Three Interesting Posts of the Day

I came across three posts this morning that are worth looking at.

First, John Battelle, who writes regularly about Google, Search, and the Internet itself, has the most insightful post I’ve seen on the home phone. As the father of two school-age kids, I don’t think home phones are going away. Not only is there security in a hard-wired doesn’t-need-a-working-cell phone in Seattle’s earthquake zone, there are times when we want to call “the house” rather than a person. I might want to call the parents of my son’s friend to check on a play-date, and I want not “mom” or “dad” but “the parent who is at home.” Of if I’m at the store, I’ll call home to see if there’s something I need to pick up, and my son, daughter, or wife can read the shopping list (and add their own items, as a wonderful Windows Phone/PC ad points out1).

I did some consulting to AT&T 15 years ago, and I don’t think I’m breaking confidences at this point to relate a conversation I had with some senior managers there. I tried to paint a vision of opportunities they had because a) they owned a great relationship with their customers, b) they could charge 8.2 cents for something (e.g., a minute of long-distance calling) and still make money on the transaction, and c) they had a wired network into virtually every household  in America. No, they said, we’re going to make money long term with our long-distance business. Oh, well.

Second, “Wired GC” John Wallbillich writes about LegalZoom and UPL, the unauthorized practice of law. Assuming the UPL issue gets ironed out, could LegalZoom eat away at the business of law from the bottom, picking off a good chunk of the everyday non-corporate work — wills, pre-nups, LLC formation, and so on? What effect would that have on larger firms2? Before you answer quickly, let me point out two examples:

  • PageMaker totally owned the I-need-to-format-a-document-to-look-good market in the early 90s, at around $600 a copy. People were using PageMaker to write business memos. (Talk about trying to kill a flea by dropping an elephant on it.) Aldus, before Adobe bought them, were selling boatloads of copies. Then Microsoft brought out Publisher, which was a “toy” compared to PageMaker’s high-end capabilities — but it was far easier to use for simple stuff, and you could get a copy for around $100. Suddenly, PageMaker lost most of its market share. Eventually, Word and other word processors picked up most of these capabilities for the low end.
  • In the 70s, Detroit (as in “imported from”) made big, expensive cars. They didn’t care about the small/cheap car market. But Datsun (now Nissan), Toyota, and Honda did. They swept up the low-end, lower-profit market. After a time, they introduced not only bigger cars but luxury marques — Infiniti, Lexus, and Acura, respectively. Now they’re huge competitors throughout the product line.

LegalZoom may not replicate those success stories. They probably won’t. Probably. Right? It will be interesting to watch this play out over the coming decade.

Third, Steve Barrett describes 20 ways to use Outlook+Exchange in Legal Project Management. The core tools you need for Legal Project Management are already on your desktop — Outlook and Word primarily, plus the less vital and universal but quite useful OneNote and Excel. (There are non-Microsoft equivalents that don’t work quite as well — especially the Outlook+Exchange combo — but will accomplish most of the same tasks.)

The biggest item in his list, in terms of people-don’t-do-it-but-they-should, is calendar sharing.

Consider letting everyone in the practice see your calendar; mark Private any items you don’t want shared, whether a doctor’s appointment or M&A feelers with a party whose name you need to conceal. If I have access to your calendar, I can read your public appointments but see only a time block with a key icon for appointments marked private. I did it for 15 years at Microsoft (basically, from the time that it was first possible to do so). It facilitated scheduling, of course, but it also let my team see what I was doing. Ever wonder what your manager is actually doing with his time? Employees to whom it’s a mystery make up the worst; rumors fill the vacuum. Is Steve plotting against me? No, I can see he’s working on the XXX-Competitive project (I did a few of those), mentoring someone, meeting with our business partners, and scheduling some private time (labeled “Work Time”) to get stuff done. Okay, maybe he’s plotting against me anyway, but I can see he’s not spending most of his time doing it!

I’m pretty sure my team never thought I was plotting against them, but I might be self-deluded. I did know a number of teams who did believe their managers were at a minimum working at cross-purposes. I don’t think they really were, but the teams were in the dark and thought the worst. So calendar sharing has an odd positive side effect, in addition to making it much easier to schedule meetings or find someone in a business emergency.

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