How to spend £100 this Christmas

First published in the Solicitors Journal, December 1995.

Back in October Delia Venables and Charles Christian published their Guide to the Internet for Lawyers. This has attracted favourable reviews from Laurence Eastham in Computers and Law (somewhat guarded it has to be said) and Nigel Armitage in the Legal Times (unreserved), though understandably the ‘substantial price tag’ of £100 is considered ‘somewhat expensive’ for this slim volume of 60 pages.

I don’t seek to review it here. Indeed, though I have not read it, I am happy to accept the above reviewers’ favourable conclusions. But the questions have to be asked: Does this work have a place? If so, is it worth the £100 price tag? Or are there better ways to spend your £100 this Christmas in the quest for all-you-need-to-know-about-the-Internet?

One unarguable fact about the Net is that it, its dependent and related industries, and all related issues, are developing at a phenomenal pace. Any printed work, even if updated monthly, is bound to fail to keep pace. Buy the Guide and you will be well informed about the Internet of the month before last.

It’s not simply a matter of the currency of the information. The Net frees us from reliance on paper publishing, and is particularly suitable for this type of topical publishing, and it strikes me as perverse to publish a work about the Internet in hard-copy at such a price. Certainly, the hype surrounding the Net has made money for the publishers of all sorts of guides and Net-related publications, and good luck to them. Generally, however, the guides are now inexpensive or are given away free. Now Delia Venables and Charles Christian may calculate that it’s not worth publishing an industry-specific guide for such a small niche market at a rock bottom price, never mind giving it away free: I reckon you cannot afford not to. Get the market wired: there will be plenty of opportunities to get a return on your investment then.

If you, the lawyer need to know about the Internet and what it means for you, the best place to find out about it is … you’ve guessed … on the Net. Armed with this knowledge, go out with your £100 and buy yourself a modem if you don’t already have one. A US Robotics Sportster 14.4 (with a recommended retail price of £149) can be had for only a little over £100, though if you have the extra 60 quid or so go for the higher speed 28.8 speed. Then take up a free trial offer with CompuServe or whoever for access to the Net.

That done, simply point your browser at the pages listed in the box on the left for starters. If you’re not satisfied, sell your modem and buy yourself dinner for two.