so far, I'm not impressed. Maybe it's too new, and it'll get better with time.

You remember Cuil, right?

Meanwhile, I'm keeping a closer watch on Wolfram Alpha. Which isn't a search engine per se ... instead it's a "computational knowledge" gizmo. Yeah, right.

More on how Wolfram Alpha is better than Google ... for some things ... over at Mashable. I like this, I mean why not go the next step instead of trying to out-Google Google? Isn't that Yahoo's job?

And, fine. I think I just like the name WolframAlpha. It's so perfect it should be in a Heinlein novel.

Pictured: WolframAlpha's one page summary.


Here's My Story: Bio of a Lawyer Writer

I'm a professional writer with 20+ yrs experience as an AV-rated lawyer (complex business litigation, high-dollar personal injury). I've tried cases in federal and state court, and I've taken appeals to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit as well as the Texas Supreme Court.

Most of my legal career has dealt with high stakes cases, files with complex legal issues and massive factual details. Right out of UT Law, Luke Soules was my mentor and I've very grateful to have been apprenticed to such a brilliant, excellent trial lawyer.

Today, I write about legal issues, particularly legally related SEO (search engine optimized) web content, and I also provide Social Media Consultation that relates to the legal profession. I do ghostwriting for lawyers and law firms on occasion.


Hooray for Leo Babauta at ZenHabits

I love Leo Babauta and I think you will too when you go read his post, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway (or, the Privatization of the English Language).

Leo is right and this is stupid.

What's stupid? Someone - who I won't name so he/she won't get any more publicity from me - sent Leo a cease and desist letter of some sort because he used the phrase "feel the fear and do it anyway." Or something close to that.

Feel the fear and do it anyway. He used it just like that -- within a blog post, not even within the title -- and the author of a book (again, I'm not naming the book or the author) thought this was sufficient to request that the phrase be acknowledged as trademark.


Social Media for Lawyers: Attorneys Take Note - Major Corporations Pay People Just to Tweet

Law firms are still getting used to websites, and from what I've experienced, the leaders of the pack are getting comfortable with blogs. Which is just so sad.

Social media is the place to be and the Biggies know it. I've already posted about Martha Stewart's tweets (I just learned today that she bathes her cats. Of course she does. She's Martha.) -- but did you know that Ford Motor Company has a man on its payroll whose job is "head of social media" for the company.

That's right. Head of social media. His name is Scott Monty and he can be found here on Twitter.


Writing Law Firm Blogs - 6: Law Blog Directories

Is your blog listed in any blog directories? And what is a blog directory, anyway?

Any site that organizes and lists blogs dealing with the law can be considered a law blog directory. Yahoo! has one. Google Blog Search (search for "law blogs") theorectically gives you one. Technorati doesn't have a category for law in its directory, but you can find law blogs easily enough with their search feature.

Then, there are sites like:

US Law Blog Directory
Justia Blawg Search
Blog Catalog

Consider contacting all these directories to request that your blog (or "blawg") be added to their listing. It's free, it's fast, and you never know what kind of traffic this can generate for you.

Successful blogging is a time-consuming process, covering many months. Little things like getting your blog into the directories can prove very helpful over time.


Social Media for Lawyers: Twitter for Biz Pros - The Debut of ExecTweets

I'm still new to Twitter, and I'm not sure what I think about it yet.

I know that John Tesh's tweet about fecal matter on shopping carts (which got lots of national media coverage) has got me using those free antibacterial wipes at the grocery store.

And, I know that it's somehow eerie to get tweets from Martha Stewart about what's she is fixing for lunch, and whether or not she's going riding today. It's almost like you know her, somehow.

But how does this work in a business environment? Tweets seem so friendly, so informal, so MySpace versus Facebook.

Well, today I learn that Twitter's addressing that issue with its new ExecTweets....

ExecTweets boils down to tweets from business executives. CEOs and the like. Talking shop.

Which sounds good in one way, and bad in another.

I doubt these folk are going to be very revealing in their tweets -- their lawyers wouldn't like that -- and let's face it: part of the fun of Tweeting is the silly stuff, like Martha Stewart's two pugs (Francesca and Sharky) who've just started their own blog.

I dunno. For me, the jury's still out on Tweets, much less this new ExecTweet business. We'll see.


The Speech from Scent of a Woman

Principles building character.
It will do you good to listen to this monologue, again. I hope.
I know I found something important here.


Social Media for Lawyers: Attorneys Take Note - Yesterday's Reputation is Today's Personal Brand

The word "brand" isn't new to you. Brand names were there in your childhood, and you knew them.

Barbie. Band-Aids. Kellogg's Frosted Flakes.

Then, branding got bigger. There was the brand image versus the brand experience. There was attitude branding and brand management and the relatively recent "no brand" strategy.

Attorneys are ignoring the opportunity to build their personal brand.

Lawyers and law firms need to start thinking about branding. Because in today's marketplace, you need to be conscious of your brand or lack of it. And, there's just not that much good attorney brand building out there right now.

If it helps you any ... maybe you could just remember that old, archaic term from back in the day: do you really know your reputation out there?

Don't think because you've ignored your brand that you don't have one.

Today, what with the speed of telecommunications and the advent of social media, what your business (and you, individual lawyer as well as incorporated law firm) has, like it or not, is a BRAND out there in the marketplace.

There's a public perception if you're big firm or solo. If you're plaintiff's PI or exclusively tax law. If you're male or female, AV rated or you got no rating at all.

Sure, it sounds a lot like a reputation of old.

Here's where it gets different. You can build a personal brand via the internet in ways that you could never build a reputation in the olden days.

If you aren't on the net at all, or if you've got a 5 year old website that has never been updated, you're communicating something. Your fellow attorneys may understand and appreciate your position. To the client, however, you may look dated, behind-the-times, or just plain cheap.

Building Your Personal Brand Isn't As Hard As It Appears. It's Actually Cheap and Easy - if You're Smart

Strategically place yourself on Facebook and LinkedIn, start a blog, begin tweeting on Twitter, and you've got the ball rolling. You're filling in lots of personal information about yourself, for potential clients and referring attorneys to use in assessing whether or not to hire you, and you're in total control of what they see and when they see it.

Want to appear as an expert in your area of law? Start a blog. Post regularly. Sound authoritative. Give lots of info. Link to other sites that are scholarly and helpful. Start comment-communications with bloggers who are similarly situated - like professors, for example. Email the agency reps who handle the government websites. Provide good information, stuff that is quality and builds a conversation and a camaraderie.

You know, NETWORK.

Want to build personal relationships with your clients? Start Tweeting. Tweets let you provide more personal, informal, friendship-building information than other web vehicles. Check out Martha Stewart. Check out William Shatner. These are two masters of this type of communication. (And let's not forget Pres. Obama whose tweets were very, very helpful during the election.)

For a divorce attorney, or personal injury lawyer, tweeting can build a rapport with clients that is easy and fast -- and without much investment of time and NO money. (Twitter is a free service.)

What all does this mean?

By creating profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and the like, you are building an image of yourself that distinguishes you from the pack. You are revealing yourself to those who may need your services. People tend to connect, and to contract, with those whom they feel a connection.

It's all about finding something upon which to build trust.

Be honest, be forthright, and be brave. Put yourself out there. Get your personal brand out there and build what your grandpa might call your "online reputation."

It's not that hard.


Lawyer Writer News Flash: Fair Use Doctrine & Excerpts on the Web: What's the Rule Now?

The New York Times has a nice, lengthy article dealing with something that's important for bloggers and web writers everywhere: when is the "fair use" doctrine protection against a challenge that you've violated someone's rights by using excerpts from their column/magazine/newspaper/book/etc.?

Apparently, that standard 4-part test we've all relied upon for years now to determine "fair use" is being challenged by those who are upset about some things.

And by some things, of course, I mean advertising dollars.

This is a big deal and getting bigger, and you need to read this article.


Internet Marketing for Lawyers: Your Law Firm's Footprint on the Web - Do You Have One?

It's amazing to me how many law firms are still adjusting to have a firm web site on the Internet (and by that I mean, how many firms are still in the process of publishing one).

It's even more amazing to me how once the firm has a website up and running, they think they're done. Except for maybe updating attorney bios and adding testimonials or big wins every so often.

Why? Because the real question that smart law firms need to be asking themselves these days is "how big is our footprint on the web?" and here's what I mean by that....

The Real Question: How Big Is Your Footprint?

Having a nice website is important for a law firm that wants to be competitive in today's market. Especially in today's fight for every client dollar.

If your clients have any level of sophistication, they're going to Google you (or get their kids to do it). They may search not only for the law firm itself, but also for several of the attorneys there - particularly those with whom they have been, or may be, dealing.

If they find a professional, impressive website - good. You're looking good so far.

But what if they're Googling your competition too? Maybe you should do this, and see what pops up.

Your Footprint On The Web

Simply put, your footprint on the web is how often your name is shown on the screen, in different places on the web. What does Google (or to be fair, Yahoo) show when your name is searched?

It's astounding what the search engines can find. Your attendance at a school board meeting may pop up; your letter to the editor of your local newspaper can be retrieved; even your political contributions and your ancestral rank in the family tree may appear in a Google search for clients (and especially potential clients) to read.

You need to use this opportunity to educate your clients (and potential clients) about who you are, including your level of expertise in the law as well as (and this is very important) in their industry or chosen field of interest.

How Do You Build Your Professional Footprint?

It is not an overwhelming task, at least it doesn't have to be. And, it really can be fun. Fun. Really.

Here are some suggestions:

1. Start leaving comments on heavy-traffic sites, you will be amazed at how these things get picked up by the search engines. This means making some sort of substantive contribution to an ongoing story over at the New York Times (they all have comment sections) or the Wall Street Journal, places like that.

2. Start issuing press releases. Yes, media releases. New hire? Press release. Firm retreat? Press release. Someone get Board Certified? Press release. And these can be online press releases, as opposed to the standard print media of old. These things build presence over time.

3. Starting your own blog is best. If you just can't bring yourself to do that yet, ask to write a guest blog post. Go to Google Blog Search, find blogs that discuss issues that pertain to your practice area, and have readership in your location. Don't ask for money and don't expect to be paid.

4. Write a White Paper and stick it on your firm site in .pdf format and offer it to others for their review and use. Make it informative and of the highest quality. Doesn't have to be long - you're not writing a book here. It does have to help people and it MUST spotlight how knowledgeable you are about what you do.

What do you write about? What you know. What are you and your buddies talking about over coffee? Write about that. Write about A-Rod taking steroids and should he be in the Hall of Fame. Write about the cost of gasoline. Write about the state of the State of California, or about child abuse, or about encrypting email.

You need to write about things you feel comfortable discussing because you have some level of mastery of the subject matter. No, it doesn't - and it shouldn't - always need to be heady, sophisticated legal analysis. Sometimes, it should be. Sometimes, it needs to showcase your personality, and give the reader an idea of what you're really like.

There's lots of lawyers out there that can do your job - they're your competitors. At some point, clients know who all can do the job for them, and their hiring decisions then turn to the person or firm that they feel comfortable with, with whom they can relate.

And here is where your FOOTPRINT can be invaluable. (And, with very little monetary investment, I might add.)

Bottom Line

Scatter seeds over many different sites, leaving your virtual business card in a number of places. Write for your intended reader (in law firm marketing that's easy: it's a referring attorney or a potential client). Do this routinely, and do this over an extended time period.

This doesn't have to take a lot of time, but it does take dedication. Marketing always does.


Social Media for Lawyers: William Shatner is 78 years old and uses Twitter. You've got no excuse.

First, let me just say that I love William Shatner. I loved him then, I love him now. I love him more today than yesterday. I love him as Kirk. I love him as DennyCrane. I love his commercials, I love his YouTube videos, and I love his talk show. (I missed TJ Hooker.) I even love his jazz albums.

You get the idea.

And, if Bill Shatner (who turns 78 years old on March 22nd, can you believe it?) can figure out how to get online, and use Twitter (here's his site) -- well, I'm just sayin'.

Get on board, baby.


Lawyer Writer News Flash: Facebook Claims Full Rights to Everything On Your Facebook Site

Apparently, Facebook has quietly changed its Terms of Service (actually, they did this back on Feb. 4th) and maybe you should know about this.

Unless the complaints carry enough power to change things, right now Facebook owns everything that you put on its site -- that's right, everything that you've placed on your personal facebook page -- and Facebook can distribute and use your stuff for anything that Facebook thinks is a good idea. For Facebook.

Given that there's lots of talk about Social Media these days, especially focusing upon the use of Twitter and Facebook by law firms, this is really big news.

riverScrap has a nice overview.


Writing Law Firm Blogs - 5: Should You Have Pillar Posts on Your Blog?

There are marketing experts out there who are recommending up to five "pillar posts" be placed upon your blog. What's a pillar post and why should you and your law firm care about this?

First of all, "pillar posts" are long posts, usually over 500 words in length. Pillar posts give detailed information that is truly helpful to the client, while spotlighting one of your areas of expertise (or a practice area you're trying to grow).

They are articles set into your usual posting scheme. They are not an e-book (they're shorter), nor are they a separate article on your website (although they can tag-team on the website, too, if you'd like).

You do use SEO, of course. (SEO? Search engine optimization, the use of techniques designed to get your post into the top 5 or 10 results in any Google or Yahoo (or AOL or MSN) search.)

Where Do These Pillar Posts Go On the Blawg?

First, they'll first appear as a post, just like any other. Since they are long, it helps to have expanded post coding in your template (e.g., "read more" appears after the first few lines, and the reader jumps to a separate page showing just this post).

Then, shine some light on them by including separate links to just these articles over in your sidebar. Title that section with a catchy phrase that tells the reader that they are getting some of value at no charge here.

Is it worth your time and trouble? Yes.

1. Pillar posts drive traffic to the blog.

2. Pillar posts demonstrate your expertise.

3. Pillar posts can be easily referenced as a crossover marketing tool, e.g., replying to a client's email, "in response to your concerns, I would suggest reading my discussion of this very topic, at (insert link); or commenting on a news article in your local paper, "as I addressed recently online (insert link), this issue is best left ....".

What are some examples?

1. A criminal defense attorney's pillar post could be "Five Things You Should Know Before Your Car's Pulled Over By the Police," pointing toward his/her drunk driving practice, etc.;

2. A probate or estate planning lawyer's pillar post could be "Ten Things To Consider Before You Use An Online Legal Service To Draft Your Will," for obvious reasons;

3. A family law attorney's pillar post might go something like "Collaborative Divorce: Are You Ready? Is It For You?"

What if you don't have the time to write these long articles?

Then hire someone to do them. Hiring a professional writer with a legal background (yes, like me) can be cost-effective for your firm in these small marketing projects. The cost isn't that high because the lawyer-writer doesn't have a big learning curve on legal issues, they know the law and can ask you a few pointed questions as need be. And yes, you can negotiate that work to be done on a ghostwriting basis.

And, please feel free to e-mail me if you have questions. I won't try and soft-sell you and hopefully, I can be helpful. I love this stuff.


What's Being Checked Out at the Library - This Week, Lots of James Patterson

Publisher's Weekly has a library list, but the one that I like to check is the list over at Library Journal, written by librarians for librarians. And while some parts of the country may vary from others -- for instance, in Dayton the top borrowed book for all of 2008 is Janet Evanovich's Fearless Fourteen -- the LJ list seems solid as an overall tally.At the Library Journal, they give you the top 20 most borrowed books of the week, as well as the number of weeks the book has been on the list and where it stood in the rankings for the prior week.

Good to know, if you're writing - or if you're reading. There's a lot of good suggestions on what might be a great read for you, or a new author to check out.

The Big Kahunas are truly here: Janet Evanovich, Nora Roberts, David Baldacci, Michael Connelly, Nicholas Sparks, Nelson DeMille, Robert Parker, ....

However, one of the things that I find most interesting is that James Patterson is on this list TWICE. Check this out:

6. Sail by James Patterson and Howard Roughan
7. Cross Country by James Patterson.

So, I guess I'm going to read me some James Patterson, because I haven't picked up one of his books in years.