From time to time, I will note developing areas of technology that may affect how “the law” is used by corporations and their lawyers in the future. I feel a file-sharing program called BitTorrent falls into this category.
Yesterday, Seth Godin touched on BitTorrent in his excellent weblog (his books are even better). Note that part 2 is available by clicking on the top of the linked page. It’s a great summary. Even more detailed information is available here, which references a recent article on BitTorrent in Wired (hmmm, I like that word).
BitTorrent has been viewed in some circles as solely a means for unauthorized file-sharing (such as music or movies). While that certainly has happened, there are now sources for authorized media.
The amazing thing about BitTorrent to me: the more that use it, the faster the downloads are. Rather than all information residing on one server, it resides on many, and the dispersed network helps to eliminate bottlenecks and thus increase download speeds.
So what does this all mean for law?
What about a file you could download that has all the briefs in an a appellate case and a video of the oral argument? What about all the legislative history considered by Congress in enacting a new environmental statute? Or every employment agreement that’s in the SEC Edgar database? Once all governmental entities follow common file formats and Internet access protocols, the point could tip.
I wonder if the word “BitTorrent” in the strategic plans of Thomson and Reed Elsevier?
What about a leading lawyer in a law firm that offers a monthly 15 minute video update on her area of expertise for $299 per year? Bad deal if one general counsel subscribes–that’s an effective rate of $99 per hour. Better deal if 1,000 do. Best deal when some call for more detailed help.
Once access to legal information is open and quick, it will be harder to sell. The law (as in what we research) becomes essentially free. Those lawyers (inside and outside counsel) who move from being information relayers and re-packagers to value-added advisors will prosper.