SXSW Interactive and Not Practicing Law in a Bubble.

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.”

SWSX 2013 Conference Photo
Photo by Sandy Carson

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 forSXSW Start Up Village Logo 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!

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