I have previously written that if law firm extranets succeed, they will sow the seeds of their own destruction. Clients will not want to use multiple systems; instead, a single interface to multiple outside counsel will be required. Along these lines, Charles Christian, in Legal Technology Insider, reports on a new effort to standardize extranets.  

In the 16 Sep 2004 issue, Christian reports that Telestra (the largest Australian company) has created an extranet system that a company called nSynergy now provides to 45 companies in Australia. Moreover, nSynergy has opened for business in the UK.

nSynergy’s LegalNet product, according to the company’s website, is a common platform that offers collaboration features, status on all open matters, a way for clients to requests quotes for new matters, extensive reporting, and project tracking. An article in Australian publication Lawyers Weekly, The Online Brief Manager (21 Nov 2003) provides some interesting background on the history of the project.

Christian also reports that nSyngergy offers LegalNet free to law departments. This could lead to a situation similar to e-billing, where GC receive a service for free but firms pay fees and invest substantial internal resources (see my recent posting on e-billing).

Long-term, I believe that the most flexible and best solution to the issue of sharing data is is adoption of data standards and common technology such as web services. Also, a standards approach strikes me as a good way to avoid what seems like the messy economics that arise from giving product and services to GC for free. “There’s no such thing as a free lunch” applies here. The goal should be to reduce total system costs and share the savings. I worry that “free” really means creating extra costs and shifting costs, rather than reducing them.