Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Law Firm Adoption of Web 2.0

Continuing my live-blogging from International Legal Technology Association's Annual Conference. . .  As Web2.0 tools mature, there is an increased number of adoptions by Fortune 500 companies. We explore and learn if Web 2.0 solutions already being adapted by Fortune 500 companies would be accepted by the lawyers in your firm.

Speaker: Bruce MacEwen of

Bruce is cautious optimist about the adoption of the these tools. He sees the most important change from Web 1.,0 when you surfed, to Web 1.5, when you searched, and to Web 2.0 when you share.

He thinks they have a real place as a management tools in professional services firm. They have so many advantages over email [See Luis Suarez's approach on]. Of course there are rules of the road.  He pointed to IBM's Social Computing Guidelines. He recognizes that HR and PR will be concerned about the loss of control and approval.

An audience member focused on the comment function.  Bruce has seen it. But he thinks it is a defensive position. On his own site, Bruce gets 10 personal emails for every comment. I pointed out that legal blogs are not that interesting and do not get that many comments.

Bruce went through DOs and DON'Ts for blogging. (You can see them in the session materials.) Bruce views blogs as a way to prove expertise. You can say you are an expert. But you need to prove it. He also sees blogs as a great tool for knowledge management.

Bruce also sees a strength for a blog to be in project management. The reverse chronological nature of blog lends itself nicely to project management. You are typically interested in the latest piece of information. A blog displays the most recent post at the top.

Bruce moved on to wikis. A wiki is just a blog with lots of authors.  Wikipedia does not work in theory, it only works in practice. Vandalism fears are unfounded. Are your people going to vandalize your reception area? No, so why would they vandalize a firm wiki.

He cited the case of Dresdner where the introduction of wikis reduced email traffic by 75%.

He cited another case study (You can see them in the session materials.) The company rolled out six internal group blogs with 150 contributors. It worked because it is very intuitive. They are much like the way people think. People do not think in structured information like databases. They think unstructured like wikis and blogs.  You also have the update features, the categorization and easy searches.

Bruce moved on to mashups. He focused first on companies use of Google Maps.He showed an example of locating key clients on a Google Map. So if you are out of the office with some free time, the attorney could quickly see if there are any key clients nearby.

He calls Web 2.0 not "Hi-Tech," but "Appropriate Tech." The tools are easy to use tools that allow you to easily share information.

Bruce is more cautious than optimistic on social networks. He thinks they have intriguing opportunities. He thinks MySpace is appalling.  He sees LinkedIn as still being scattered.

He thinks if anything is going to work in the legal field it is Legal OnRamp. He has a concerns that it is getting too big. He cited the natural connection limit of 150 people. It is hard to know more than 150 people. He also did not like the presence feature on  Legal OnRamp. He found it creepy.  

Bruce is still striving to find success stories. He sees much more proven success inside law firms than the deployment outside firms. The McKinsey report on Web 2.0 showed much success in the corporate world.

The power of the tools is to form and strengthen networks.  But it does require the business side to engage with IT on development and for IT to look over the horizon. 

To end, he played this video, Information R/evolution by Michael Wesch:

A great presentation and insight from Bruce.

Download the session materials.

My ILTA Schedule


  1. Doug,
    The problem with legal blogs is not that they are not interesting. I think it's the audience that reads the web. Lawyers are busy people, and often don't have time for reading blogs. (I'm not a lawyer; I'm just a guy interested in Web 2.0)Just have a look at technorati ranks. The most popular blogs are about technology. It means, that online audiences are mostly geeks :) I know, I might be exaggerating, but still.

    I wonder why Bruce didn't mention any Enterprise 2.0 solutions. You most probably heard about them. It can be a great topic for one of your posts too. I know that some project management tools, like this one for example, are used successfully for legal practice.

  2. @instigator

    Most blogs are not very interesting to most people. They are niche publishing. Frankly, this blog is not very interesting to most people.

    Lawyers are reading blogs. If a website is useful they visit it and read what is interesting to them.

    Yes, there are more tech people than legal people publishing and reading, so the ranks will be tilted to tech titles.


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