Web 2.0 – a law publisher’s view

By Nick Holmes on March 5, 2007
Filed under Law 2.0, Law publishing, Web 2.0

In an article in Information World Review, Will Web 2.0 revolutionise information providers or kill them?, Peter Lake, chairman of the Sweet & Maxwell Group, give his views on its implications for law publishers. Simon Chester on Slaw has helpfully excerpted the comments. Here are a few, stripped of all the original context:

The challenge to publishers is how we put our content into new and meaningful contexts. …

The problem is trying to get the benefit of Web 2.0 to people who are restrained by rules. …

Legal publishers are always adding on top of proprietary data. The legal market is based on people commenting.

I’m not entirely sure sure what to make of all this. I shall seek to find out.

My feeling is that Sweet & Maxwell and the other established law publishers will initially seek to leverage existing information services by adding Web 2.0 functions, whereas the generational leap requires them to start with a blank sheet and develop new services from the ground up


I don’t think Sweet & Maxwell are particularly good at Web 1.0 stuff, let alone 2.0.

Their online bookshop is awful, with many multiple entries and little to no info on the books themselves. If you try and get hold of a journal that they publish, you really are going to struggle.

Am I alone in this, or does that reflect most people’s experiences?

by Martin on 5 March 2007 at 7:18 pm. #

Legal publishers in general (I have published seven law books to date with two major legal publishers) have no clue what to do with the Internet. I don’t think they are even at Web 1.0. Their idea of the Internet is a paperless medium to publish their content in exactly the same format as in books. When I talk to my publisher about using the medium for innovative content, their immediate reaction is NO.

For example, I have offered to turn one of my books into a wikipedia type of product where users to add to it, disagree with my opinions, etc. No go. I have also offered to establish a site for legal blogs for their authors. Again, no go. I have also suggested an innovative concept for a legal newsletter. No interest.

I do not think we can expect established legal publishers to “get it”. It will be up to a new crop of entrepreneurs to move legal research and publishing into the 21st Century.


by Michael Scott on 6 March 2007 at 12:27 am. #

Newspapers are starting to leverage their columnists to help build their web brands – real time blogging, increased opportunities for readers to comment, and eventually trackbacks & wiki-style open editing. It will certainly be interesting to see how long it takes legal publishers to adopt a similar model.

It will also be interesting to see if their stable of authors are even interested to partnering in such a relationship. Unlike the strong employer/employee relationship in newspaper publishing, legal experts often have their own competing brands and business interests.

by Steve Matthews on 6 March 2007 at 5:44 pm. #

Practical Law Company have started a wiki project – PLC wiki. There are a few pages on the recently published Code for Leasing Business Premises in England and Wales 2007.

Anyone is invited to make contributions.

by Niels on 30 March 2007 at 5:16 pm. #

I took 2 minutes to look at it and left utterly confused.

by nickholmes on 4 April 2007 at 5:14 pm. #