Law 2.0? Been there, done that
As it happens, the 2.0 in Web 2.0 is not really new to lawyers at all. See, what makes the Web "2.0" is a departure from the static pages of a decade ago in favor of interactive, zippy, destinations and instant mass communication between other users as well as the creators of those pages. In short, the emphasis online has shifted from information to people. And with web pages becoming ever easier to create there are more people than ever with whom to communicate. No wonder people are capitalizing on the online population explosion by using devices such as:
§ social networks: an easy way to identify yourself (usually with a picture or icon), put up content like music and video files, and meet others who have done the same. Instant friends.
§ blogs: originally just a one-way form of communication when combined with other tools blogs can actually be used interactively by many people to collect the wisdom of a group. Blogs have distinguished themselves as a lawyer’s best friend.
§ wikis: easy, I mean really easy, to build websites that can be edited by as small or large a group as you determine. Great for collaborating on cases, pleadings, articles, etc.
§ viral e-mail, audio, and video: often a waste of time, but potentially a great way to get a message to the masses such as an ad, a public service announcement, call to action, you name it.
§ streaming content: it’s now feasible to see and hear things online as they happen just like on TV – except you can also show that exact clip or message to everyone whose opinions matter to you.
§ wisdom of crowds/crowd-sourcing: this is the general theory that if you can poll the virtual electorate you end up tapping into a collective brain with which to solve problems. In short, this vision of the world says that 10,000,000 heads are better than one.
So when we get down to it, what’s new about all this? Why right off the bat we know that:
§ before cyberspace there was space
§ before social networking there was networking
§ before blogs there were the courthouse steps
In fact, it looks like the legal profession achieved 2.0-ness long before the Web. Collectively lawyers have been into social networking and the wisdom of crowds since there were crowds: long enough to have perfected little things like communications, critical thinking, and just plain self-governance. So what do we have to show for being the first 2.0 profession? We don’t come up short in that department – consider these contributions:
§ the only viable alternative to violence (courts)
§ a system for gathering opinions from millions and putting them into effect (legislation)
§ a way to meet the needs of those millions based on the efforts of smart citizens (government)
In short, we’re the architects of the modern social machine and the masterminds that make it work. Not bad for a group that’s often maligned and always misunderstood by the public. And to think we lawyers have been doing all this it since before it was cool. But that’s what makes us cool. So don’t be afraid of the 2.0 – you’ve seen it all before and know it already. Congratulations on being so hip.
Mazyar M. Hedayat, Editor