Tag Archives: Technology

Lexis Microsoft Office: Legal Tech Man on the Street

It has been a long four days since I left the Holy Land for New York City to attend Legal Tech.  The big news of the conference for my company was the introduction of Lexis Microsoft Elmo (or “LMO” as we fondly call it while picturing a fuzzy little red monster).  This is an integration of LexisNexis tools to Microsoft programs like Outlook and Word that allows lawyers to search in the context of their documents with the push of a button.  Check out my post from the Martindale Blog that was written the day we announced LMO.

One of the main things I did a Legal Tech was capture the “man on the street” perspective about what we were doing.  Here are some videos posted on our LexisNexis YouTube page with me interviewing conference goers, keynote speakers, and our own CEO:

Interview with Bruce MacEwan, partner at Adam Smith Esq.

Interview with Mike Walsh, CEO of LexisNexis US Legal Markets

Interview with Jonathan Silverman, Service Executive at Microsoft

Interview with Alex Dilessio, Innovation Lead at LexisNexis

Interview with John Alber, Partner at Bryan Cave

Check out the LexisNexis YouTube channel for all of the videos from Legal Tech.

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How To Try Google Real-Time Search Streams Today

Google is ready to become relevant again.  With the explosion of Twitter in 2009 many started to question whether the search giant could keep up with 140-character, real-time results.  Never one to disappoint, Google has launched “real-time search.”  Check out this short video about it:

Now when I saw this video with the Forrest Gump meets Edward Scissorhands type music I got REALLY excited.  I pulled up a Google browser and did a search for “Keynote Templates” hoping to find the latest and greatest in real-time results for the presentation I am putting together right now.  What did I see?

Same old Google.  Where were the real-time results?  Looks like we will just have to wait, right?  Nope … here’s a little hack to try Google real-time search today.

Google put up this post on the Official Google Blog: “the new features will be rolling out in the next few days and will be available globally in English. You can try them out today by visiting Google Trends and clicking on a “hot topic,” which in most cases will bring you to a search results page with the new real-time feature.”  Here’s what you see when you click the link:

Type into the search box at the bottom whatever real-time results you want to try.  In my case it was “Keynote Templates.”  Here’s what it came up with:

As you can see, I got two relevant results from the last hour on the first page alone.  This is a significant step forward for Google and one that should help their stock price and mission statement (“to catalog and index the world’s information”).

What do you think about Google’s new search capabilities?  Will this kill Twitter?  What about Bing?

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Google Wave Let Me In … Now What?

It finally happened, I got a Google Wave invite from my good friend and colleague, social media guruess Alin Wagner-Lahmy (feels like being asked to the prom just a week before the big night).  For those of you who live under rocks (and you too Mom), Google Wave is the latest innovation from Google Labs.

It allows users to engage in a real-time, editable conversation, which appears on each participants screen.  As Google says, email was invented 40-years ago; Google Wave is what email would look like if it was invented today.

That’s great stuff, but think about it: what does email really allow us to do?  Whenever a new technology comes along we need to look at the tasks we are doing with old technology and see how the new offering changes that.  Here is my simplified list of tasks that can be accomplished with Old-mail (email):

  • Sending 1-to-1 communications, similar to letters
  • Sending 1-to-group communications, similar to … well email chains
  • Filing conversations and information
  • Data storage and search
  • Advertising, solicitation, and spam

Now what does Google Wave bring to the table that changes all that?  For one thing, the 1-to-group communications become a lot smoother.  My biggest pet peeve about email is the Reply All snippet.  You know the guy.  After a detailed starting message, and then maybe an insightful question/reply or two, he sends the simple reply all “thanks,” to which the original message owner replies, “your welcome,” to which snippet guy replies, “can’t wait to get this done,” (still replying all, still clogging everyone’s inbox).  But that isn’t even the worst thing about email.  Then there is fracture gal.  She’s the one who asks an important question, but only to the message originator, so that by the time someone hits reply all to include the rest of us, we have half the conversation and have to send a few messages back and forth just to clarify what we missed.

Google Wave eliminates these issues by keeping a single copy of the conversation for everyone.  Edits made to the conversation can be replayed so you never miss anything, but more importantly, there is no clutter b/c everyone participating in the wave sees the same thing.  This has so many uses beyond just eliminating clutter and adhering to Inbox Zero principles (look for a future post “GTD with Google Wave”).  Some quick applications that come to mind:

  • Virtual conference documenting, feedback, and interacting
  • Business meeting and  classroom note-taking
  • Crowdsourcing a book or other projects
  • Party and event planning
  • Family tree, multimedia albums or mommy books for the kids – invite the grandparents, aunts/uncles, cousins, et all to Wave on it
  • Public Waves proposed legislation … see what the people really think!
  • Others?

This is a new technology.  When the wheel came about we had to stop dragging our wagons in the dirt.  When the printing press hit, copyist positions and the work of monastic librarians changed forever.  After the Internet the third world became the virtual workplace.  We must define what Google Wave will do to email.  Some places I have sought direction:

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These Are a Few of My Favorite Bings

If you love technology as much as I do then I will assume you are no stranger to the most excellent site Life Hacker, (sorry: this isn’t a post about MS’s new search engine Bing; “bings” just fit the Sound of Music omage better than “hacks”).  My favorite thing that they issue each year is their Life Hacker Pack: List of Essential Downloads (Mac & PC).  As a bi-computator (PC by day and Mac by choice) this comprehensive little list of life-hacks is true a blessing.  The nugget from this pile of gold that has been my savior as I begin my role as community manager of Martindale Hubbell Connected, “the global network for legal professionals,” has been Drop Box.

The way it works is simple:

  1. Register for Drop Box through the link above (this will make me eligible for a space upgrade, another sweet perk of this site – free space for getting friends to join!)
  2. Basic idea: an online storage space that can synchronize folder on whatever computer you are using
  3. 2GB of storage are free, but you can earn an extra free 1GB through referrals, or purchase more space (up to 100GB for $20 per month or $200 per year)
  4. Save files in the Drop Box folder on your computer and when you log in from another computer, such as your trusty Mac, the folders will update with your changes from the other machine (no more confusing USB keys or emailing yourself files)

Check out all of the other life hacks posted, but this one is by far my favorite.

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Connected: using social media tools to recast yourself

mintz familyIt has been over 14-days since I last posted, a violation of the blogger’s code (never go more than 10-days without a post).  No, I am not turning in my blogger card just yet.  In fact, there have been some significant changes in my life over the last few weeks, some of which can be attributed directly to this blog.  Let me go back to the beginning.

My family and I have dreamed of making aliyah (moving to Israel and assuming dual citizenship) for some time now.  It has been put off for this reason or that, but this was the year we decided that we were going to do it.  Our son had just been born in January and our daughter was rapidly approaching the two-year mark.  They say that when you have kids a move like this is easier when they are still young, and so we thought now made the most sense.  We began the process and things started to take shape.

We would leave in August.  I took a trip at the end of 2008 to check things out and narrow down neighborhoods, which we did.  There was one variable that still remained, a job, but I was hopeful that I could remain with my company, which was a multi-national tech giant.  Based on everyones’ advice, I held off on saying anything to them.  It was my plan to wait until June 2009, present my boss with a business proposal for how everything could work, and hope for the best.  Life has a funny way of surprising us, as I found out that G-d had better plans for me.

My company had launched Martindale Hubbell Connected (limited Beta version)  in 2008; I only found out about it late in the year, but became very interested in this global network for legal professionals.  It was basically “Linkedin for lawyers,” and I immediately saw a use-case for this network to enhance many of the things I was working on in academic content development.  Disucssions begain with MHC developers and product planners to realize the potential of this network for law students.  We built a lot of sample content and wrote a lot of proposals, which (along with this technology blog) started to turn heads and recast me as a technology insider. 

Fast forward to a few weeks ago: I called a friend in MH to talk about functionality for one of my projects.  We really wanted to have some good stuff  ready for when MH actively promoted the network to law students at end of the summer (it opened up to non-lawyers, including law students last week). 

“The community manager position recently opened up,” my friend told me.

“Interesting,” I said.

She thought for a moment and then said, “you know … you’d be perfect for it.”  I told her that the position sounded great, and if I saw it posted I would definitely check it out.  In my head, though, I knew about my plan to tell my boss about Israel in a few weeks.  The plan was important, and I didn’t know if I wanted to risk going for something new.

A few days later, she called me.  “Can you come to NY next week?  Some people want to meet you.”  Basically, she had told some of the higher ups about me, and they were excited about the prospect of an attorney, who loves technology, and who already worked for the company filling the position.  At this point, I knew I had to bring my boss into the mix and tell him what was going on with this potential opportunity.

“It sounds right up your alley,” he said.  “Meet with them, find out more information, and see if it’s for you.”  It was advice like this that made him one of the best bosses I had ever had.  I went to the informal interview that same week and after speaking to a VP and a head of marketing, I really started to get excited about the possibilities here.  They seemed mutually intersted, but I made sure to mention that I wanted to be officially “home-based” b/c we had dreams of moving to Israel “one day.”  This fact did not seem to trouble them as the position was “home based” and it didn’t really matter where that home was as long as I could perform the job.

They called me in for a series of three, back-to-back interviews with other stakeholders, and within the hour the VP came back to me and made an offer.  I only had one more hurdle to clear and that was clarifying what I had meant by “one-day” moving to Israel.  I told her that we were planning for that day to be in August of this year.  She did a bit of a double take, but then said (much to my relief), “it doesn’t change my mind.  You are perfect for the role, and we are willing to work with you.” 

 This was like a dream come true.  The job promised to be everything I had wanted out of my professional life right now:  working in the professional networking and media space, staying on top of technology trends, engaging with members, building out content, and constantly working to develop the site.  I accepted the job, and called my old boss to tell him the news.

“Congratulations,” he said.

“There’s something else I need to tell you though,” I said.  “I was waiting until June to discuss this with you, but with the news of this new position breaking soon, you are probably going to hear it anyway.”  He listened as I told him that me and the family were making aliyah.

“Mazel tov!” he said.  “That’s wonderful! … and they are okay with you working from Israel?”  I told him that they were.  “That’s really amazing, Mike,” he said, “because I am not sure that arrangement would have been okay in our part of the organization.”  I thanked my old boss and told him how grateful I was for this opportunity and for all of the work we had done together.  That is when I had the stunning realization: my plan, the one I had been depending on for these last 8-months, would not have worked; G-d’s plan was much different, much better, and had materialized without much effort on my part.

I guess that is the point of this post (besides being an apology to my four or so readers that I have not posted in a while): regardless of what you believe, it is axiomatic that despite our best plans things sometimes have a funny way of working out differently than we expected.  The telling point is whether I can accept change and be grateful for whatever comes.  Of course this is a much easier proposition when it is something like the above situation, which worked out better than I had planned in the first place.  Still, this is what I am taking away from the experience and hope to have lots to write about in the days, weeks, years to come.  Welcome to the new chapter of my life.

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Best Practices: Managing a Virtual Team

The 21st century promised us a completely virtual future; one where we would attend board meetings as holograms (think Darth Vadar and the Emperor in Empire Strikes Back), teams would have little structure, and freedom would lead to copious productivity. Reality reveals that our sci-fi driven expectations shadow reality, but don’t necessarily define it.

Virtual teams can and do work, but they need structure and guidelines to manage the flexibility that running or working on such a team requires. Having managed a mostly virtual team for 2-years now I have learned that everything from selection of homebasers to platform choices must be considered and revisited as you go. What follows are some best practices I have learned:

  1. The Right People – not everyone is right for home-basing or virtual work.  When I  started managing a mostly home-based team I had to get used to the midnight email responses to questions I had asked at the end of the day.  At first I tried to manage this practice, urging my team not to log on after work hours (after all, we only paid them on the expectation that they worked 35 hours a week).  Once I started home-basing a bit myself, I realized that this was more for their convenience of taking care of little things when they had an extra moment than my need for their response first thing in the morning (these guys were not sitting at their computers for hours after hours; they were leaving the computer on and quickly responding to quick items).  Ultimately, the home-baser should be someone who knows how to stay in touch during work hours, has flexibility in their response to challenges, and can effectively communicate using all forms of contact (email, phone, IM, Share Point, social media, etc.); this segues into the next point…
  2. The Right Technology – this is so crucial when managing a virtual team.  In my experience, using phone, email, IM, Share Point (described next), social media platforms, and video conferencing can help a virtual team feel closer.  We have yet to do a full pilot of video conferencing for the team, but having used it individually, seeing faces of home-based employees during a conversation makes a difference
  3. The Right Collaboration – Share Point technology has helped our team stay connected.  Some of the ways we use it:
    • Discussion Boards – post a discussion thread for anything that requires feedback from more than 2 people.  This results in a continuous discussion rather than disjointed discussions via email.  All responses are centralized in one place and can inform future best practices
    • Shared Documents – working documents, tracking sheets, and presentations are the types of documents we tend to store centrally
    • Wiki – (my favorite feature) we use in 4 ways: documenting evolving best practices, posting team meeting agendas, project work, and individual status sheets.  The beauty of wiki lies in the “History” feature which tracks all changes made from the beginning of the page posting.  Also the interlinking of information between pages and items on SP or other sites makes wiki an essential collaboration tool for the virtual team
  4. The Right Feedback – evaluating and giving feedback to any team can be uncomfortable, unless of course it good feedback, but with the virtual team, engaging in regular feedback is crucial.  These are people who can’t read your body language when they see you by the water cooler, so giving feedback in varied forms (written, phone, public recognition, etc.) goes a long way.
  5. The Right Mission – more so than any other team, the virtual team requires a clear mission and an evolving process.  Repetition of the goal, the process, and the current progress is key.  For people working off-site, it is easy to find their own best way of doing things, which can result in losing sight of the team direction and preferred practices.  When it leads to necessary change based on collaborative and incremental adjustments, such independence becomes a source of innovation, but when it results in fragmentation and inefficiency the virtual worker becomes a detractor.  Not every industry, company, or mission needs teams, (see Why Teams Don’t Work, An Interview with J. Richard Hackman by Diane Cout in this month’s Harvard Business Review), but the fact remains that most businesses do use teams, and for those who make use of virtual teams articulating these points must be done.
  6. The Right Meet – finally, nothing helps build a virtual team more than a meeting in the “meat world.”  Having some face-to-face time scheduled for annual conferences or even special visits can add greatly to the progress and connection a virtual team makes with each other.

These five suggestions are just a few of the things I try to do with my virtual team.  What best practices do you use with your virtual team?

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