Web week

The Lawyer‘s Web Week is a weekly commentary on legal activity on the web. This includes an overview of the best of the week’s blogs. If you want to direct us to useful links, email webweek@thelawyer.com.

When the Levy breaks
Among the many blogs detailing the continuing fundraising-related woes of Tony Blair and Lord Levy, Web Week particularly enjoyed this gem on “Guido Fawkes’ blog of plots, rumours and conspiracy” (www.5thnovember.blogspot.com).

“In this week’s Speccie, Fraser Nelson has a breathless piece on the Tory fundraising bonanza, which includes, as an aside, the news that, ‘the once-formidable Blair-Levy double-act has been closed by the Metropolitan Police’s investigation, soon to be handed to the Crown Prosecution Service. It will not, I understand, end in charges for Tony Blair or any of his senior lieutenants’.

“Fancy a bet Fraser? Loser buys lunch and a decent bottle of wine. Suspect the toast will be to the boys in blue…”

Floating the idea
As last week’s news broke that accounting firm Smith & Williamson was preparing itself for an IPO, the word on the web was how close we might be to the first UK law firm listing.

On 25 January US-based Bruce MacEwen, creator and host of www.adamsmithesq .com/blog, issued a wake-up call to his colleagues on the other side of the Atlantic.”‘Goldman Sachs on line one, Blackstone Partners on line two – they both want to buy 20 per cent of the firm.’

“Could that be a scenario you, or your successors, will be facing some day? In the UK, something very like it is already happening.” MacEwen is convinced that whatever UK managing partners are currently saying, the local market will see a succession of outside investments “almost as soon as the lid comes off”.

MacEwen’s take on it is that lawyers in general need “to learn (to paraphrase Oliver Wendell Holmes), if not by logic, by experience”. He continues: “And we have all seen what happened when the ‘Big Bang’ in London and in New York deregulated securities broker-dealers: those that did not quickly pump up their balance sheets constitute a roster of names now in the netherworld.

“You differ? Trading on a global platform is nothing if not capital-intensive, while law firms are nothing if not labor-intensive? Fair point. But one can make savvy investments in labor, as well, and in developing a cross-border technology and infrastructure platform that can provide lasting competitive advantage to your professionals and your clients.

“The fun part is that about a year from now the gloves will come off. I for one can’t wait to see what happens.”

From a floppy to a stiffy
Web Week’s eye was also caught by the following masterclass in IT history and paean to the floppy disk on www.binary law.co.uk. In case you haven’t come across it, Binary Law is a site that focuses on legal information, including “how it is authored, edited, managed, processed and published; who uses it, why and what for; its syntax and semantics”.

And, okay, while this posting last Tuesday (30 January) is not strictly about law – in fact it’s not about law at all – it really does deserve to reach a wider audience.

“So, PC World has decided to let stocks of floppy disks run out. And that will be the end of it. Only yesterday I finally donated a CopyPro disk copier, purchased in the early 1990s for a substantial four-figure sum, to a worthy recipient who runs jumble sales of PC stuff. In its heyday it was used to produce thousands of copies per month. Now it is worthless.

“The death of the floppy disk has been a long time coming and it deserves a suitable obituary. Although the best-known floppy format was the 3.5-inch 1.44Mb version, did you know that the first 1969 floppy was the 8-inch IBM 23FD (read-only) with 81.7 kb capacity? Or that it reached the dizzy heights of 200MB capacity in 1998 with the HiFD? It’s all there in the Wikipedia (rely on that if you will). In South Africa, the 3.5-inch floppy is/was known as a ‘stiffy’ – ie somewhat less flexible than the classic 5.25-inch floppy popularised by the IBM PC in the mid 1980s.”

Some people just have too much time.