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Nick Holmes of infolaw [LexBlog Q & A]

February 5, 2008

Nick Holmes, the guest for today’s LexBlog Q & A, is a publishing consultant serving the English legal world.

Based out of London, he has almost 30 years experience in the legal publishing industry and is currently managing director of the web-focused publishing service infolaw. In addition, Nick writes his own blog Binary Law and is co-publisher with Delia Venables of the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers.

1. Rob La Gatta: In October of last year, you posted on the state of UK law blogs, noting that they were appearing at a rate of about 1 a week. Three months have passed…are they still appearing as frequently? Do you  expect the trend to increase/decrease/remain the same in 2008?

Nick Holmes: That’s still about the rate at which new law blogs are appearing. I expect the trend to remain much the same in 2008.

I now have just over 150 UK law blogs indexed on infolaw; the ABA indexes over 1600 US law blogs. So, given the relative sizes of the professions, it’s clear that we are proportionately considerably behind the US in terms of take up (as a rule of thumb: the profession is 10 times smaller than the US).

2. Rob La Gatta: Is it a safe assumption to say that UK lawyers are taking longer to embrace the blogosphere than American lawyers? If so, why do you think this is the case?

Nick Holmes:

Yes, that’s clearly the case. There are many factors behind this and  it’s difficult to identify a single main cause.

  • Profile. The profiles of the professions are very different in terms of numbers and sizes of law practices; added to which, in the UK the profession is split as between solicitors and barristers in 4 jurisdictions, in the US between 50 jurisdictions. But we can see that these differences could cut both ways.
  • Scale. With Web 2.0 scale is key to the rate of adoption. As mentioned, the US profession is 10 times larger, so inevitably a certain critical mass has been reached earlier. In the UK we are still very much in the land of the early adopters, whereas I see the US climbing rapidly up the steep slopes of the bell curve. Blogging for business has yet to become normal here.
  • Leadership. The professional bodies have not taken a lead in this.
  • Services. There are few companies actively selling blogs and blogging to clients in the way that LexBlog does. That’s not from want of trying, but comes from a realization that the market is not sufficiently receptive.
  • Culture. I mention this last as it’s the usual fall back in explaining differences. It has always been argued we are inherently more reserved and conservative, slower to adopt technologies and less up front and commercial. That does not seem to apply any longer so far as the web in general is concerned as development and take up of online services is as well developed here. But I think in the professions the cultural change is occurring later, as the Internet generation moves into the workplace.

3. Rob La Gatta: One of the main reasons people blog is to become part of a community. Are most of the UK law bloggers you’ve encountered forming networks largely comprised of English lawyers, or are these networks transcending borders and creating relationships with professionals in other nations?

Nick Holmes: There are of course many reasons for blogging. We have a very varied blawgosphere, with many different styles of blog and with networks as varied. The majority within each blogger’s network are naturally enough other UK lawyers; and there is a good flow of conversation between the UK jurisdictions and with Irish bloggers.

But (culture again) we are open to ideas from all over, and I think there is a healthy inclusion of law bloggers from abroad, particularly of course those with a common law heritage – US, Canada, and Australia and beyond.

4. Rob La Gatta:

You noted that some UK firms were using social networks like Facebook. How important do you see social networks as being to lawyers in the digital age?

Nick Holmes: I could answer this question at length, but suffice it to say simply that my view is that the *web* is the network and that everyone and everything will be soon be connected via open standards on the “Giant Global Graph”.

5. Rob La Gatta: Now that your FamilyLawPipe has been around for a couple weeks, what type of responses have you gotten from the blogosphere? Is this something you expect to take off as a way of aggregating feeds in the future?

Nick Holmes: First I should say that the FamilyLawPipe I created with Yahoo Pipes was just a quick experiment; a work in progress from which I was not yet seeking and never expected any immediate feedback. However, I checked the box that said Yahoo could publicize it, and within hours John Bolch – the leading UK family law blogger – had picked up on it and posted about it. So I posted about it as well!

Since then, I’ve had encouraging feedback from several of my immediate network of blog friends. Yahoo Pipes is just one possible tool to use in the armory of services now available for reading, aggregating and repurposing feeds. And, yes, I do expect this activity to take off. It’s what Web 2.0 is all about.

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