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Legal professionals, by training and inclination, tend to look for authoritative sources, whether they are precedent rulings or exemplar contracts written by a senior partner. They also tend to organize information hierarchically. The very premise of a wiki (named after the Hawaiian phrase “wiki wiki,” meaning quick) on the other hand, is to create a reference work organically; relying on a process of peer review and iterative refinement. The resulting work’s organizational structure tends to be anything but hierarchical, with pages being linked to many other pages (i.e., a “web”).

This article will explore ways in which Microsoft SharePoint wikis can provide the control and structure that legal professionals require, along with the benefits of open collaboration that wikis afford.

STAGES OF ENLIGHTENMENT

As with all newly introduced technologies, wikis are initially regarded as a new way to do old things — i.e., create single-author documents to be viewed by many. Even taking this limited perspective, a wiki offers some advantages, including the ability to widely distribute a single copy of a reference work (the wiki) while avoiding the proliferation of duplicate, often outdated, copies in e-mail and on local disk drives. But this is just the beginning.

Gradually, a new paradigm emerges: many authors collaborating to create a reference work to be shared by many. The desire for control is still there, so individuals are given responsibility for particular pages, with senior attorneys overseeing their work.

Ultimately that model gives way to full collaboration, with multiple authors contributing to and revising each page. Reaching this level of collaboration requires trust in the potential for peer review to result in content of sufficient quality, and for the wiki platform to provide enough information about authorship within a given page to support that peer review.

The rest of this article describes the SharePoint features and techniques that will support your wiki authors at each stage of adoption.

COMMAND AND CONTROL

SharePoint provides several methods to control authorship and support review, including:

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