Monday, September 10, 2007

Legal Blog Watch

Legal Blog Watch

Is Avvo the Amazon of Law?

Mark Britton, the CEO of controversial lawyer-rating site Avvo, recorded an interview last week with the U.K. legal podcast OUT-LAW Radio. (For other podcasts about Avvo, see here.) In it, he discusses the lawsuit against his company and expresses his belief that Avvo's lawyer ratings are protected by the First Amendment. According to OUT-LAW's report on the interview, he also said that the lawsuit against Avvo poses a threat to all online product-rating systems, including those used by companies such as Amazon.com and Buy.com. "[Making] information flow more fluidly should be everyone's goal," the article quotes Britton. "To somehow strike against that hurts every site whether it's a site like Avvo or a site like Amazon or Buy.com." (Having listened to the podcast, I never heard him say those words, so perhaps the recording is edited. One thing he did say is this: "The lawsuit is a pretty silly attempt to bomb us back to the stone age.")

Meanwhile, in this week's National Law Journal, Stanford Law School legal-ethics professor Deborah Rhode, a member of Avvo's advisory board, says that the emergence of lawyer-ranking companies such as Avvo is partly the result of secrecy in official lawyer-discipline systems. When it comes to states posting lawyer-discipline data online, Rhode tells the NLJ, "We're still a long distance from where we ought to be." As the NLJ piece by reporter Vesna Jaksic portrays, in providing public access to this data, many states remain in that stone age to which Britton alluded. The reason for that, Rhode says, in large part is because disciplinary systems are run by lawyers, who want to protect their own. With that self-imposed shroud of secrecy in place, she suggests, the door is wide open to consumer-ranking sites such as Avvo.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on September 10, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

What Can Law Schools Do Better?

David Giacalone points us to the latest issue of the online magazine The Complete Lawyer, which focuses on the question, What Can Law Schools Do Better? (Someone needs to update TCL's front page, which still lists the last issue as the current issue.) Among those exploring the need for reform of legal education are several highly regarded law school deans and legal educators. Their articles include:

While at The Complete Lawyer, check out its new TCL Weblog Directory, an annotated list of some 110 blogs whose content  focuses on "the professionalism and quality of life and career issues that  impact every lawyer's success and satisfaction." Giacalone compiled the directory and welcomes suggestions of blogs to add.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on September 10, 2007 at 02:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Law Firms Outpace Porn Vendors in Tech

It has become a truism that the porn industry has blazed the trail for technological innovation, particularly online. Even the history magazine American Heritage featured an article, When Sex Drives Technological Innovation, crediting the porn industry as the pioneering force in the development of such technologies as online payment systems and digital watermarking. Five years ago, Brooke Gladstone, co-host of the NPR program On the Media, examined the porn industry's key role in the development of new technology in her report, Is Pornography Driving Technology? So I was interested over the weekend to hear Gladstone's interview with Wired magazine's sex and technology correspondent Regina Lynn, who argues that porn "may be losing its innovation mojo." Most notably, Lynn points to the online porn industry's  failure to embrace the collaborative and social-networking features that define Web 2.0.

With that interview fresh in my mind, I was struck by a sense of irony to read today's results of the 12th AmLaw Tech survey, which suggests that Am Law 200 firms are now, to a significant extent, becoming technology trailblazers. Does this mean that Biglaw is outpacing porn as an adopter and driver of new technology? The article cites Atlanta's Kilpatrick Stockton as "on the edge of a new frontier," having launched a variety of online collaboration initiatives, dozens of blogs and a sophisticated contact-mining tool. And Kilpatrick is not alone, says the survey, which compiled results from 126 of the 200 highest-grossing firms:

"We found that many firms are ratcheting up their use of online collaboration tools. They're also using more mobile wireless technology and voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), leveraging extranets to share information with clients, automating processes by using a host of software applications, and moving slowly to Microsoft's new Vista operating systems. Overall, firms report such benefits from online collaboration as increased productivity (cited by 77 percent of the survey respondents); better client service (75 percent); improved processes (44 percent); better access to ideas (38 percent); cost savings (38 percent); and greater innovation (26 percent)."

Lynn tells On the Media that porn vendors have been slow to incorporate the collaborative features of Web 2.0 because it is hard for them to think of their users as partners. By contrast, Matt Kesner, CTO at Fenwick & West in Mountain View, Calif., tells AmLaw Tech that for law firms, "Collaboration is the name of the game today." So perhaps the truism is no longer true -- perhaps the legal industry is surpassing the porn industry as a driver of technological innovation. But there is one final irony to the comparison: Lynn believes that the most significant obstacles keeping porn producers from adopting more collaborative technologies are the many laws that curtail their activities. If so, then in the race towards tomorrow's technology, the legal industry may have an unfair advantage.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on September 10, 2007 at 01:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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