In his post the “Great Google Debate“, Mark Gediman suggested I was wise to not touch the debate on Google, and while I am happy to take the compliment, it also makes me wonder if somewhere down the road we (and by we, I mean those industry insiders, you know who you are) can’t create a Google equivalent to support the Legal industry. Imagine a single source that allows researchers to bridge the chasm between the business of law and the practice of law.  Let me explain.

On that same panel at AALL, I was asked where CI should report, my reaction drew a chuckle and was rapidly tweeted and retweeted. It was something to the effect of “I am tired of having this debate”. And I am, for a variety of reasons.  Where any of the research types or “information and analysis brokers” – Library, CI, KM, Research etc. – report is in my opinion, irrelevant and but an administrative imperative. How and where we add value to the firm and most importantly its bottom line/top line is what matters. I tweeted yesterday that information, intelligence, analysis when used effectively and systemically by firms could be the next disruptive factor, akin to the AFA.  Research, and the information professionals who undertake these tasks are embracing technology and are “to be congratulated for navigating really difficult times in the industry” according to Aric PressBig Law Is Here to Stay, and if its information professionals are going to continue to step up their game in this rapidly changing industry, they need proper tools, a collaborative environment and a checking of the proverbial egos (and related reporting structures) at the doors. 

Throughout the day, information professionals on the business side of the equation, search Google, subscription databases (what’s your favourite??), social media feeds, securities filings, traditional and  new media outlets and should be doing some kind of primary research i.e. talking to people and working the network (that’s a blog post for another time). On the practice side of the equation, legal researchers search corporate precedents, case law, filings, treaties, judgments, dockets, summaries, briefs, memos and other subscription databases. Imagine if you could put it all together, search one platform – a Googlesque type platform minus the paid SEO and get whatever research you needed in one place. How much more efficient, smart and focused on client and legal service could we and our firms be with one magnificent tool at our finger tips. 

Its pie in the sky, but that’s where dreams live, right? Here’s a use case. A proposed change in legislation relating to construction zoning in a particular jurisdiction is announced.  You  – Research Warrior/Maven/Guru  access the details of the proposed changes, and are able to fire it off to the relevant attorneys for an opinion, a LinkedIn Post, or a Client Update, while at the same time researching the number of public (and private, it’s a dream database, right?) companies in the jurisdiction who will be affected. You can also access which of those companies are your clients, your competitor clients, or prospects, and you can analyze the text of the proposed change to determine what the percentage of prior proposals with similar language were accepted, or rejected. With this data in hand, you can do a historiographic or timeline analysis to determine the likelihood of the proposal becoming law and using the same magic portal you can determine which other jurisdictions may adopt similar changes based on a cursory review of relevant local media and social media reactions and commentary.  And let’s not stop there, with a few clicks, you can output all the data into neatly branded reports complete with charts and graphs – a data visualization panacea. At that point, who really cares where you report? You just saved lawyers time, developed new leads, created an opportunity to demonstrate the firm’s value and demonstrated the information professional’s propensity for serial innovation.  Not bad in a day’s work!

Yes, there will be those that suggest it can’t be done, or those who won’t trust the data in a single platform even if it is pulling from multiple (triangulated and vetted) sources.  And course there will be a myriad of UX considerations, search/browse convergence discussions, taxonomy whoas and other finicky things to figure out.   But it would stop the where should we report and should we use Google debates….