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Open Niche Publishing by Lawyers Likely to Prevail Over Paywalls

December 8, 2021

Microsoft’s president and vice-chair, Brad Smith was the first person who explained open source software as a viable business product in a way I could understand it.

Until then I could never figure out how a collective group people could produce something – software, and give it away for free.

He talked of building products and solutions on top of it, archiving content in an open way which Google was doing by selling advertising and more.

Open source software, versus selling software, could flourish with Smith’s thinking. And with a greater group of developers working on the software the end product would be better.

It’s much the same with open legal publishing. We have the traditional model where large legal publishers pay a limited group of people to publish and edit content and then sell access by the piece or by subscription.

We even have newer legal research and AI platforms behaving similarly. They’re partnering with publishers or publishing their own products and selling it by subscription. Their portfolio offering arguably becomes more valuable.

The problem with the traditional model of legal publishing is that the topics covered are limited, access is limited so knowledge does not grow on what’s been written and its expensive.

Plus you have to tell everyone that your content is validated, peer reviewed and edited. This is more of a business saving claim than something that makes what you publish more valuable than open legal publishing.

Open legal publishing is largely in the form of legal blogs.

Lawyers are publishing on niches far down the long tail. Niches not being covered, nor will they ever be covered, by traditional publishers.

The publishing is timely – what people expect on the net. Niche legal blog posts are published the day it’s relevant.

Content flows seamlessly the way people are used to getting information today. By email, by news aggregators, by Twitter, by LinkedIn and by Facebook.

Google, the first place lawyers and the public go for any information they want indexes open law and makes it readily excessively. Not so for content coming from traditional legal publishers.

I just can’t see how open law will not prevail over traditional legal publishing.

And if open law progresses as fast as open software advanced, open law is going to be upon us sooner than we think.