Using RSS To Keep Abreast Of Legal News

Special-Counsel-RSSTime-crunched legal professionals are all-too-familiar with the challenges posed by information overload. Out of necessity, most have adopted purposeful systems to manage the ongoing flood of email, voicemail, meeting requests, and documents. But there is an important category of information that often “falls through the cracks” of these information-management systems: News.

Under an “old school” approach to online news-management, a legal pro episodically “gets a news fix” by visiting the websites of a few key media outlets or law industry blogs. Or perhaps the latest stories from certain sites shows up in his/her overflowing email inbox. The result? Important stories often are missed; news information is scattered among several apps and inboxes; and time is used inefficiently. Happily, RSS offers a better way…

RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication”. It’s the mechanism by which online publishers, websites and blogs allow readers to automatically receive new information. Taking advantage of RSS technology allows legal pros to selectively filter the torrent of news stories — and to consolidate digital news information into a central “inbox” that can be processed easily and efficiently.

Where to begin? Choose an RSS reader application to collect and manage your chosen RSS feeds. Until July, 2013, this feed-management function typically was obtained via the now-defunct “Google Reader” app. Today, numerous free and premium “reader” applications are available for desktops, tablets and smartphones. Among the most popular readers:

Feedly, Feedler for iPad and iPhone (Android version not recommended), FeedDemon(Windows), and NewsBlur (Android, iPad, iPhone, Web).

Once a reader application has been selected, add the news “feeds” that are of most interest to you. To get started, why not clean out your email inbox — by eliminating any email subscriptions that also are available vis RSS? Next, visit all of the websites that you consider important sources of news — and click the “Subscribe by RSS” button (typically a square, orange icon) for those you want to follow. Then set up a series of “folders” in your reader — so that you can categorize feeds according to your key areas of interest (National News, Litigation, Legal Marketing, etc.)

As aside: BigInto Law (iPhone and iPad) and (on the web) is a reader application that bills itself as “Curated Legal Intelligence.” Formerly known as LawRachet, this RSS reader features a “hard-wired” set of law-specific feeds. Although the app does not allow you to add your own chosen feeds, this site’s pre-populated feeds do adapt to your chosen areas of interest. At the very least, BigInto Law provides a good way to experience how an RSS reader can change your news-processing routine. What’s more, you may well find sites here to add to your own customized list.)

It is worth mentioning that text-based material is just one of the uses for RSS feeds. Numerous podcasts also are available via RSS feeds — and there are many such audio programs tailored to the interests of legal professionals. (Note, however, that you will need to download a “podcatcher” app — a complement to your reader app for text — to collect and play these audio files. Both Instacast and Downcast are popular options for Mac IOS. On Windows / Android platforms, check out BeyondPodBringCast, or Podcast Lounge.)

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