New Year, new ventures.

Well, the year end and holiday sabbatical is over, and it's back to work, blogging, podcasting, etc.

There are big happenings occurring in the settlement, legal and online world, and honestly, even I get tired by the pace of change, the opportunities and challenges facing us. Not that i'm some industry seer or savant, but I'm going to take a stab at identifying some of the key issues I see happening this year both on the blog site as well as in our business.

1. Transition to video podcasting.  It was less then a year ago that I was paying a fortune to do live audio streaming, thinking it was state of the art, when someone asked me if we had RSS feeds or offered podcasts. I had zero clue what they were talking about but I started to investigate what it was, how it worked and as you know, made a complete transition over to podcasting during 2005. Just yesterday Google joined the ranks of major search engines who will offer video down loads and search capacity, and this week i'll be busy creating a stack of video podcasts at the NSSTA convention here in Arizona. We have completely rebuilt our main site at The Legal Broadcast Network to include an imbedded video capacity to show our video podcasts on demand, just as you can hear our audio podcasts now. Video is going to be an integral component of what we are doing both at LBN and here on The Settlement Channel. Typically the video will be of conventions, annual meetings, legal events, etc.

2. Expansion of The Settlement Channel.  You will see a nice little face lift of our front page here, from the rather drab template we are using now, to one that also imbeds a video screen, allows for a bit of advertising, a larger archive for the podcasts, etc. One thing bitter experience has taught me is that there is no shortage of "internet experts" who are more then willing to separate you from your money in return for showing you the marvels of setting up a site, producing your show, posting your materials. Therefore, i've purposely taken a slower, cheaper, more deliberative route over the last 6 months, and will continue to make incremental changes as we go forward.

3. Shared access to the network. I am convinced that we will see a broader acceptance of blogging, podcasting and video capacity by more and more firms in our industry, and with that will come a need for them to either build their own capacity, or partner with those who already have it. One thing that sets The Settlement Channel and LBN apart from others in our industry, is that we are totally open to collaboration and sharing of our resources to those who want to build a channel or audio capacity.

4. Consolidation of the Settlement Industry. The economics of the settlement business stink. Fixed commission product, increasing travel and business expenses, and increasingly a shared commission model, meaning that often times your very lucky to work on a 2% gross commission model. All while needing to increase your marketing, product knowledge and building alliances with allied professionals such as care planners, trust officers, financial planners and brokers. All the movement, changes, new firms are going to continue as professionals continue to align themselves with firms that share their business model, provide valuable alliances or other benefits of being associated. The days of just taking the best pay check are pretty much over as people begin to think more strategically about the direction of the business.

5. Mass Torts will move to the forefront.  The building inventory of mass tort cases, Vioxx, Guidant, Asbestos and others will shape up as the driving force in many different alliances being formed between brokers, trial lawyers, financial service companies and trust companies. The search for the turn key solution to handling mass torts will be an interesting race this year, and the winners are by no means clear at this moment.

Many others will pop up each week, particularly on the technology and compliance fronts, and as they become topical, we will address them here.

Posted on January 10, 2006 .