Law 2.0 business model: filtering and aggregation

Sunday, July 8, 2007

I have discussed the application of the long tail quite lengthy in several post. Recently David Hornik said in his blog that those who will gain money from the long tail phenomenon are aggregators and filterers:

The aggregators are those web businesses that seek to collect up as much of the Long Tail content as is possible, so as to make their "stores" a one stop shop for content no matter how popular or obscure. The value to consumers from these content aggregators is that they need not shop in dozens of places on the web in order to acquire a diverse set of content. As a result, aggregators are able to extract a disproportionate amount of value for the sale of each individual piece of content.

The filterers are those businesses that make it easier to find the content in which we are interested, despite the increasing proliferation of content creators, hosts, aggregators, etc. Again, while these different filtering technologies may make it slightly more likely that an end user finds his or her way to a piece of obscure content, it will not likely be sufficient to catapult an artist into the mainstream. The beneficiary of the filtering is the end user and the filterer, not the content owner per se.
I have discussed the value of filtering in my previous post:

More choice = more freedom
More freedom = more welfare

# More choice = more welfare (False?)

Barry Schwartz, a psychologist at Swarthmore suggest that the syllogism above could be false. In his book, "The Paradox of Choice", he argued that more choices are essentially good as it reflects improvements, but, there are dark sides of having more choices:

1. Paralysis. We don't choose at all. Many people stays single, right? :)
2. Poor decisions and performance quality. We made bad choices.
3. Dissatisfaction, dissappointment. We are not happy despite our choices.
4. Opportunity costs. The cost in choosing stuff could even be greater than the stuff itself!
5. Time Pressure. Too many choice makes us feel like we are being rushed.
6. Escalation of expectation. When we spent lots of time in choosing, we expect that the stuff we finally choose is a good stuff. When we turned out wrong, we become dissapointed.
7. Self Blame. Good feelings gradually reduces. Bad feelings escalates and change forms.

More choices is better, only if it occurs in any of these two situations. First, Preference Articulation. If you really know hat you want, more choice is better. Most people never have this. Or, second, Alignable Option. If the options can be scaled down to the similar size. Most people never have this too.

How would this be applicable to the legal business? Well, I see several opportunities. First, there are many blogs out there preaching about the law. There are quite so many boilerplates provisions available for free and listing documents (containing contracts) available also for free. The point is how to aggregate them. Some have been doing this through blog aggregators.

Filtering is done by making the best recommendations for clients, which blawgs or which legal service, or which legal form is preferable.

Both arguments above however, comes up with several assumptions:
  1. The legal society willingly shares its content (some fact: nobody shares boilerplates provisions freely, its not like uploading photos in flickr)
  2. Big lawfirms disagregates and legal business is conducted as a small-business (some fact: web 2.0 does not seem to have the power to "disagregate" giant lawfirms, yet)
  3. There is a web 2.0 social networking tool that would enable "small-business" lawyers to collaborate with people from other lawfirms. (some fact: it may not be in the nature of lawyers to collaborate with each other, except when they are defending the same client, of course)