Almost everyone these days is familiar with Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that can be edited by anyone and everyone. People have mixed feelings about it. It does give people a chance to write about things that they really care about and have studied—and they have to care, since they are doing this for free. However, since Wikipedia has less editorial control than other reference materials, it can be wrong, and it can also be the subject of practical jokes (like Stephen Colbert asking his viewers to change the page on elephants). Most researchers at this point know that you can start at Wikipedia, but you should never end there.
Wikipedia is not alone, though—it is merely the best known example of a collaborative web project. Wikis are popping up everywhere. Offices have wikis for their policies. Students check class wikis everyday. And we are starting to see wikis appear in the legal world. For example, the famous SCOTUSblog has started a wiki for Supreme Court matters, though it isn’t open to the world for editing yet.
A month or two ago Inter Alia had a post on a new legal wiki called Legalwikipro, started by a lawyer in Oklahoma. So far Oklahoma is really the only state that has been fleshed out, but just poking around that area you can see the potential of a good legal wiki. Though, like Wikipedia, it couldn’t be counted upon to be perfect, it is exciting to think of a site where local lawyers could post what experience has taught them is the most relevant law to a particular area.
We can only hope that Legalwikipro, or at least something like it, will take off in the near future.
Oh, and if you are interested, check out the Wiki page about wikis.