Clifford Chance has staked its claim to be the first international law firm to launch into cyberspace by setting up an Internet-based information server.
The giant firm has established the server on the World Wide Web (WWW). It contains descriptions of the firm and its area of work, specialised articles by lawyers and details of publications. The WWW allows Internet users to retrieve multimedia information on "home pages", which can hold graphics, motion and sound files in addition to text.
"We see this as a first step," says Christopher Millard, partner in the media, computer and communications group.
"Within 48 hours of connection we had received feedback from Australia and New Zealand." Users can request further information in addition to accessing it.
Future development depends on feedback, but the firm could put on conference papers, newsletters and other standardised material. The firm's home page is at http:// www.Clifford Chance.com and can be accessed using Web browsing software.
The attraction of the service is that over 40 million users worldwide have access to the Internet. Some big law firms are using it in the US and the UK government has started to put information on it.
"It was a fairly high tech exercise getting set up," says Millard. "But it is not an expensive operation and there is no ongoing cost other than the normal subscription to the Internet."
The firm says that it has also been using the Internet for research purposes and as a gateway for e-mail.
* The Government says Whitehall departments are to get access to the Internet and will be able to send e-mail and access multimedia services including video conferencing through the government telephone network.
The authorities say they will soon have a server providing a secure gateway between private network services and the government data network, allowing for greater electronic data exchange. The CCTA Government Information Service has become one of the most frequently-referenced UK items on the Internet. It can be contacted at http://www. open.gov.uk/.