In the current issue of Legal Technology Insider, Charles Christian reports that “guru Richard Susskind has revealed the existence of a new legal technology initiative by nine major investment banking groups, including Deutsche Bank and Barclays Capital. The objective is to agree [on] IT standards for the electronic delivery of legal services, so their inhouse legal departments will eventually only have access [to] one system, rather than the present situation where one bank may face separate login and operating requirements for as many as 200 different law firm extranets and virtual deal rooms.” Susskind’s article appears in the June 17, 2003 online edition of the Times Online (London).

In his article, Susskind reports that nine leading global investment banks in London “[l]ed by Deutsche Bank and Barclays Capital…have called upon five leading City law firms to work with them. The five are Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields, Linklaters and Simmons & Simmons.” He suggests that it would be best for a third party such as a legal publisher to deliver the common hub.

This announcement does not surprise me. I have thought for some time now that if law firm extranets do succed, they will sow the seeds of their own destruction. In a presentation I gave, The Future of Technology in Law Practice to an ABA section in May 2002, I argued that clients that actively use law firm extranets (1) tend to use more than 1 firm, (2) it’s too hard to use multiple extranets, (3) there needs to be a single, uniform system, (4) law firms will need to upload data to a common place, and (5) data transfer standards will develop.

I agree with Susskind that it may be difficult to achieve this goal with multiple law firms. Two years ago, announced an initiative to create a common deal room standard. A press release appeared on Yahoo about this June 18, 2001 and a similar one is still available at LawCommerce. As far as I know, the “major technology initiative to create a world wide standard for Online Deal Rooms” did not develop much traction.

My last comment is that the potential third party providers extend beyond legal publishers. For example, IntraLinks provides a common extranet platform.