Two relatively new web sites offer the legal market a way to market services, share documents, and build community. To some extent, each is trying to apply the Facebook or MySpace paradigm to lawyers. 

First, some history. Fifteen years ago David Johnson, David Post, and I (then all of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering, now WilmerHale) published Colleagues Exchange (Corporate Legal Times, March 1992). We proposed an online system for lawyers to find and connect with each other across firms and to share work product. It was commercialized as Counsel Connect by then American Lawyer (now ALM / Incisive) and was subsequently purchased by LexisNexis.

Now, two companies have launched web services conceptually similar to Counsel Connect. I’ve had personal and positive experience with Legal Onramp (LOR), which “provides content, connectivity and execution services to help legal professionals deliver higher quality work in less time and lower cost. We are working with leading professionals from major corporations and leading law firms to provide technology and services that will meet the business imperatives of the future.” It is a by-invitation community exclusively for legal market professionals, offering discussion forums, social network features, a marketplace, and shared work product. Net-Working – Web 2.0-enhanced sites get in-house counsel talking (Inside Counsel, March 2008) features LOR.

A more recent market entry is JD Supra, which “promotes the free exchange of information to benefit the legal community, legal consumers, the media and the general public.” It offers community, networking, consumer resources, real-time news, and a large document collection. (The JD Supra FAQ provides more explanation.)

Both are promising ways for lawyers and clients and to interact and share information. My take is that LOR is targeted more at high end, B2B services; it explicitly targets inhouse counsel. JD Supra appears targeted at both B2B and B2C and, at least right now, focused primarily on content rather than community. As an early proponent of this type of idea, I hope to see both sites succeed. I think given the economic pressures and bad market dynamics in both the B2B and B2C legal markets, both have excellent prospects.