Finding Old Friends
Counsel Connect alumni are among legal cyberfolks re-appearing in new venues.
By Robert J. Ambrogi
WHEN YOU hang around Cyberspace long enough, other long-time Netizens take on the patina of old pals, even though you may never have met in any non-binary setting. More than once, at technology shows or bar association events, I've bumped into complete strangers, only to glance at their name badges and discover them to be fast friends, albeit of the virtual kind.
This hit home in recent months, as familiar names from my virtual past resurfaced in a random confluence of Web site announcements and discoveries. Beyond names, these Internet old-timers bring something else familiar to their sites: an eagerness to share information and insights largely for the comradely, rather than commercial, value. This spirit once characterized the Internet, before the onslaught of so-many, would-be e-millionaires.
My recent 'Net nostalgia finds its origins in an e-mail that arrived one day from Alan J. Rothman, a New York lawyer and technophile. From 1993-1999, Rothman was moderator of the Computer Trends Forum on the now-defunct online service Counsel Connect (a former division of American Lawyer Media Inc., which publishes Law Technology News).
CC strived to be an online community for legal professionals, a place where lawyers could discuss and share ideas. At its core were its many topical forums, where those of similar interests could post messages discussing anything from securities law to Internet research. Among the most active of the forums was Rothman's, where participants tracked and debated the latest developments in computers and technology.
With the demise of CC, Rothman began looking for a way to keep the spirit of the forum alive. When he happened to discuss this with John Hokkanen, then-chief knowledge counsel at the Atlanta firm Alston & Bird, Hokkanen offered to provide the necessary technology.
Thus was born Tech-Topicshifts, www.tech-topicshifts.com, a Web-based forum in which legal professionals share news, commentary and advice on, as Rothman puts it, "Just about anything and everything cyber-this and techno-that."
Log on -- you must first complete a free, four-line registration, after which Rothman will e-mail you a password -- and you find a simple screen of discussion topics. Rothman has organized the discussions into seven main categories, such as "The Net," "Systems & Apps," and "Info Processing," with each category being home to a variety of more specific threads.
The interface is easily customized, allowing the user to set such options as the threads to be viewed and the dates of messages to be included.
Regretfully, far too many of the postings so far come from Rothman alone. But as more lawyers sign on and contribute to the discussions, the more valuable the site will become.
Catching The Buzz
Rothman's attempt to revive a former Counsel Connect discussion group got me to thinking about another popular former CC forum, Internet Talk. Lawyers came here seeking help with online research or to share the latest Web resource, but they returned repeatedly to pick up the latest nuggets of 'Net wisdom dispensed with intelligence and humor by the forum's longtime moderator, Jesse Londin, known to most participants simply as "Buzz."
With the demise of CC, had Londin stopped sharing her knowledge of online legal resources? I remembered stumbling across her byline somewhere online, but having forgotten where, I tried finding her name via www.altavista.com.
Sure enough, there she was, featured writer on Martindale-Hubbell's Lawyers.com, www.lawyers.com. Londin writes the site's twice-monthly Law Buzz column, offering the same combination of instruction, insight and humor that made her forum so popular on CC. Recent columns review courts on the Internet, sites for small-business law, and the Web's top legal destinations. The complete archive can be found by going to Lawyers.com and following the link to Law Buzz.
While reading through the threads on Rothman's site, I came across a reference to another familiar name, technology writer Wendy Leibowitz, and learned of her site, WendyTech.
A long-time writer on legal technology, first for The American Lawyer and then for The National Law Journal, Leibowitz left legal journalism last year to become information-technology reporter for the Chronicle of Higher Education. Leibowitz describes her site as a place "for legal news, cyber-savvy law talk, and articles about technology and the law." The best reason to visit, at least so far, is for the site's collection of more than two-dozen articles. Topics run the gamut from e-mail policy to hourly billing, and all are well written and thoroughly researched.
Around the same time I was reacquainting myself with the writings of Londin and Leibowitz, an e-mail arrived announcing a new set of writings from another long-time cyber acquaintance, Warren E. Agin.
In 1995, a dog's age ago in Internet time, Agin created The Bankruptcy Lawfinder, at www.swiggartagin.com/, one of the first Web sites devoted to a comprehensive examination of online bankruptcy resources and still among the best bankruptcy sites on the Web.
Then a young associate, Agin went on to create his own successful Boston law firm, concentrating in the confluence of bankruptcy and Internet law, and to become a popular speaker and writer.
Now, Agin has written the first comprehensive treatise on the topic, Bankruptcy and Secured Lending in Cyberspace, published by Bowne, and he has created a Web site for the book, at www.swiggartagin.com/book. It features updates to the hard copy and includes a forum for discussing bankruptcy-law issues, as well as details on the book and information about ordering.
If Agin was an early pioneer among lawyers on the Internet, he was following a trail blazed earlier still by Washington, D.C., lawyer Lewis Rose.
In 1994, Rose, then an associate with Arent Fox Kintner Plotkin & Kahn, created one of the first lawyer Web sites. So uncertain was he of his Web venture (a site devoted to advertising law) that he kept it a secret from the firm's partners, until, that is, PC Computing magazine came out with its first listing of the top 100 Web sites, and ranked his 16th. Soon after, he was helping Arent Fox launch its own site, one that was shortly garnering awards of its own.
Recently, Rose announced a facelift for the Arent Fox site. With the ample content that has been its hallmark from the start, and a cleaner, easier-to-navigate design, the site remains one of the best from a large firm.
You can find it at www.arentfox.com. And Rose, who has long since gone on to partnership at Arent Fox, still maintains and adds to his original site, which is at www.advertisinglaw.com.
Robert J. Ambrogi is director of the American Lawyer Media News Service.