What the Internet is not:
A hotbed of pornography. Uninformed journalists will write about what they know. They do not know very much about the workings of the Internet.
A club for computer nerds. Sure, there are some nerds lurking out there. But there are many more ordinary people just like you and me.
An exclusive discussion forum for academics. Yes, the academic community has played a leading role in nurturing and developing the Internet, but it is available to all.
What it is:
A global communications medium. The Internet links together thousands of participating computer networks worldwide, so that anyone with access to one computer network also has access to all other networks.
A global publishing medium. Millions of documents are published on the Internet. Using the World Wide Web, you can browse through information published anywhere on the Internet, using hypertext links to follow your research path.
A global marketing medium. As more people and organisations join the Internet, it offers an increasingly effective and powerful promotional medium.
It is inherently interactive, allowing potential clients to respond directly to you as well as to receive information from you, establishing a genuine communications link.
In fact, a hybrid medium for electronic publishing, communications and services.
Why lawyers should use it:
Both existing and potential clients are out there on the Internet. Thousands of companies, large and small, as well as millions of individuals – about 30 million worldwide – are on it, and this number is increasing at the rate of about 10 per cent per month.
Other lawyers and law firms are on the Internet. Thousands of lawyers and law students already use the Internet to communicate with each other, with existing and potential clients and with other business and social contacts.
A small number of UK law firms have also established a publishing presence on the Web and numbers are likely to increase rapidly.
Legal resources are published on the Internet. At the moment, there's not a great deal there for the average UK lawyer, but before very long you will be complaining that there's too much.
Your suppliers are on the Internet. Whether you're looking for information, assistance or supplies, you'll find every type of organisation on the Internet, from major systems suppliers, insurance companies, individual consultants and experts.
Your image is on the line. Your presence on the Internet will tell existing and potential clients that you are up-to-date with new technology.
Accessing the Internet is inexpensive:
Internet service providers' monthly charges are about £10 to £15 per month – about the same you pay to a cellular phone provider. After that accessing the Internet is usually just the cost of a local call.
Publishing on the Internet is inexpensive:
You can publish information on the Web at a fraction of the costs of preparing and distributing conventional print media. Your site will be continuously on-line and can reach many thousands of directly interested people globally.
Nick Holmes is director of Information for Lawyers. Email NickHolmes@cityscape.co.uk. Information for Lawyers' home page address is http://www.