I have long championed the idea of online legal services (online services list here and collection of articles here). So I was intrigued to read a recent American Lawyer magazine article (July 2005) that mentions a new online services initiative. 

Clients Unite (at p. 22) reports that last year “lawyers from eight major companies that control more than $1 billion in outside counsel legal work – including Microsoft Corporation, General Motors Corporation, and Cisco Systems, Inc. – have been meeting and exchanging information to try to improve the delivery of legal services.”

The article continues with an interesting tidbit: “In late May this coalition took its first step toward a collective purchase when it invited roughly 20 law firms, plus some other companies, to bid to create an online system that human resources departments could use to get automated answers to routine questions…”

Automating moderately complex, high volume work has long seemed to me an attractive proposition. But the market for online interactive legal services has not developed as I expected or hoped. Perhaps aggregating the demand of several large companies will change the landscape.

Separately, the article also reports that group member Jeffrey Carr, GC of FMC, will create a Web site to rate law firms. I think that’s a great idea too; see my prior blog post on that topic.

Update as of 7/20/05: An article very similar to the one cited above, Clients Unite, is now online here.