We are living a specific moment in history when the old and the new are co-existing in the same time and space. Legislation can be seen as a document read by humans (the old). But a piece of legislation ⚖️can also be read by computers, making connections and relations across documents and allowing ecosystems of developers and innovators to create new apps and services on top of that. This is the vision of Aeco Legal a legaltech startup. They just release what is called an API. A piece of code that allows interoperability between law (as code) and other apps. We had an interesting conversation about this with Thomas Aergerts. Watch the video here.
As a content strategist specializing in public sector and legal firms, I have spent a large proportion of the last 15 years using Microsoft Word for drafting web content. Microsoft Word is undeniably a fantastic product and .DOCX files are likely to remain the default format for sharing and editing legal and business documents for the foreseeable future. However, when it comes to the initial drafting of legal web content in Microsoft Word, you should be aware of much better (and more user-friendly) alternatives existing in the market.
Are you a marketing or communication manager with high working standards? Do you work for a law firm and you believe that writing a qualitative, highly personalized web content is the way to achieve your goals? Do you know that writing good content is a team work effort and would like to involve your lawyers in a fluid, frictionless production work flow to succeed with your legal marketing blog? Then this post is for you.
Does sending the DOCX draft via email to your colleagues so they can incorporate their contributions and then translating it to HTML for the web upload is a common practice?
Considering some of the things listed above, I think there are many reasons why you should consider using markdown format. It is a document file format that was created for writing “simple text” and it serves as a bridge between document drafting and a web page.
Get your lawyers writing code without scaring them
We did a survey recently among lawyers and we found out that almost half of respondents were interested in learning a coding language.
In the digital era your text has to be understood by both humans and machines. But they read it differently. While humans read the words, the machines need additional help which is the so called “code” or “markup language”.
Markdown has certain features that makes the writer, when formating the text, unconsciously inserting markup language that computers understand. This requires a little training, but in a very short period of time your writers will start inserting markup language and doing it in a way that does not hinder the writing process, such as inserting hyper links, headings or lists. That can be done by simply typing characters with your keyboard.
Your lawyers will start seeing that what they write is a very simple code only visible to them as writers, and that it is not the same thing as what the user sees when the text is displayed on a web interface. I see this as an easy and less scary way to get your lawyers be introduced to programming and coding.
Never get stuck with a particular software vendor
There are two benefits of using markdown:
- Conversion versatility: your markdown file can be easily converted into other types of files: html, pdf, mjml, .DOCX, you name it. In order to do that, you need to familiarize yourself with software conversion tools, for instance Pandoc.
- Work with different text editors: as you can see in the video, the same file can be opened locally or in the cloud with different tools. I personally use Retext, Typora and Zettlr. But there are many more available in the market depending on your operating system. Your lawyers are free to choose the one they prefer.
Only use your fingers to write text that computers can decode
When I start drafting, I don’t need to think about the style, fonts or images. I just want to get into the writing flow, focus on the text, have a good writing experience and remove any distractions from my sight.
I don’t need, at this stage, to be interacting with an overloaded screen full of options. I just want my words to flow in an easy way that bridges my mind and the text in front of me. I also like to use my hands (and not my mouse) to introduce characters that are needed to enrich my text for web publishing: things like hyper links, bolds, headings are easily inserted with the keyboard by typing characters.
Here is a tutorial where you can learn the basics to get you started in 30 min. It takes a little practice to get familiar, but once you start, there is no way back.
In the past I used to use Microsoft Word for drafting, but I found I was offered too many features that I did not need and it complicated the writing process. I also felt that the software was too heavy and with the high risk of overloading my computer memory and crashing.
The future of fast and agile content production – writing is Markdown
I have recently discovered a set of web creation tools and cms that are really interesting and I can’t wait to test them. A combination of tools like Hugo, Netlify and Forestry totally changed the game for web creation and here is why:
- there is a new wave of tools for creating websites that can load your websites faster. And they are all using markdown. Unlike WordPress, Drupal or Joomla, you don’t need a database.
- Changes in content are considered commits and therefore are kept track of it’s version of using git. No more loosing track of who suggested what change. This also allows the editors and developers to speak the same language when it comes to keeping track of who is doing what on the site.
- you can edit your posts in markdown and quickly push up your post as markdown documents.
I am Manuel from BigKids, digital reinvention consultant. I am passionate about bringing the teams together to create good content. I see content as a fuel for building excellent digital experience. If you would like to take part in a markdown demo, feel free to contact me or subscribe to the Places of Learning newsletter where we regularly organize meetups around those topics.
This is a post dedicated to the HR community in law firms.
It’s quite well known among managers that Alphabet, the group behind Google, allows their workers one day per week to work freely on their own projects. Those projects could be anything, ranging from working on a business idea, a new software prototype to taking a course or engaging in a social activity with other colleagues.
In this post I would like to suggest an idea that law firms could be doing something similar to boost their digital transformation.
An open source project is a software development project that brings together people from different backgrounds to create a new software tool that they find useful and necessary for the society. Incentives to take part in such a thing can be different and not always monetary. Sometimes, participants simply want to show their skills 💪, learn something new or meet new people and make professional connections outside their circle.
HR team should play a key role in driving transformation and digitalising lawyers inside their teams. You should be out there discovering open source projects and building a bridge between the projects and your team of lawyers.
Below, I am going to list some ideas on why your lawyers should be joining an open source project.
Skill up = Learn digital tools and processes
You learn so many things when you connect with people that have different backgrounds: tools, practices and habits of highly independent and motivated people.
You don’t need to be a software developer to take part. Your contribution can be non technical and non-IT related. But you are required to have an open mindset towards the use of digital tools and processes.
For instance, when I joined my first open source project, it required me to get familiarized with Github in order to understand how these multiple team members collaborated to keep a record of contributions. And I found it extremely inspiring. I discovered a new way of drafting that can be applied to any writing project and since then I use it for my own collaborative document creation.
Psychological benefits: align your workers with a good cause
HR should support such initiatives. Quite often, open source project has a social and non-profit dimension. Participants intend to contribute to something that doesn’t work well. Your lawyers can benefit from taking part in such a project and help make the world a better place. They could get different rewards at different levels fulfilling human need of unity, community, belonging, compassion, and many others. It would boost participants’ motivation and increase their creativity while directly contributing to staff’s well being and bringing positive effects on your business.
Place your lawyers outside their comfort zone
Getting outside the comfort zone is an absolute “must” for a successful digital transformation of any team. In a highly volatile and uncertain world, you need to learn being comfortable with uncertainty. It doesn’t feel comfortable when joining a new team with different practices, codes and ways of working, but it becomes highly rewarding once you adapt and start to get it. You turn your growth mindset on, your brain expands and you start to appreciate different perspectives, practices and working cultures.
Due to their nature of work, lawyers tend to work and communicate in a relatively small and limited circle. How can this be changed? How it could be challenged? An open source project would be a great opportunity to mingle with the professionals from other disciplines, contribute to other sectors and have societal impact.
Employer branding: attract new young talent
There are many studies on the millennial and what actually drives them. Like all the others, young law graduates also want to have some meaning in their work. They wish to join a team whose work makes sense. They are the driving force that intend to bring change and transformation to our society. Thus if you want to remain an attractive employer, make sure to give space, time and encouragement to your people to work on their projects.
Companies need to be bold and position themselves strongly on what kind of society they want for our future
We see more and more successful companies that want to have positive impact on this world. This article from Jubel in FR shows that sustainable and circular business are the ones who did better in a covid crisis context. If this could be done with actions rather than words. Take action by choosing the right open source project that could fit with the vision and the values of your company. For example Loyens & Loeff joins open source and nonprofit consortium the Accord Project
Understand the logic of collaboration: the power dynamics of decentralized meritocratic organizations
There are thousands of projects popping up that consider motivation and allocate resources in completely different way than most of current companies. They are offering interesting methods and working practices and see collaboration as an essential part of the culture of any decentralized project. In order to stay competitive in th future, it only makes sense to integrate collaborative mindset in your working processes and company culture.The future could be decentralized.
New ways of working with documents
We are in 2020. Is legislation still being drafted in Word documents?
Documents are more than a thing you read, write and print. We need to be moving towards a method of co-drafting that is more agile, clean and allows to keep track of all contributions! But also a method of co-drafting that allows machines to make sense of them. Open source project development could be a perfect environment to test new ways of drafting legal documents. See as an inspiring example this project of legal code documented in git version
What are the concrete examples of open source projects in Belgium?
This year I have been taking part in Open Justice. The project has a great momentum, gentle vibes very welcoming and open minded contributors, also working on ambitious projects like a document database to make public case law (link in French).
Good web content can make you stand out and “outsmart” your competitors. Your editorial team must have (or acquire) certain skills in order to get there
There are thousands of websites out there. If you really want to stand out, you need smarter content. Smart content is solves an issue for the reader. Your lawyers need to be able to identify problems that your target audience has. Your lawyers need to write words that solve that problem. We call this empathy and we agree with this 100% Sarah Richards.
Human writing is on demand more than ever. Especially writing that is accessible. Your lawyers must be able to identify and use words that get them closer to whoever you want to touch.Insert tweet
— Manuel Pueyo (@manuelpueyo) February 21, 2019
Technical Skills: the web is here to stay
Your lawyers must be able to understand the difference between a normal document and a web document. HTML basics need to be appreciated and understood:
*basic SEO keywords and
*other markup language specs
Method and discipline: practice makes it perfect
Ann Handley, the author of the book “Everybody Writes” calls this your Writing GPS. A method (like a GPS) gives you orientation on where to go and what to do next. Writing is a craft and every writer must have a stablished method to create a text.
This process often goes from an idea to planning your text, to writing it, to uploading it, to the Content Management System, maintaining it after publication etc. Here we are talking about having a step by step method that guides you throughout this process.
Once you repeat this method long enough, the process of writing becomes so much easier. I always quote here K Anders Ericson. Experts are made, not born: it is the quantity and the quality of the repetition of your method that will make you an expert.
Content ops: collaborate even if it hurts
Your lawyers should be team workers as well. They are not lonely runners, but they understand that their writing is inserted into a bigger system: a well oiled editorial production machine. Welcome to the world of Content Operations.
I am Manuel from BigKids and I want to help you with this. That is why we have teamed up with Larcier to run the course Creer du Contenu Digital Interessant in which we are going to talk about writing methods, how to attract people with content and the beauty of the web as a publishing medium.
Magic happens when you valorise your content. You turn knowledge that your company has but is invisible into something tangible that has amazing business value for your organization.
In this post, I would like to show how the content that you put on your website can be an amazing opportunity, not only to attract clients, but also to deliver better services. Content becomes a strategic business asset for your organization.
Modelovereenkomsten, or the principle of giving legal content for free and getting something in return
With this new service, they offer everyone the possibility to download a professional model of a contract in an editable “word” document for free. Whaat!!? Yes you hear it well, they are actually giving out some of the firm’s key 🗝️ knowledge for free. If, as a client, you want more, for instance you want to have 30 minutes chat with one lawyer, then you pay a small fee or more if you want higher customization of your contract.
The checkout process is similar to many e-commerce sites. You can search via keywords the type of contract you are looking for. You can also go through an automated workflow asking you questions and guiding you towards the contract(s) that covers your needs. When you find it, you add your contract to a cart and go through a purchase journey that incorporates some offers
- They also collect your email and ask you some additional questions via the checkout process that probably will be used to profile you for marketing purposes in the future.
- They also offer you similar contracts to the one you are interested in.
This service helps Intolaw to fulfill their social mission/have a positive impact in society and at the same time attract potential customers.
Mlexmarketinsight: generating legal content is the business value
They make money in a different way. Mlexmarketinsight’s value proposition is literally information (=content) sent by email. Customers pay and then they get their newsletters called Daily Briefing directly sent with the latest insights and analysis on regulatory changes, official statements and upcoming events. They also send articles written by them and press releases.
The key activity of Mlexmarketinsight is to follow changes in the sector, reporting and delivering information to paying subscribers. Channels are digital and the additional cost of getting a new client is almost zero because the additional charges for creating and sending a newsletter to 1 or to 1000 people is zero.
A privacy statement that looks good and is easy to understand and accept
Last year I had the chance to meet Lieke Beelen, she is a legal designer & founder of Visualcontracts. At this year’s Visual Contracts meetup she talked about turning legal contracts from “necessary evil” to an “object of design” = something that has a value.
And here you have an example of that: Apple privacy statement with belgian clients.
Legal contracts and technical specs are, traditionally, complicated to read for average citizens. Nobody enjoys reading them and they are often signed with blind eyes.
This can be changed, here we have an example of legal contracts and technical specs that have been simplified, beautified and explained.
When I read this web I even feel curious to know more about Apple technology and how the privacy rights are displayed in each of the apps. In general, I am not a fan of Apple as a company, but I see that this moves the needle towards more clients trusting their products and, as a consequence, increasing sales.
What do all those examples have in common?
- Content leaves the marketing department. It is not only a legal copy writing, a “comms” asset to attract clients, but it becomes essential in the relationship that a company has with its clients.
- Content meets a need.
- From pure Blogging for Lawyers to actually paying attention to the user experience
- You can actually identify some content that is not being properly valorised: it can be turned into an essential part of the way you design your legal service.
Content is knowledge and here at BigKids we help you to turn your worker’s knowledge into useful digital content. By interviewing people (your lawyers) in order to analyze their successes, challenges, practices, perceptions. We identify legal trends and we document those insights in a digital format: text, audio, video. Those digital assets can be used at any time to deliver better service or promote and amplify your legal service offer.