The Story of Web 2.0 and the LexisNexis Law Centers

The Story of Web 2.0 and the LexisNexis Law Centers

Karen C. Yotis, the Site Coordinator for the LexisNexis Insurance Law Center, recently gave the keynote speech at the White and Williams Coverage College. Over 400 “students” from 130 different insurance companies attended the event. The text of her speech is reprinted below.

Hello, it’s a pleasure to be here.

I’d like to thank Randy and Gale and everyone at White & Williams for asking me to speak to you today.

I’m here to tell you about something near and dear to my heart—the LEXISNEXIS INSURANCE LAW CENTER—but I also want to introduce you to Web 2.0, a technology that is creating profound changes in the way our world learns, communicates and does business.


Since we’re all students today at the White and Williams Coverage College, I’m going to ask for a show of hands. How many of you have heard of Web 2.0 technology?

If you have a teen-ager in the house, you know what Web 2.0 is. MySpace, Face Book, uTube—these familiar social networking sites are all built on a Web 2.0 platform. Sites like LinkedIn, LegalOnRamp and are also supported by Web 2.0 technology.

Actually, Web 2.0 is a term that Tim O’Reilly of O’Reilly Media coined to describe the concepts of content sharing and community development on the World Wide Web.

Jon Gorman, editor-in-chief of National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies’ online weekly e-newsletter wrote about Web 2.0 concepts in an article last year. Gorman said: “What the concept of Web 2.0 really boils down to is the utilization of the WWW as a genuine platform where users and visitors can control their own data, enrich their experiences and customize their online lives. Web 2.0 is dependent upon “the community.”

All I can say is true dat. In a virtual world comprised of RSS feeds, blogs, webinars, wikis and podcasts, “the community” is the point. The raison d’etre. The white plume.


LexisNexis has taken the plunge and embraced Web 2.0 technology in a big way. It launched the Insurance Law Center one year ago this month and since developed Web 2.0 centers in 17 different practice areas. To date we’ve got free, online web centers for environmental law, torts, real estate, international law, corporate and business, patents, tax and more. Most recently, this effort gave birth to the LexisNexis Workers’ Compensation Law Center, sister site to the Insurance Law Center that was launched in June.

These law centers are online interactive sites on the free web that permit users to access content and interact with each other. The word FREE doesn’t often appear in the same sentence as LexisNexis, but the unfettered flow of information is big part of what these Web 2.0 sites are all about.

The Insurance Law Center offers insurance news headlines that are refreshed throughout the day. There are daily blog posts from internal LexisNexis insurance teams and Mealey’s editors, and also from coverage attorneys, judges, academics and industry professionals like all of you. The Insurance Law Center also offers expert commentary, podcasts, FREE DOWNLOADS of premium insurance content from the database, webinars, links to insurance statutes, regulations and top cases, an interactive conference center and cross-links to the top 50 blogs on insurance.

But without “the community” that Jon Gorman wrote about, none of this works. The screaming success of Web 2.0 ventures like uTube, Facebook and MySpace continues to occur because of consistent participation by a very tuned-in and highly connected community of users. Six Degrees of Separation doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface.


So what does all of this have to do with insurance? Well, quite a lot of you listen to Jon Gorman. He talks about updating policyholders, agents or directors using text or video weblogs that can be published through RSS Feeds. [For the uninitiated, RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. RSS Feeds create a connection between the content on your site and a third-party website or email delivery that allows subscribers to the feed to receive immediate online notification when updates occur.] Of course, users can receive updates on Insurance Law Center content via RSS Feed or via email alert.

Gorman describes lots of other ways to apply Web 2.0 technology to the business of insurance. He suggests publishing claims and underwriting materials, ERM documents and IT technical documentation as online wikis, which permits employees and agents to utilize the material in their daily operations, update it immediately online when information becomes obsolete and access it from anywhere on the planet where they can get an internet connection.

Social networking is also a huge part of Web 2.0 technology, and its applications to insurance are limitless. According to Gorman, keeping agents, field staff and directors connected to a company could be as simple as employing some form of social network. He also suggests creating an online or e-mail discussion forum for agents to share experiences via e-mail posts to groups of other agents. Gorman writes, “This allows them a forum to discuss and share experiences related to their jobs, and through this interaction, find answers and solutions to their questions and/or problems.”


Gorman’s take on Web 2.0 is insightful, but in my view it doesn’t go nearly far enough. Web 2.0 platforms offer more than an avenue for communicating with employees. One can accomplish that thru the company intranet. Web 2.0 is also much more than a virtual water cooler.

Web 2.0 lets the WWW be responsive in real time to developments on the ground by providing the user with very, very current information. But the critical part—and this is key—is the user’s ability to affect that information. Let’s face it—there is a lot of “story” out there about the insurance industry and a whole lot of it isn’t very favorable. Web 2.0 offers a unique opportunity not only to get your message out there, but to influence that message and maximize its impact. 

It’s viral PR of the most amazing kind.

Here are a few examples:


The administrative law judges from the California Division of Workers’ Compensation have been writing a round-robin blog on the Workers' Compensation Law Center to inform the bar and the industry about the major shift to electronic filing brought about by EAMS. Regulators and judges are understandably often reluctant to put themselves out there on the web, but in this situation the DWC needed to counter the troublesome misinformation and gossip about EAMS that was floating around on other workers’ compensation sites. Written by judges and vetted by the DWC, these blogs relay an authentic message from an undeniably reliable source.


To provide some election coverage with an insurance-related twist, the Insurance Law Center will feature podcasts with the insurance commissioner candidates seeking election in November. Former regulators will moderate discussions between candidates vying for the top spots in Delaware, North Carolina, North Dakota, Montana and Washington . The candidates are highly motivated Web 2.0 participants who are coming onboard to take full advantage of this opportunity to influence and drive the direction of their own story.


The American Council of Life Insurers will be coming on the Insurance Law Center in October to broadcast its message about life settlements. ACLI Assistant General Counsel Michael Lovendusky is recording a podcast on the status of life settlement regulations in the various states to supplement several commentary pieces that ACLI has authored on the subject. We’ll also be featuring ACLI’s upcoming annual meeting on our site and offering downloads of expert commentary and other content relating to viatical/life settlements and STOLI transactions.


The biggest Web 2.0 success story that I know belongs to Dave Rossmiller, a Portland, Oregon coverage attorney who has been nothing short of prolific when it comes to writing about anti-concurrent cause clauses and their impact on the wind vs. water debate in Hurricane Katrina litigation. Rossmiller convinced his firm to support him in the publication of the incredibly popular insurance coverage blog. Mixing spot-on analysis with a generous dose of humor, Rossmiller created his own unique voice and then used that voice to tell his story. By the time Katrina hit, he’d already established a readership base that visited his blog regularly to hear what Dave had to say. For a while the blog was titled Scruggs Nation. Dave’s metrics soared to 10,000 hits per day and got picked up by the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times as he regaled the blogosphere with the cold, hard truth about Dickie Scruggs, Jim Hood and the entire Katrina coverage debacle. He also applied his unique take on ACC clauses to the infamous cases winding their way through the Fifth Circuit. The power of Web 2.0 has helped Rossmiller to become a nationally renowned authority on ACC clauses and the wind vs. water debate. RossIn fact, he spoke this summer at a Mississippi coverage conference and was given the VIP treatment by none other than the inimitable George Dale. And his seminal work on ACCs—published by the way by LexisNexis and available now as a free download on the Insurance Law Center —has been cited by the Fifth Circuit and various other state and federal courts.


And let’s not forget the White & Williams Coverage College. I’m a student here today because of Web 2.0. Earlier this year the Insurance Law Center featured Randy Maniloff’s popular annual review of the year’s top 10 coverage cases and for the past month or so Randy has been blogging about coverage issues on our site. We’ve also been featuring the Coverage College in the Insurance Law Center’s conference center faculty members Andrew Hamelsky and Taryn Kindred posted blogs about the college on the Insurance Law Center earlier this week.


This kind of viral PR is profoundly powerful, but it is too big—too democratic if you will—to leave to your company’s PR department. Because of Web 2.0, things are happening on the WWW in a very different way. There are too many different voices, too many different versions of the same story to enable an insurer to control its own message with traditional PR methods.

The only response as I see it is to participate in kind—to understand how the system works and to become a strong voice within it.


In an email a while back, Dave Rossmiller wrote: “the web has transformed all sorts of communications, and the world increasingly will be made up of two kinds of people—those on the train who understand this and those who don’t get it, and stand staring and slack-jawed as the train pulls away and the folks on it wave bye-bye.”

So here’s the challenge for all of you. The Insurance Law Center offers a venue in which all of the things I’ve talked about today can occur. Postcards were placed at all the tables at lunch today. These cards contain the Insurance Law Center’s web address and other information about the site. It really is FREE—I promise. All you need to do to let your voice be heard is register as a new user and sign on. Read the news headlines, peruse some top cases, find out what the bloggers and commentary authors are saying about the issues. And whether you check out the site when you get back to your room tonight, or remember to take a look when you come across that postcard again at the office tomorrow, take a moment to post a comment. Share your views. Ask questions. Submit news tips. Respond to the weekly survey. Consider becoming a guest blogger. Suggest ideas. You know—participate.

And we’ll continue to keep the content fresh and interesting, for all of you—our community.

Thank you.