A Legal Publisher Considers Web 2.0

Today’s Information Week has a provocative piece in which a Sweet & Maxwell executive talks about Web 2.0 and the legal marketplace.

A few choice quotes:

“The challenge to publishers is how we put our content into new and meaningful contexts,” says Peter Lake, managing director of legal information provider Sweet & Maxwell , which after 207 years of serving the same marketplace could certainly be accused of being a traditional publisher.

Lake understands the need to adopt Web 2.0 themes for his digital services, but is at pains to point out that some markets present real challenges. “The problem is trying to get the benefit of Web 2.0 to people who are restrained by rules,” he says.

Lake is fascinated by how information providers can offer applications for collaboration with customers and they collaborate among themselves.

Lake says Sweet & Maxwell wants to act as an “honest broker” for information such as pay rates and is researching a system where users can anonymously contribute their own details to build a better picture. Even if such systems do not use Web 2.0 technology, increasing the interaction between users and suppliers has a Web 2.0 ring to it.

Someone had suggested to Sweet & Maxwell that court proceedings information should be opened up, enabling users to annotate that information for their own purposes and share the additional layer of information they have created.

Not so fast, says Lake: “Legal publishers are always adding on top of proprietary data. The legal market is based on people commenting.”


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