We broke up. I dropped the bitch cold. No quarter. No compromises. No regrets.

I left the practice of law. Here’s what happened next….

25 Years Ago (Circa 1989)

Tom McKeown Dad

My Dad, Tom

Every couple weeks my Dad and I grab a dinner together. We’re in a sushi restaurant in Pittsburgh drinking cheap, hot sake and eating smelly fish. I tell him that I quit my law job. He’s sure I’m joking but I’m quiet. He realizes I’m serious.

That look on his face sounds like “Are you a fool? I want a blood test.”

“You clerked for a federal judge. You’re working a great law firm. You make twice the money I make. You have loans and you quit?”

Yep. I know, Dad.

“Why are you doing this son?”

Not DOING, Dad — DID. I’m done. I resigned. The World Wide Web needs me.

“The what?”

The Internet.

“What the F are you talking about?”

The Web. Sorry. The Internet and the Web are different. The Internet is a bunch of protocols that let computer networks talk with each other. The Web is a service that relies on the Internet to do… Forget it. Doesn’t matter. The Internet…

“I don’t understand.”

I know — just trust me — 25 years from now billions of people will be using this free-flowing network of information for browsing, searching and sharing. The Internet will be über cool for the world.

“Oh, my God! What the F…”

Dad, the Internet is a technological spiced up Silk Route. The business opportunities are endless. Paying bills and shopping online. Sharing digital music. Instant messaging. Internet phone calling. Blogging. Bookstores and newspapers will die. Yellow cabs will finally get their due. I could go on and on…

Internet Proposal CERN

Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s paper

“How do you know all this?”

I read, Dad. There’s this…

“You put yourself through college and law school and now you’re chucking everything for…”

Let me finish. This guy — Tim Berners-Lee — wrote a paper last March spelling out the concept and architecture for the Web — I mean Internet. Dad, this is big! That guy should be knighted…

“Son, your Mom won’t understand.”

Dad, in three or four years web browsers will get sorted out and you’ll see what I see.

“What web? You seem excited, son.”

I am, Dad. Look, I’m not saying that everything will be perfect. Some companies will build an Internet business that emotionally manipulates their users to sell more ads. Terrorists and Internet criminals will find ways to make hay…

“Eat your sushi, son. I’ll get us more sake.”

The Anniversary Year (Circa 2014)

You know what happens, right?

My Pop discovers from the Heavens that his son is a sage for the ages. Pew Research’s 25th anniversary of the Web survey confirms this. In the United States today:

  • 87% of adults use the Internet. Near-saturation
  • 90% of users say the Internet is a good thing for them — only 6% say the Internet is a bad thing.
  • 53% of users say the Internet would be “very hard” to give up — compared with 38% in 2006.
  • 70% of users say they are treated kindly or generously by others online.
  • 90% of adults have a cell phone and 66% of those say they use their phones to go online.
  • 33% of cell phone owners say that their primary Internet access point is their phone.

Exciting times, huge adoption!

Like the parable of the blind men describing an elephant — one feels the leg and says it is like a pillar, another feels the tail and says it is like a rope — people’s experiences of the Internet are highly subjective.

Subjective? Sure. But Pew didn’t guess. They asked us how the Internet impacted us and the survey says:

Pew Internet Use 1995 to 2014 Summary of FindingsWe Americans are pragmatic and positive about the pros and cons of the “connected life.” We see the Internet as a good thing for our society. The online world is a friendly place for the majority of us and that’s despite the troll-holes and Facebook’s latest emotional manipulation study. Most of us say that online communication makes our relationships stronger. More and more digital technologies are viewed as essential while TV and landline phones are losing stature. Last observation? Start your engines — Pew’s survey confirms that we’re going mobile. We don’t need no stinkin’ desktops or laptops to access the Internet.

Why do we flock online?

We’re social animals and the Internet carries your voice across the world — across THE world. That’s nippy. In the words of Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web:

We have built an amazing resource over a short 25 years. I believe it is vital enough that we must all take greater action to enhance and defend it.

Take a cue from The Content Marketing Revolution on HBR’s Blog Network:

With the advent of the Internet, social media, and the dispersal of knowledge in every direction, corporations are in the unique position to distribute the information they’ve gathered in exchange for audiences, readership, and brand loyalty.

Sadly, the legal industry is a conservative, risk-averse lot.

Slow adoption also reflects organizational and cultural barriers. In surveys of law firm marketing executives, only 13 percent said they see value in using social media — and 60 percent said that there is resistance to doing so by top management in their firms.

McKinsey Global Institute

You want a call-to-action? Social media is natural way for establishing new client relationships. Seize the opportunity. But remember, as you weigh “the benefits of using social technologies for client development, entrepreneurial firms are moving ahead.”

Your imperative is to decide and act — not vacillate. That’s what leaders do. If I’m top management, I want my legal team riding the Internet and social media hard.

By the way, the prescience I display in this post should in no way be construed as embellishment.

P.S. My use of “F” stands for fricking and is not a euphemism for the other F word. That said, I do acknowledge that my Dad used salty language when he was mad — in that endearing, Irish way.

P.S.S. Why do I capitalize Internet? I can’t ignore the history. The Internet is a dynamic, evolving online ecosystem and medium for communication and commerce. It’s not static, generic or a common noun. The Internet is a proper noun for the ages and deserves a capital “I” for ingenious.


Kevin McKeown (@KevinMcKeown) is president of LexBlog, which empowers lawyers to increase their visibility and accelerate business relationships online. With LexBlog’s help, legal professionals use their subject matter expertise to drive powerful business development through blogging and social media. Visit LexBlog.com.

LexBlog also hosts LXBN, the world’s largest network of professional blogs. With more than 8,000 authors, LXBN is the only media source featuring the latest lawyer-generated commentary on news and issues from around the globe. Visit lxbn.com now.


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