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The FastCase50

The Fastcase 50 for 2014 highlights entrepreneurs, innovators, and trailblazers — people who have charted a new course for the delivery of legal services. In law firms with new delivery models, legal tech startups, and even inside some of the nation’s largest law firms and legal publishers, these pioneers are giving the world a first look at what’s next for law and technology. It was hard to top the Fastcase 50 classes of 2011, 2012 and 2013— but with another record number of nominees, we had some great choices. We’re very happy to introduce the Fastcase 50 Class of 2014.

Justice Don Willett
Justice, Supreme Court of Texas

Justice Don Willett has a gold-clad resume: twice-elected Justice of the Texas Supreme Court, former White House Director of Law and Policy, Clerk on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals after he earned a J.D.-M.A. at Duke. But Justice Willett built his career on a foundation of hard work. His parents never graduated from high school, and growing up in a 35-person town in Texas, he worked to support his family after his father passed away. As a kid, he competed in rodeos and was a professional drummer. Today he’s one of America’s top jurists, as well as author of one of the wittiest Twitter accounts, with broad-ranging commentary on law, politics, and culture.

See the entire fastcase 50 here.

Tweeting #Justice

How a campaign strategy transformed into a can’t-miss online presence.

Whether he’s quoting historical figures, commenting on current events, or cracking jokes, Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett has quite the following on Twitter. By balancing work and personal life, Willett’s digital connection with the public sets a precedent for other officials. Keeping a 140-character limit in mind, he answers questions about his social media successes.

How long have you had your account?
I signed up in Oct ’09 but didn’t send my 1st tweet until Feb ’10. I tweeted only sporadically until my 2012 reelection campaign ramped up.

Why did you join Twitter?
Mainly as a campaign comm tool. People consume info online, esp political info. It’s political malpractice not to engage via social media.

You’ve tweeted more than 6,400 times. Were those all directly from you, or do you have a helper?
For better or worse, it’s 100% me, which I think people find refreshing & authentic.
(It’s tough to believe I’ve tweeted that much, though.)

What comments do people have about your use of Twitter?
Many folks (mis)describe me as the most interesting public official on Twitter—a bar so low it’s subterranean. I keep it light & positive.

Who are you most excited to say follows you?
I was amped to get a follow & RT from @HonestToddler, a Twitter celebrity who
observes the world thru the eyes of a witty, tech-savvy tot.

Name three people everyone on Twitter should follow.
Besides me? Ace historian Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC). The genius
observations of @HonestToddler. And for sports junkies, @TheFakeESPN.

Who do you RT the most?
Probably prez historian Michael Beschloss. Fascinating trove of historical tidbits & exquisite photos—nuggets you won’t find anywhere else.

How can an attorney benefit from Twitter?
Follow incisive folks across a range of views & areas—just to learn & laugh. As for boosting biz, info can ricochet fruitfully online.

Let’s say I don’t have an account. Tell me why I should get one.
To stay abreast of warp-speed happenings in the world & enjoy the musings of
smart, fascinating people. Follow, even if you don’t tweet.

You’re active on Facebook. Which platform do you prefer?
I enjoy both, but the quantity & content differs. FB = more personal & family-focused. Twitter = more current events & newsy, & more often.

What’s your favorite thing about Twitter?
It’s a neat, one-stop compilation of smart, funny & interesting viewpoints on every imaginable topic from a riveting cross-section of folks.

Is there anything that frustrates you about it?
The sometimes knee-jerk nastiness & incivility, especially on political matters. I don’t mind snark, if delivered w/ intelligence & wit.

You have more than 3,100 followers. Why do you think people follow you?
It’s rare for a Supreme Court Justice to step out from behind the bench. Folks are surprised that it’s comedic, authentic & informative.

Do you have a strategy to get followers?
I don’t pay to “promote” my tweets as some pols do. I want to earn actual, engaged followers the old-fashioned way: w/ compelling content.

How do you balance work and play on your account?
Unsuccessfully. When day job calls, I’m laser-locked. But it’s a fun diversion when you have a few mins 2 spare. Content-wise, I mix it up.

What rules do you have for your account?
I don’t discuss issues that could appear before me or throw partisan sharp elbows. I strive to keep things witty, informative & interesting.

What goes through your mind before you hit “Tweet?”
Usually, did I misspell or mis-grammatize anything? But also, is this worth polluting the Interwebs w/ for posterity, & will my wife wince.

Have you ever regretted or deleted a tweet?
Succinctness = enemy of nuance. It’s tough 2 be precise in 140 chars, so conveying tone/nuance is tough. I self-censor & try to be careful.

What are some of the most important Twitter rules of etiquette to remember?
My paramount rule: keep things civil. Once I tweeted, “Pro tip: Be nice.” Also, engage others. Master Twitter; don’t let Twitter master you.

Have you ever had to deal with trolls?
I’ve only blocked 1 person, who committed the cardinal sin of saying rude things about my sainted mother. Nobody disses heroic Mama Doris!

How many tweets a day is too many?
I don’t follow folks who tweet w/ every breath. The volume is paralyzing. I tweet maybe 10-20x/day. It varies & depends on what’s happening.

Select tweets from Willett’s feed

I think Edward Snowden could’ve walked a red panda through the Capitol Rotunda tonight & nobody would’ve noticed. #txlege

I recently rec’d this note from a 4th grader: "I watched your Court webcast to help me fall asleep and it worked!" #SCOTX cc: @atlblog

“Live Gluten Free or Die Hard” #AddaWordRuinaMovie

You can also read the full article from TexasBar.com here.

Texas Supreme Court Justice tweets from the hip

Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett likes to Tweet, and he's gaining followers at a rapid pace, now that the New York Times has provided a critique of his lively Twitter feed.

Willett's 12,000 or so Tweets to date are largely unobjectionable (pun intended; puns appear to be a favorite form or humor on @JusticeWillett), and demonstrates Willett's sense of fun. His sense of what comprises justice is largely left open to interpretation, though he seems to think the Times opinion piece on his Twitter presence was fair:

LEFT—when you hear the @nytimes is writing an editorial about you RIGHT—when it turns out ok http://t.co/TtGu1H0mJM pic.twitter.com/40M99HoLOe

— Justice Don Willett (@JusticeWillett) September 30, 2014

The American Bar Association, the Times notes, has said using social media can be a valuable tool for jurists, but the newspaper wonders if it is unseemly to read a jurist admitting, jokingly, that he "likes big bundts and I cannot lie"(a reference to Willett's affinity for cakes and the lyrics to Sir Mix-a-Lot's racy hit song "Baby Got Back.") 

I like big bundts & I cannot lie. pic.twitter.com/oPnKEZV3f6

— Justice Don Willett (@JusticeWillett) September 8, 2013

Willett comes down in favor of the benefits of judicial tweets:

Social media is an unmatched tool to demystify & humanize the judiciary—& to intersect w/ fascinating people from every corner of America.

— Justice Don Willett (@JusticeWillett) October 1, 2014

But more typical tweets are funny bordering on corny, and stay in safe territory for a member of the highest court in the Lone Star State (whether the image of a Texas Justice sporting a fake mustache and viking helmet is for the voters of Texas to decide):

Henceforth, I shall require a fun photo booth at all weddings I officiate. pic.twitter.com/tVwxxMpzLy

— Justice Don Willett (@JusticeWillett) September 28, 2014

Just ran into @McConaughey in Austin. So awkward. I don't think he even recognized me. #AlrightAlrightAlright pic.twitter.com/AElMGsIJyJ

— Justice Don Willett (@JusticeWillett) September 26, 2014

When I slip into legalese or legal nerd mode, my non-lawyer friends be like . . . pic.twitter.com/O1m24oaGQr

— Justice Don Willett (@JusticeWillett) September 25, 2014

But he does risk allegations of bias: if anyone has a case before the Texas Supreme Court that pits them against Dr Pepper or Blue Bell ice cream-- treats mentioned frequently, and longingly, in Willett's tweets-- they could rightfully wonder whether they can get a fair hearing.

That new noise record by Chiefs fans will be short-lived if @HEB is out of my favorite Blue Bell tomorrow! pic.twitter.com/YhvCoNW1W8

— Justice Don Willett (@JusticeWillett) October 1, 2014

And, if Willett seeks to humanize himself before the public, does he not show a concerning lack of compassion for Saints fans, or at least defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, after their drubbing by the Dallas Cowboys? Then again, he is an elected judge. In Texas.

The dramatic range of Saints Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan. #NOvsDAL #Cowboys pic.twitter.com/lRlwNYcxsv

— Justice Don Willett (@JusticeWillett) September 29, 2014

You can also read the New Orleans Times-Picayune article here.

Some Judicial Opinions Require Only 140 Characters

Justice Don Willett of the Texas Supreme Court Lights Up Twitter

To judge by his Twitter feed, Don Willett seems like an all-around solid guy: native Texan, proud conservative, three charming kids, loves Blue Bell ice cream and Baylor football, skilled at selfies, and not above the occasional lowbrow joke.

He is also a justice of the Texas Supreme Court, the highest civil court in the state.

Most judges are temperamentally and occupationally averse to unrobed public utterances of any kind. Scrolling through Justice Willett’s voluminous output, on the other hand, one might forget that his day job is writing opinions that could end up before the United States Supreme Court.

Since joining Twitter in 2009, Justice Willett, who is 48, has written more than 12,800 tweets. That doesn’t put him anywhere near the most prolific Twitter users, but, by his own reckoning, it does make him “probably the most avid judicial tweeter in America — which is like being the tallest munchkin in Oz.”

His tweets are a mix of family outings (“Daddy-Daughter breakfast dates are THE BEST!”), oblique political commentary (“When it comes to legislating from the bench — I literally can’t even”), savvy cultural references and good-natured sports talk. His humor is sometimes corny and often funny. A tweet on Sept. 8 included a photo of two federal judges enduring oral argument, one half-asleep and the other apparently picking his nose, with the caption: “This is why some judges (not me) resist cameras in the courtroom.”

Read the full New York Times article here.

50 Twitter Accounts Lawyers Should Follow Religiously (Part II)

Last week, I made a very big list (subscribe here) of thirty Twitter accounts that every lawyer, legal professional, and law student should follow. Topics include the Supreme Court, legal news, law and technology, humor, and general blawging. I also promised that twenty more would follow, once I heard from the Tweeps. (Twopulace? Twopulation? Twyers?)

The rules for the list remain the same: no multiples from the same company, unless they are have distinct identities and voices. General topics get the nod over specialty handles.

Justice Don Willett @JusticeWillett

A Texas Supreme Court judge on Twitter? And he's apparently a former drummer and rodeo bull rider? What happened to boring, stodgy, humorless judges? Are they all this hilarious?

 

Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett: master of the Twitterverse

More than 1,300 followers of Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett (@JusticeWillett) see a daily stream of photos, personal factoids, political commentary, legal news, sports trash talk and miscellaneous links. Willett also frequently interacts with other “Tweeps,” or Twitter “peeps.”

Willett shared his top advice about Twitter in a direct message (DM) to Texas Lawyer reporter Angela Morris (@AMorrisReports): “Key: follow interesting people & have a purpose. For me it's mainly a political comm medium 2 stay connected, a byproduct of elected judges.”

Although some other justices have profiles, none come close to Willett’s activity on Twitter. For example, from Jan. 21 to 27, Willett published 75 posts: 20 interactions with Tweeps, 17 political comments, 13 personal notes, 12 legal-oriented posts, six sports comments — his alma mater, Baylor University, is a popular topic — and seven miscellaneous links.

Many of Willett’s posts reveal his sense of humor.

For example, on Jan. 22, Willett responded to another Twitter user in a modify tweet (“MT”). Willett wrote:

“I favor trap doors. MT ‘@appealsattorney: Wish TX appellate arguments were more like X Factor w/ judges voting w/ giant Xs after you argue.’”

Willett frequently shares tidbits from his personal life. Many of his tweets during the week in late January discussed his trip to Las Vegas to celebrate his wife’s 40th birthday. Here’s an image of one tweet:

Willett_tweet_400x405

Texas Lawyer sent questions to Willett through DMs on Twitter and he agreed to limit his answers to 140 characters. Should we call it a Tweeterview?

@AMorrisReports: When and why did you get started on Twitter?

@JusticeWillett: About 3 yrs ago, mostly b/c of re-election. Voters increasingly consume info online, esp political info. & cands must harness s-m potency.

@AMorrisReports: Describe your activities, or how you spend your time, on Twitter?

@JusticeWillett: Haphazard -- nothing regimented or unduly time-intensive. Mostly random scrolling if I have a few secs/mins to spare. I try to post daily.

@AMorrisReports: What’s your goal, or what do you seek to accomplish, with your profile?

@JusticeWillett: Keeping abreast of news & staying plugged in. But 4 having to campaign, I doubt I'd tweet much (but I'd still follow incisive people).

@AMorrisReports: What should lawyers or judges understand about Twitter to really “get it”?

@JusticeWillett: There's a slew of helpful legal news & info in the Twitterverse. Separate wheat from chaff. Master Twitter; don't let it master you.

@AMorrisReports: What are your ethical considerations, if any, when posting on judicial and legal topics?

@JusticeWillett: I post links to U.S. legal news but never give $0.02 on disputed legal issues or pending cases. Advice: use common sense & self-censor.

— Angela Morris

You can also read the full article on the Texas Lawyer website here.

Gov. Perry Endorses Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett

AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry today released the following statement endorsing Justice Don Willett for re-election to the Texas Supreme Court:

I am proud to announce my endorsement of Justice Don Willett for re-election to the Texas Supreme Court. Justice Willett's impeccable conservative record makes him the right choice for Texans who cherish our God-given rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Justice Willett, one of our Supreme Court's most conservative justices, understands his allegiance is to the Constitution -- period. His conservative legal philosophy has even been hailed nationally as the judicial antidote to Obamacare. Justice Willett's strict-constructionist record on the Court is sterling; he has never legislated from the bench, and he never will. As Justice Willett says, “We must never forget our Nation is founded on We the People, not We the Judges, We the Politicians, or We the Subjects.”

Like me, Justice Willett has small town Texas roots. He grew up in a doublewide trailer in a tiny town of 32 people, raised by a widowed mother who waited tables at the local truck stop. Like so many Texans, her strong character and work ethic instilled in Don a deep devotion to service that has greatly enriched our Lone Star State.

In these challenging times, a conservative judiciary is vital to protecting our liberty. Texas could not have a finer conservative champion on its Supreme Court than Justice Don Willett.

Click here to view press release

Be the first to watch Justice Don Willett's new television commercial!

Be the first to watch Justice Don Willett's new television commercial! Be sure to share it with your friends and family, and thank you for your continued support!

State Senator Dan Patrick Endorses

HUGE endorsement today: State Senator Dan Patrick from Harris County! Senator Patrick is a true conservative champion, and among the Lone Star State's most powerful political influencers. I'm deeply honored to have his unswerving support! Please click SHARE to spread this important news.

This Weekend

I was thrilled to address 150 conservative patriots this weekend ... from my boyhood neck of the woods (in fact, 1/2 mile from where I grew up in a humble doublewide). Fired-up grassroots activists from Kaufman, Rockwall, Van Zandt and other NE Texas counties -- all committed to principled conservatism, including a constitutionalist judiciary.

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