Monthly Archives: June 2004

Shareware Business Blunders

Shareware Business Blunders.

NetCaptor's Adam Stiles just announced his new eBook, Shareware Business Blunders…and How to Avoid Them. Adam contacted 38 shareware authors – including myself – and asked them to talk about their mistakes, then compiled their answers into a 124-page PDF eBook.

If you're a shareware author or you're interested in becoming one, this book is certainly worth the $47 Adam is asking for it.  [Nick Bradbury]

It Ain't Over…

It Ain't Over….

Here's a fun little article from the Christian Science Monitor on the context of the early handover in Iraq today.

If you think it's all over, think again. We still have a ton of troops over there, and by most estimates we will have a military presence for 5+ years. Yesterday's Doonesbury had a nice little riff on that.

And the worst is yet to come. There isn't a democratically elected government, or a constitution yet. Why? Because 60% of Iraqis are Shiite Muslims. That's right, the same as the ruling party in Iran. A one-person, one-vote election would create a Shiite ruling party, which is exactly what their religious leaders would like. And there are two ways that would play out: either a clone of Iran, or civil war when the other 40% revolt.

This is just more evidence that the Bush administration had no post-war plan. And it's no surprise that they are handing off as quickly as they can, and trying to get NATO peacekeepers on the ground, so that they are not in charge when the wheels come off the wagon. Conveniently, the deadline for an election is January 31st, safely after the U.S. election; I bet there are a lot of people in the administration who hope that things can hold out until then…

With the CPA gone, who is going to oversee the rebuilding of Iraq, and the disbursement of US funds to pay for that rebuilding? (hint: what rebuilding? what funds?)

Here's an MSNBC article talking about the transfer and who is in charge of what. Read the last section, “Bremer's legacy.” My favorite part:

On Saturday, Bremer signed an edict that gave U.S. and other Western civilian contractors immunity from Iraqi law while performing their jobs in Iraq.

A resounding endorsement of the new Iraqi interim government.

Anyone want to place bets on which country will have an election first: Iraq or Venezuela?  [Kevin Schofield's Weblog]

Another Supreme Court Decision

Another Supreme Court Decision.

It's been quite a week for the Supreme Court.

Here is one of their decisions today, Hamdi vs. Rumsfeld, dealing with whether someone that the Executive Branch declares to be an “enemy combatant” is entitled to a writ of habeas corpus and access to U.S. courts. Once again, the media didn't do it justice. They reported that it was a 6-3 decision in favor of granting the writ and access to the courts.

When you actually READ the opinion, you find that 6 judges formed a centrist opinion that made a hard call saying that the balance tipped in favor of granting rights.

Justice Thomas penned a dissent, arguing that while the Executive Branch doesn't have completely unchecked powers in time of war, the judicial branch is not competent to review executive branch findings in such cases as this. Astounding.

Here's the super interesting part: the other dissent was written by Scalia and Stevens. That's right, the single most liberal and single most conservative judges on the Supreme Court set aside their differences and wrote a beautifully worded dissent. It gives a wonderful history of the writ of Habeas Corpus, all the way back to English common law. It then goes on to say that while the Constitution clearly gives Congress the ability to authorize the President to suspend Habeas Corpus, there is a very specific and explicit way that Congress needs to do that, and in the case of the Authorization for Use of Military Force, Congress didn't do it.

What Scalia and Stevens wrote is a dissent at one level, because they think that the majority made a poor decision. But it is an even more emphatic affirmation of Hamdi's right to a writ of habeas corpus and access to U.S. courts.

It's great reading. I highly recommend it.  [Kevin Schofield's Weblog]

The Coleman Interview

The Coleman Interview.

Much being written and in the blogosphere about an Irish reporter, Carol Coleman, interviewing George W. Bush last week.

The White House said she was rude and disrespectful. Others have said that Bush was caught off-guard by a real reporter who pressed him, in constrast to the White House press corps.

I just watched the interview, and I encourage you to watch it too, because I took away something completely different. It was clear that Ms. Coleman wanted to have a conversation, and Bush wanted to deliver stock answers to questions, one at a time. But it was Bush who was rude. Very rude. He talks to her like she's a child. He's practically mocking her, with a taunting smirk on his face through much of the interview. I don't know if he's doing that because she's Irish, or because she's a woman (perhaps it's both) but he's insulting and demeaning and I'm outraged to see Bush treating ANYONE like that, let alone because he's either an ethnocentrist and/or a sexist. It's clear that he has no respect for her at all. If I were Ms. Coleman, I would be very, very angry. In fact, I'm very angry for her.

Watch the interview, judge for yourself. The White House has posted a written transcript, but you really need to watch the interview because you don't get the feel for what happened just by reading the words.  [Kevin Schofield's Weblog]

The Dennis Kennedy Law Firm Annual Retreat

The Dennis Kennedy Law Firm Annual Retreat.

It’s time for my first annual retreat and that’s what I’ll be doing for the next few days.

I would be the first to admit that the whole notion of a law firm retreat strikes fear in the heart of any law firm partner who has ever attended one, for good reason, but it strikes me that now is the right time for this kind of exercise and I am determined to try to do it right.

I have three things working in my favor. First, we were able to obtain world-class law firm retreat speaker Dennis Kennedy to speak at our retreat. I can’t wait to hear what he will have to say about effective use of technology in the practice of law, where the practice is headed and, in particular, the notion of client-driven technologies. Second, I have vowed to avoid at all costs the three worst features of most law firm retreats and partner meetings – interminable and aimless discussions of associate reviews, contentious debate over amendments to the partnership agreement that seem like they should be non-controversial but you cannot figure out exactly why people are so exercised over, and lengthy explanations of firm finances backed up by indecipherable spreadsheets displayed in fonts to small to read. All of these have been banned from our annual retreat. Third, we have an agenda that has real and substantive issues.

Here’s the current agenda:

1. Where the Heck are We Today? I started my solo practice a little over a year ago. If you subtract out the time it took for a longer-than-expected recovery from “minor” surgery, I’m really at a good one-year point and we are halfway through 2004. It’s a good point from which to step back and assess everything, including whether the use of the royal “we” for a solo practice is appropriate.

2. Eating My Own Dog Food. I know, this phrase all but belongs to Microsoft, but it makes a lot of sense for me today. Why do the shoemaker’s children never have new shoes? Several of my smartest and best advisors have recently asked me the question: “What advice would you give yourself if you came in as a consultant to yourself?” That strikes me as a very good question.

I have great advice and ideas that I give and would like to give to clients. How good am I at implementing that advice in my own business? What’s the holdup? Let’s tally things up and see where my practice stands based on my own principles and the practices I advocate and discuss in my articles and presentations. Among other things, portfolio management is a key item.

3. The “Blow Out” Epiphany. There’s a new reality show on Bravo called “Blow Out,” which follows the startup of a new shop for Jonathan Antin’s hairdressing business in Hollywood. I saw an episode last week and then caught another episode and a repeat this weekend. To my credit (even though my wife spotted it sooner), I realized halfway through the second show that I watched that I was watching myself in Jonathan, or at least what I was heading toward becoming. What were the clues? Oh, things like watching him install outlet boxes, physically switch phone lines, and generally try to do everything himself when he has a group of great people around him. The question: am I trying to do too many things myself? What do I do about it? To those of my friends who have been hinting to me about this – I think I'm finally starting to get your point, but you might want to be a little more direct next time – remember the 2 by 4 and mule metaphor.

4. Collaboration Opportunities and Necessities. By the way, I don’t have to think too hard to know what the answers are to the questions in point 3. The real issue is to decide what to do about it, especially since I increasingly realize that I am in regular contact with the largest group of bright, accomplished people who I admire and trust than I’ve ever been around in my life. It’s a virtual group rather than a local group, but I think that raises mainly logistical issues.

At least three topics on the table:

A. The “virtual” legal secretary or administrative assistant. I had a great conversation at ABA TECHSHOW with Sharon Quaintance at Law Docs Express about what they are doing in the area of “virtual” legal secretaries and how that might help me. It’s time to follow-up. [Note: Done! Email sent.]

B. Hiring the proverbial “bright college summer / part-time intern.” I have too many projects that are close to done that require work that I’m not finding time to do. It’s frustrating. I had a phone call last week where I was advocating the use of a college intern in another context and gradually realized that it also makes sense for me as well. Nailing down the idea, putting together the job description and ad are all on the agenda. If you are reading this and might be interested or know someone who might be interested, let me know.

C. Throwing Open the Doors on Potential Collaborative Projects and Relationships. This is the big one, but it makes so much sense. I’ve already started to do more co-written articles, so, psychologically, I’m more open to the concept than I have been in the past. However, I really want to throw the doors open and consider a wide variety of ideas, projects and other relationships, with the idea of making myself more “web-like” than “silo-like.” If you’ve ever wanted to work with me on something on float a collaborative idea by me, now is the time. For example, I’m thrilled with what’s happening as a result of joining the Advisory Board of LegalRA.com, a new entry into the legal research world that gets many, many things right and is creating a fantastic tool that includes several important features that I have wanted for a long time. Check it out and tell them I sent you. (I’ll write more about this in the future, but the “My Library” section of the service is what will blow people away.)

Let me restate the obvious. I've said this many times in many ways, but the current world of legal bloggers is tailor-made for jump-starting collaborative efforts.

5. The Product Line. I’m sitting on more content and intellectual property than many people dream about. It’s a matter of unlocking it and turning it into products. That’s a huge priority for me this summer and a big piece of the hiring an intern idea.

6. Services as Products and Packages. If the billable hour model is busted, then flat rates, service packages and products are clearly the way to go. It’s a matter of creating the packages and then marketing to the right people in a way that they can understand. That’s easier said than done.

Here are two illustrations:

A. Executive Review Express. I offer a reasonable flat rate service where I will review and give you comments and negotiating approaches on an IT agreement or software license within one day or three days, as you choose. Many people have been very curious about how successful this package has been, because they think it is a compelling package, especially since both other lawyers and my own clients could use the service. My conclusion is that the results to date have been disappointing. I believe that the problem is one of marketing rather than concept, but I’m not sure.

B. Put Dennis on Your Technology Committee. When I came up with this idea, I thought it was the best business idea I ever had. The concept: for a fixed price, you get Dennis to take an overview survey of your firm’s technology, participate by phone in your firm’s tech committee meetings, and take advantage of my expertise and industry contacts. Brilliant, right? I’ve found no interest whatsoever. Again, is the problem marketing, conceptual, or, as I now believe, institutional (an unwillingness to bring outsiders in to see, if you will, how the sausage is made)?

On the agenda – creating and marketing these types of approaches. Help me out on with some reactions to this idea. One of my uniquenesses is that I practice computer law at a high level and I’m also one of few attorneys who understand what software is out there, how it is and can be used, et al. Given that, why wouldn’t someone want a package where I “audit” your existing software licenses and help you set up license management practices? As a benefit, you also get my insights into software practices, program usage, purchasing methods that don’t make practical sense. Other idea fragments on packages – Your IT General Counsel, Total License Audit, Helpdesk for Your IT Contract Administrators.

6. The Latent Market for Business Legal Services. Richard Granat and others have spoken and written for years about the “latent” market for legal services. To drastically over-simplify, the idea is that there is a large middle class group of people who have definite needs for legal services, but who cannot afford, do not understand the benefit of, or otherwise do not use the services of lawyers. As a result, they “go it alone” or do nothing, often to their detriment.

I believe that the same idea applies in the business context. In the latent market for business legal services, you find a large number of businesses where owners, executives (often CFOs) and others make “seat of the pants” legal decisions on their own for many of the same reasons Granat and others discuss. Another portion of this market routinely “under lawyers” the problem – i.e., uses a general lawyer for issues that should be addressed by lawyers who practice in the specific area. An example would be a company that has its real estate lawyer looking over software licenses.

In either case, mistakes are likely to be made. When I describe my practice as “providing consumer protection for businesses entering into important technology contracts,” I have the picture of this latent market for business legal services in mind. These are the people I can and want to help. At the annual retreat, I want to take some time to think about this concept, its implications and approaches to target this latent market, especially in ways that take advantage of Internet delivery of services, products and collaborative efforts.

7. Channels, Sponsorships and Advertising. Earlier this year, I did a small experiment with sponsoring and advertising with respect to my web efforts, given that my website drew over a million hits last year. The pace is even higher this year and the percentage of hits going to my blog has reached 60%. As a result, you will find logo sponsorships from CaseSoft, Fios, Worldox and Tabs 3 on various pages on my website. I’ve all-but-decided to forego writing product reviews and turn my focus instead to using the Dennis Kennedy channel to create a limited number of sponsorships from vendors that I like and would recommend, are doing cool things, or make sense for my audience. The upcoming redesign of my website will reflect more of this “channel” approach. In the legal space, it is still unclear if this approach will be approved (and in what form) and how best to do it. Unfortunately, there have been recent stirrings in ethics regulations that more restrictive advertising regulations of all kinds are ahead for lawyers, with a justification/focus of the “dignity of the profession” involved. Since a vocal group of lawyers have suggested that lawyers should not mention the fact that they like such “common” things as NASCAR on their blogs (I guess that the #48 decal of Jimmy Johnson I put on my laptop to help keep an eye on it during airport screenings would be problematic to them as well), the howls about advertising or sponsorships on law firm websites will probably be forthcoming. My reaction: get a life!

8. New Tech. No, not stuff I want. I want to look into technologies that make sense for me, my clients and the delivery of legal services. No mysteries here – I write regularly about these things in my articles and on my blog. The big one that I keep rolling around in my head is web services (the dot Net variety, e.g., MySmartChannels)). Personal KM, CaseMap 5, OneNote, Tablet PCs, RSS, and “generation 2” document assembly are other good examples.

9. The Impending Health Insurance Crisis. There’s no question that I love my move out of the firm environment and my new approach. However, the fly in the ointment is health insurance – namely a COBRA election that will run out this fall. Although I hate the idea of hanging out a “will take employment for health insurance” sign, the fact remains that the health insurance system is a disaster area for small businesses, the fact that health insurance availability is so tied to traditional employment in a society that increasingly sees independent businesses is a train wreck waiting to happen, and I don’t see anything in the current election campaign that gives me a good feeling. If you have ideas, I want to hear them, but both pricing issues and availability issues can easily move any solo business (including mine) back to an employment model. That’s going to take some thought.

10. Other Ideas Rattling Around. I have a bunch of notes, ideas, lists, articles, books and the like that I need to take some time to pay attention to and think about. I have a lot of follow-up to do just on people I’ve met in the last few months. Lots of ideas for clients, friends, readers of this blog and others. There is the small matter of collecting and harvesting those, turning them into action items using the David Allen model, and then working with my “priorities advisor,” Wendy Werner, to develop a solid going-forward approach. I’m energized and I haven’t even started yet.

As always, I welcome input, suggestions, recommendations, questions, ideas for paying me money and the like. Email me at dmk@denniskennedy.com.  [DennisKennedy.blog]

Virtual Auto Mechanic Library Helps Consumers Avoid Auto Repair RipOffs

Virtual Auto Mechanic Library Helps Consumers Avoid Auto Repair RipOffs

“If you've ever been ripped off by an auto repair shop, you'll want to check this out and pass it along to patrons…

'Having been taken to the cleaners to the tune of $2,300 by disreputable auto repair shops, Mike Smith of West Fargo, ND decided to put the power of the Web to work for others who may have had similar experiences.

The new Web-based Virtual Auto Mechanic http://www.vamech.com video library takes consumers inside an auto repair shop to educate them on automotive parts, maintenance and repairs. Consumers learn about specific parts and repair issues for themselves; enabling them to make educated decisions before authorizing any repair work.' Read All About It.” [LISNews.com]

[The Shifted Librarian]

Have It Your Way

Have It Your Way.

Great job for somebody

“In another time and place, this would have been my dream job.” [rc3.org Daily]

I can see why, as LJ World does some a-mazing stuff online (check out the Little League Cell Phone Updates!). But check out the customize link next to the XML button on Adrian Holovaty's site.

“Want to syndicate my blog's content? Want to use a personal aggregator to read it? You're in luck. I've set up an RSS system that's limited only by your imagination….

My custom feeds include the headline, full text and permalink from the 5 latest entries that include a word or phrase of your choosing. This lets you filter which Holovaty.com content you get.

To access a custom feed, use the URL convention holovaty.com/rss/filterstring, where “filterstring” is the word or phrase you want to require in each entry. To separate words, use the ASCII space character %20 or just a plus sign (+). You can also require an exact phrase by using putting double quote marks around it.”

Google News and every major newspaper ought to emulate this setup. Today.  [The Shifted Librarian]

Postcard from the Future (and It Includes RSS)

Postcard from the Future (and It Includes RSS).

A Brief Message about Why My TiVo and Treo, Rule 

“This is the confirmation email I received from TiVo after I:

  • Heard that Michael Moore was going to be on 60 Minutes
  • Was miles from home and wished I could somehow schedule my TiVo to record this show
  • Turned to my trusty Treo 600, and pointed the browser to Tivo Central Online to sign-in and schedule this recording
  • Return home to find 60 Minutes recorded perfectly per my request.

I know I live in the future a bit, being an early adopter and all, but the future is grand – and highly recommended.” [shellen dot com, via buzzmachine]

I'm going to start using that last line everywhere! I'll have to try to use my Treo 600 to access MyReplayTV to see if I can schedule a recording on one of my ReplayTVs!

Tangent: check out this great quote from Jeff Jarvis:

“Feeding me — sending me any kind of content anytime anywhere on any device — is the promise of this medium in an ever-connected world and RSS will be at the core of that. This is just the beginning.”

Sounds familiar, doesn't it?  😉

Interestingly, I was interviewed by a reporter this morning for a Redeye article about RSS. Let's hope this is the first sign of a clue over at the Tribune Company!  [The Shifted Librarian]