In my prior post Thoughts on the Paucity of Online Legal Services, I suggested that one factor holding back development of online legal services is that the natural users, corporate counsel, lack the resources to develop them. It turns out this not universally true, as demonstrated by Honeywell International. 

Welcome to His Honeywell in the March 2004 issue of Corporate Counsel magazine describes a “a near encyclopedic legal services intranet” that the general counsel rolled out to the entire corporation. “Employees can access contract forms, obtain basic legal advice, view Honeywell’s entire patent and trademark portfolio, receive compliance training, and perform many more legal-oriented tasks without the help of a live in-house lawyer.” After an internal PR campaign in early 2003, more than 20% of Honeywell employees visited the Intranet and 80% of these visitors returned for more information. Anecdotal evidence suggests the effort is paying off, though the company has not been able to estimate the savings.

Lawyers first inclination is to ask who else is doing something and, when the answer is no one or only one or two others, the impetus to act is low. A few early adopters may suffice, however, to “tip the market,” that is, to cause other law departments to build their own online legal services. Once a few do so, others may feel compelled to follow. That, or perhaps a legal publisher or other third party will bring to market pre-packaged content, document assembly, and expert systems that will allow departments to buy rather than build the online services they need.