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ABA Journal Blawg 100: Where the Hell Are the Womens' Blawgs? (UPDATED)

ABA Journal Blawg 100Image by insidetwit via Flickr

Once again, the ABA Journal's Blawg 100 popularity contest has failed abysmally to include a fair cross spectrum of legal blogs. I've been silent for years on this issue, but this year, I've had enough. It's been a while since I wrote about women and blawgging, and I figure it's high time I addressed the issue once more.

Of the 100 blawgs nominated by the ABA staff as "the best and brightest law bloggers in a variety of categories," perhaps 10% are written by women.

Now one might think that there is a dearth of women attorneys blogging, but that's simply not the case. There are plenty of high quality blawgs written by women attorneys. But, for some reason, those blogs are largely ignored by the ABA Journal and other blog popularity contests.

For now, let's address the "legal tech" category, since technology blogs tend to be dominated by men. So one can only assume that if there are women lawyers blogging about tech, there are certainly a higher percentage of women authoring blogs that fall under the other Blawg 100 categories.

Of those 9 blawgs featured in the legal tech category, only one is authored by a woman: Sharon Nelson's blog, Ride the Lightening.

Are there other fabulous legal tech blawgs written by women that are largely ignored? You bet there are! Here are just a few of them:

There are plenty of well written, interesting law blogs written by women. They're just not getting the attention they deserve.

I'm tired of the ABA's tendency to focus on many of the same blawgs every year--and their absolute failure to include a comparable percentage of high quality blawgs written by women. It's troubling, to say the least.

(***Edited to tone down my rhetoric;)).

UPDATE #2

Martha Sperry has a great follow up post on this issue here.

UPDATE:

As I've mentioned in the past, blogging is changing and much of the discussion about blog posts occurs on other social media platforms and that was certainly the case with this post. Although there are a number of great comments below, there were also some great conversations and comments on Facebook and Twitter that merit inclusion in this blog post.

First, a number of people pointed out that they have been involved with the ABA's selection process (or know those involved) (Reginald F. Davis (@recessguy), Bob Ambrogi (@bobambrogi)), that many women participate in the process (Lisa Solomon (@lisasolomon)) and/or that they've seen no evidence of bias.

Others questioned my methodology which was arguably off the cuff and not exactly scientific, since I simply estimated numbers based on a cursory review of the nominees. Others pointed out that I failed to take into account the group blogs that were nominated and included women bloggers (Molly McDonough (@Molly_Mcdonough)). Finally, others suggested that there simply weren't enough women bloggers for there to be a 50/50 split or even a ratio close to that. Kelly Phillips Erb (@taxgirl) suggested (on Facebook) that another causative factor could be that male bloggers were better at promoting themselves.

In response, I noted that I considered the group blogs to be a wash since in general, there were still more male bloggers than women bloggers on most group blogs. My co-author, Carolyn Elefant(@carolynelefant), expressed a similar idea in a Facebook discussion about my post, stating that although there were "a large number of group blogs and professional blogs - like the BLT, blogwatch and other ALM blogs...it is very different blogging as an individual."

And if you exclude the group blogs, you're still looking at approximately a 90/10 split in favor of male bloggers. Secondly, I don't think a  50/50 split is necessary, but the ~90/10 split is disturbing and evidence of an unconscious bias (I'm certainly not alleging that there was intentional bias--I want to make that very clear). Or, as Bob Ambrogi noted on Twitter in a very diplomatic manner, if nothing else,  "the list shortchanges women."

Finally, I noted, along with a number of other people, that women, along with men, express an unconscious bias against other women without realizing it.

Jim Milles (@jimmilles) explained this quite eloquently on Twitter: "Women bloggers could easily internalize biases that tend to favor male bloggers as more authoritative." And Robert Richards (@Richards1000) cited a law review article that supported this theory: "Audrey Lee collects the cases & scholarship: http://bit.ly/gzPKj0 Unconscious Bias Theory in Employment Discrimination Litigation."

A related issue that was raised by my co-author, Carolyn Elefant, on Facebook was the lack of women speakers at many conferences. Carolyn stated: "Same on the speaker circuit. How many women lawyers are giving plenaries at the big conferences or even the solo shows? I did 3 plenaries this year and I was the only woman I've ever heard."

However, this issue was also discussed on Twitter, with Stephanie West Allen (@idealwg) noting that she'd never experienced that type of bias at all during her 25+ years speaking.

Finally, a number of people noted the lack of overall diversity in the selected blawgs, including Carolyn Elefant on Facebook (ethnic and racial diversity), and Andrew Weber (@atweber referring to government blawgs) and Ruth Carter (@rbcarter referring to student blawgs).

The bottom line: it's not a simple issue. In fact, some would call it a non-issue and claim the disparity has nothing to do with bias.Others, like myself, disagree.

I'm not sure who's right, but I do know that raising the issue elicited some really interesting discussion and it was beneficial for that reason alone.

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I Have a Date With TSA Next Month

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This week's Daily Record column is entitled "I Have a Date With TSA Next Month."

A pdf of the article can be found  here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

*****

I Have a Date With TSA Next Month

In early December I’m speaking to the IP section of the Colorado Bar Association about the legal and ethical issues of social media for lawyers. My trip to Denver will be the first time that I’ll have flown since the TSA’s new screening procedures were implemented.

My hope is that I won’t be “randomly” selected to walk through one of the new full-body scanners that were rolled out to airports, including the Rochester International Airport, across the country earlier this month. These scanners dose the subject with radiation and create a detailed, graphic image of the person’s nude body. According to TSA representatives, the radiation levels are safe, but others dispute this claim.

If I am one of the 20 percent of travelers selected to receive a full-body scan, I intend to opt out, both for health-related reasons and as a matter of principle.

Unfortunately, now that the screening procedures have changed, that means I’ll be subjected to the new, more invasive pat-downs that were implemented at the same time as the new full-body scanners.

A TSA agent will use the fronts of their hands to pat down all areas of my body, including my breasts and groin. Previously, TSA agents used the backs of their hands and avoided engaging in non-consensual fore- play with air travelers.

Not anymore.

In the name of national security, forced intimacy strangers is now par for the course

Hopefully, my experience will be less traumatic than that of other recent air travelers.

First, there’s Tom Sawyer, a 61-year-old bladder cancer survivor who had urine from his urostomy bag spilled onto his clothes following a rough TSA search that left him humiliated and in tears. Then there are the breast cancer survivors, a number of whom have complained that TSA agents forced them to remove their prosthetic breasts.

Sexual assault victims have also been traumatized by the experience, describing heart-wrenching accounts of encounters with TSA agents. Many have said that the pat downs caused them to experience flash backs from the original sexual assault.

Then there are the children appearing in widely circulated YouTube videos. One is of a 3-year-old girl receiving an invasive pat down from a TSA agent and screaming “Don’t touch me!” as her mother holds the hysterical child during the search. In another video, a young boy is seen removing his shirt during a TSA pat down as bystanders express their disbelief.

Many security experts have likened the new procedures to an ineffective “security theater” performed only for show. In other words, the newly revised security dance looks good, but does very little to actually protect us from a terrorist attack.

This, to me, is simply unacceptable. I’m outraged by the invasiveness and ineffectiveness of the new security procedures and it pains me to hear of my fellow citizen's humiliating experiences at the hands of government agents.

They deserved better. We all do.

Needless to say, I don’t relish my upcoming “date” with TSA. I’m not looking forward to the possibility of being groped by a stranger after refusing the full-body scan. However, I plan to make the best of it and will pass the time by humming Meat Loaf’s song “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” as the TSA agent pats me down. After all, it only seems fitting.

Nicole Black is of counsel to Fiandach & Fiandach in Rochester. She co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise, and is currently writing a book about cloud computing for lawyers that will be published by the ABA in early 2011. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at nblack@nicoleblackesq.com

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Success is in the eye of the beholder

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This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Success is in the eye of the beholder."

A pdf of the article can be found  here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

*****

Success is in the eye of the beholder

I attended a luncheon recently for Rochester-based women attorneys who had graduated from my alma mater, Albany Law School. The event focused on the different paths through which women attorneys could find professional fulfillment.

Over lunch, each table discussed the various issues faced by women attorneys and at the end of the meal, each group offered a report summing up the gist of the conversations.

The attendees consisted of, for the most part, two different groups of graduates: those who graduated from law school in the mid-2000s and more “seasoned” attorneys like myself, who had graduated prior to the mid-1990s. Missing (for the most part) were women attorneys who graduated between 1995 and 2005.

Initially, this puzzled me, but I later realized that many of the “missing” alumni likely had very small children. Of those who had young families, some were no longer working and were out of the legal loop altogether; others were working full or part-time and were no doubt desperately juggling the demands of work, family and life. For most of these women, attending an alumni luncheon was a time-killing luxury they could ill afford.

Nevertheless, their views were represented, I believe, by those of us who had been there, done that. And, this soon became apparent as each table reported back to the group regarding their discussions. Although many topics were covered, one recurring theme cropped up repeatedly: that the definition of “success” is different for each person.

In other words, you need to define success for yourself and understand that your concept of success must be flexible, since your frame of reference tends to alter the concept of success as well. If you buy into someone else’s concept of “success,” you are bound to be miserable.

It is so important for young attorneys and law students — especially women — to acknowledge and embrace this concept, since the failure to do so has the potential to drastically affect their sense of self worth down the road.

This is because many young women lawyers envision having children, but simply cannot, or will not, acknowledge that starting a family will fundamentally alter their priorities, and, quite possibly, their definitions of success. And if these young women have not yet accepted that their concept of professional success may change over time, then they are in for a rude and uncomfortable awakening — one that begins the moment that they announce their pregnancy to the world.

For me, the internal conflicts that I felt during my pregnancy and in the years that followed were tremendously difficult. I wrestled with feelings of personal inadequacy and worried that I wouldn’t be able to maintain the high professional standards that I expected of myself. I also worried that I would be incapable of both working and mothering my child in a way that would not render me an unfit parent.

I continued to experience feelings of inadequacy a few years later when I decided to take a hiatus from the legal field to care for my children. I suffered from extreme guilt and truly felt as if I had singlehandedly derailed the entire feminist movement and failed women lawyers everywhere.

In retrospect, I gave myself far too much credit! Nevertheless, had I understood that success is a fluid, and very personal, concept I’d have fared much better and spared myself much unnecessary angst.

So please, young women lawyers and law students: Understand and accept that success is in the eye of the beholder. Realize that it is a fluid concept that changes over time. Never let anyone else define success for you — not your colleagues, mentors, parents, professors, career counselors, or classmates. Only you know what success is for you. Delegate that determination at the risk of your happiness.

Nicole Black is of counsel to Fiandach & Fiandach in Rochester. She co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise, and is currently writing a book about cloud computing for lawyers that will be published by the ABA in early 2011. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at nblack@nicoleblackesq.com


Social Media for Women Lawyers

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This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Social Media for Women Lawyers."

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

*****

Social Media for Women Lawyers

Social media can be a powerful rainmaking tool for women lawyers because social media plays to their professional strengths.

Studies have shown that women lawyers are reluctant to promote their accomplishments and for that reason, social media is a great fit for women attorneys. It allows them to demonstrate their substantive knowledge without having to brazenly promote themselves. Women also excel at communicating and collaborating, traits that social networking facilitates and rewards.Likewise, social media provides women attorneys with much-needed flexibility, allowing them to network and showcase their expertise on their own time.

Women lawyers can use social media platforms from the convenience of their own home or office, expand their immediate circle of contacts and initiate online men- toring and business relationships with lawyers at other firms and with successful professionals from all over the world.

Social media can also benefit women lawyers who are working part-time or seeking reentry to legal prac- tice. For example, many job-seeking lawyers tend to overlook one of the most obvious ways to use social media to stand out from the crowd: Start a law blog.

Blogging can be beneficial to women attorneys seeking to tran- sition back into the legal field in many ways. Blogs allow lawyers to demonstrate their substantive knowledge, showcase their writing and analytical skills, and convince prospective employers that they are on top of changes in their field.

For women lawyers in search of a job, blogging is most effective when the blog focuses on the substantive area of law in which they hope to practice.

There are a number of different types of posts that a topical blog of this type can include: commentaries about recent news articles regarding the area of law the blog focuses on; discussions on issues raised by other law bloggers who write about similar issues; or summaries and analysis of recent case law or recent statutory changes.

Effective blogging can lead to many unexpected opportunities. For example, my first law blog, Sui Generis, was instrumental inhelping me ease back into the legal arena after a three-year, self-imposed hiatus. That blog proved to be invaluable to my subse- quent career path and has resulted in countless professional, writing, speaking and networking opportunities.

Unfortunately, not many women lawyers are blogging or otherwise using social media to their benefit. There are a number of possible reasons for this: some women aren’t con- vinced of the value of social media; some feel there’s simply not enough time for them to balance social media, work and their family obligations; while others, including those seeking to return to the work force after an absence, lack confidence in their tech skills.

For that reason, I’ll be holding a webinar at 3 p.m. on Dec. 2 with Carolyn Elefant, with whom I co-authored the book “Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Fron- tier.” During the webinar we’ll explain how social media can benefit women lawyers and how to ease into social media without feeling overwhelmed by technology or information overload. You can register for the webinar here.

Women lawyers are uniquely positioned to reap the benefits of social media. It’s simply a matter of understanding and taking advantage of this new, flexible platform that has the potential to level the playing field. Of course, social media isn’t a “magic bullet,” but it does provide women attorneys with one more powerful tool in their arsenal. Women lawyers should learn about it and use it to their advantage so that they can successfully differ- entiate themselves, expand their networks and compete in ways never before possible.

Nicole Black is of counsel to Fiandach & Fiandach in Rochester. She co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise, and is currently writing a book about cloud computing for lawyers that will be published by the ABA in early 2011. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at nblack@nicoleblackesq.com


Social Media for Women Lawyers Webinar

How Women Lawyers Can Harness the Power of Social Media To Achieve Professional Goals

 

DATE: Thursday, DECEMBER 2, 2010
TIME:   3 pm Eastern Time
You will have two options for the webinar:

1.  Teleconference option, with print out of slides sent in advance;
2.  Webinar option (follow slides on the screen during the presentation)

COST:  $35.00

One lucky registrant will receive a copy of Social Media for Lawyers.  All registrants will have the ability to purchase the book at a discount rate.

Please contact Carolyn Elefant at carolyn.elefant@gmail.com or Nicole Black at nicole@nicoleblackesq.com with additional questions.

Register

Unlike any other presentation you may have attended on social media, this webinar/teleconference focuses on specifically on these issues largely unique to women.   We’ll cover the following topics:

  • Why social media is such a powerful rainmaking tool for women lawyers;
  • How social media can benefit women lawyers working part-time or seeking re-entry to legal practice;
  • How to ease into social media without feeling overwhelmed by technology or information overload;
  • The tried and true  formula for successful engagement of social media;
  • Time management strategies for power use of social media while maintaining work-life balance;
  • BONUS:  In addition to these more general topics, we’ll show how to put them into practice with a step-by-step strategy on using social media to identify and secure speaking engagements in front of your target marketing audience and media coverage.

The webinar will be taught by Carolyn Elefant and Nicole Black, co-authors of the ABA bestseller, Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier.  Carolyn and Nicole are lawyers who have used the power of social media to benefit their respective careers.  They offer trainings to law firms, bar associations and law schools on using social media to achieve professional goals.

You can register for the webinar here and learn more about it here.


The ethics of virtual law offices, take two

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This week's Daily Record column is entitled "The ethics of virtual law offices, take two."

A pdf of the article can be found  here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

*****

The ethics of virtual law offices, take two

Can a law firm ethically maintain a virtual law office? The Pennsylvania Bar Association Committee on Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility answered that very question in its recent opinion entitled “Ethical Obligations on Maintaining a Virtual Office for the Practice of Law in Pennsylvania” (FEO 2010-200).

The short answer: Yes, Pennsylvania attorneys can maintain a virtual law office while still meeting their ethical oblig- ations as attorneys.

Of course, this decision was not without qualifications, and we’ll address those shortly. But first, let’s consider how the committee defined the concept of a “virtual law office.”

In the opinion, a virtual law office was described as “a law office that exists without a traditional physical counterpart, in which attorneys primarily or exclusively access client and other information online, and where most client communications are conducted electronically, e.g., by email, etc.”

Thankfully, this definition squared with my understanding of a virtual law office far more so than the antiquated definition offered by the New Jersey ethics committee in a controversial opinion (Opinion ACPE 718/CAA 41) regarding virtual law offices that I discussed in an article last spring.In fact, the overall gist of the Pennsylvania opinion was far less reactive and far more logical and forward-thinking than the New Jersey opinion on virtual law offices.

The Pennsylvania committee first noted that the opinion did not apply to client portals or cloud computing and then addressed what law firms operating virtual law offices may do. Most importantly, the committee concluded that lawyers may maintain a virtual law office in Pennsylvania and may operate the office from homes located within or outside of Pennsylvania.

The committee explained that physical addresses need not be listed on letterhead or in advertisements, thus allowing attorneys operating from a home office the ability to keep their home address private. Attorneys may use a post office box as their listed address, but must disclose that legal services will not be performed at that address.

While the lawyer is not required to meet with the client at any specific address listed in an advertisement, the lawyer must nev- ertheless conform with the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct by disclosing all relevant information as required by the rules.The committee then qualified its determination, and, acknowl- edging the unique nature of the services provided by a virtual law office, set forth a number of specific requirements with which lawyers operating a virtual office must comply.

First, the committee noted that a virtual law firm may not advertise that their fees are lower than that of a traditional law office, explaining that “(l)egal fees vary from office to office, and from attorney to attorney, and it is not possible for an attorney to claim with any certainty, or with any reasonable basis, that his fees are lower than other attorneys’ fees.”

However, an explanation regarding the concept that the reduced overhead of a virtual law office may lead to reduced fees compared to a traditional law office is permitted.

The committee also explained that attorneys operating virtual law offices must take particular care to con- firm the identities of their clients and must take reasonable steps to determine whether their clients have diminished capacity.

Finally, the committee addressed the duty to maintain client confidentiality, stating that lawyers operating virtual law offices should take steps to ensure that data shared online remains confidential, but noted that “no additional precautions (are) necessary for an attorney practicing in a VLO to comply with his or her duty of confidentiality beyond those required of all attorneys....”

The Pennsylvania committee’s forward-thinking analysis in this opinion provides helpful guidance for other bar associations grappling with the difficult issues presented by emerging legal tech- nologies. These technologies have the potential to re-shape the delivery of legal services for the betterment of clients and attorneys and thus should not be feared, but rather accepted and incor- porated into law practices in a thoughtful, responsible manner.

This important and very useful opinion helps attorneys do just that, and represents a step forward for lawyers wishing to prac- tice law using 21st century technologies.

Nicole Black is of counsel to Fiandach & Fiandach in Rochester. She co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise, and is currently writing a book about cloud computing for lawyers that will be published by the ABA in early 2011. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at nblack@nicoleblackesq.com

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Lawyers, at last, make peace with Web 2.0

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This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Lawyers, at last, make peace with Web 2.0."

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

*****

Lawyers, at last, make peace with Web 2.0

The American Bar Association released the 2010 Legal Technology Survey Report earlier this year, based on surveys of more than 5,000 ABA members in private practice.

The report offers detailed statistics and trend analysis regard- ing lawyers’ adoption of different types of technologies into their law practices. The survey’s results are promising, and indicate that lawyers — a group of professionals historically resistant to technological change — are using a broad spectrum of emerging technologies in their practices, including social media, mobile computing, smart phones, cloud computing and e-book readers.

Use of social media platforms among lawyers appears to be increasing: The majority of respondents, 56 percent, now have a presence on an online community or social network, such as Facebook or LinkedIn, compared to 43 percent in the 2009 survey and 15 percent in the 2008 survey.Lawyers also have been quick to adopt smart phone use in their day-to-day activities. More than 76 percent of respondents now own smart phones, up from 64 per- cent in the 2009 survey. More attorneys are using smart phones in the courtroom as well, with 71 percent reporting courtroom usage, up from 60 percent in 2009. Smart phones are used for a variety of reasons while in court, with 64 percent of respondents checking their e-mail, 60 percent sending e-mails and 46 percent using the calendar function.

Use of e-book readers also is on the rise in law firms, with 10 percent of respondents reporting that e-book readers are available in their offices and 16 percent of solo practitioners report using them. Only 4 percent of large firm respondents reported doing so.

Cloud computing and mobile computing have made their mark on the profession as well, with more and more attorneys reporting they are practicing law away from the office. Some are simply working remotely from time to time, while others practice solely from a virtual law office.

Mobile computing is increasing rapidly, with 35 percent of respondents reporting they regularly conduct legal research from home, up from 24 percent in the 2008; 46 percent of respondents reported spending 10 to 24 percent of their time working away from their main office setting and nearly all respondents (96 percent) reported having Internet access available to them while away from the office. The primary devices used to access the Internet while away from the office were laptop computers (49 percent) and smart phones (32 percent). Only 17 percent of respondents reported using desktop computers to access the Internet outside of the office.

Virtual law practices are becoming more common as well: 14 percent of respondents reported that they provided virtual lawyering services, defined for the purposes of the survey as a practice in which the attorney did not typically meet with clients in person, and inter- acted with clients primarily through using Internet- based software and other electronic communications software.

The results indicate, too, that lawyers increasingly are turning to the Internet as their first source for infor- mation, with 46 percent of respondents reporting they seek out information using free online services before turning to fee-based Internet/online services.

The results of the survey are heartening and indicate that lawyers are becoming more accepting of new tech- nologies. Attorneys are taking advantage of the flexibility now available to them through the use of smart phones and tablet computers. Rather than shunningInternet-based tools, they are taking advantage of the opportuni- ties offered by the new platforms.

Who knows what the future will bring? I, for one, am looking forward to next year’s survey results. I have no doubt the final statistics will provide further evidence of a profession in the middle of a cataclysmic change — one that will forever shape, for the better, the ways in which legal services are delivered in our country.

Nicole Black is of counsel to Fiandach & Fiandach in Rochester. She co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise, and is currently writing a book about cloud computing for lawyers that will be published by the ABA in early 2011. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at nblack@nicoleblackesq.com.