Why the world's favourite encyclopedia matters
Our article on the top 50 firms and their patchy use of the online resource Wikipedia was huge fun to research, and a little disturbing too.
I’m not going to defend Wikipedia; that’s not my job. But I use it – I don’t use it and nothing else, don’t worry – and I think it’s great. I also think that a lot of people do rely, or even over rely, on it and those people are likely to be younger – in other words, your future trainees and clients. If they rely on it, it behoves us to make sure it’s as right as it can be, if any of us are allowed to change it, which is the case. So why so many law firms either have poor or non-existent entries baffled me.
However, before I started chucking stones I of course made sure I wasn’t standing in a house made from glass – so I did the Gazette a whole new Wikipedia entry, too. This took a little longer than I expected, and I reckon the process I went through would be useful to you if you’re making your own firm’s entry, which I of course think you should.
First, tell people you’re doing it. Let them know and find out if there is an entry already, who might have written it, and why it is how it is, then say why you’re improving it. You will need to set up a Wikipedia account.
Second, look at the page of a law firm with a good page – that’s why I did the article, really. Log in, go to a page you like, and then click ‘edit’ – and look at how to make a databox and the like. Read Wikipedia's very straightforward ‘how to’ pieces on making pages. Get someone else to check it.
Third, get several people to contribute to the entry, and make sure they or another person goes through your page and makes it as impersonal and factual and ‘straight’ as possible. Wikipedia loves ‘straight’ talk, and so do its readers. They both hate marketing-speak.
Fourth, check up on it on a monthly basis. Don’t forget. You will probably never need to do anything to it, unless you want to improve or change it for good reason. But if someone abuses it, or Wikipedia flags it, you should deal with that, quickly.
Simple, isn’t it? It’s free, it’s (reasonably) easy, and it reaches millions of people. So why aren’t you using it?
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