Clay Shirkey, author of Here Comes Everybody, recently posted on what social connectivity "means" for business. He suggested that some major changes have already started to occur, giving as one example the ability of a heretofore disorganized group of individuals (airline passengers) to get their act together through blogs and other participant-based internet activity and successfully lobby for the Passenger's Bill of Rights, in opposition to the airline industry. (Clay did not identify this law, which is a New York state law, N.Y. Gen. Bus. Law s 251-H, Article 14-A, giving airline passengers rights such as food and water, recently unsuccessfully challenged in the Northern District of New York.).
In the legal arena, clients could organize in similar fashion. Many individual clients of a law firm might have insufficient interest and desire to organize. I imagine, however, that corporate and institutional clients in many cases have sufficient social-networking awareness and wherewithal to organize around issues of common interest.
Indeed, some such organization is already starting. According to David Jabbari, a "Know-How" leader* at Allen & Overy, as reported here, some of the big banks in Europe joined forces and required their firms to publish their client alerts on a single Banking Legal Technology web site, without charge to the clients. In this case the banking industry's will to cooperate may have been there already, but the technology was only recently able to meet that objective.
Legal On-Ramp's corporate counsel section is another example. The idea is that some law firms would provide some good current content "free" in return for greater visibility with clients. More explicitly, OnRamp marketplace allows clients to "place matters anonymously to evaluate lower-cost alternatives for legal services."
*just call it KM already!