|Oregon State Bar Bulletin OCTOBER 2009|
This month we review three noteworthy new sites of interest to legal professionals.
A Different Take on Online Networking
A new online networking site for lawyers and other professionals, HubSTREET, www.hubstreet.com, is unusual in that it evolved out of a bricks-and-mortar networking event.
The site’s founder, Nancy Fox, is a professional networking and business-development coach. Last year, she launched a regular New York City networking program, The MetroRoundTable, to facilitate networking between lawyers and accountants. Soon after, she also brought bankers into the mix.
The events were such a success, Fox says, that she began to research how similar networking could be done online. Her conclusion, reinforced by feedback from her clients, was that existing professional networking sites were too broad. Finding nothing that fit what she wanted, she decided to start her own site.
HubSTREET went online in June and was not scheduled to formally launch until September. It differs from other sites in that it targets a narrow slice of the professional services sector — lawyers, accountants and lenders. The rationale is that these three groups share a natural affinity that makes sense for networking.
The truth, of course, is that some lawyers’ practices share natural affinities with accountants and lenders and others do not. It all depends on the practice. Thus, if accountants and lenders are sufficiently relevant to your practice (and if they participate in sufficient numbers and with sufficient geographic diversity), then HubSTREET could prove to be of value.
But if accountants and lenders are not sufficiently relevant to your practice, then why bother? By positioning itself this way, HubSTREET is narrowing the slice of the legal community to which it is likely to appeal. That is not necessarily a negative — “niche” networking sites could come to have an important place in online networking.
One other way HubSTREET distinguishes itself is through what Fox describes as “facilitation.” Until the site grows to the point where it develops a momentum of its own, she intends to help it along. She will do this through two techniques:
A site coach. Fox offers members her help to answer questions “about how to use HubSTREET for your practice.”
Virtual meet and greets. These will be brief, half-hour teleconferences designed to introduce members who have mutual interests.
Apart from these features, HubSTREET looks much like any other networking site. Ultimately, its proof will come in whether it attracts members and becomes a vital hub of constructive activity. For HubSTREET, it is way too early to tell.
My gut instinct is that the site will never attract large numbers of members. At best, it could prove useful to the subset of the legal profession that wants targeted networking with accountants and lenders — if, that is, the accountants and lenders sign on.
Managing the Deal-Making Process
Transactional lawyers are the target users of a new website, TransactionSpace, www.transactionspace.com, which aims to make the deal-making process more efficient, intuitive and transparent. The site’s tagline sums up its purpose: “You do the lawyering. Let TransactionSpace manage the process.”
The site takes the three primary steps of a transaction — negotiation, document drafting and closing — and integrates them within an online management tool. Lawyers who use it would begin by identifying the documents the transaction will require and the parties who will have to sign each document.
The system will then track the back-and-forth of negotiating and revising the wording of each document, maintaining a full record of versions and dates. Once the documents are done, the system prepares the necessary signature pages and delivers them to the appropriate parties. As signatures are sent back, they are held in escrow until all necessary signatures are in and the deal can be closed.
As all this moves forward, progress is shown graphically in a matrix depicting documents and signatories. This allows users to see the linear progression of drafts and track the status of signatures in real time.
While TransactionSpace is in beta, there is no charge to use it. The developers, who are lawyers, have not decided on post-beta pricing, but say it will be based on a flexible, pay-as-you-go subscription.
“We believe that simple, affordable technologies, which ultimately reduce legal fees, are crucial for law firms to survive their current struggle,” one told me in an e-mail. Updates about the site will be posted on the TransactionSpace Blog, www.blogspot.com.
Aggregating Corporate Legal Resources
’s largest law firms produce thousands of client alerts, briefing papers and memoranda on a range of corporate, regulatory and industry issues. What if someone pulled together the links to all these materials and organized them in a way to make them more useful and more readily accessible?
That, in a nutshell, is the idea behind the recently launched site, myCorporateResource.com, www.mycorporateresource.com. The free site aggregates these law firm memoranda, summarizes them and then sorts them by industry, corporate role, area of law and geography. In addition, it provides more than 70 separate RSS feeds for each of these topics to provide notifications of new additions.
Thus, a user of this site could follow only memoranda of interest to members of a corporation’s finance team, only memoranda covering securities law, or only memoranda pertaining to corporate legal issues in Russia.
In addition, other sections of the site highlight the most noteworthy memoranda of the week and the most frequently read articles. A separate SEC section carries virtually everything from and about the agency.
The value this site adds is in its aggregation and sorting of materials scattered over hundreds of law firm websites. “The problem is that on a stand-alone basis, individual law firms simply do not produce a sufficiently comprehensive range of this material and what they do produce is often not timely from a client’s perspective,” the site’s founder, Nick Montgomery, said in an e-mail to me.
“However, when one pools the efforts of 100 firms, the result can dramatically change this perspective. All of a sudden, the client has a memo on a given piece of legislation the day it is introduced/ adopted or an alert on the relevance of an appellate court ruling the day that it is delivered.”
Montgomery, a U.S.-educated lawyer, is a former associate in the London office of Weil Gotshal who then became the in-house corporate and U.S. counsel for one of the firm’s clients. After the company merged with a competitor, Montgomery moved to France and turned his attention to the launch of this site.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Robert Ambrogi, who practices law in Rockport, Mass., is the former editor of National Law Journal and Lawyers Weekly USA. He is internationally known for his writing about the Internet and technology. He is the author of three blogs, which can be read at www.legaline.com.
© 2009 Robert Ambrogi