Has legal information been commoditized? A 3 Geeks and a Law Blog post tackles this issue. It would certainly seem that primary source material has been commoditized and even some secondary source material may be on its way to widget status as editorial budgets are cut.
Robert McKay in a comment to the post writes:
I think they (i.e. the large publishers) may have lost their ability to develop non-commoditized content while not having the vision to exploit the primary sources.
One fundamental frustration in using almost any treatise, practice guide, court rules handbook, or other legal source, is that they often contain little if any localized information. All politics is local supposedly. If that is true, it must be even more so that all legal practice is local (even when it isn’t truly local). Despite this, an attorney in unfamiliar practice territory, either in terms of location or practice area, finds little practical guidance on what to expect in certain jurisdictions, counties, and courts both in terms of procedural and substantive law as well as any unwritten rules of local practice which won’t be accessible anywhere-even among a court website’s PDFs.
Is this a case where some degree of Wiki-style (but editor-directed) crowdsourcing would need to be employed to create these treatise/practice guides? Should publishers be exploring them (to the extent that many of them probably aren’t currently) as a source of possible revenue growth in a declining market? How difficult would it be to find attorneys willing to write for them and comment on the practices of particular courts (and by implication, judges)?