Thursday, February 14, 2008

Do Wikis Belong in Law Firms?

Tuesday night I gave a presentation to Toronto Wiki Tuesdays about the use of wikis in law firms. On Monday, to get some additional ideas, I posted a message to Slaw asking for any new examples of wiki use in law firms since I wanted to present more than just wikis I had a hand in myself. The next day a very interesting discussion ensued on Slaw about whether wiki use is suitable for firms. This was a fantastic discussion, starting to really get at the heart of whether a firm should be using wikis and what really works. So much so, that I took the liberty of using the discussion as my "hook" into the presentation.

The group I presented to at Wiki Tuesday was a real cross-section of people interested in wiki use: consultants, tech developers, at least one lawyer, people who have worked with lawyers, people with general interest in wikis, and even some new to wikis. Despite a snow storm progressing outside, we had at least a dozen people present which is a good turn-out for this event.

My slides (with some added annotations) are included below. Not all content of the presentation is captured in the slides of course, so if you have any questions please let me know. Some of the content was given to me in personal email, so I have kept the information anonymous and unattributed.

Do Wikis Belong in Law Firms?

Presentation to Toronto Wiki Tuesdays about use of wikis in law firms and the adoption of wikis by lawyers. Presented February 12, 2008.

SlideShare Link

The subsequent questions from the group were very interesting: they were surprised that there was any wiki use in law firms since they see the culture to be competitive, not one conducive to sharing. We discussed what type of firm might be best for initiating wiki use. The feeling was that one that is used to collaboration, possibly as part of a larger knowledge management program, would find wikis useful. A firm with teams working across a number of geographically dispersed locations might also find it a useful tool. Finally, it was speculated that a smaller firm with younger members (such as a 5-lawyer firm) with the goal of working as a team could really find some value in wiki use and might be the most likely space we would see wiki adoption by lawyers.

Finally, we discussed some of the original concerns about the use of wikis when there are so many systems in place. One distinction is that with knowledge management systems, the emphasis is submitting documents and analysis after the fact. Wiki use emphasizes work in progress and collaborating on the end result. In this way, lawyers may find wikis more useful in the process of working on a project rather than after the fact.

We also discussed the "open law" projects first initiated at Cornell, which CanLII participates in, how this is meant to open the law and make it accessible to the public. Although they are largely creating controlled, edited systems, they in some ways have the collaborative ideal that wikis and the "open source" movement aspires to. We looked at screen shots of the wiki Wex from Cornell, and the wiki JurisPedia that is meant to be from a number of jurisdictions around the world. Martin Cleaver pointed out that JurisPedia was an excellent example of a wiki being used to bring different cultures together.

One participant thought that it would only be a matter of time before solo lawyers or those in smaller firms would get together to share things like model documents, precedents and the like on a wiki platform. This reminded me of the new service JD Supra in which firms can contribute and share their documents. I mentioned it briefly at the session; it isn't yet open yet, but according to Larry Bodine, it will be going live very soon. It is in a "private beta phase" right now. Seems to me I had an invite a while back to have a look around--I will have to check back through my email. If I do, I will have a look and write more about it.

I have to thank my friends and colleagues for sharing what they know here and over at Slaw. I hope the discussion continues. A special thanks to Ted Tjaden who played the vital role of devil's advocate and took our ribbing in good humour, and to Doug Cornelius for pointing me to material about wikis that he has written on his blog over at his blog KM Space.


Anonymous said...

LawMyWay Blog has a good post about them using wiki-based collaboration software Central Desktop. Sounds like lawyers are waking up to Web 2.0!

Click Here For the Law My Way Blog Post about Central Desktop

Doug Cornelius said...

Connie -

Thanks for putting together this great collection of material.

Connie Crosby said...

I appreciate all your help, Doug, and look forward to what else you have to say on it on your blog KM Space


Anonymous said...

Connie - Great presentation, and even though I've worked with lawyers and law firms on KM-oriented projects, still shocking to see/read your examples.

You might be interested in our newly (and freely) released Market IQ on Enterprise 2.0. Not dedicated to wikis, law firms or KM, but puts some meat on the bones for who is doing what.

Anonymous said...

You might be interested to know that a group of small law firms in Singapore are using a collaboration platform as a competitive tool against the bigger brethrens. It's at