The future of law publishing

First published in the Solicitors Journal, September 1996.

These days a month is a long time in publishing, and two months even more so. This summer (still referred to as ‘the silly season’ by those who are writing about those who have nothing better to write about) was no exception. Two notable events occurred while 1 was (a) preparing for a break in foreign climes and (b) enjoying the same. These were: (1) the publication of Richard Susskinds’s The Future of Law and (2) the release of LINK 96. The former was notable because it happened, the latter because it did not.

Richard Susskind’s book was a surprisingly easy read, though I confess to skipping chunks as I tired of the repetition. It was somewhat incongruous to be reading it in a country which I’m told has only 400 practising lawyers and in a location whose only communications technology was a radio. It has already been reviewed in several journals, the most accessible review for Web lawyers is Delia Venables’ at If you don’t feel inclined to read the 200-odd pages on the subject, most of the points are made in his SCL Lecture published at Computers and Law June/July 1996, p 23.

Susskind postulates a model for today’s legal services and one for the future. Restated, his message is this: ‘You chaps can’t go on sitting on your backsides dispensing purely legal advice to individual clients, charging for it by the unit and hedging it around with ‘provided thats’ and ‘subject tos’. You’d better get on your bikes and chum up with or become an electronic publisher, packaging up your expertise together with sound commercial assistance at a level of generality that will attract a broader customer base. Oh … and beware the slumbering accounting and consulting giants – they’re on to this wheeze already.’

What does this have to do with the Web? Simply that the Web is unarguably the medium of the future and services such as those described are already being delivered on it. Watch this (cyber)space.

LINK 96 in 96 (by a whisker?)

LINK 96 hasn’t arrived yet. Last year we waited eight months for the arrival of Windows 95 and we can blame Bill again for the fact that we may need to wait most of this year for LINK 96.

LINK 96 will offer similar facilities to the current service, but will do so as an intranet (a private Web), viewed using a standard compatible Web browser. While it will be perfectly possible to use LINK 96 with Netscape 2 or above, the preferred browser shipping with LINK 96 will be Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 3 which provides markedly friendlier email and newsgroup (discussion) functions. Ease of use for these aspects of the system is seen as a vital factor in a market which is notoriously technology-shy: a less-than-obvious interface would deter many in the crucial early months. The snag is that while Internet Explorer 3 is available for Windows 95 and NT platforms, it is not yet available for Windows 3.1, and as the majority of LINK users and PC users in general are still with Win 3.1, there is no alternative but to wait… or compromise.

A point to note is that access to the Web through LINK 96 will cost you £100 per annum and you will need to use LINK for this connectivity even if you already have Web access with another service provider.

LINK 96 is previewing its service at