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Innovation

By Lenny Sienko, guest blogger

When I was a young lawyer thirty-one years ago, I showed up at "Motion Term" one Monday morning at the Delaware County Courthouse in Delhi, New York, the county seat some forty miles from my new office. While I waited, I was treated to an invaluable, free CLE session as I watched and listened to the senior lawyers appear on their matters and argue before the Judge.

When the session ended, I was invited to join all of the other lawyers for lunch at the modest restaurant across the square from the courthouse. The back room was fully occupied by tables and chairs pushed together into one long table, filled on both sides by lawyers who had appeared in court and others who had been title searching at the County Clerk's Office. That luncheon was the first of many over the years during which we questioned, answered, argued, shouted, laughed, and carried on as lawyers are wont to do. It was great fun. I made friends and learned about the practical aspects of the business of law. We settled cases. We plea bargained. We exchanged tips and forms. We complained about the latest depredation by the legislature, designed to make our practice more difficult. We looked forward to our weekly Monday lawyers' luncheon. I learned that this tradition had been carried on since lawyers traveled to the county seat by horseback and steam locomotive. At least we no longer had to share the beds at the boarding house.

As the years passed, many of the senior lawyers passed on and were not replaced. The luncheon tradition finally fell by the wayside a few years ago, diminished by the "new" individual assignment of Judges to cases and the rescheduling of the Monday motion term. Young lawyers no longer had the opportunity on Monday mornings to sit in those old, high-backed wicker chairs and learn as others argued. I was disappointed that the friendly interaction amongst colleagues young and old we once shared seemed to disappear. I missed our friendly rivalry and needed something to take it place.

What does any of this nostalgia have to do with innovation?

I have found that lawyers' use of so-called "social media" has helped fill the gap left by the loss of "Motion Term" and Monday luncheon. These days, when I have a question for my peers, I post it on the NYSBA General Practice Section listserve and wait for the dozens of responses. Lawyers young and old from across the state ask and answer questions, share forms, refer cases, and discuss the "latest and greatest" from the Legislature. We discuss cases with names redacted and recommend tactics and strategies, just as we once did. The audience is scattered through the ether; but the discussion is familiar.

If I want to talk to other lawyers, day or night, across the country and around the world, I can get an answer from my "followers" on Twitter. As I did years ago, I have accepted invitations from other lawyers to join them on Linkedin, Plaxo, FaceBook, and FriendFeed. I get to "talk" to my classmates from law school, young alums from other law schools, solo practitioners, and associates and senior partners from larger firms. We are voluntarily enjoying a great dialog, which I find mentally invigorating and professionally stimulating. My circle of friends upon whom I can call for advice and guidance has expanded from a dozen or so regulars at Monday lunch to hundreds.

I read an enormous amount of material each day and night, coming to me in e-newsletters and RSS feeds, but also on legal blogs and Twitter. I read quickly and do a kind of "mental triage". I save links to the items, sites, etc, which interest me AND will interest other lawyers. This is a very broad spectrum of possibilities. I choose 4 or 5 a week and post them to the General Practice Blawg. Sometimes I just can't help myself and the number increases to as many as 10 posts for the week. Sometimes at Monday Lunch I was the last one talking as the bills were handed out to the diners.

Every Friday night, I go to the General Practice Blawg site and click on the site's RSS feed, which gives me the material for a weekly e-zine, "wEbrief", in quickly convertible form. I update any of the "blurbs", short paragraphs, which may be outdated. These are the content of wEbrief. The General Practice Blawg serves a few hundred readers. wEbrief gets sent as a "blast email" to a couple of thousand Section members. I also "repurpose" the posts for my own blawg, which is linked to a feed to Twitter, Friendfeed, and FaceBook. My conversations go on day and night, seven days a week--not just Mondays.

Does all of this innovative interaction profit me? Did my ersatz Monday luncheon tutorials profit me? I won't get rich; but the answer is "yes" to both questions. More importantly, the new social media keep me from being socially and professionally isolated, just as the old luncheons did.



Lenny Sienko installed his first Macintosh computer in his solo practice office in 1986. It replaced a teletype with shiny paper attached to a "blackjack" modem. He is a charter member of the NYSBA President's NYLawNet Committee (now the Electronic Communications Committee), editor of wEbrief an electronic newsletter, and the General Practice blogger-in-chief. He can be reached at most social media sites by his ubiquitous "lennyesq".

Personal Web site
http://www.hancock.net/~lennyesq/

Office Blog
http://lennyesq.wordpress.com/

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on August 21, 2009 4:37 PM.

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