What LegalTech Journalists Want to Know with Bob Ambrogi of LawSites
In this episode of On Record PR, Gina Rubel goes on record with Bob Ambrogi. Bob is a lawyer and journalist who has been writing and speaking about legal technology and innovation for more than two decades. He writes the award-winning blog LawSites, is a columnist for Above the Law, hosts the podcast about legal innovation LawNext, and hosts the weekly news podcast Legaltech Week.
In 2011, Bob was named to the inaugural Fastcase 50, honoring “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders.” In 2017, he received the Yankee Quill award for journalism from the Academy of New England Journalists and was honored by the ABA Journal as a Legal Rebels Trailblazer.
Enjoy this recap of their conversation from mid-September 2020 during the year of COVID.
What was your journey to becoming a reporter on legal technology and innovation?
I’m an odd duck in that I actually was a journalist before I ever went to law school. Then I went to law school a long time ago, but with the goal of getting ahead in my career in journalism, not with a goal ever of becoming a lawyer. I did end up practicing law and I’ve sporadically gone back and forth between practicing law and journalism over my entire career. I do practice law right now, but I did get deeply into journalism early on. I became the editor-in-chief of a group of papers out of Massachusetts called which were then called Lawyers Weekly. I guess they’re still called Lawyers Weekly but now are owned by about their fifth owners since I was there. I was the editor of Mass Lawyers Weekly and the editor in chief of a group of papers and a national paper they used to call Lawyers Weekly USA.
Then I went to American Lawyer Media in New York where I was editorial director of a group of publications there that actually included the editorial side of Law.com. I was the editor-in-chief of the National Law Journal and various other publications that have fallen under this one rubric that I was overseeing, none of which has anything to do with legal technology. But somewhere along the line, I got really interested in legal technology generally, but specifically in the internet. This was the early days of the internet, where I was fascinated by the possibilities of how lawyers and legal professionals could use the internet. I started way back when the very first ever publication was a print publication for lawyers about how to use the internet. It was published out of Philadelphia, as a matter of fact, your home town.
Then I did a couple of books about the internet and it very quickly became clear to me that the original print publication was kind of required because at that point there were no lawyers on the internet. By the time I had done a couple of books, more and more people at least had email and were starting to use the web. It also became clear to me that books were not a very good way to write about the internet because it was changing so quickly. So in 2002, I started a blog called LawSitesBlog.com, which continues to be my primary blog today, where I started writing mostly about the internet. It’s evolved into generally covering the legal technology and innovation space.
Gina Rubel: I’ve followed you since way back when I started Furia Rubel in 2002, and I think you were one of the lead adopters of the blogging platform as a technology and as a form of communication. It was you and Kevin O’Keefe. Kevin was one of the first people I met in the legal industry who really taught me a lot. When I say, I don’t mean the legal industry, I should say, in the Legal Marketing Association (LMA) space I was practicing law myself.
What kind of law do you still practice?
Media law. I represent newspapers and media organizations. Most of my practice is as a lobbyist in Massachusetts, where I lobby for laws that are favorable to reporting and to the business of journalism and news.
Gina Rubel: That’s great to know. I still have my license, but I haven’t practiced in a long time. I’ve learned that I love the proactive side of the industry versus the reactive or the argumentative. So, this has been a good space for it.
Bob Ambrogi: It’s a real balance for me, between my writing, my journalism, and my practice. I like having one leg in each side of that.
Gina Rubel: Well, it’s no surprise to me that you would be reporting about technology and innovation because you’ve been, like I said earlier, at the forefront of innovation in the industry. You are what I would call an early adopter and an innovator. I read everything I can get my hands on because when you write it, it says “this is what’s coming.”
How do you define innovation, especially in legal?
That’s such a good question. I’m always asking the people I interview that question because I speak to these people who have these wonderful titles of “head of innovation” at major law firms or at a particular company. I think what happens is the word “innovation” gets aggrandized and the meaning is simple. It comes down to anything that is going to help move forward the delivery of legal services and our ability to do the jobs that we’re trying to do. I think even small advances in technology can be innovative, if they’re helping us do things a little faster, a little differently, or a little better than we’ve done them before.
Gina Rubel: It’s interesting you should say that. I, as recently, as five years ago, was at a law firm where they wanted to implement marketing. They had grown by two lawyers, then by two more lawyers, then by three lawyers, and so on. They are now at a hundred lawyers and probably just as many practice areas. You know where I’m going with this.
My questions were:
- “Before we start talking about marketing, what technologies are you using to run the practice, the business?
- What are you using for conflict check?
- What are you using for document management?
- What are you using for case management?
- What data are you collecting?”
The 12 partners on the marketing committee who were sitting around the table said, “What are you talking about?”
It was so interesting because my response was, “If you’re not using project management or case management, and you’re not using conflict software, you should not be hiring us because we will implode your firm.” We are going to come in and try to grow the business and it’s just going to be failure after failure, because you don’t have the systems in place to support growth. The family law attorneys had their own case management system in Excel, and the corporate attorneys were over here, and the insurance defense attorneys were over there. It was fascinating to me and they didn’t want to hear it. That’s the kind of prospective client that we walk away from because we’re not going to be successful.
Bob Ambrogi: They’re still out there, but I think there are fewer and fewer firms that have that mindset.
Gina Rubel: I do too.
I think it’s got to be true to some extent that the pandemic is in some way going to be accelerating not just innovation in law, but adoption of core technologies and law by the firms that hadn’t before adopted them. I don’t see how a firm could be staying alive right now if it hasn’t at least adopted a core set of technologies, including cloud technologies.
How many years ahead or advanced do you think the industry has become because of COVID?
I don’t know that I would say it’s gotten ahead. I think it’s catching up.
It’s hard to say because I first started writing seriously about technology and the internet. I hate to even say how long ago it was. I think it was 1993 when I started writing about this subject. Then I thought, I’ll write about it for a few years and everybody’s going to have it all figured out by then, and I’ll go back to something else. Clearly that hasn’t happened. There have been some members of the advanced guard in legal who’ve been very progressive in adopting and using technology. There are others who’ve been dragged, kicking and screaming, to technology.
Gina Rubel: You mentioned 1993. In 1994, I was a judicial law clerk and we were still working in DOS and had no email.
Bob Ambrogi: Okay, good. I thought you were going to tell me you weren’t born yet, which was going to be worse.
Gina Rubel: No, no, I was born well before then. We’re not that far apart in age. It’s fascinating to me because law firms tend to adopt as the courts adopted, and the courts are slower to adopt than some of the law firms now. I still remember trying to get lawyers to send documentation as attachments back in the early nineties rather than 30 copies of a brief. It’s fascinating.
Bob Ambrogi: Yeah. I gave a talk last year at a small county bar association in a rural area of a state. I was talking about technology competence and the ethical duty of technology competence. Often when I give that talk, I start by showing an old IBM Selectric typewriter because that in many ways was the state-of-the-art of technology when I was a young lawyer. I show that to contrast how far we’ve actually come in technology. During that talk, there were at least two different lawyers who came up to me afterward and said, “You know, I still use that in my office.” One of them insisted to me that he would “go to the grave” before he would adopt technology in his office.
What’s interesting is I happened to be speaking to somebody recently who was also at that conference and who actually helped organize it and knew the guy who told me that because of COVID and the pandemic he has completely shifted his attitude about technology. He is trying now to get his office, a small old defense practice in New York, up to speed. “Up to speed” may be overstating it, but so that he can function within today’s technology.
Gina Rubel: Just to get by. You can’t be here without getting by. It’s fascinating, I had somebody ask me last week if they could fax me something and I said, “We don’t have a fax machine.” I haven’t used a fax machine in 10 years.
You’re a thought leader in legaltech space. I’d like to know more about your award-winning thought leadership. I’m fascinated with some of the interviews you do on LawSites.com and your podcast LawNext.com. Let’s talk a little bit about those and why they’re important.
I don’t think I’m a thought leader. I think I happen to be somebody who talks to a lot of people who are thought leaders and some of that rubs off. I also do a weekly column on Above the Law, which I’ve been slacking off lately. I think where I have the conversations that most interest me is on my podcast. That’s why I’m honored to be on your podcast. I think podcasts are such a unique and interesting medium where you can have conversations with people who feel a little more relaxed and a little more natural. Even if I’m interviewing somebody for an article, they often tend to be more on guard or cautious than if we’re just having a conversation in a podcast. People seem to say things in a podcast that you would almost think would be said in less of a relaxed environment because they know they’re being recorded, but it works out to be the opposite, I think. I just find one of my favorite things to do is to sit down with people who have started legaltech companies or who are innovating law practice in some way and have a conversation with them about, how they got started in it and how their career evolved. What are they working on and what are they thinking about? It’s just been a great experience for me.
I was doing a podcast for 13 years before I started my current podcast. I had one of the first-ever legal podcasts way back when– that was more of a general legal news podcast called Lawyer 2 Lawyer. It’s still going on. I just co-hosted an episode of that recently as a return host. I wanted to really focus in on innovation and technology more. So, I left that and started my own.
As it happens, my son has a company that produces podcasts, and he helps me out and does production and editing work. Some of the conversations have been great. The episode I had that to this day has had the most traffic and the most hits was one of my earlier ones — an interview with Mark Britton, who had founded AVVO, and it was after he had sold the company. Right after he sold the company, he was with them for a short period, then he left. For awhile, he couldn’t talk about things. I was out in Seattle at LexBlog, visiting Kevin O’Keeffe and Mark lives in Seattle. I called him and said, “Hey, you want to come over and sit down and I’ll record you?” He said, “Sure.” He came over and I set up my mix. It was the first time he spoke on the record after selling this company that he had built and developed. He had some bitterness, and some issues with the way the company that had bought it was handling and dealing with it. The podcast was like this emotional outpouring of his feelings about his career and about the bar’s reaction in the early days.
Gina Rubel: I wrote about it in The Legal Intelligencer. I was very much against it in the early days. Then I ended up being a writer for AVVOLawyernomics for years. I’ve listened to that podcast as well. I remember it distinctly and that doesn’t surprise me– he’s brilliant. I mean, he’s brilliant with what he built. The lawyer side of me hated the idea of clients, especially in the business-to-consumer space where you have the family law, the criminal defense — the practices where people are never really happy going online and rating you because they’re never happy. Part of the reason I left law as a general practitioner and that whole space was that it was really difficult. I give lawyers a lot of credit. I remember that podcast.
Bob Ambrogi: As you know, in the early days, it was a real battle for Mark as he was getting sued by lawyers. I mean, the whole idea of anybody rating lawyers, other than Martindale Hubbell, which has been doing it forever, was considered outrageous. I think he was pressured, but he was brilliant and I think he really changed the legal industry in a lot of ways.
Gina Rubel: It’s Martindale that now owns AVVO now, right?
Bob Ambrogi: The internet brands bought what’s left of Martindale and Lawyer.com. It’s all a shell of its former self at this point.
Gina Rubel: For our younger listeners, we used to get a book called Martindale Hubbell. And your name was in it. When your name got in the book, you were a legitimate lawyer. And that’s when having something in a book mattered. I still have the book from when my name first made it in. I have the one from my dad’s first year and the one of my grandfather’s first year.
I think one of the values that On Record PR brings to our audience is that we speak to reporters. As a reporter, we talk to you about how people can work with you, what you’re looking for.
What types of stories are you most interested in?
Certainly over the last couple of years, I am more focused on breaking news in legal technology, which used to be an oxymoron. I do tend to break a lot of industry news– new products, new companies, acquisitions and investments. I used to do a lot more in-depth reviews of products; I still try to do them, but it’s much harder for me to find the time now.
Gina Rubel: We’ve broken stories with you. A lot of people don’t understand what it means to break news. Let’s explain that to our listeners what does “breaking news” mean to you?
Bob Ambrogi: Well, quite literally it means to release something to the public that is generally not known by the public. Often there’s going to be a core group of industry insiders or company insiders who know this is in the works. People on the inside know it already happened, but it hasn’t been made public. Customers don’t know about it yet at this point for the most part. The first public announcement of it will be through an article on my blog.
Sometimes I break news that the companies sometimes don’t want broken or released. I’ll get tips from people telling me that something is happening with a company– a layoff or some other bad financial consequences. If I can get corroboration of that and show that it’s not just a rumor, then I’ll report that. I’ll go to the company and try to get a response from them. Sometimes they’ll give it to me, sometimes they won’t. I come from a traditional journalism background and I still have a sense of wanting to be the first to report stories when I can.
Gina Rubel: So that’s what “breaking” means — it’s “the first.”
Do you expect exclusives and what does that mean to you? How does that affect working with Bob Ambrogi?
I don’t expect exclusives, but I’ll take them if somebody wants to give them to me. There’s been two interesting things that have happened over the last couple of years that relate to me and my blog and what I cover.
One is that a couple of years ago, we had reached the nadir in terms of coverage of legal technology. Ten years ago, there were a bunch of publications covering legal technology, some of which just disappeared and went away. You may remember that. There was Law Office Computing magazine and different publications out there that just covered technology. Those went away and most of the mainstream media that covered technology dried up in their coverage of tech.
Just a couple of years ago, I was one of the only people out there still covering legaltech. There wasn’t a lot of coverage of it. I’m not saying there was none, but over the last couple of years, I’ve gotten a lot more competition. I think there are more people out there now who are picking up the pace. Some great bloggers like Richard Tromans at Artificial Lawyer in the UK and even Legal Tech News at ALM have really upped their game in the last year or two in terms of their coverage and their staff.
Gina Rubel: I want to stop you for one second because there’s something that’s really fascinating to me that I love. I’ve always by nature and by culture been a collaborative person. Even though the legaltech reporters are competitive, everybody wants a story first.
Could you tell our listeners briefly about the interviews you’ve been doing on the Roundups?
Every Friday it’s sort of a podcast and sort of a video. I don’t know what we call it, but we’ve been doing this thing called the legaltech week where we have a weekly panel of legaltech journalists, which is a bit imprecise because some of the people are on the fringes of covering innovation or legaltech. We’ve got people from LegalTech, from Legal Tech News ,from Above the Law, from ABA journal, from Nicky Black, who works at MyCase but writes about legaltech, and from Molly McDonough, who used to be the editor and publisher for the ABA Journal. We all get together every Friday at 3 o’clock Eastern time. You can register for it. It’s free. We talk about the week’s top stories. Everybody, all the panelists, send in a couple of topics they’d like to talk about in advance and we do a roundtable to share our thoughts and picks for the week. It’s a lot of fun.
Gina Rubel: The reason why I bring that up is because it’s so collaborative and it’s such a beautiful discussion. Yes, you’re all competing for stories and sources, but in the same vein, you all know each other so well. What I want to get across to our listeners is that people in the media know one another, so don’t play games. They don’t play one off the other or say, “Oh, well, I already pitched this here.” I’ve actually had clients ask us to “push it one way and then do a little bit of a different spin.” No, no, no — they all know each other. That’s not how we play this game. It is interesting. I’ve enjoyed watching that because you really are doing a Roundup as you will.
Bob Ambrogi: Don’t play us against each other, but people do that anyway. That was part two of what I was going to say about what’s changed over the last couple of years is a lot of the legaltech companies have gotten a lot savvier about PR, maybe because they’re using people like you or maybe they went out on their own. I think there’s a lot more sophistication now around how companies are pitching those of us in the media, when they’re pitching us, and what they’re pitching to us. I think that’s to their credit. I would just add one other thing, which is, it’s not just legaltech companies that I’m covering, it’s the broader innovation space– Law firms that are doing innovative stuff, organizations that are doing innovative stuff. I’m open to hearing from any of those kinds of entities.
What is something that you’ve seen in the last few months that a law firm has done that you’ve seen as particularly innovative?
There’s been several, I’m trying to think of a specific product, but I’m blanking on anything right now.
One of the things that I have seen that I thought was interesting came from Nicky Shaver at Paul Hastings. She’s their head of innovation. I just happened to interview her on my LawNext because she just won an award during ILTA– she was one of the ILTA award recipients for innovation. I think it’s a good example of how innovation doesn’t have to be something momentous. It’s that they have very deliberately instituted a couple of different training programs to get their younger lawyers, associates, and interns understanding technology and becoming aware of how to use technology. And so they’ve really invested a lot of resources into putting them through some training phases as part of their standard procedures. It’s not a technology tool per se, but an example of how a firm can be innovative.
Gina Rubel: I’ve seen at least two firms that launched their own COVID apps to manage who’s in the office and who’s not in the office, how they’re checking temps, and how they’re managing their resources. I’ve seen another that has is in the process of launching a diversity, equity and inclusion and anti-racism training firm-wide. I like the idea of training because it’s not always a lot of law firms in particular that will come and say, “Well, we think we should develop an app.” It’s not always just about an app. It’s about what problem you’re solving and what difference it’s making, and not just to your bottom line. I think innovation isn’t about just the law firm’s bottom line, it’s about the bigger picture. How are you helping your people, whether it be your employees or your clients?
Bob Ambrogi: Another example related to what I was just saying was Wilson Sonsini, which is a Silicon Valley law firm It has a training program, but for their summer associate program this year. They had all of the associates learn about document automation and then create a document automation product effectively in small teams. They would take some task that was common for the firm to do for its clients and really dig in on what were the elements of that task. What are the key considerations in creating that kind of a document? Then they created a Documate, which is the document automation platform. They created a custom application for these documents. In some cases, they created something that was so powerful that it’s now being used in the firm. They’re still learning the whole process of how to approach the design thinking process. How do I design a product?, How do I think about what the problem is and how we all come at it?
Gina Rubel: Tthat’s fantastic. We’re thinking about the design, the process of everything today, especially because of COVID. How are we designing conferences so that they look different, how they feel different and are still effective?
I told you before we started recording that I’m attending Inbound 2020, tomorrow and Wednesday, which is by HubSpot. I’s really fascinating. Their platform online is fantastic. It’s collaborative. The content is outstanding from what I can see. I hope I’m not revving myself up too much, but it’s also learning from outside the industry. That’s a big part of it.
This morning, you tweeted about the first of its kind project that launched to expand access to Canadian legal data. What you’re seeing in the industry as we move towards the globalization of legaltech?
I think globalization has been one of the interesting trends. The United States was definitely ahead of the curve in terms of developing and seeing the adoption of legal technology, and other countries were a little bit slower. Once they started to adopt technology, they began to catch up at an accelerated rate. The UK was the first to really begin to not just catch up with us, but in a lot of ways to surpass us as some of the larger firms in the UK. Some of the magic circle firms are using technology in developing technology-related incubators and spinoffs.
In the last two years in particular, legal technology has just spread. I hate to say “wildfires” since we’re in the middle of the wildfires in California, but it has spread like that throughout the world, literally. I mean, suddenly for example, legaltech in Africa is a huge thing. I’ve had some occasion to travel around to some of these different places and speak at different conferences around the world about legaltech. It was two years ago that I was in Russia at a big legal technology conference. What’s really struck me is that the problems that law firms, legal organizations, or clients face are largely universal. There are variations from country to country, or place to place, but the kinds of problems they face are universal. The technology solutions have a lot in common whether they’re being developed for Africa or for the United States.
I think that has brought together this global legaltech community in a way that has really been to the benefit of the tech community and the development of legal services providers, but ultimately, what most matters are the clients. It’s something that we haven’t really talked about, but I think the greatest drivers of innovation in law right now are the clients. And I use that term broadly to mean everyone from big corporate clients to low-income -individuals in need of legal services. They are driving change, they are driving innovation and there’s a real universal aspect to it right now. It’s really interesting. I know my readership is all over the world. People are reading my blog all over the world and the same with my podcast.
Gina Rubel: It’s interesting you should say that because I’m reading the book Startup Nation. We’re talking to a prospective client in Israel and then really learning about the culture of innovation in Israel. It’s a family member of mine who is an owner in a global cloud company that said, “Before you even think about doing business in Israel, you need to read Startup Nation so that you really understand the culture — you’ll do better and you’ll just be more successful.” It’s fascinating to me because it’s a culture of innovation. To me innovation means new ways of solving problems and you hit the nail on the head — the problems are the same country to country.
There may be different aspects of it, whether cultural, regional or legal, whatever the case may be, but the problems are the same. Coming to the table to solve a problem in a way that is helpful is one of the things I’m excited about. Our On Record PR listenership is now global. We’re looking at the data of who’s listening and I’m excited about that. Startup Nation is a book that I think is fascinating. I’m about three-quarters of the way through.
Since globalization of legaltech is a big key factor, are you seeing a lot of American companies in legaltech starting to look at the global market?
Absolutely and vice versa. Companies span such a broad range of size, market and audience right now. Talk to any company that starts to grow to a certain point and immediately starts looking across the pond for ways to expand their audience and expand their customer base. Generally a lot of the companies that I’ve talked to lately that have just had a big infusion of investment capital start talking about expanding into Europe. “We want to expand into Asia PAC.” Something I’ve talked about a lot that has good and bad to it is that a lot of the big investment money that’s going into the legaltech space is going to products that are focused on big law firms or big corporate legal departments, and therefore are international in their application.
What’s good for a big law firm in the United States is also good for a big law firm anywhere in the world — and the same for a corporate legal department. A lot of investment money in recent years has been going into contracts tech around contract management or AI-driven contract analysis and review. Customers for that technology are often corporate legal departments or big law firms. All those companies are looking to expand globally for markets. The same thing happens, though, with the overseas companies. I mentioned going to Russia a couple of years ago; every startup that I talked to in Russia I’d ask, “What are your plans and what are you hoping to do? What’s on your roadmap?” Pretty much every one of them would say, “Expand into the United States.” They see this as an achievement to get their product over here. I felt like in some cases they might not fully have understood the whole political climate around using Russian legal technology, but some of them have come over here and done very well.
Gina Rubel: The calls we’ve been getting in the last year are from legaltech companies outside the U.S. wanting to break into this market. So, that’s not at all surprising to me.
Bob Ambrogi: I’ll send them your way the next time they tell me that.
What is one way people are trying to pitch you a story that can really turn you off?
My pet peeve is people who make claims about their product that are simply not true. That’ll turn me off and you’d be surprised how often it happens. I mean just do a little research. Also, all the people who are pitching me who have no idea what I’m writing about. They pitch totally irrelevant stuff to me. I do hate it when somebody comes along and says, we have the first technology ever to do XYZ and they could have just searched my blog and found they were not the first to do it.
Gina Rubel: That’s scary if you’re going to make claims. I think because we’re lawyers, we’re very sensitive to making claims. That’s been ingrained in us over the decades. Don’t say you’re something that you’re not. That’s interesting.
Do you always watch a demo if there is one before you interview?
Often the interview will be part of the demo and they will be happening at the same time. If somebody says we’re about to launch a new product we’ll hop on a Zoom and they’ll give me a demo of it and have the interview at the same time. If it’s a product that I can test and if there’s enough time, then I will try it out. Even if I don’t have time to write a full review, I’d rather be able to just see what they present me. One thing I’ve learned about presentations is that they can be very controlled and they can be a little bit manipulated to make things look like they work better than they they actually do.
So much of this world between PR and journalism is built around trust and relationships. I know that if you tell me something I don’t have to question it. I know you’re not going to mislead me. You’re going to be straight with me. There are other people out there who see it as a game. You alluded to this earlier. Ultimately, that just hurts you as a PR representative and your client in the long run.
Gina Rubel: I couldn’t agree more. It’s about relationships and I’m fortunate that we’ve developed a friendship over the years and been able to work together on stories, as well as go out and have an Irish coffee.
What’s one thing you want listeners to know about you?
It depends who your listeners are, but in the PR world the one thing I keep telling people is to cut me some slack in the sense that this is a part-time thing for me. I do still practice law, which is becoming increasingly full time, but not quite. Also, I’m a staff of one as opposed to some publications that have staffs of multiple reporters and editors. I can be hard to reach sometimes and I have people who get very frustrated with that. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, if you write to me with something that’s worthy of a response and I don’t respond, try me again. Don’t be afraid to bug me a little bit. That’s okay, because my email gets flooded all the time.
Gina Rubel: As a company of one, I would think that, handing you a lot of the information, the details, making it easy without being too long, getting to the key point, and giving all the information would be helpful. I find when people send me the details, it’s a lot easier to digest. The main point needs to be in that first paragraph, if it’s an email or a text.
Bob Ambrogi: I welcome people to send me an email. A lot of people will just send me the press release and that’s the end of it. They will just never follow up after that. It’s like, “I sent you the press release and that’s enough.” Go ahead and send me an email and explain to me why you think this is something worth covering. I’m unabashed about the fact that I do like exclusives and if I can report something on my blog ahead of others, I’m always happy to do that. That’s going to get you an edge in getting covered. But even there, I have seen people kind of abuse that a little bit in the sense that they’ll promise me an exclusive of some kind and it turns out to be not exclusive-worthy.
Gina Rubel: Exclusive in that you expect to have it first, telling the story in the beginning and then it’s okay for others to tell the story after you’ve had it.
Bob Ambrogi: That’s right. It might even be by an hour. It might be from somebody who says, you can post it on your blog at 9 o’clock, we’re going to release it to the public at 10 o’clock.
Gina Rubel: I’ve done it many times.
Bob Ambrogi: Even that is kind of a couple of hours of a head start for me.
Gina Rubel: It’s just that we have a schedule that we need to keep for our clients or the client has a certain schedule for whatever reason. I think that’s a big part of the relationship and why relationships are so important. Being able to have that trust factor with not only the journalists, but with the people who are helping share the stories is critical.
Bob Ambrogi: I will always respect embargoes. I think everybody in the industry that I know who writes a blog about legaltech is willing to respect embargoes. And those seem to be the name of the game lately.
Gina Rubel: I got screwed once since 2002. One time.
Bob Ambrogi: By a reporter?
Gina Rubel: Yes, and it was in a particular business publication. I knew the reporter and that person will never get another exclusive.
Bob Ambrogi: Yeah.
Gina Rubel: I just won’t do it. And so, you know, it’s interesting because it goes both ways –we have to trust the reporters as well, because our necks are on the line. If you’re in the PR industry, you’re still running a business and you’re beholden to your clients. And if you’re the person in the communications department at a major corporation, you’re beholden to the board.
Bob Ambrogi: With some of these investment stories in particular, it’s very sensitive about when they get released and how they get released. I certainly respect that. There’s a story right now that I know has happened, and actually more out of respect for the parties involved, I haven’t reported it yet, but I plan to at some point. I’m waiting for the right time. They haven’t formally asked me not to report it so much as kind of suggested.
Gina Rubel: As a member of the community, there’s somewhat of a respectful protocol because there are things that can hurt companies and that’s part of it. It’s important that the younger people in journalism understand that, too. You’re also seeing that some of the younger folks coming into legaltech journalism look up to you.
What are one or two books, personal or professional, that you would recommend to our listeners?
Rules for a Flat World by Gillian Hadfield. She’s a professor up in Toronto, used to be at one of the UC colleges. She was actually a very active participant in what’s going on now in Utah and Arizona, in terms of regulatory reform. She was an advisor to the Utah Supreme court and is helping them devise this whole regulatory sandbox that they’ve recently launched. She writes this sort of history of how laws have developed and evolved and how they should change and adapt going forward — what needs to be done in terms of technology and regulatory forum and everything else for the legal system to truly be able to serve everybody.
It should serve from the richest people to the poorest people. And it’s a fantastic book. My other, for a light read is a book that I love — it’s called Squeeze Me by Carl Hiaasen. It’s a crime mystery and is about a certain president who happens to have a home in Palm beach. It involves the giant snakes, as well as odd crimes. And it’s a really funny read. So if you could use the distraction right now, I suggest it.
Gina Rubel: We can all use one. I’ll throw one in there myself. It’s called Bella Figura by Kamin Mohammadi and it’s just a fun read. It’s actually a pseudo-biography. It’s a woman who I believe was Iraqi. She lived in London, then moved to Florence and adopted the Florentine way of living. It gives us a way of looking at life just a little bit differently, especially now that for many of us, we’re going into the winter months and need to be savoring life. With that said, Bob, I’m thrilled that you could join me today. I’ve enjoyed our conversation. I am sure that our listeners have too. If they do want to get in touch with you, how should they do that?
Gina Rubel: Be sure to follow Bob Ambrogi on Twitter because he does have the stories. So, with that Bob, I’m going to say thank you and have a fabulous day and we’ll catch up soon.
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