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To figure out what to do on the Web, the country’s biggest law firms have hired consultants, strategy specialists and designers. Still, most of the sites are little more than Martindale-Hubbell listings set against throwaway photos of gavels, globes and Manhattan skyscrapers. But Dallas-based Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld is breaking the mold. Until recently, Akin Gump’s site (at www.akingump.com) mostly just contained the usual press releases and attorney bios. But it has always featured a link to a “Case Study” page, in which a group of Akin Gump lawyers dissect one of their own cases. The study is meant to convey how the firm staffs and approaches litigation. Over time, the firm started hearing good things about its case studies. So earlier this year, the firm decided to expand on the idea. A few weeks ago, the firm unveiled akingumpcases.com, which one day will become a repository for all future case studies. For now, the site features only one Akin Gump case — last year’s defense of David Brock, the embattled chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court. But the firm soon hopes to fill the site with more. “We wanted a very alive Web site that accurately portrayed how we live, breathe and work a case,” says Leslie M. Turner, one of the attorneys on the Brock litigation. “We thought [the Brock case] was a good one to feature because it has a lot of precedential value and dealt with so many issues of first impression.” Brock faced four articles of impeachment for various allegations, including one for trying to influence the rulings of a lower court judge and another for allowing a fellow Supreme Court justice to influence the selection of judges for his own divorce panel. Last October, after a month-long trial handled chiefly by three partners out of Akin Gump’s Washington, D.C., office, the state Senate acquitted Brock. In April, a New Hampshire judicial discipline committee formally “admonished” the chief justice. But, judging from the Akin Gump site, the firm considered the case’s outcome a huge win. “New Hampshire Chief Justice Acquitted” runs across the front page of the akingumpcases.com site. Other self-promotional pablum permeates the site. For instance, a click on the site’s “Teamwork” button brings up this gut-wrenching slogan: “by drawing from its litigation and public policy groups, Akin Gump created a formidable defense team for the Chief Justice.” But once you get past the public relations assault, the site offers a trove of interesting stuff about the case. The four articles of impeachment, a trial time line and a concise history of all the allegations against Brock dating to 1987 are all only a click away. The site also features a link to a searchable, online version of the New Hampshire Revised Codes Annotated and a link to the New Hampshire state Senate’s Web site. But all this is fairly run-of-the-mill stuff compared with the site’s two most impressive features. First, there is a database of just about every important document in the case. The database includes the New Hampshire Legislature’s procedural resolutions, important motions submitted by both parties, and transcripts from depositions and from the trial itself. So anyone can go back to the documents and piece the case together, from start to finish. The site also features more than a dozen video clips of Akin Gump attorneys discussing the case. Hard-core law geeks can watch and listen to partner Michael Madigan discuss how the Akin Gump legal team was chosen; to Turner talk about the “turning point of the case”; and to partner Steven Ross spout off about “Daniel Webster and the history of impeachment.” It’s like a build-your-own documentary, albeit a one-sided one. “The site really does offer an incredibly detailed look into Akin Gump’s work ethic and our approach to handling cases in unchartered waters,” says Turner. “It’s very accurate, and that’s exactly what we wanted to create.” The firm bills the site as a legal educational tool. “It’s a good resource for young lawyers and law students,” adds Turner. Maybe so, but the firm also hopes to woo prospective clients with the site. The firm won’t say how much money it has put into the project, but it hired a Web design company, Glowing Toad Designs, to help set up the site. “It was a lot of work,” adds Turner. “We went through a lot of renditions.” So the question is: Will case studies soon become the next big thing on law firm Web sites? It’s possible. On the one hand, it’s hard to believe that clients will start flocking to Akin Gump because of the souped-up Web site, which makes it hard to envision how the firm will get a return on its investment. But a lot of trial lawyers will seize the slightest opportunity to step onto a soapbox. Even if it’s on a lonely corner of the Web.

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