e.jpgIs Law 2.0 possible?

Many enterprises are eager to take their first steps with Web 2.0 technologies. However, many of our [nGenera Insight’s] clients have cited legal as a major barrier to implementing these new technologies.

It’s understandable that lawyers would be leery of these services. Because these technologies are new, they are often not well understood and have negative perceptions attached. When professionals hear the term social networking they automatically think of Facebook and university students posting pictures from wild parties. But if you look a little deeper, the enterprise benefits to these types of technology are obvious. Not only are they more efficient in many ways (see Anthony William’s previous post of Wiki collaboration leads to happiness) they also help reduce costs.

Lawyers need to take the time to understand these technologies and look for constructive ways to incorporate these tools into organizations as opposed to automatically shutting out the idea.

There are now new services for lawyers such as Legal OnRamp that act as a space for lawyers to discuss issues and are a great way for lawyers and law firms to get their name out and show their expertise… As CEO of Legal OnRamp Paul Lippe says “Law is naturally a very social activity… long before Facebook lawyers developed Martindale-Hubbell and Chambers to connect.” (Full disclosure: nGenera Insight is currently working in collaboration with Legal OnRamp on a Law 2.0 white paper)

In the past few weeks I’ve been invited to several legal sessions with different law firms and in-house counsel discussing the potential of Web 2.0 technologies. Many of the concerns addressed are similar: IP, privacy, copyright, trade secrets etc. For the most part, many of these issues are easily addressed. Many organizations already have policies in place to address many of these issues such as simple terms of service, disclaimers and employee blogging, social computing guidelines. The BBC’s Guidelines are a great example.

These technologies aren’t a magic bullet. It takes time and a carefully thought out plan for these tools to be effective. But there’s a reason behind the buzz and why these technologies are starting to pop up in organizations. Similar to what happened with e-mail (when it was first introduced lawyers presented a plethora of issues with that technology) lawyers are now some of the most prolific users of e-mail. And as Paul Lippe puts it – there is a great opportunity for lawyers to go from worst to first when it comes to using social tools.