When lawyers first discovered the Net, there was all kinds of talk about how it would transform the practice, and perhaps even the profession itself. Surely the Net has wrought major changes in terms of efficiency gains, how transactions take place, how disputes (might be) resolved, the nature and extent of evidence, how trials are conducted, and many other ways.
Some of the original legal websites — Nolo (mostly tries to sell you books and software, with some helpful FAQs on big topics), findlaw (run by some very clever people, provides a lot of links to a lot of places, and has some good cases uploaded), and gigalaw (great, original content on Internet law and related matters, with some useful primers on commonly-discussed but poorly understood topics like copyright) — each provide some very helpful information on specific topics and have gotten a lot more useful over the past few years. A small company in Massachusetts called LeapLaw, founded by a senior paralegal at a big law firm and whose system I’ve had a chance to look at recently, is on just this track: focused on providing targeted information to a transactional lawyer or paralegal who turns to the Net looking for a specific question answered or form provided. My guess is that the service that succeeds in addressing this need will end up being a paid subscription model, rather than a free service supported by advertising, but I might be wrong (given the resurgence of the ad model and the recent results of Yahoo! and what we all presume about the profitability of the still-privately-held-but-not-for-long google). I’d guess that there are many others working on it, given that anyone who has searched for good legal information online usually ends up wasting loads of time and coming up with forms or advice that’s off-the-mark or out-of-date. Maybe it’ll be a weblog that succeeds. (Anybody else have favorites on this front?)
I have high hopes yet for the Net’s impact on the practice of law.