Even the biggest law firms mess up—that’s why we need contract automation

One of the innovators that the ABA journal has profiled as part of its “Legal Rebels” project is contract drafting guru Ken Adams. Ken is author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, a book that has become a standard reference work, and he’s a leading advocate of standardizing and automating contract drafting.

The ABA Journal profile includes the following video that shows Ken deconstructing two extracts from the merger agreement used in Oracle’s proposed acquisition of Sun Microsystems. Oracle is represented by the premier law firm Latham & Watkins, but it’s clear from Ken’s analysis that they, like other law firms, draft contracts that are embarrassingly problematic from the standpoint of clarity, efficiency, and risk.

The amount of fat and gristle that Ken trims from just a single page of the contract, which we watch him do in an onscreen markup towards the middle of the video (at minute 4:52 of the 8 1/2 minute video), is simply startling.

Interestingly, Ken clearly doesn’t expect all lawyers to suddenly become better drafters. Instead, he says in the video that a combination of standardized language and automation can transform contract drafting into an inexpensive commodity task. At least in theory, lawyers could outsource most of their drafting workload to either an in-house or (as Ken suggests) an SaaS system offering document-assembly templates for a wide range of business contracts. That would allow lawyers to quickly create high-quality first drafts, leaving them more time to concentrate on those tasks that add real value and are worth their hourly rates, namely devising strategy and assisting in negotiations.

Metrics show huge jump in social media use

A couple of studies came across my screen yesterday.

First, the Nielsen Company announced last week that internet users spent 17% of their internet time on social media sites in August 2009, three times as much as a year earlier.

Second, Forrester Media reported last month that 4 of 5 adults now use social media, a 46% increase over a year earlier.

What this means is that the customers of most organizations are using social media in large numbers. Thus organizations of all sizes should be examining whether and how to use social media to reach out to their customers online.

Social media surpasses record labels promoting classical music

I think cello is one of the most beautiful musical instruments. But I was surprised to discover that a “solo” cello player, by which I mean someone not connected with an “established” orchestra or other classical music institution, playing her own (beautiful but unconventional) compositions, has achieved financial success and enormous popularity in large part owing to her online marketing. Granted, Zoe Keating is very talented—but most of us have known extremely talented artists who have managed, somehow, to escape widespread recognition.

In Zoe Keating’s case, in addition to a blog and an impressive number of videos on YouTube, she has over a million followers on Twitter who have helped propel sales of her recordings into the top ranks of classical music on Apple’s iTunes music store. And all this without benefit of a record label. She’s not only making a living off of her music (mostly from downloads but also from gigs recording commercials and film scores), but is besting competitors’ cumulative millions of dollars of marketing budgets in the process.

Interestingly, she says she spends half of her time on business administration, and half creating product (music), a balance that many solo business people ultimately discover. She cautions that it took her a long time to get to this point, and that the key quality of online marketing is to “be yourself” and speak candidly as if to a few friends rather than pitching a product to a huge audience.

See her interview here and perform here.

(Via PressHereTV.com.)

What are they saying about you, your customers, your competitors?

You can schedule Google News and Twitter searches to run automatically and have the results emailed to you. Between the two you’ll know whenever journalists, press releases, bloggers, or the Twiterrati take notice of a topic near and dear to your heart, like your organization, your favorite customer(s), or even your competitors.

TweetBeep does this for Twitter. http://tweetbeep.com/

Google Alerts does this for Google news and web searches. http://www.google.com/alerts

Do your customers like each other? They can form a social network

I worked on a “white-label” social network startup a few years ago which almost but didn’t quite get off the ground. So I was happy to see that someone else succeeded where I failed: Stribe. Are you the center of your customers’ world? Maybe you are their “Cheers” bar, or their 3rd place coffee shop, or they’re crafters and your’re their craft shop, you are their favorite getaway, or many of the folks who take yoga classes at your establishment go out together afterwards? For a modest cost you can do them all a big favor by becoming their virtual social network as well. And, oh yes, you’ll deepen your connection with them also.

(via MG Siegler/TechCrunch)

Gist combines info from email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn

I haven’t tried this yet, but will soon: Gist, a free application that connects to your Gmail, Outlook, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter accounts (among others), gives you a comprehensive one-screen look at what your contacts are saying/doing, as well as how to get hold of them–with customizable filters to keep you from getting buried in all of the information.

(via Josh Lowensohn/cnet)

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