What Would You Teach a Bunch of Lawyers About The Web?

Later today, I have the pleasure of speaking to a group of tech and VC lawyers at a local law firm (not sure if they want me to say who they are) about why and how they should be using “social media” and the web. I’ve sent them some pre-reading ideas, and I have lots to talk about, but I thought I’d ask you what YOU would teach a group of lawyers about the web?

Here’s an outline of what I plan to talk about, but please add your ideas, links, and recommendations in the comments. I really appreciate it! ๐Ÿ™‚

Web Tools and Techniques

I think a web savvy lawyer (well, actually, I think this applies to everyone) should be versed in the following basic web and social tools. That’s not to say you have to be an expert, but you should at least understand what they are, and how they work in general terms.

  • Feeds and Readers/Aggregators – Know what an RSS feed is, and how to subscribe to one in a a feed reader. Example: Google Reader. Know how to organize your subscriptions into folders, unsubscribe from feeds you don’t want anymore, and share interesting items with others.
  • Social Network Sites – Under the skin, most of them are alike. Facebook is the most popular example. Know what it means to “friend” someone, what a status update is, how to share photos and video, and how to behave yourself well, so as not to annoy all of your friends. Know what a social network site is good for and what it’s not. See also: LinkedIn, MySpace, etc.
  • Sharing and Tagging – Know the popular sites to share photos, videos, and other stuff online. Be familiar with the way some sites allow people to organize and categorize stuff they’ve shared using tags (Example: Delicious for bookmarks and links, Flickr for photos, etc.). Know what a tag cloud is. Bonus points for being able to explain “folksonomy”. ๐Ÿ˜‰
  • Blogging – In general terms, know what a blog is, some features most blogs have (comments, feeds, categories, etc.), and be aware of the best (free!) places to start a blog, like, Google’s, etc. Be aware that it’s also relatively easy and cheap to set up and host your own blog, if you want more freedom that what you get with a free hosted blog.
  • Twitter – Know that it’s a “microblogging” service that lets people sign up and post short (140 character) messages that their friends/followers will see. Know what it’s good for (conversation, asking and answering questions, getting to know and keeping in touch with people) and what it’s not (pretty much anything that doesn’t work well in short 140 character messages).


There are a few people I consider to be very wise when it comes to understanding and explaining the intersection of law and the web. I highly recommend reading and digesting the things that they say.

  • Cory Doctorow – link goes to his blog, but he mostly writes elsewhere (Boing Boing, columns for other publications, etc.). Luckily he usually links to stuff he’s written, so his blog is the best place to start. He’s published several sci-fi books that, besides being completely and utterly excellent, are prefaced with Cory’s thoughts on why he releases all of his books for free under a Creative Commons license, and why giving his stuff away for free actually makes him more money.
  • Lawrence Lessig – Again, link goes to his blog. A lawyer, professor, and founder of the Creative Commons movement, Lessig is simply “The Man” when it comes to The Law and The Web. I HIGHLY recommend reading his books (which are available for free, thanks to Creative Commons). Start with Free Culture, and move on to, say, Code v2 and The Future of Ideas. Great, great stuff that will make you think hard about copyright and digital rights in general.
  • Bruce Schneier – Famous for his books on security and privacy, he posts great essays, thoughts, and examples of smart (or silly) security practices on his blog. I don’t know of anyone who explains more clearly the risks of giving up our privacy and making dumb, knee-jerk-reaction decisions about security. And privacy is a HUGE part of how the law and the web come together.


  • Creative Commons – every web savvy lawyer should be versed in what Creative Commons is, and how it relates to the future of the web. Creative Commons has changed my life in many ways. It affects what I read, listen to, and watch, and how I share the things that I create.
  • Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) – Again, a web savvy lawyer should be familiar with what the EFF is, what it stands for, and cases it’s won (and lost). That’s not to say that you have to support the EFF. But you’d be foolish not to be informed about it.

Sites and Communities

There are a few online communities that do a great job of covering and providing lots of discussion around legal issues on the web.

  • Slashdot: Your Rights Online – The YRO category on Slashdot provides a regular stream of internet-related legal and privacy news, along with vigorous commentary.
  • Groklaw – Applies Open Source principles (interested volunteer experts) to not only provide journalistic coverages of legal issues in the tech field, but also to collaborate on cases, like SCO vs. IBM.
  • Reddit Law – members of the community submit links, vote, and comment on them. There are many, many Reddit communities (go ahead and look – there’s probably one for your favorite topic, and if there’s not, you can start one).

What Would YOU Teach a Lawyer?

Those are the things I plan to share, if I have time for them all. ๐Ÿ™‚ What about you? What web site, book, expert, or community can you think of that a web savvy lawyer needs to know about? I’d love it if you leave your ideas in the comments. I plan to share this post when I give my presentation to the law firm, and it would be great if they could come back once in a while, and see it growing with your suggestions and ideas. Thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚