Monday, May 5, 2008

Forms, JD Supra, and What Do You Think?

Consider this post as an open invitation for comments. I encourage anyone to let the world (well, the very small slice of the world reading this blog) know what they think about posting forms to Net and JD Supra.

JD Supra is a recent and probably important Internet legal resource. That The New York Times published Lawyers Open Their File Cabinets for a Web Resource might show the site has drawn some important attention except that The Times filed the article under "Novelties".

The Times described the site like this:

It works like this: Lawyers who contribute to JD Supra dip into their hard drives for articles, court papers, legal briefs and other tidbits of their craft. They upload the documents, as well as a profile of themselves that is linked to each document. Site visitors who have a legal problem and are thinking about finding a lawyer can use an easily searchable database to look up, say, “trademark infringement,” find related documents and, if they like the author’s experience and approach, perhaps click on his or her profile.

Okay, that is the idea. Not probably as attractive to the DIY crowd as it will be to lawyers, but let me go on to Vancouver Law Librarian Blog's NY Times Covers Consumer Benefits of JD Supra.

Vancouver Law Librarian Blog puts forward a much more interesting question than did The New York Times (which is probably because The Times was not writing as a lawyer for lawyers to read):
Looking purely from a consumer's view, I see the benefits of sharing work product as:
  • The ability to read these documents & become better informed;
  • Increased reliability of documents where Lawyers take public ownership of them;
  • Researching legal issues within a collection of vetted documents;
  • Ability to identify a lawyer with rare experience (& not worth the lawyer's effort to market);
  • Ability to identify expertise by geographic region or practice area;
When decisions & execution are *this* important, I can't see DIY legal work being an issue. The question then becomes, are Consumers better off with these documents available?

The bullet points make sense and I cannot disagree with them. I can see how we might better explain the law by exposing the public to our work product. That is, show the how the abstraction of a statute (or whatever source of law) becomes reality in the shape of a pleading.

I have made my opinions about doing your own legal work more explicit on my Indiana Divorce & Family Law Blog (which you can see here) than I have on this blog. Before running across JD Supra, I was always troubled by the fact that forms need to be put into the correct legal context. No one uses a hammer where a scalpel is the proper tool but I see that possibility whenever one does their own legal work. I think JD Supra might address that problem.

So anyone want to sound off one way or another?