The Lab

So, are you wondering why our site looks somewhat haphazard, a hodgepodge of free and low cost cloud-based technologies and micro-applications? Truth is, our mishmash look is entirely intentional – at least, when I realized what I was doing.

See, I’ve got a soft spot for Free . And every time I read about the latest, shiny new toy on TechCrunch or Mashable or
Niki Black’s blog or tweet stream, I can’t wait to use it.

Trouble is, I’m also a practical person and a techno-klutz. I don’t have the aptitude for, or interest in checking out a new toy unless I can actually put it to use immediately. And that’s not always practical in my day-job as a lawyer where silly distractions like deadlines and making a living get in the way. So when I decided to get serious about relaunching MyShingle (something that’s been on my to-do list for nearly two years), I realized that I’d finally have an excuse to take all of this new free tech for a test drive to see how it might work at my site.

What I underestimated, however, is that just as “Free” has benefits (no cost! no contracts! unlimited trial period!), so too, it has burdens. Being a kid in a candy store is terrific, for a while, but it can also result in a mean tummy ache. Likewise, auditioning shiny new site after site can induce glazed eyes and paralyzing indecision over which tool to purchase. Because when you can try them all for free, you realize that no one tool does everything well; they all have some standout, don’t-wanna-live-without features, and some which are just average. And because the tools are free, it’s tempting, as I’ve done, to just use ’em all, rather than decide on one, which is more efficient.

All of this is a round about way of explaining why I use so many different apps at this site:, Ning, WidgetBox. I’ve also used Piccyfix to crop photos and create some of the sidebars, Free Privacy (to auto-generate my site’s privacy policy til I hire counsel), Disqus, Skype (for videos – to post soon), Google Calendar Tasks (for the Start a Firm Check List), MindMeister (for road map) and Assessment Generator for the many free assessments (more coming). In essence, my site is a real-time demo of of these products, giving solo and small firm lawyers a chance to see how they really work instead of just reading about them in the abstract.

And so, the MyShingle Lab is open for business (almost): we welcome comments on our site about the tools we’ve used and whether they might be useful for your practice. We welcome suggestions of new tech tools from readers that we can test out here for you. And most of all, we’d love if you’d send us your own “home experiments” – links to a blog or web page or photos from your office about how you’re using today’s tech tools. In time, we’ll figure out a better way to compile the input we receive (probably through some other online collaborative portal) so that we can make the results of our experiments here as useful as possible.