Check Here: You May Be Violating State Bar Ethics Rules with Law Firm Recommendations on Google Places or LinkedIn

With everyone so excited about the impact of Google Places on law firm web sites positioning in search results, one thing that law firms and attorneys need to remember -- because that internet marketing company may not know, or may not care to bring up -- is that recommendations may be prohibited in their state.

Google Places' new HotPot recommendation service and LinkedIn recommendations may sound good to some lawyers, particularly those in the personal injury and criminal defense practice areas, but beware. Your local solitication rules may apply, forbidding recommendations of legal services online in this manner.

American Bar Association Model Rule 7.1

Lawyers know that every state bar ethical code has its origins in the model originating with the American Bar Association. Each state tweaks the ABA's prototype to serve its own jurisdiction; accordingly, what may be acceptable in Texas may not be okay in Indiana.

We attorneys know this: national marketers and internet search engines may not. Lawyers are responsible for adhering to their own ethical rules or risk sanctioning for failure to do so - it's not the marketing service provider's duty to know these things. It's ours.

Here is the text of ABA Model Rule 7.1:

Information About Legal Services
Rule 7.1 Communications Concerning A Lawyer's Services

A lawyer shall not make a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer's services. A communication is false or misleading if it contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law, or omits a fact necessary to make the statement considered as a whole not materially misleading.

Each State's Adaptation of Model Rule 7.1 - Review Those That Apply to Your Practice

If you practice in Florida, then check out Rule 4-7.2(c)(1)(J), which prohibits attorney testimonials in any kind of advertising. Ditto for those practicing in Indiana: read your state's Rule 7.2(d)(3). Here in Texas, things aren't quite as strict: testimonials can exist, within certain limitations. You need to check what state bar rules apply for every jurisdiction that applies to your law firm.

Online List of State Bar Rules Regarding Testimonials

The ABA has a webpage with links to each state's individual set of ethical rules.  Visit this online resource to find the ethical rules that apply to your situation.  

The ABA also provides a litany of examples on permeations of its Model Rule, gleaned from a Louisiana lawsuit's filed briefing, which includes in part:

  • Prohibition on Using False, Misleading or Nonverifiable Communications about Lawyer’s Services (Ohio)

  • Prohibition on Testimonials or Endorsements (Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Nevada, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Wyoming)

  • Restrictions on Testimonials or Endorsements (California, Louisiana, Missouri, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Virginia, Wisconsin)

  • Prohibition on Statements that Cannot be Substantiated or Verified (District of Columbia, Florida, Ohio, Oregon)

  • Restrictions on Statements Regarding Past Success (Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, New York,South Dakota, Texas, Virginia)

  • Prohibition on Statements that Promise Results (Florida, Louisiana)

  • Prohibition or Restriction on Comparing Quality of Lawyer’s Services or Describing Quality of Services (Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming)
  • 11/21/10

    Google Places: What Attorneys and Law Firms Need to Know - and Beware the Scams!

    Google Places is a big deal for lawyers.  How big is Google Places for law firms and attorneys on the web?  Remains to be seen. 

    The Onslaught of Cold Calls to Law Firms Pushing Google Places SEO Services - Beware of Scams!

    I'd just had a week of clients (and fellow lawyers) contacting me in a panic after hanging up with hard-sell marketing cold calls pushing them to drop everything and deal with the purported game-changer of Google Places.  It's amazing what these internet marketing specialists are offering to attorneys who are too busy or too disinterested to investigate this new Google tactic for themselves.  Buyer beware, my friends.

    Caveat: I'm a legal writer - not a SEO expert.  I do write optimized content, but I don't provide the usual panorama of search engine optimization services: no pay-per-click, etc.  I'm not interested in providing Google Place services, but I am concerned that scams concerning Google Places don't succeed.  And they are out there, and they're growing.

    What is Google Places?

    Google Places is a new service provided by Google that some may recognize as "place search."  It's a big deal because Google search results look different now, as a result of Google Places.  Now, for example, when you search for "injury law firm Houston" the first page of Google Search Results is filled with Google Place Results.

    You sign up for free at Google Places.  You pay for "tags."  Your business gets reviewed by whomever wants to take the time to do so, and until recently, the business owner couldn't control negative reviews.  That's apparently been changed recently by Google.

    Here's the Reason for the Brouhaha: Google Place sites get priority in search results. Your optmized web site is bumped down below the Place listings.

    Google Place is being stuck atop the usual Google search results, and you can identify the Place sites by the little alphabetized red flag (A gets the highest rank, etc.) that is predominantly displayed next to the individual result description.  The flags correspond to the map that is shown in the right sidebar. 

    So, no matter how much you paid some web marketing firm to optimize your site so you get in the top search results for your areas of practice or locality, you will be bumped by those Google Place listings to page 2 or 3 of the search results. 

    What Can You - the Busy Attorney or Law Firm - Do About Google Places?

    First, you can recognize that this is impacting web sites - not blogs.  Your blogs, established as a seperate domain name, will continue getting Google search results based upon the posts you are writing, etc.  Law firm blogs, or "blawgs," are safe. 

    Second, you can do several things for yourself, for free and without much complication.  These include:

    1. Go to Google Places and list your law firm.  Put in the same info that you see on your business card.  Do not be creative here.  Resist the urge to do multiple listings: AttorneySync, for example, warns that this can result in Google penalizing your site as violating its quality guidelines.
    2. Take advantage of the free service, GetListed.org, and make sure that your firm appears in Bing, Yahoo, etc.  Why? Google is known to cross-reference these sites to make sure your Place information is accurate.  (In SEO lingo, these third party references are "citations.")  Your firm information (address, phone number, email address) needs to be exactly the same in all the citations for Google Place purposes.
    3. Access your web site and insure that it is filled with images, links, etc. that are local in nature.  Garrett French has already accumulated a list of forty-four (44) query tips to help you do this. 
    Do you need to hire someone to do this?  From what I've read online, experts do not agree on this.  Should you decide to hire someone for Google Place services, then be sure that they are indeed an expert in this area -- and check what they're charging.  It's amazing the scamming going on out there -- and by some very, very "reputable" firms (for instance, charging for duplicate Place submissions despite the fact that Google may well penalize the duplication in the future).

    What's Really Going On Here?  More Money for Google

    Google is focusing upon providing localized search results not just because it's considered to be more convenient for the Google user -- Dustin Ruge explains that Google expects Google Places to make it lots of money.  According to Ruge:
    Local search is one of the fastest growing categories online and Google now claims that 20% of their search queries are local in nature. Furthering this is the rapid growth in mobile search where Google now claims that over 100 million people conduct maps searches from their mobile devices each month. By 2013, mobile device searches are expected to exceed PC based searches. But Google makes money off the their paid advertising and when local online advertising is expected to grow at 18% compared to only 11% for all online advertising by 2011, it is little mystery why Google is looking to profit from it.
    What's the Real Result?

    Too soon to tell, I think.  Personally, the Place results bug me so much, that I'll switch over to Bing or Yahoo rather than deal with them.  Google Places feels manipulative to me as a user, I don't like it.

    Second, law firms may need to avoid Google Places as it implements and encourages its review feature.  Recently, Google announced the addition of the HotPot recommendation service to Google Places.  In many states, bar ethic rules prohibit this sort of recommendation service for law firms

    There's probably more fall out.  And, here's the thing:  Google Places isn't really helpful in finding the best lawyer for the client - because the best attorney for the particular matter isn't necessarily the law office that's closest in proximity. 

    The real answer for attorneys to Google Places is to find a way to educate the public on this key issue (to the extent that the public doesn't recognize this simple fact already).  For me, that answer online is easy: blog. 


    Update on Mass Vegas Copyright Litigation from Winston & Strawn

    Winston & Strawn has been monitoring a Las Vegas company I wrote about a couple of months back -- the corporation that bought copyrights from various Nevada news media and began suing websites and blogs, personal and commercial, who had cut and pasted copy from the news articles into their own sites.  Suing in federal court for violations of the Copyright Act. 

    The company -- Righthaven -- got lots of media attention as it filed suit after suit, oftentimes against nonprofits and such.  Political affiliations and hidden agendas were questioned.  Biggest issue: Righthaven was doing this without bothering to first send a cease and desist.  (Rambo lives.)

    Winston is now reporting that Righthaven's days may be numbered.  One judge has decided, according to Winston's "special alert" that fair use applies.  Righthaven loses, although the winning defendant may have had to pay lotsa legal fees to defend itself and may find the victory bittersweet. 
    For more, check out what Winston has for you.


    How to Find Free Photos and Images for Your Blog: Searching the Public Domain

    Images: photos, clip art, comics – you want them for your blog post. Images make the site more visually appealing, and you’ve learned that photos sometimes help get you higher in Google search results.  However, the creator of that photo or image may want compensation for use of their work. Maybe a little, maybe a lot.

    And, you either can't or don’t want to pay for photos that you place on your blog.  Other than creating your own images or photos, is there a free and fast alternative?  Yes.

    You just need to learn about “public domain.” On the web, lots of people freely release their copyright in order to expose their talent and their work as widely as possible. Anything -- content, software, images, fonts, videos, etc. -- in the public domain may be used freely by anyone without contacting or gaining the permission of the originator.

    What is the Public Domain?

    The U.S. Copyright Office defines "public domain" as a work "...no longer under copyright protection or if it failed to meet the requirements for copyright protection." The public domain also includes works where the creator has freely released the work into the public domain. All types of creative work exist in the public domain.

    Tips on How to Find Photos and Images in the Public Domain – Free and Fast

    1. Basic web searching for the phrase "public domain" along with various words or phrases that you are seeking is an easy enough way to find free images and content on the web.

    For example, say you were looking for an image of Abraham Lincoln. Google "public domain image Abraham Lincoln" and you'll find a great photo of President Lincoln that the Library of Congress has been kind enough to upload for public use.

    2. Wikipedia also provides an online list of links with oodles of free, public domain images -- a list that is continually growing. It is an excellent resource. (One of my favorites is Wikimedia Commons.)

    3. Recently, the nonprofit organization Creative Commons (CC) announced the release of its Public Domain Mark (PDM). Through the use of a CC Public Domain Mark, photographers, graphic artists, and others can help others find their work via the use of a PDM -- see the mark, know that you're free to access the image. Surf the web forPDM” to find photos, images, and other available works that may not be otherwise categorized as available in the public domain.


    How Long Does it Take For Your Blog to Load? Find Out for Free - and Yes, You Should Care.

    Blogs that take too long to appear on screen are likely to be bypassed by impatient readers.  Google also uses load times as part of its decision-making process in which blogs get the top spots in search results. 

    Load times are important. 

    Adding too many pretty bells and whistles can cost you readership and ranking - so it's important to know how long it takes for your blog to load.

    Load?  Show up, fully appear on the screen after you've clicked on the link, surfed to the site. 

    Stopwatch will let you know your load time for free. Go here, input your website or blog path name, and watch the timer.  Pingdom does it, too - along with WebPagetest

    What Causes Slow Load Times?

    Google has a list of possible causes.  So does Yahoo.   Some of this is pretty techie stuff, admittedly. 


    Public Domain Mark Unveiled by Creative Commons: Big Help in Finding Free Images for Your Blog

    Vanity Fair's 1901
    caricature of Leo Tolstoy
    author of War & Peace, now
    in the public domain
    (Wikimedia Commons)
    Finding images to use on your blog can be difficult, if you don't want to pay for them and you don't want to infringe on another's copyright. Previously, I've suggested the use of public domain images and within that post, provided links (and lists of links) on how to find them.

    This week, the nonprofit organization Creative Commons (CC) announced the release of its Public Domain Mark (PDM). Through the use of a CC Public Domain Mark, photographers, graphic artists, and others can help others find their work via the use of a PDM -- see the mark, know that you're free to access the image.

    Of course, the PDM isn't the only way to find public domain images already provided to you on the web. Wikimedia Commons (see my earlier post) has been coordinating this effort for years.

    For more information, check out the FAQs at the Creative Commons site.


    Twitter Wants To Be Viewed as a News Source - and Maybe Twitter 4 News Isn't So Farfetched

    A couple of weeks ago, ReadWriteWeb posted on Twitter's Kevin Thau (he's Vice President of Business and Corporate Development for Twitter.Com) big announcement during Nokia World 2010 that Twitter isn't a social media site so much as it is a news site.   That's right: a source for breaking news on the web. 

    Now, there's lots of commentary at ReadWriteWeb about Mr. Thau's promotion of Twitter as a news feed (41 comments as I type this) and you may have your own two cents' worth on this issue. 

    My Clients Don't Respect Twitter as Social Media - They Use it to Share Information (i.e., as a News Feed)

    Most of my law firm clients either know zip about Twitter - or they know something about it because their kids tweet.  Many lawyers that do know about Twitter consider it silly, something that self-absorbed people do with too much time on their hands.  Who has time for it? 

    Clients that are acquainted with Twitter don't use it for discussion.  They zip bursts of information onto Twitter, tweeting about firm news, new blog posts, and the like.  From the comments on ReadWriteWeb, this seems to be the experience of many other individuals out there: "no discussion" is a common refrain by the commenters.

    Discussion vs. Information: The Fork in Twitter's Road

    Which means that Twitter needs to be seen as a news source, because that absence of discussion is sorta a death knell for a site touting itself a social media application.  Which is fine, because I think that Twitter IS a news source.  I recommend that my clients set up professional Twitter accounts and tweet regularly about business topics. 

    Tweets as free, fast news releases: the Jackson Walker example.

    Especially law firms; after all, consider Jackson Walker. Jackson Walker was fast to jump on the Twitter train and provides an excellent example of how tweeting is beneficial for law firms and other companies. 

    Today, for example, Jackson Walker is tweeting its congratulations to the 40 firm lawyers that have been named 2010 Super Lawyers, with the tweet providing a link to more information.  Smart.  Tweet as news release.  

    MSNBC's Breaking News vs. Twitter Trends

    Breaking News, an MSNBC attempt to follow Twitter and organize news stories, isn't the best source of breaking news in my experience.  I've found that actually following trending tweets, or searching for a specific phrase regarding a news story, does give me the latest information on a news story. 

    The Trends tool is especially useful on Twitter, since you can choose its scope -- from national news down to your local community.  Handy. 

    Often, it's Twitter Trending Topics are the most interesting, as well -- people tweeting from the hurricane's path, the football stadium, the crash site.  Remember following the Balloon Boy on Twitter?

    The Bottom Line:  Consider Twitter as a News Source -- Because Twitter is a News Feed. 

    Twitter is a good news source.  Smart to start promoting as such -- because here's where Twitter really provides a unique, valuable service for us all. 


    Law.Com: Tim Corcoran Writes About Law Firm Blogs as Marketing Tools

    There's an article at Law.com today which is worth your time: it's entitled "Marketing Your Law Practice With a Blog," and it's written by Timothy B. Corcoran, the man responsible for the site's Marketing the Law Firm newsletter as well as Corcoran's Business of Law blog. Two things to take away from today's read:

    1. The Importance of a Savvy Ghostwriter for Law Firm Blogs.

    Corcoran discusses content and the need for blog posts to give a glimpse into the blogger's personality and character. He doesn't dismiss ghostwriting, but he suggests that ghostwriting doesn't provide this vital component.

    I think he's partially right: most don't.  Ghostwritten blog posts need to be written by writers who understand the lawyer's (or law firm's) worldview and can write from that perspective.  To me, this means not only does the ghostwriter need to understand both (1) the law and (2) the practice of law but the ghostwriter needs to take the time to get to know (3) their client, the attorney that's hired them to write those posts.

    For example, I've written posts for an attorney who is an active and outspoken Libertarian. I'm not a Libertarian, but I understand his political outlook; we've discussed the approach he wants to take with his blog posts; and he's very happy with the aggressive stance his posts have taken on a variety of legal issues.  It's a compliment when your client tells you that "this is exactly what I'd write if I could figure out how to do this [blog]."

    2. Return on Investment On Law Firm Social Media Can't Be Measured By Number of Widgets Sold

    Corcoran also writes on the vital issue of financial investment. How to measure the return on a law firm's blogging dollars is a big concern to many -- and there are lots and lots of articles out there giving mathematical formulas and MadMen ratios to explain how a dollar spent in this month should return this many client revenue dollars by X month.

    I think Corcoran provides needed guidance on Law Firm Social Media ROI. Law firms have never sold products, they've sold services. Professional services. The attempts to fit law firm social media techniques into standardized products' marketing formulas is simply trying to wedge square pegs into round holes. Doesn't work.

    So, how to insure you're not throwing good money after bad? Read what Mr. Corcoran has to say, for one thing.


    Public Domain - The Best Source for Images or Content to Use on Your Blog

    What is the Public Domain?

    The U.S. Copyright Office defines "public domain" as a work "...no longer under copyright protection or if it failed to meet the requirements for copyright protection."  The public domain also includes works where the creator has freely released the work into the public domain. 

    On the web, lots of people freely release their copyright in order to expose their talent and their work as widely as possible.  Anything -- content, software, images, fonts, videos, etc. -- in the public domain may be used freely by anyone without contacting or gaining the permission of the originator.

    Finding Images and Content in the Public Domain

    1.  Searching for "public domain" along with various words or phrases that you are seeking is an easy enough way to find free images and content on the web. 

    Looking for an image of Abraham Lincoln?  Google "public domain image Abraham Lincoln," and you'll find the photo of President Lincoln shown above.  (The Library of Congress has been kind enough to upload it for us.)

    2.  Wikipedia has also provided an online list of links that provide free, public domain images -- a list that is continually growing.  It is an excellent resource.  (One of my favorites is Wikimedia Commons.)

    3.  Again, Wikipedia provides a long and growing online list of links providing free, public domain content -- worldwide.  It includes links to huge public domain content collections such as Project Guttenberg. 


    Fair Use of Another's Copyrighted Work is Defined in Section 107 of the US Copyright Act (17 USC 101 - 810)

    The United States Copyright Office provides some guidance regarding the fair use doctrine, as do other sites including Cornell University's LII - Wex and UCLA's Library

    What is the Fair Use Doctrine?

    In sum, it is a fair use of another's copyrighted work if you are using the work in order to provide criticism, in commentary, as part of news reporting, as part of teaching, in some form of scholarship, or in a research endeavor.

    If there is litigation, courts are instructed to determine if the use is fair by applying a balancing test made up of several factors.  

    Is Your Use a Fair Use?
    The obvious place to start when considering whether or not your intended use of another's work comes within the fair use doctrine is to read the statutory definition itself.  According to the US Copyright Act, fair use is:

    § 107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use

    Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.

    In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include —
     (1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

    (2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

    (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

    (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

    The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.

    Two Things of Note After Reading the Fair Use Doctrine's Statutory Definition

    1.  Notice that the statute does not give any set number of words that can be used before there is copyright infringement. There isn't one.

    2.  Also, notice that if you give the hyperlink before the cut and paste of another's work, that's not addressed here. Attribution may help regarding a plagarism claim, but it's not going to be a solid defense against copyright infringement.

    As lawyers and law firm write blogs and content for web sites, they may feel comfortable making their own legal call on whether or not their work falls within the fair use doctrine. Non-lawyers should seek legal guidance from an attorney to be on the safe side.


    Get Some Marketing Inspiration from Google's 2010 Online Marketing Challenge

    Google has announced the winners of its 2010 Online Marketing Challenge, and if you're interested in the details on how the winners were chosen (proprietary algorithm, blah blah blah), you can read all about that on the Google site.

    Additionally, go read the site for the names of the Universities and individual students that worked so hard to win these awards. As for what they did, check out the actual winning sites for inspiration on how to boost your site or blog:

    GLOBAL 2010 Winner
    Charlie and Moon

    Regional Winner

    AMERICAS Winner

    EMEA Winner
    Taniec (Polish Dance Studio)


    Profiting from Copyright Infringement - New Vegas Company Sues Bloggers After Buying Media Copyrights

    Beware. A new company based in Las Vegas thinks it's found the mother lode in media copyrights and the protections provided by federal law under the Copyright Act.

    And after testing out their business model in Las Vegas, suing bloggers and website owners for unauthorized cut and pasting of work found in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, they're aiming for bigger game. National game.

    Righthaven, which has only been in existence since March 2010, is busy every day apparently, surfing the web to find blogs and web sites where their news media clients' writing has been published, without permission.

    According to Free Republic, they're busy suing without any advance notice (the proverbial "cease and desist" notice) and they're suing nonprofits like Ecological Internet.

    Fair use?

    Remember my earlier post -- I've already opined that the traditional media is really, really, really trying to limit (and by limit, I mean destroy) the fair use doctrine because of the crushing financial blow print media has felt from online publication.  

    And, even if fair use is a valid defense to the allegation of copyright infringement in a courtroom, these actions will force bloggers and web site owners to hire attorneys and undertake the legal expense of proving their innocence in a court of law. 

    Which maybe they can and cannot do -- it may be cheaper to settle than to fight for right.  Another common defense tactic, force the plaintiff to spend itself into submission, but this time a basic right -- fair use -- is at stake. 

    Scary stuff, folks.


    How to Back Up Your Blog - Don't Assume It's Being Backed Up Already

    Backing up your blog is important - and it has to be done as a specific task. You risk losing all those blog posts, comments, and images if you aren't routinely backing up your blog (or blawg).

    Blogging Services Do Not Automatically Back Up Your Blog

    I've had clients assume that their Blogger blogs were automatically backed up by Blogger. No, they're not. Blogger does NOT back up blogs. Neither does WordPress.

    Website (and Blog) Hosting Services May Not Back Up Your Blog, Either

    Whether or not your blog is being backed up routinely depends upon the service you're using. LexBlog, for example, does back up. Nice, and important to do, for a paid blogging platform.

    However, I know of at least one web design company that promotes blogs as part of law firm website design but those blogs are not backed up. I learned of this situation because, sure enough, a series of law firm blog posts disappeared and there was no backup to fix the problem.

    Easy Solution: HTTrack to Back Up Your Blog

    There's a free service, HTTrack, that has proven to be safe and fast for me in backing up blogs. It has received good reviews from both CNET editors and users. (CNET provides a safe HTTrack download along with its review.)

    You can also use HTTrack to back up your website - or really, grab a copy of any existing website or blog on the web - to save offline on your hard drive. This might prove handy for your website, your client's website, or perhaps a website that you might want to use in litigation ....

    Daily Measure: Have Your Post Sent to Your E-Mail Inbox

    Your blogging platform should allow you to automatically send each post as it is published to an email address (several addresses, actually). Make sure you take advantage of this safety measure, as well as periodically backing up your blog in its entirety.


    Duplicate Content, Google Penalty and JDSupra Publication of Law Firm Blog Posts

    Recently, I was asked by a large law firm client whether or not the duplication of substantive, informative blog posts on JDSupra would risk the infamous penalty by Google for having the same content on two different webpages.  They were scared. 

    While the client didn't tell me this specifically, I believe that a representative of one of the national website and blog providers for law firms may have been the source of the misinformation.  They were vying for new business with the law firm, and apparently this duplicate content warning came up during some dog and pony discussions. 

    Misinformation on the Google Duplicate Content Penalty Abounds

    I suppose a lot is fair in the legal marketing game, and while I also know that there is a lot of information out there regarding duplicate content concerns (Google addresses this issue much more often than they'd like), I find it irritating to put a law firm into some level of stress when the information that you're providing is just plain wrong. Shame on them.

    Here's the deal:  you will not be penalized for putting your blog posts onto JDSupra.  In fact, you may benefit from JDSupra's ability to expose your work in ways that your blog or web site is failing to do. 

    The only detriment that you may receive is having Google choosing to rank the JDSupra version over your blog's identical post.  As long as you've got your contact information clearly provided in the JDSupra document, then you're reaching the market. 

    However, your blog isn't getting all the hits it would otherwise if Google picks JDSupra over your firm blawg (and that, of course, is assuming that it's getting recognized and respected by Google in the first place).  That's the risk with duplicate blog posts on JDSupra and your own blawg, and it's got zip to do with penalizing your page rank or Google taking other action against your site based upon manipulative practices. 

    The Solution? 

    Make sure your JDSupra document includes a link back to your original blog post.  And, tell Google your prefered domain for the content if you wish (see Google Webmaster Tools). 

    Don't trust me on this.  Go read the Google webmaster page itself, with yellow highlights provided courtesy of JDSupra. 

    For more information:
    How Search Engines Work -2: Indexing and Ranking (Google Caffiene, Google Page Rank)
    How Search Engines Work -1: Spiders That Crawl (Yahoo! Slurp, GoogleBot, BingBot)
    What is a Pingback, a Trackback, or a Linkback?


    How Search Engines Work - 2: Indexing and Ranking (Google Caffiene, Google Page Rank)

    Once spiders (or bots) crawl your site, they take the content information they've discovered on your web site and place that information in a database.  In an organized fashion, of course.  This is called "indexing." 

    Indexing Involves Organization of the Information Amassed by the Spiders

    Your content will be indexed according to how informative and helpful the spider or bot determines it to be for a particular topic, when compared to the other sites that it has crawled and placed within its database.  Exactly how things are indexed is a big, big trade secret for each of the search engines. 

    Especially Google.  In fact, last summer announced Google Caffeine - reportedly primarily a new twist on Google indexing according to Matt Cutts, although it also involves changes to Google crawling and ranking features as well. 

    Last month, Google Caffeine officially debuted as a "new web indexing system" that the Google blog describes as:
    50 percent fresher results for web searches than our last index, and it's the largest collection of web content we've offered. Whether it's a news story, a blog or a forum post, you can now find links to relevant content much sooner after it is published than was possible ever before.
    In litigation terms, the spiders undertake discovery, bring back all the facts relevant to the subject matter, and proceed to categorize them for easy use and retrieval by the search engine's clientele.  Major witnesses and documents will be given priority over inconsequential sources of data that discovery has obtained.  That's where ranking comes into play. 

    Ranking Involves Secret Decision-Making Protocols That Decide Who Gets Top Billing

    Once the search engine has gathered all the data from the web, and then segregated that data according to subject matter, the major decisions must be made.  Which sites go where in the search results?  Which sites are going to be recommended to the search engine's clientele as the best sites in response to the client's search request? 

    This is very important to the search engine, because its clientele depend upon its top 5 or 10 results to be the most informative sites regarding the query that has been made.  Bad search results, and the client can always use another search engine.  Google hasn't cornered the market because of its motto or the fact that its employees get to bring their dogs to work.  No.  Google has cornered the search engine market because it has been able to please more clients than the other search engines right here -- in how it ranks results.

    Google Ranking Tactics: Page Rank Technology and Hypertext-Matching Analysis

    Google in some ways doesn't try to hide the ball on ranking in its results.  According to its own Corporate Information, ranking is the result of:
    1.  Page Rank Technology
    "PageRank reflects our view of the importance of web pages by considering more than 500 million variables and 2 billion terms. Pages that we believe are important pages receive a higher PageRank and are more likely to appear at the top of the search results...." and
    2.  Hypertext-Matching Analysis
    "Our search engine also analyzes page content. However, instead of simply scanning for page-based text (which can be manipulated by site publishers through meta-tags), our technology analyzes the full content of a page and factors in fonts, subdivisions and the precise location of each word. We also analyze the content of neighboring web pages to ensure the results returned are the most relevant to a user's query."
    Search Engine Ranking and SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

    No search engine freely discloses how it makes its ranking decisions.  And, of course, savvy web surfers know that true research means using more than one search engine -- because they rank sites differently.  The same search in Google may not give the same results in Yahoo or Bing. 

    Ranking isn't the last stop in search engine inner workings.  However, understanding crawling, indexing, and ranking are the basics one needs to understand when writing blogs or web site content for the web. 

    You're not just writing for your intended reader, be it a colleague, a referring attorney, or a potential client.  You're also writing to please the spiders -- if you want to successful index and rank in the search engines.  And most do.

    Search Engine Optimization

    Which is where the field of search engine optimization comes into play.  SEO undertakes to strategize on how to achieve placement in the top search engine results of the various search engines for a web site through an understanding of crawling, indexing, and ranking techniques used by the various search engines.

    SEO involves many things.  Content, design, coding, advertising, and more.  SEO can involve paid marketing strategies (pay per click, etc.).  SEO can include design strategies implemented with certain search engine policies in mind. 

    SEO can incorporate tactics within the coding of the site ("source code" or "HTML code") -- which may or may not be visible to the site visitor.   "Black hat" SEO is an example of hidden coding unwelcomed by the search engines.  For example, hiding favorable keywords or key phrases within the coding of the site - where it remains unseen by the reader of the content - is clever optimization tool that will get a website penalized. 

    SEO can also include optimizing the content placed within the site to make the site's content "search engine friendly." Here, key words and key  phrases are placed within the content, as well as other SEO strategies to encourage high rankings of the site itself.


    What is Great Writing: The New Rules for Judging Great Content Because the Traditional Rules are Dead

    As promised, Ben Elowitz at Paid Content has defined the four rules that he thinks must be used to judge great writing in the digital age in his May 2010 article, "The New Rules for Judging Quality in Published Content."  

    This is the second part promised in his earlier article discussing how the traditional methods for judging great writing don't work in a world where content appears on the screen instead of on the page.  Making such broad statements as being published in the New York Times isn't a big deal anymore did bring Mr. Elowitz some flack.  After all, weren't we all raised to think that having your work appear in the NYT was the ultimate accomplishment?  Well, at least one of them?

    Elowitz's Four Rules for Great Writing on the Web

    I wasn't too sure if I agreed with Elowitz after reading his first piece.  However, I'm in total agreement with the four rules he provides us as the "New Rules," which are -- in my words, not his:

    1. relevance to the reader, not the editor -- the content needs to be focused upon the reader's wants/needs.  What do those surfing the web want or need to know? 

    2. technological component -- content can, and should, creatively include those benefits that the web has to offer (visuals, links, etc.) (Elowitz calls this co-dependence an "experience").  Consider the podcasts, videos, audios, etc.  I just saw an article in the Texas Tribune, for example, that made audio excerpts of an interview available at the end of each content paragraph, in case you wanted to listen to the question and answer as well as read about it. 

    3. perspective -- the same information can, and will, be provided in many different places on the web, so great content must have its flair - a twist that makes the reader want to read its version of the story over another option out there.  He uses Huffington Post as an example here.  I'm thinking it's the reason why TMZ survives right alongside E!, Popsugar, and all the rest. 

    4. buzzability -- the content has to invite sharing on the web via tweets or stumbles or diggs or "like it!" as well as being search engine index friendly (SEO is important, people!!!!).  It's true that content I find interesting is something that I want to share -- and I'm annoyed if it isn't easily tweetable.  It's also true that great content that isn't search engine optimized probably isn't getting read by anyone, because no one knows it's there to read in the first place.

    Is Elowitz right?  Google and Yahoo seem to think so .....

    Before you dismiss Elowitz as trendy or foolish or naive, consider that Google News now allows its readers to personalize the version of the Google News page that they see when they click on the site.  Readers are choosing what they want to read on the news site, not editors. 

    And, consider Yahoo!'s new blog, The Upshot -- where eight journalists are essentially going through the Yahoo! News results, and blogging about the upcoming, trending stories.  The journalists aren't deciding what's going onto the blog -- the people surfing the web and going through the Yahoo! news search engine are collectively deciding its content. 

    Me? What do I think about Elowitz's Four Rules of Great Writing?

    I think Elowitz is right on the money.  And, as for Google vs. Yahoo ... well, I've personalized my Google News page.  I have never read much less bookmarked the Upshot.  I don't feel the need for a blogger to feed me the news via blog post. 

    Why not?  I can surf thru the stories just fine, all by myself.  Which is the attitude and ability that is fueling this entire metamorphosis, isn't it?


    How Search Engines Work - 1: Spiders that Crawl (Yahoo! Slurp, GoogleBot, BingBot)

    You want your web site or blog to be in the top search results at Google, Yahoo, Bing, Ask, etc.?  Well, to accomplish that goal you need to know a bit about how search engines work.  Let's start with crawling.

    What are spiders in search engines?

    Each search engine has its own software tools that crawl the web (let's ignore the fact that the Internet and the WorldWideWeb are not synonymous for now), looking for content to provide its readers in search results. 

    Yahoo! Slurp is the name of Yahoo! web crawler.  Googlebot is the name of Google's spider. Right now, Bing is using MSN's old msnbot, but starting in October 2010, Bing will crawl the web using its new, fancy BingBot.  (BingBot is in beta now.)

    These "spiders" (also known as software robots or just "bots") are really computer code that reviews your site, analyzing all the content that is contained on your web page or blog.  Your content is coded to allow the spider to do this.  It can be coded by you or coded automatically by your software, like Blogger is doing for me right now as I type in Compose mode. 

    The spiders go through the content, word by word.  Or almost word by word.  (Their overall, global job is to find and organize every word they find on the Web, building lists of these words -- that's the big Web Crawl function.)  Google may exclude little words like "a" "the" etc., while AltaVista indexes every word found on a site page.  No search engine crawler crawls exactly the same as its competitors do. 

    The spiders also jump to your links.  The spiders, or bots, will check out both the internal links you've placed on your site linking your content to other pages on your site, as well as those external links where you've connected your content to outside sources of information.   

    This is called "crawling" your site. 

    And, those spiders don't do this just once.  No, no.  They'll be back.  They'll pop back over and check your site periodically, just to see if things have changed.  Have you added new content?  Do your links still work?  They'll also be looking at how your words are being used on the page:  titles, subtitles, headings, meta tags, etc. will be given a special tip of the hat as the search engine prioritizes your site. 

    Why do you care about spiders that crawl?  Because they teach you that it's important to (1) have content; (2) have sufficient content - 250 words or more; (3) have quality content; and (4) have links that work so that the spiders have something to index and rank from your site.

    Index? Rank?  More on that in the next post. 


    What is a Thought Leader? A Rose By Any Other Name Should Use the Other Name

    The term "thought leader" is attributed to former Harvard Business Review editor in chief Joel Kurtzman.  When Kurtzman was editor-in-chief of the magazine Strategy + Business, he first used the phrase in 1994, labeling those he interviewed for their forward-thinking, savvy business ideas as "thought leaders."

    Today, "thought leader" is a phrase that has been so overused and misapplied that many find its use suspicious.  Use it, and be ready: for many, it sets off the internal "BS alarm." 

    Last year, Rob Cottingham at Read.Write.Web. suggested that "thought leader" be one of those buzzwords we no longer use.  Once useful, Cottingham finds its had all its life sucked out of it by overapplication.

    I agree.  Don't get me wrong:  I like the phrase.  I like it.  Problem is, so many have used it and so many have stuck it on folk that are so obviously NOT thought leaders that it's just not valuable any longer - at least not in a good way. 

    It reminds me of fajita tacos.  Boy, were they great when they first arrived.  We'd all go to the restaurant downtown and await the hissing cast iron skillets as they sojourned through the dining room to our white linen tabletops.  Beef, chicken, onions, bell peppers, charred and lovely and steaming. 

    Now, you drive through any taco franchise and order a couple of fajita tacos and they arrive in a paper sack, with some salsa and guacamole on the side if you're lucky.  Still tasty, but just not the same.


    Twitter is a Bigger Search Engine than Yahoo or Bing: How Many Law Firms are Excluding Themselves From the Search Results?

    This morning, I learned via a tweet from Ford Motor Company's social media guru, @ScottMonty, that there was an article worth reading over at Fast Company.  As usual, Mr. Monty proves he knows his stuff.

    Austin Carr's article, "Twitter Now the World's Fastest Growing Search Engine," is definitely worth your time.  Carr is reporting from the Aspen Ideas Festival -- and he's giving the information shared there by Twitter co-founder Biz Stone. 

    Twitter is getting 800 million search queries every day. Do the math, and Twitter search exceed 24 billion/month -- according to Stone, that number is higher than the total monthly searches at Yahoo and Bing combined.

    If you want to get down and dirty about what all this means, SearchEngineLand's Danny Sullivan has a great article written back in April 2010 giving lots of the details here, "Twitter Does 19 Billion Searches Per Month, Beating Yahoo & Bing, Sort Of."  In his post, Sullivan quotes Doug Cook of Twitter as predicting they'll hit 1 billion searches per day very soon. 


    For lawyers and law firms, take the hint.  It's important to be included in those Twitter search results, and unless you have one or more Twitter accounts, you're excluding yourself. 

    For an easy step by step, practical guide for lawyers and law firms on Twitter -- how to join, how to tweet, etc. -- please feel free to download my free e-book, Twitter Nuts n Bolts 4 Lawyers: a How-to Guide for Law Firms.  The price is right, and I hear good things about this short little book being very helpful.

    For more information:

    Web 2.0 for Lawyers: What is "Social Media" for Law Firms and Why Bother?

    Attorneys Take Note: Major Corporations Pay People Just to Tweet

    Twitter for Biz Pros: The Debut of ExecTweets

    Attorneys Take Note: Yesterday's Reputation is Today's Personal Brand


    Lawyers and Social Media: Examples of Law Firms on LinkedIn

    When it debuted, LinkedIn was a free online service focused upon helping employers and employees: members could search the site to find new jobs or new hires. LinkedIn was smart to change with the times, and not limit itself to a job search site.

    Today, LinkedIn is more of a professional networking service. Most larger law firms and legal professionals are likely to have a LinkedIn membership.

    On LinkedIn, professionals “connect” with each other and the LinkedIn service then notifies its members of those who may know each other – or have connections with friends of friends. You link with an old friend from law school, and suddenly, you are given lots of potential "connections" through that friend's network of contacts. LinkedIn afficianados can have 500-1000 connections.

    LinkedIn information such as Specialties, New Hires, Firm Size, Firm Revenue, and individual resume pages of firm partners and associates are provided for marketing purposes via Linked In.

    Examples of law firms currently on LinkedIn:

    Baker & McKenzie

    Clifford Chance

    Holland & Knight

    Jones Day


    For more information:

    Web 2.0 for Lawyers: What is "Social Media" for Law Firms and Why Bother?

    Facebook and Divorce: the new AAML Study and the Need to Know Client Web Chatter

    Attorneys Take Note: Major Corporations Pay People Just to Tweet

    Twitter for Biz Pros: The Debut of ExecTweets

    Attorneys Take Note: Yesterday's Reputation is Today's Personal Brand


    Jackson Walker on Twitter: Example of How Law Firms Build Reputations via the Web

    The internationally known law firm Jackson Walker has been aggressive in building its Twitter presence.  By entering the game early, Jackson Walker was able to create separate Twitter accounts for each of its practice areas, using topic headings for the Twitter names. 


    Now, anyone looking on Twitter for things like “ERISA” or “First Amendment” will quickly come across the Twitter feeds of Jackson Walker.

    Currently, Jackson Walker is tweeting as follows:

    Jackson Walker (News about the firm)

    JW Law (Legal updates in all categories)

    Corporate Law

    Energy Law

    Entertainment Law

    Environmental Law


    Financial Recovery Solutions

    First Amendment

    Health Care Law


    Intellectual Property Law

    International Law

    Labor and Employment Law

    Litigation Alerts

    Media Law

    Real Estate Law

    Tax Law

    Technology Law

    Wealth Planning

    JacksonWalker tweets within these separate Twitter accounts with bits of information pertaining to that topic, focusing upon educating or informing others.  Check it out.

    For more information:

    Web 2.0 for Lawyers: What is "Social Media" for Law Firms and Why Bother?

    Facebook and Divorce: the new AAML Study and the Need to Know Client Web Chatter

    Attorneys Take Note: Major Corporations Pay People Just to Tweet

    Twitter for Biz Pros: The Debut of ExecTweets

    Attorneys Take Note: Yesterday's Reputation is Today's Personal Brand


    The Declaration of Independence: Full Text - Happy 4th of July!

    IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

    The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

    When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world. (continues after "read more")


    Law Firms on Twitter

    Here are a just few examples of law firms actively using Twitter in their marketing:

    Akin Gump (@akin_gump)

    Ballard Spahr (@ballardspahr)

    Bernstein & Maryanoff (@bernsteinmaryan)

    Fulbright & Jaworski (@fulbright)

    Fulbright & Jaworski’s IP section (@fulbrightIP)

    Simmons Law Firm (@SimmonsLawFirm)

    Vinson & Elkins (@vinsonandElkins)

    For more information:

    Web 2.0 for Lawyers: What is "Social Media" for Law Firms and Why Bother?

    Facebook and Divorce: the new AAML Study and the Need to Know Client Web Chatter

    Attorneys Take Note: Major Corporations Pay People Just to Tweet

    Twitter for Biz Pros: The Debut of ExecTweets

    Attorneys Take Note: Yesterday's Reputation is Today's Personal Brand


    Web 2.0 for Lawyers - What Is "Social Media" for Law Firms and Why Bother?

    Web 2.0, otherwise known as "social media," is the second generation of internet marketing, where legal service providers communicate directly with clients and potential customers, building personal relationships as well as growing a web presence and expanding their brand and business reputation. For attorneys and law firms, Web 2.0 can be a unique marketing opportunity.

    Blogs ("Blawgs"), Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn

    There are various components to Web 2.0; however, for the legal profession, the top four internet social media platforms are: (1) blogging; (2) micro-blogging via Twitter™; and the interactive websites of both (3) Facebook™ and (4) LinkedIn™. Currently, most law firms prefer the more professional atmosphere of LinkedIn™ to the privacy-challenged Facebook™, but many firms are taking advantage of the Facebook™ option of creating a "company page" on the Facebook™ site.

    Why do law firms spend valuable time and money on social media?

    Through social media, law firms (and individual attorneys) can do four important marketing tasks:

    (1) build their brand;
    (2) market their business to potential clients and referring attorneys;
    (3) network with colleagues; and
    (4) gather and share information regarding their practice areas and specialties.

    For more information:

    Facebook and Divorce:  the new AAML Study and the Need to Know Client Web Chatter
    Attorneys Take Note: Major Corporations Pay People Just to Tweet
    Twitter for Biz Pros: The Debut of ExecTweets
    Attorneys Take Note: Yesterday's Reputation is Today's Personal Brand


    Facebook and Divorce: the new AAML Study and the Need to Know Client Web Chatter

    The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers just released its latest study -- and it's fascinating. Seems that 81% of top divorce lawyers in this country report that since 2005, they've experienced an increase in family law (divorce) cases using social networking evidence.

    And by "social networking evidence," they mean Facebook.

    Facebook, according to the divorce attorneys responding to the AAML survey, was the source of this divorce case evidence 66% of the time.  (Tweets on Twitter became evidence in only 5% of the lawsuits.)

    Apparently, savvy divorce lawyers are checking the Facebook pages of both petitioner and respondent, and more likely than not, they're discovering useful information there.  Specific case examples weren't provided with the survey, but it's easy enough to imagine the kinds of things that "social networking evidence" involves. 

    This impacts more than family law matters, of course.

    Looks like savvy attorneys in lots of cases other than family law matters should be - and probably already are - checking social media sites for possible evidence to use in a variety of matters.  Defense attorneys in personal injury matters will be reading social media for evidence of fraudulent personal injury claims.  Personal injury attorneys will be reading social media for evidence of advance warning of product defects.  You get the idea. 

    Now, savvy law firms will be looking not only at entering Web 2.0 (social media) for their own marketing purposes, but they'll be surfing around Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc. as part of their standard discovery practices, as well. 

    Looks like the need for law firms to master social media just became a lot more clearer to lots of folk.


    Twitter Nuts & Bolts 4 Lawyers: A How-To Guide for Law Firms - My New Free E-Book

    Twitter Nuts & Bolts 4 Lawyers: A How-To Guide for Law Firms is my first complimentary e-book.  And yes, complimentary is a nice word for FREE.

    Ten Step Twitter Primer for Lawyers. 
    I'm offering this short primer on how attorneys and law firms can get started on Twitter for free on the web; you can download it or print it here.

    Why bother with Twitter? 
    Not only are leading law firms already adopting sophisticated tweet strategies as part of their online marketing campaigns, more and more law firm clientele are using Twitter in their daily operations.  Jackson Walker, Fulbright, and Vinson & Elkins are just three big firms that are heavily involved in the Twitter Universe.  Large corporations like Ford Motor Company actually employ workers to do nothing but keep up with daily social media conversations (@ScottMonty). 

    Why read this e-Book?
    Many attorneys and law firms still have not opened a Twitter account (much less more than one -- Jackson Walker had 14 at last count).  And while there are numerous materials available online and in print that explain advanced communication methods and marketing techniques using Twitter, there are very few that take a professional step by step through the process of opening an account, adding the appropriate background, finding followers, and initiating dialouge via Twitter. 

    Be Tweeting in 15 Minutes or Less.
    Which is exactly what Twitter Nuts n Bolts 4 Lawyers: a How-To Guide for Law Firms does.  From Step 1 (Join Twitter) to Step 4 (Plan Your Tweeting Strategy) to Step 10 (Scheduling Tweets), this e-book gives lawyers the basic information they need to become proficient on Twitter, in a time-efficient way. 

    Hopefully, my short (12 page) complimentary e-book will help meet that need.  Please feel free to read and use Twitter Nuts n Bolts 4 Lawyers: A How-To Guide for Law Firms with my compliments.


    E-book Sales Increase 252% in First Quarter of 2010

    Shown: Amazon's Kindle
    E-book sales increased an astonishing 252% during the first three months of 2010, according to Publisher's Weekly.  This news comes from the industry analysis performed by the Association of American Publishers which keeps track of the publishing industry, and releases its statistics in periodic reports to its membership. 

    And this, even before Google Edition debuts with it offering of e-books that can be read without the need for any specific e-reader (Nook, Kindle, etc.).


    What is Great Writing: How Digital Content is Judged Differently Than Print

    Ben Elowitz at PaidContent has just published the first of his two-part analysis on what constitutes great content, now that we're well into the digital age.  Taking the four pillars used by traditionalists -- credential, correctness, objectivity, and craftsmanship -- he opines on each, and how these criteria do not work in today's internet age.

    For example, Elowitz discusses how the heady feeling of having your work published in The New York Times (credential) isn't as important now.  Readers are looking for content that helps them -- focusing on the content itself -- much more than they are concerned with the source of that information. 

    What Elowitz is putting out on the table needs to be read.  He's thought about these issues, and he has points to make.

    However, I don't know that I can go so far as to agree with him that these tradtional methods are "useless."  That may be going too far. 

    Credentials still mean something to me, for example -- and I think they still mean something to readers, too.  I do check the source of the content I'm reading and a reputable source does carry more weight with me.  I believe that The New York Times still stands for something. 

    Credentials may be less powerful than they once were, but they still exist and still count. 


    Plagiarism: The Gerald Posner v Miami New Times Story

    "Gerald Posner Hires Attorney Mark Lane in Legal Fight Against Miami New Times' Plagiarism Claims," reports MediaBistro/GalleyCat this week. Seems that Gerald Posner believes that he's got a case for damages against The Miami New Times after they've outed him for alleged repeated acts of plagiarism.

    Posner's gone and got himself a Big Gun for the fight. Mark Lane - the JFK Conspiracy guy.  You remember him.

    Who is Gerald Posner and What The Heck is This Lawsuit?

    Basis of the controversy: the Miami New Times has claimed not only that Mr. Posner has been lifting passages from New Times and using them in his investigative writing for Tina Brown's The Daily Beast but that he's also done this in his nonfiction work -- and now there's a press release for all to read, where Lane/Posner are challenging all this hoopla as a "campaign to destroy his [Posner's] opportunity to work in his profession."   (Read Lane's release here.)

    Lane's threatening a lawsuit is about to be filed based upon tortious interference and infliction of emotional distress, apparently because MNT wrote Random House - one of Posner's book publishers - and in doing so, exceeded their legal boundaries and caused legal harm to Posner. 

    Was There Plagiarism?  Doesn't Seem to Be a Fact in Controversy That There Was.  Yepper.

    Gerald Posner, by the way, is a lawyer.  He's also the author of numerous investigative nonfiction works on a range of topics from Motown to Hitler. Until the plagiarism controversy hit the presses last February, Posner served as Chief Investigative Reporter for Brown's Beast.

    As for whether or not "lifting" occurred, that doesn't appear to be a fact in controversy. The Daily Beast published an admission that five lines from its story on Ben Novack's death had been "inadvertently copied" from a Miami Herald story written by reporter Julie Brown two days earlier.  The Lane press release recognizes multiple admissions, followed by apologies and attempts to correct errors. 

    This snowball began its downhill run last winter, when the Novack story segued into investigations that were being made into Posner's work at The Daily Beast. And by investigations, I mean Slate's Jack Shafer revelations.

    Seems a Shafer reader initially discovered the Novack story similarities, brought his findings to Jack Shafer, and Shafer took it from there. Shafer found lots of examples of what he considered to be Posner's plagiarism, and published them.

    Gawker, among others, waits with baited breath ....

    Over at Gawker, they're breathless with anticipation of this lawsuit, where an admitted plagiarist is suing the publication that was plagiarized for damages to himGawker's already dubbed Posner a contender for "World Plagiarism Record" with his sixteen (16) instances that the Miami New Times has reported. 

    My question: where's the probable cause for the threatened torts?

    There may be many who are wondering how there is a distinctive difference between Random House editors reading Slate magazine and the Miami New Times and learning one of their authors is making serious admissions about his work (not fiction work, remember, but nonfiction: the kind of work that we readers assume to be factually accurate and trustworthy).  Me too.

    Here's my question:  If the MNT wrote Random House, was the MNT reporter blabbing a secret?  Is the letter really the probable cause of any harm to Posner's reputation and his future career?  Really????

    I was a litigator for many years, and I was raised in the Rambo era. I know the best defense is a good offense.  I know being a plaintiff is much, much better than being a defendant in a trial.  Let's see if the lawsuit is filed: I really, really, really want to read the pleadings. 

    What is Plagiarism?

    Plagiarism and copyright infringement are not synonymous terms.  For a good example of plagiarism, you can check admitted examples already published in the Posner stories of Slate and the Miami New Times. To learn more about plagiarism, check out A Plagiarism Guide for Students. Suffice to say, it's a complicated thing.

    Free Online Plagiarism Checkers

    There are sites offering free "checkers" where you can cut and paste your text, and the site will surf the web to insure your writing is dangerously close to another's online work. One site (which I haven't tested) is Article Checker. And, there are also sites that offer a free service where you can check to see if your web writing has been lifted, like Copyscape.

    I can report on Copyscape -- it did help a client of mine discover that some of their law firm blog posts had been cut and pasted into an individual blog. After a cease and desist letter was sent, the offending copy was removed from the individual's site. Maybe not the sexy story of Gerald Posner and the Miami New Times, but a good example of how big this problem may be (and probably is) out there on the Internet.


    Google Book Search Settlement Issues Organized in Downloadable Report

    New York Law School professor James Grimmelmann, working with a group of his dedicated law students under the banner of "The Public Index," is providing an excellent synopsis of the Authors Guild v. Google litigation - particularly, to the objections raised regarding its settlement via a free online 55 page pdf download. 

    By first organizing the arguments into 76 distinct issues and then sorting those issues into 11 categories, their work is an excellent tool for those interested in this pending matter, particularly since they are organizing the arguments made and not providing their analysis of these issues.  Very helpful.

    As for what happens next, who knows.  The case awaits its third federal judge, since the previously presiding Judge Chin was appointed to the appellate court and the first judge to hear the case, John Sprizzo, passed away.

    For more on the pending Google Book Search settlement, check out the Public Index website. 

    For a cursory explanation of what this is all about, check out "Google Book Search Lives On as Google Revised Settlement with Authors, Publishers."