RSS is dying, right?

By Nick Holmes on February 7, 2017
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Filed under Feeds

My latest post on Internet Newsletter for Lawyers:

I am a long-time proponent of RSS but am aware that it is declining in visibility. Many sites large and small are not offering RSS feeds any more. What’s up?

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The need for technological competence

By Nick Holmes on October 10, 2016
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Filed under CPD, Technology

My latest post on Internet Newsletter for Lawyers:

Across the pond, in 2012, the American Bar Association formally approved a change to their Model Rules of Professional Conduct to make clear that lawyers have a duty to be competent not only in the law and its practice, but also in technology, amending Comment 8 to Model Rule 1.1 to read as follows:

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Image: cc by Marc Di Luzio on Flickr.

Brexit for lawyers

By Nick Holmes on July 5, 2016
Comments Off on Brexit for lawyers
Filed under Constitutional law, Democracy

Extracts from my latest post in Internet Newsletter for Lawyers about the legal and constitutional issues surrounding Brexit:

As opinions on this change by the hour, your best bet is to follow the latest comments on Twitter from those lawyers who are focussing on the constitutional implications of the Brexit vote and thence read their more considered writings on their blogs. I’ve created a Twitter list where you can follow the leading commentators as a group. They are:

Mark Elliott (@ProfMarkElliott), Professor of Public Law at the University of Cambridge, who blogs at Public Law for Everyone, has recently focussed on the constitutional implications of Brexit, most recently On why, as a matter of law, triggering Article 50 does not require Parliament to legislate.

David Allen Green (@davidallengreen), who blogs about law and policy as Jack of Kent and is also a legal commentator at, is probably the most prolific tweeter and writer about Brexit.

Carl Gardner (@carlgardner), a former government lawyer who blogs about public law as Head of Legal, is also a prolific Tweeter about Brexit.

Jolyon Maugham (@JolyonMaugham) QC, a tax lawyer who blogs at Waiting for Godot, is currently commenting extensively on Brexit on his blog and on the broadcast media. His latest post on The Big Green Button Bill argues that invoking Article 50 would require an Act of Parliament.

Follow also UCL Constitution Unit (@ConUnit_UCL): Constitution Unit Blog.

On immigration: Colin Yeo (@ColinYeo1) at Free Movement.

On human rights: Adam Wagner (@AdamWagner1) at UK Human Rights Blog.

Image: By Jose Manuel Mota on Flickr.

Never mind the quantity

By Nick Holmes on May 4, 2016
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Filed under Future of law

My latest post on the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers.

Image: By Eric Fischer on Flickr.

Writing out loud

By Nick Holmes on February 25, 2016
One comment
Filed under Blogging

Reblogged from Legal Web Watch February 2016.

David Allen Green, aka Jack of Kent, has been writing in the Solicitors Journal about The revival of legal blogging:

“The problem was that too few practising lawyers were taking advantage of the form. And this is still the case among solicitors. There are only a handful of solicitors who blog – or indeed tweet – with large follower numbers. Some might say this is due to the type of people who become solicitors, but I suspect it is more to do with rigid social media policies, risk-averse partners, and over-powerful ‘comms’ departments. A junior solicitor at a large City firm would be unlikely to be able to blog, even if she or he wanted to do so.”

As to why lawyers should blog, he emphasises the public promotion of law:

“Most lawyers prefer to explain the law to their own clients rather than to the world in general. Such an approach is short-sighted. One of the problems the legal profession faces … is that the public can have a dim view of law and lawyers. … The more lawyers take the time to explain the law to the public the better informed the public debate on legal matters will be, and blogging, with its flexibility and ability to link to materials, is an incomparable way of doing this.”

His second article on the topic takes a step back to look at what blogging is and offers a more considered list of reasons Why some lawyers should blog, and why some should not.

“Blogging allows the lawyer a different type of creative freedom that cannot be done in any of the other forms of legal writing, and I contend there are three reasons why all lawyers should consider blogging … and one reason why they should not. … [first] it enables the lawyer – from a student to a retired judge – to develop as a lawyer … [second] it helps you connect with others – from potential clients to professional peers – on terms that show what you are good at and what interests you … [and third] it promotes the public understanding of law and the legal profession. … The one bad reason to blog is to do it just for the sake of it.”

For reasons to blog, I prefer to look back to early proponents of blogging who recognised the potential of this new literary form.

Andrew Sullivan, writing in The Atlantic in November 2008 on Why I blog concludes:

“The blogosphere has added a whole new idiom to the act of writing and has introduced an entirely new generation to nonfiction. It has enabled writers to write out loud in ways never seen or understood before.”

This “writing out loud” is what Robert Scoble and Shel Israel dubbed Naked Conversations in their 2006 book of that title, subtitled How Blogs Are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers. Whilst this focused on business blogging, the core thesis concerned communicating authentically and making a connection with an audience.

So what distinguishes a good blog from a pedestrian or bad blog? Creativity, insight, independence of thought.

There are more than 400 UK legal blogs listed in infolaw’s Lawfinder Blogs catalogue and they cover all shades of writing about the law and lawyering. There are many more good blogs than David implies and some of them have been around for a long time. Unfortunately, but inevitably, the proven success of blogging led to its widespread adoption and ultimately attracted the marketing people! Hence the personality-free corporate blogs and blogs set up purely for marketing purposes that we see all around us, as well as well-intentioned but low value, pedestrian blogs, none of which can be considered worthwhile literary works. In this climate, the good blogs have had to fight harder to be noticed.

What has changed fundamentally is the nature of the ensuing conversation which formerly took place in the comments sections on blogs. Whilst popular sites, such as national news sites, garner sometimes thousands of (generally tedious) comments, most niche blogs receive very few (though better value) comments. The conversation these days has been sucked out of blogs and takes place mainly on Twitter and other social media, so the profile of your blog does depend a lot on your social media “reach”, but that’s another story.

Nick Holmes is Editor of the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers and Legal Web Watch. Follow him on Twitter @nickholmes.

Image: My shirt today cc by Amy Gahran on Flickr.

We need to stop talking about AI

By Nick Holmes on December 16, 2015
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Filed under Artificial intelligence

This article first appeared in Legal Web Watch December 2015.

In a controversial 2003 article in the Harvard Business Review and a follow-up book with the same title, technology writer Nicholas Carr asked “Does IT Matter?” IT had become a commodity input; it had lost its mystique; it had become normal. Time was when the wheel was technology. But as the wheel was refined and its use proliferated, a wheel came to be regarded as just a wheel.

I’m reminded of that whilst witnessing the current deluge of articles about AI in law. AI in law has been around a long time, since the mid 80s if Richard Susskind can be taken as one of the founding fathers. But, whereas then the aim was to attempt to produce expert systems that could replicate legal reasoning, the second wave of AI, which provides much of the fuel for Susskind and son’s The Future of the Professions, is doing things entirely differently, achieving results through “brute force processing and massive storage capacity”. And we now take those resources for granted.

I have a black box in my car. It knows every road route in Europe; it knows the quickest route between A and B, taking account of my preferences, can warn me when traffic builds up and then recalculate a quicker route; it can guide me by animated map and by voice, directing me around myriad roundabouts and complex one way systems, in dulcet tones or not, as I choose. That’s articial intelligence, is it not? Yet it’s just a “satnav” and we’ve been using them for years.

Here is just some AI in law that is already pretty normal (extracted and adapted from Artificial Intelligence in Law – The State of Play in 2015 by Michael Mills in the Legal IT Insider):

  • Document automation products apply procedural rules and some inferencing to generate bespoke legal documents. That kicked off more than 20 years ago.
  • Legal research services have employed natural language processing (NLP) techniques for more than 10 years.
  • Technology-assisted review (TAR) uses natural language and machine learning techniques to analyse documents for discovery and is faster and better than humans. It is the success story of machine learning in the law.
  • Compliance systems combine expert systems and other reasoning techniques to provide fact- and context-specific answers to legal, compliance and policy questions.
  • Contract analysis applies natural language and machine learning techniques to aspects of the contract lifecycle from discovery to due diligence. Another success story for machine learning in the law.

At the end of the day, hyping AI is unhelpful. I’m with Ryan Mcleod who calls for an official moratorium on the term Artificial Intelligence in relation to the law. AI is just what computers do. Let’s talk about that.

Image: By Saad Faruque on Flickr.

Internet made easy

By Nick Holmes on October 16, 2015
One comment
Filed under Pages on the Web

20 years ago I wrote my first “Page on the Web” column in the Solicitors Journal with a piece about why you should use the internet.

My service provider at the time was Demon Internet. They still are! Thanks Demon.


Is ad blocking unfair?

By Nick Holmes on October 13, 2015
Comments Off on Is ad blocking unfair?
Filed under Advertising, Privacy

My latest post for Internet Newsletter for Lawyers.

Image: Stop! by Axel Schwenke on Flickr.

LinkedIn: know your connections

By Nick Holmes on September 24, 2015
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Filed under LinkedIn

Commentators on the ProudmanCarter-Silk affair have understandably criticised one or other, or both, parties’ behaviour.

But I’m more interested in the role LinkedIn played in this. After all, this only came about because Ms Proudman sent an invitation to connect on LinkedIn to someone she did not know and whose line of legal work was not on her patch. Why? Well, for the same reason many of us – faced with an endless stream of profiles of people LinkedIn thinks we might like to connect to – occasionally say, “What the hell, why not connect to them, they might just possibly be useful in future?” “What’s wrong with that?”, you might ask. I’ll tell you: it sends the wrong signal. I’m not talking about the signal it sends to the invitee, but about the signal it sends to LinkedIn. It tells LinkedIn you know that person, and because you know that person, LinkedIn draws all sorts of inferences and – inter alia – will start to suggest you might like to connect to others because that person knows them (that’s how it works).

So my advice is, don’t connect on LinkedIn to anyone you don’t know. You may think you are expanding your network for your future benefit, but you are degrading it’s value. You will waste a lot of time and get unwelcome attention.

Of course, if you see LinkedIn as just another opportunity to market yourself to as many people as possible, go ahead. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Image by Shield Connectors on Flickr.

The Uberisation of law

By Nick Holmes on July 15, 2015
One comment
Filed under Collaborative economy, Future of law

My latest article in the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers gives some perspectives on the sharing economy and how it affects lawyers.

Image: Taxi clown by John Fisher on Flickr.

Social media platforms for lawyers

By Nick Holmes on April 15, 2015
One comment
Filed under Social media

Reblogged from Legal Web Watch March 2015.

I’ve been looking at two new social media platforms designed for lawyers: Mootis (“specifically tailored for what is a vast legal services marketplace that extends far beyond the Bar”) and Passle (“enables Partners and senior professionals to create and share insights on developments within their field”). I’ve registered on both services and hacked about a bit, as well as reading up their about pages and some reviews. So, extensive research!


Mootis is a sort of souped up version of Twitter+LinkedIn with some added legal feeds and other features. My problem with it is I don’t get its USP. What is it trying to help me do?

Its advertised primary key feature is that “Moots can exceed 140 characters (up to 500 words) – enabling users to express their opinion with more authority, weight and substance.” That’s of course a reference to Twitter’s limit of 140 characters per tweet. That limit is restrictive, but it’s not a bug, it’s a feature! That’s why Twitter is so popular with many of us; it encourages rapid sharing, quickfire exchanges etc. So sure, if you don’t want that, you go somewhere else. … Mootis maybe?

Founder Bill Braithwaite QC of Exchange Chambers in Manchester says, “we feel the world of legal services is large enough to warrant its own, bespoke platform”. Surely the question is does the world of legal services, need or want a bespoke platform?

History is littered with the bones of legal networks that failed to find traction on the web. The very successful (pre-internet) LINK failed to make the transition. There was LIX too, though my memory is short on that one. The internet spoiled it for them, because on the net anybody could connect with anybody and link to anything. Neverthless, intrepid innovators tried to establish communities of lawyers on the web. Remember Law City anyone? Not even Google does.

Although the many legal portal sites of different flavours that grew up could be regarded in some senses as communities, lawyers started taking up social networking only in 2008 and the big three – Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook (not so much for professional purposes) – have made the running since then. Even Google, with all its influence, is calling it a day with its Google+ social network (though, importantly, popular aspects of it will be further developed).

I don’t want Silicon Valley to take all the spoils and there is plenty of scope for home grown social media applications for lawyers; I will give Mootis a go and I wish it well, but it does need to find some focus.


Passle is a blogging platform that makes it easy for experts to share their insights online. Say Passle, “It’s been proven that firms regularly producing knowledge pieces generate more traffic, and leads, than those that don’t. Passle facilitates this process by providing busy experts with the tools to share their expertise with the world in a time-efficient manner.”

With a few clicks you can grab an excerpt from an article you are reading, write a comment or longer analysis, and post it, complete with accompanying image from the original and with selected tweets about the same source shown alongside.

Your Passle is discoverable by other Passle users, who can follow you and repost your passles, and it can be embedded on your own website.

There is a substantial annual per user subscription, but if it suits you and gets your experts generating content and hence business as Passle claim, it should be worth it.

Where has all the GOV stuff gone?

By Nick Holmes on February 2, 2015
One comment
Filed under Government

Reblogged from Legal Web Watch January 2015

Digital Champion, Martha Lane Fox, first mooted the idea of a single government website back in 2010. Some thought the theory was sound but that delivery would be impossible.

Once the project was approved, the process of transitioning government information to GOV.UK began in 2012, led by the Government Digital Service, a new team within the Cabinet Office tasked with transforming government digital services … aka Digital by Default. The aim was to move all corporate information to GOV.UK by the end of 2014. This is now complete with the transition of 312 organisations (so they say).

According to the Departments home page, the corporate websites of 176 government departments, agencies and other public bodies (not 312) have moved:

  • 24 of 24 ministerial departments
  • 9 of 22 non-ministerial departments, and
  • 143 of 346 agencies and other public bodies

The 216 organisations shown as having a separate website have not moved.

Is all this government stuff in one place, designed to be “simpler, clearer, faster”, a Good Thing or “some kind of Orwellian nightmare”?

Opinions are divided. Joe Public may be better served, but anecdotal evidence suggests that professional users are not impressed, regarding the interface as dumbed down and asking, “Where has all that useful government information gone?”.

Writing on the BIALL LinkedIn Group, Anneli Sarkanen, senior information officer at Fieldfisher asks:

We’ve heard from members that finding information from the government has become increasingly harder since departments have moved to I am posting this discussion to seek views from members about problems they have faced with and if BIALL needs to make a representation on behalf of members. If you have specific examples of information going missing, or info that is harder to find that we can put forward, please do reply below and we can see if we need to take this forward.

Ask to join the group if you are interested in following this discussion.

Corporate information vs. specialist information

It is worth bearing in mind that whilst GDS claims the transition of the websites of these 176 organisations is complete, this relates only to their “corporate” information – the information about their policies, activities, consultations, white papers etc. What is still in transition is their specialist information (which is perhaps most relevant to the professional user) and their specialist web services (apps if you like) which will ultimately be rewritten.

So, by way of illustration:

Don’t despair

Don’t worry too much about whether you will find this or that on the old .gov site or on GOV.UK. Google is still your best friend here: use it. GOV.UK is well optimised, so if information has moved to GOV.UK it will show up at the top of the results.

Of course, in the move to GOV.UK, some information will have gone missing. But rather than bemoan the fact and despair, my suggestion is follow the GDS Transition Blog, identify the most relevant contact in the GDS team, find them on Twitter and tweet them.

Do lawyers need to be digitally competent?

By Nick Holmes on November 21, 2014
Filed under Legal practice, Technology

Reblogged from Legal Web Watch November 2014.

I ask this because I have been looking into the future for CPD in the two professions. Both are moving away from measuring CPD hours towards systems based on self-certified continuing competence.

The SRA is more advanced and has issued a Draft Competence Statement for consultation with a view to implementing the new regime (on a voluntary basis initially) in April 2015.

The SRA believe that there are a number of core activities relating to matters such as ethical behaviour, technical skills (drafting, negotiating, researching), management of work (planning, prioritising, record keeping) and working and communicating with other people that all solicitors should be able to undertake competently. How these qualities are demonstrated will vary according to practice area and experience but all competent solicitors should possess them.

Apparently those who took part in research for the SRA have given the draft competence statement high marks: 87 per cent of solicitors, 87 per cent of consumers and 90 per cent of businesses giving it between seven and 10 out of 10.

Really? This is essentially a list of 91 things solicitors ought to be able to do – and I would not disagree with any of them – but with no indication how to translate these into an implementable and reviewable training programme.

In relation to these activities there are multiple uses of the adjectives “appropriate” (18), “effective” (19) and “relevant” (13). Well, what is appropriate? what is effective? what is relevant to a particular activity?

At the same time I find not a single reference to the words “internet”, “technology” or “digital”. Surely this can’t be so when several of the categories of competence – legal research, case management, record-keeping, communications – are areas where technology is absolutely key and the internet is the medium through which the solicitor will undertake these activities.

And how do solicitors deliver their services? The Legal Education and Training Review, in its 2013 report The Future of Legal Services Education and Training Regulation in England and Wales, noted that, overall, only about 42 per cent of legal services were delivered face-to-face in 2011–12, whereas another 40 per cent were supplied by telephone or email/internet.

As legal practice futurologist Jordan Furlong pointed out (as long ago as 2008):

Lawyers have grown accustomed to going unchallenged on their technological backwardness, and even tech-savvy new lawyers eventually succumb to firms’ glacial pace of tech adaptation. Here is a fact: technological affinity is a core competence of lawyering. If you can’t effectively and efficiently use e-mail, the Internet, and mobile telephony, you might as well just stay home. And if you don’t care to learn about RSS, instant messaging, Adobe Acrobat and the like, clients and colleagues will pass you by.

Now, I’m not suggesting that the SRA should list technological competencies, but surely this statement should at least acknowledge technology and the internet’s existence, let alone its importance to the modern lawyer?

The Bar Standards Board will shortly launch its own “professional statement”which will attempt to describe the knowledge and skills barristers should possess.

Image by Juan Cristóbal Cobo on Flickr.

Big Internet? No thanks

By Nick Holmes on October 1, 2014
Comments Off on Big Internet? No thanks
Filed under Big Internet, Blogging, Twitter

Reblogged from Legal Web Watch September 2014.

The early adopters have been getting restless lately. I’m with them. This is not what we signed up for.

Alan Jacobs, writing for The New Atlantis, predicts The End of Big Twitter. Twitter used to be like your front porch, now it’s the middle of Broadway and he’s getting out:

I don’t like this change. I made friends – real friends – on Twitter when it was a place for conversation. I reconnected with people I had lost touch with. Whole new realms of knowledge were opened to me. I don’t want to foreclose on the possibility of further discovery, but the signal-to-noise ratio is so bad now that I don’t think I could pick out the constructive and interesting voices from all the mean-spiritedness and incomprehension; and so few smart people now dare to use Twitter in the old open way.

In similar vein Scott Rosenberg on WordYard writes about social media burnout and the revival of blogging:

Then something happens. The early users begin to burn out, or feel neglected, or resent how the platform owner is changing things, or just chafe at problems the service has never been able to fix. Eventually, they lose the love. They start looking for a new home. If there is a hive mind at work in these matters – and there’s almost certainly not just one but many – it rouses itself and, at some critical moment, moves its energy center elsewhere.

Brent Simmons on inessential is also fed up with the exploitation by social media companies, but keen to keep blogging:

What I do care about is that my blog isn’t part of a system where its usefulness is just a hook to get me to use it. It works the way I want to, and the company running the servers (DreamHost) doesn’t care one fig what I do.

Nick Carr on Rough Type takes these arguments further, considering the wider picture of Big Internet, and concludes:

These trends … stem from a sense of exhaustion with what I’m calling Big Internet. By Big Internet, I mean the platform- and plantation-based internet, the one centered around giants like Google and Facebook and Twitter and Amazon and Apple. Maybe these companies were insurgents at one point, but now they’re fat and bland and obsessed with expanding or defending their empires. They’ve become the Henry VIIIs of the web. And it’s starting to feel a little gross to be in their presence. So, yeah, I’m down with this retro movement. Bring back personal blogs. Bring back RSS. Bring back the fun. Screw Big Internet.

The web we want

So what kind of web do we want? 25 years ago, Sir Tim Berners-Lee gave the web to the world. To mark the 25th anniversary of this turning point Web We Want is running a three-part festival at Southbank Centre, London. The Web We Want movement is calling on everyone, everywhere to play their part in shaping and enhancing the web.

As part of the festival Tim Berners-Lee spent an evening in conversation with SCL President Richard Susskind on September 27, reported by Roger Bickerstaff on the SCL site:

Susskind asked what worries Berners-Lee most about the Web. His main worries relate to the extent to which the open and collaborative nature of the Web is being challenged. He mentioned the problems over State censorship limiting Web access in various countries. He said that this had been a concern for him well before Snowden and he talked at some length about State surveillance. He commented that in countries where Web access is not limited, the Web can be monitored to track the activities of political opponents and dissidents and be used to ‘round them up’. He also discussed the risks associated with large company Web ‘silos’ and the lack of exposure this brings to the benefits of the Web if people simply use a single site. (Presumably Facebook – but Berners-Lee is very careful not to mention any specific names). Web users then don’t experience the range of opportunities that the Web has to offer. The increasing lack of ‘net neutrality’ and the prioritisation of net traffic is also a concern.

Image by Anonymous9000 on Flickr

Dot rollout – hundreds of new domains hit the streets

By Nick Holmes on August 7, 2014
Comments Off on Dot rollout – hundreds of new domains hit the streets
Filed under Domain names

Reblogged from Legal Web Watch July/August 2014.

It's sobering to reflect that 20 years ago most businesses, even big businesses, didn't know the first thing about the nascent internet. McDonalds had not yet even registered

There followed a domain name land rush and, ever since, domain names have been big business, with choice dot coms in particular commanding high resale prices.

In the UK has been the domain of first choice. But .com and are no longer the only games in town.

Dot uk

As from 10 June, Nominet, who already administer the second level domains, etc, have been open for registrations of "shorter, sharper" top level .uk domain names (ie rather than second level domains like etc).

The rules for registration are largely the same as for existing and domains except that a physical address for service in the UK is required.

If you had at 10 June a registration, the new .uk equivalent domain will have been reserved for you for free up until 10 June 2019 as long as your domain remains registered (failing a,,,, or in order have the right of registration). You can check who has the right of registration to a particular .uk domain name using the Rights Lookup Tool.

Hundreds of new gTLDs

While .uk is an existing country code top level domain (ccTLD) which has now been brought into service for second level domain registrations by the general public, hundreds of brand new generic top level domains (gTLDs) have now also been delegated following an application process which saw registrars paying hundreds of thousands of pounds for the right to administer their chosen domains.

These new domains are coming into operation on a rolling program which started in February and is now mid-way through. There are generally two or more phases to the launches of each domain:

  • Those trade mark holders who enter their trade marks into ICANN’s Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH) will always have first dibs
  • A priority period is available for qualified applicants, depending on the individual registrar's criteria
  • Registrations are then open to general availability, though qualifying criteria may still apply.

Many of the new domains reflect regions and cities:

The .london launch began on 29 April 2014 with a priority period which ended 31 July for, firstly, TMCH registrants and, second, other London-based businesses, organisations, and individuals. Following a pause whilst these priority applications are evaluated and registered, .london will open for general availability on 9 September when anyone will be able to register for any available .london domain name on a first-come, first-served basis.

.scot is being launched in three phases running from Pioneers (live) and priority registrations (open) through to general launch on 23 September. According to The Scotsman, the Glasgow-based not-for-profit outfit Dot Scot Registry (DSR) paid more than £300,000 for the licence for .scot. Demand has been so great that the firm believes it will be in profit within the first year and has promised to donate surplus money to new small businesses.

Launch dates are still awaited for .wales. And as for .eng, we're still at the campaign stage!

The full list of new domains ranges from from .abogado through .guru and .ninja to .zone. A handy site for browsing and reviewing the list is iwantmyname, though head over to ICANN for the official lowdown.

A couple that will be worth law firms' attention in particular are .llp and .partners. Stake your claims now!