I recently bought a book entitled “What Would Google Do?” It’s written by Jeff Jarvis, who blogs at buzzmachine.com.Â In addition to the intriguing title, my attention was captured by raving reviews on the cover by Chris Anderson (author of The Long Tail), Craig Newmark (founder of craigslist.com) and other Web 2.0 gurus. With these guys all describing how revolutionary the book is, how could I go wrong by devoting a few hours to reading it?
The basic premise of the book is described on the first page: “It seems as if no company, executive, or institution truly understands how to survive and prosper in the Internet age. Except Google. So, faced with most any challenge today, it makes sense to ask: WWGD? What would Google do?
As a lawyer who has been using the Internet to obtain and communicate with clients since the year 2000, I suspected there might be some difficulties in applying Google-think to the legal profession. So after I got the book home, I peeked into the index to see if there was anything about applying Google’s principles to the legal profession. It turned out that there is; it’s in a chapter entitled Exceptions: PR and Lawyers, God and Apple. My first thought was, “you aren’t in bad company if you’re in a list with God and Apple. But I was mistaken. The chapter was divided into sections, with lawyers falling into the section labeled PR and lawyers: Hopeless.
Jarvis writes: “The problem for public relations people and lawyers is that they have clients. They must represent a position, right or wrong. As they are paid to do that, the motives behind anything they say are necessarily suspect. They cannot be transparent, for that might hurt their clients. … They must negotiate to the death, which makes them bad at collaboration.”
I’m not sure about that “negotiate to the death” part, but Jarvis makes some interesting points. He suggests a few ways that lawyers are taking advantage of the Internet, then he adds a few more proposals (such as a Wikipedia-like free explanation of laws and legal documents). Jarvis’s ultimate goal would be “to free the law–our law–from the private stranglehold of the legal priesthood.”
Okay, there’s that leal priesthood thing I see from time-to-time. Is it just me, or do other lawyers feel unappreciated when people begin talking about the legal priesthood? If you’re simply looking for a book to help you market your legal services on the Internet, you may want to look past What Would Google Do?