NASCAR and Yahoo have handed me my next blog posts on a silver platter. The NASCAR YouTube “take-down” controversy is leading me to write in detail on DMCA take down notices and Yahoo’s new “no work from home” policy deserves a more in depth look at “Constructive Termination.”
Right now, however, I am preparing to leave for Austin and SXSW Interactive. This is definitely not an attorney conference, and yet I consider it one of the most important events I will attend in 2013. The reason relates directly to how I view the practice of law. Putting it simply, law should not be practiced in a bubble.
As an attorney, I have always seen myself as part of the business team, rather than a species apart dwelling in the mahogany stained corridors of the traditional law office. Many times in my career I have encountered “business folks” apart from “lawyer folks” with a cynical outlook on their attorneys and a general feeling that attorneys are simply out of touch with their business. I think in many ways we lawyers bring that on ourselves. We have too often seen ourselves as a separate team, rather than an integral part of the business team. Too many lawyer only conferences can add to what I call “lawyeritis.” It is a state in which the bubble grows and yet our business knowledge shrinks.
I have always found I am the most effective when I am made a part of the business team. My opinions and insights valued, not just on legal matters, but on the bigger business objectives. I also believe to be the best attorney I can be I must continually learn the business aspects of my practice and not just the legal nuts and bolts.
I manage legal issues for 20 television stations, a major metropolitan newspaper, over 30 news websites and over 120 mobile apps. How can I effectively provide legal consult if I am one step behind, rather than one step ahead of what is coming next? The speed with which digital media changes requires a proactive appraoch to stay not only “on top of things” but also out ahead. I think there is probably nothing more troubling than trying to explain a new technology or platform to your attorney and being met with a blank expression or worse a look of alarm. I don’t want to be that type of attorney.
So off to SXSW I go. Many people have asked me what my focus will be. I am not searching merely for legal panels or other attorneys. That narrow focus would put me back in the bubble. My company is looking for investment opportunites, so I will devote a substantial portion of my time at startup village. As I expect my mobile app portfolio to grow this year, I will also devote time to mobile. I consult news directors and journalists, so I will be looking for some good journalism panels and of course that now includes social media. Finally, because I am in the media business (both traditional and new media) I will be looking a lot at Web TV and what is coming next in program streaming.
Did you notice I am in the media business? That is because when people ask me what I do, I always say the business I am in. The fact that I am an attorney comes second to that. I am not in the “law” business, I am in the media business and I love it!