I recently came across a very well-done white paper, Online Strategies for Law Firms 2004, on online legal services by Charles Christian, Editor & Publisher, Legal Technology Insider. It provides an insightful analysis of the current state of online legal services, especially in the UK.
Christian discusses three strategies firms can follow: pure marketing, virtual legal practices (which includes both firms without a physical presence and automated services delivered via computer), and web-enabled practices (by which he means delivering traditional services in new ways such as a virtual dealroom). His virtual legal practice is what I call online legal services. He notes that commoditised legal products delivered over the web have not been very successful.
While that is consistent with reports I have heard elsewhere, that has not stopped firms from trying. In 2003, I identified online legal services from Allen & Overy, Foley & Lardner, Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw, MinterEllison, Morgan Lewis, PortfolioIP, ReedSmith, Shaw Pittman, VisaNow, and White & Case. Elsewhere on this site, I maintain a list of online legal services. (Note that inclusion in 2003 of a firm does not necessarily mean that the service offered in 2003 was new – I may only have come across it then.)
The bad news is that uptake is slow. The good news is that there is likely still a big opportunity for growth, both as firms find the right formula for online services and as corporate clients recognize that automated systems offer a promising way to deliver more legal advice for less money. [Strategic Legal Technology]