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Web 2.0, Heading West to Law 2.0

2005 December 6
by John Wallbillich

Picking up the pieces from last week, today a few thoughts about what Web 2.0 might mean for the legal information merchants–and their customers. I have been thinking about some of this stuff for almost a year.

This story will focus on Westlaw (part of Thomson), but let’s not forget Lexis/Nexis (part of Reed/Elsevier).

You may recall that a few of the attributes of Web 2.0 are things like open communication, decentralization of authority, freedom to share and re-use, and a more organized and categorized content. Sounds like legal-research nirvana to me.

Some of us grizzled veterans remember the good old days of a dedicated Westlaw terminal in the law firm library. Research cost a fortune. And for gosh sakes watch the printing!

Once the Internet began to proliferate, some courts and government agencies had the bright idea to put their decisions and rulings on official web sites. Independent sites like FindLaw emerged, and offered lawyers and lay people alike a starting point for relatively open access to the law (here’s how it looked long ago and far away). A radical concept: the public could locate the law that governs them. Do you hear the people sing?

What is needed to make Law 2.0 applicable to legal research is for standards to emerge: how courts and agencies will preserve their work (html or pdf?), how they will announce it (RSS?), how they will categorize it (tags?), and how we will search it (guess who?).

Yes, someday maybe the Death Star hovers over Eagan, MN (and later Dayton, OH):

law.google.com

West and Lexis/Nexis will have a place in Law 2.0, but likely a smaller one. Not as the gatekeeper to primary sources, but for true value-added content. Can you say disintermediation boys and girls?

So I’ll stop this research rant plant a few flags (and one tag) in the ground. Is anyone with me?

law 2.0?

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