Chris Santella is a freelance writer and marketing consultant based in Portland, Oregon. He writes frequently on technology applications for the legal profession, on environmental topics, and on fly-fishing.
New incarnation of popular e-mail community for managerial-and technology-curious practitioners leverages e-mail discussions to create content-rich newsletters.
The TechnoLawyer Community, a free e-mail community in which legal professionals share information about legal technology and practice management issues, products, and services, was founded with the guiding principle that those who work in the trenches of the legal profession are best equipped to dispense advice about the legal profession. The TechnoLawyer Community focuses on distributing “peer-written content” – i.e., material written by its subscribers.
An increasing interest in managerial and technology issues among practitioners in firms large and small has helped TechnoLawyer become a fixture in corner offices. “I started following TechnoLawyer because my firm had been considering implementing a case management system,” said David Wolowitz, a partner in the New Hampshire-based McLane Law Firm. “I was tired of dealing with sales pitches and wanted to see what other practitioners thought about programs and systems they have tried. I was not disappointed. The reviews, opinions, and advice were instructive and honest. Some heaped praise on certain products, others dismissed them as worthless. In a relatively short time, I learned a lot.”
“TechnoLawyer provides a forum for the legal community to pose questions about areas of technology that are important to the legal community,” said Thomas Workman, a solo practitioner in Taunton, Massachusetts. “The key is that there is a free exchange of ideas and solutions, from and between those who have immediate problems and concerns, and others who have either been through the same process, or who are willing to share their expertise.”
In its new incarnation, The TechnoLawyer Community is reaching out to the masses – the tens of thousands of lawyers who are wary of e-mail discussion groups because of the volume of messages. Neil Squillante and his team have developed a technology that enables them to quickly compile such content into different e-mail newsletters. As a result, busy lawyers can sign up for the one or two e-mail newsletters that pertain to their topics of interest, and needn’t wade through material that doesn’t interest them.
Says Squillante, “From the very start, we limited the discussion to a group of designated topics every week. In September 1999, we began compiling subscriber contributions into e-mail newsletters to reduce the number of messages without reducing the amount of content. And now, of course, TechnoLawyer subscribers can choose which of these e-mail newsletters they wish to receive.” He added, “I think it’s important to note that the newsletters are compiled by human beings with the help of technology, not the other way around.”
Thanks to The TechnoLawyer Community’s proprietary e-mail community software (PECS, developed by PeerViews, its parent company), every subscriber has a private, personalized Web page called “My TechnoLawyer” from which they can manage their e-mail newsletter subscriptions, change their e-mail address, and temporarily suspend service during vacations and busy periods.
The TechnoLawyer Community currently offers twelve newsletters, all of them free. Most of these newsletters are weekly, though some are biweekly, monthly, and even annually. This network of newsletters includes:
“Topical Compilation,” which consists of a compilation of peer-written content pertaining to given discussion topic, for example, law office management (subscribers receive this newsletter only when it covers topics they select).
“Answers to Questions,” which enables subscribers to submit a managerial- or technology-related question, and obtain one or more answers free of charge.
TechnoLawyer NewsWire,” which briefly discusses and provides links to new and little-known technology products and services of interest to legal professionals.
“TechnoFeature,” which features articles written by legal technology or practice management experts.
“TechnoGuest,” a monthly e-mail talk show in which authors and other luminaries from the legal profession share their insight. The general counsel of America Online, Gateway, and Palm are lined up for the next issue in February.
- “TechnoLawyer Classifieds,” which features classified ads placed by TechnoLawyer subscribers in a variety of categories, including “Consultant Wanted” and “Equipment for Sale.”
“In the past, we relied on anecdotal evidence and focus groups to measure the success of our newsletters,” Squillante commented. “Now that TechnoLawyer subscribers can choose which newsletters they wish to receive, we’ll have accurate statistics on every newsletter. Thanks to these ratings, we’ll know which newsletters to cancel, and which to build upon.”
Whatever topics future newsletters address, the experiential knowledge imparted from peer-written content will continue to be a key ingredient.
“For me, the TechnoLawyer Community provides a context,” says Rick Daily, a senior attorney at Hale Hackstaff Tymkovichat in Denver, Colorado. “Instead of just listening to hypes from a vendor or gripes from users, I get pretty dense information about a variety of products from people who seem to have practices which somewhat resemble mine (too much work, not enough money, premium on working things out), which enables me to understand how products work in their context. Equally important, the information is coming from practicing lawyers, people who don’t have the time or training to come up with a sophisticated solution, but have intensely practical observations.”
The TechnoLawyer Community’s e-mail newsletters are free. For more information, visit www.technolawyer.com.