For the rest of you, if you haven’t heard of Legal OnRamp, I intend to remedy that here and now. Consider what follows one small step in the unveiling of Legal OnRamp.
A collaborative service of leading law departments and law firms, it’s intended to pool and build upon the knowledge and experience of these two key constituencies of the legal community and, by doing so, to provide a 21st Century tool to help get work done faster and with higher quality.
Ambitious? Yes, but taking a page from the finest and most venerable traditions of the legal profession, insofar as the goal is essentially to help lawyers and their clients collaborate more effectively. Ten years ago I embarked on an attempt to achieve a similar goal as CEO of the late Pro/Se Systems, Inc., which was designed to:
- Bring together the combined legal content of willing members of the AmLaw 100—the tons and tons of client alerts, advisories, updates, briefing papers, backgrounders, presentations, etc., which is now sitting on shelves in 3-ring binders in major metropolitan areas—and digitize it, making it plain-text searchable;
- With the Fortune 1000 as subscribers to this massive content repository, able in seconds to find the most germane articles addressing their legal question du jour.
In other words, bringing together supply (AmLaw 100) and demand (Fortune 1000) to provide a sophisticated online service for answering day to day legal questions all for the price of a subscription: "I own restricted (Rule 144) stock; what can I do with it?" "I have to fire a 60-year-old; what do I need to know?" You get the idea.
Legal OnRamp is that idea—and far far more—a decade later. For one thing, it’s a reflection of how companies are doing things fundamentally differently now, with far deeper learning available from sectors outside the law such as CAD, web, and enterprise systems.
Here’s just some of what it has to offer:
- Content: FAQ’s on the law, updates and publications from firms, "blogs from legal thought-leaders" (yours truly is a member), and standard forms and templates.
- Community: Designed to facilitate communication and business deals between the members of "LOR," with forums and online discussions.
- Collaboration: A way to get work done between outside lawyers and in-house professionals.
Other features include real-time flagging of who among the members of your personally selected community are currently online on the site ("Facebook" for lawyers), private and secure collaborative workspaces and wikis, with more to come.
Who’s behind it?
Cisco, first of all, as foreshadowed in this earlier article of mine. But on the law firm side, some names you are familiar with:
- Allen & Overy
- Baker Botts
- Fenwick & West
- Frost Brown Todd
- Littler Mendelson
- Morgan Lewis
- Pepper Hamilton
- Pillsbury Winthrop
Whether or not it will be as seminal and as ground-breaking as it aspirations, I think it’s not too soon to say:
- It’s an idea whose time will come.
- The odds of success today—for a host of reasons ranging from dirt-cheap servers and open-source software to more creative thinkers in our profession as a whole—beat those of a decade ago, with a stick.
- It has deep-pocketed backers, a conservative growth model, and with its modest spending rate and some early revenue streams, can survive for a long time without needing to achieve escape velocity.
Part of my fascination with Legal OnRamp stems from an observation many have made about our profession: That law firms won’t fundamentally change until clients demand it. Legal OnRamp invites firms to change—at least in some respects—in anticipation of where clients are going: To go where the puck will be, if you will.
If, like me, you’re intensely curious about ways in which our profession can evolve, while staying true to its roots of placing client service front and center, you’ll want to know about Legal OnRamp. I can tell you that it’s a ride I’ve signed up for.
As they say in Times Square, "check it out."