I have long been a Marxist about legal market Extranets. If they succeed, they sow their own destruction because in-house counsel will not be willing to log-on to multiple extranets. Now, a group of law firms and investment banks in the UK are piloting a common extranet to share legal updates. 

Interview: Seeing through the portal in LegalIT reports that “[n]ine investment banks currently use a web portal pilot to access fully searchable legal updates that are uploaded and indexed by Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance (CC), Freshfields, Linklaters and Simmons & Simmons.”

Planning for this pilot began in 2002 and I reported on it in June 2003, based on an article in The Times (of London). Though the outcome of the pilot is uncertain, it “is expected that the portal will be opened up to other banks and firms and that more content-types and functionality will be available.”

The 2003 Times article stressed online access to a single system. This article, however, places the emphasis elsewhere: “Updates have long been pilloried for failing to meet client needs — and through [this pilot] clients have found a way to tailor the updates, rather than waiting for law firms to improve them. ”

This pilot was conceived prior to the explosion in blogging. If in fact updates are the real concern, then it would be interesting also to pilot blogs and RSS. I have previously suggested that a combination of the two could provide law departments with highly customized feeds.

Whether the market moves toward standardized extranets or blogs+RSS, large law firms seem increasingly likely to face a future where clients call the shots on how they would like information delivered.