• Like
  • Save
The free legal info landscape: treacherous quagmire or inspiring view?
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in...5

Thanks for flagging this SlideShare!

Oops! An error has occurred.

The free legal info landscape: treacherous quagmire or inspiring view?


Talk from Justice Wide Open: courts and legal information in the digital age. This event for lawyers, journalists and academics, was held by the Centre for Law, Justice and Journalism at City …

Talk from Justice Wide Open: courts and legal information in the digital age. This event for lawyers, journalists and academics, was held by the Centre for Law, Justice and Journalism at City University on 29th February 2012.

  • Full Name Full Name Comment goes here.
    Are you sure you want to
    Your message goes here
    Be the first to comment
    Be the first to like this
No Downloads


Total Views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds



Embeds 0

No embeds

Report content

Flagged as inappropriate Flag as inappropriate
Flag as inappropriate

Select your reason for flagging this presentation as inappropriate.

    No notes for slide
  • As law librarians, we are concerned with meeting the needs of our users – finding the best quality information for the job. Law librarians or legal information professionals work within all sorts of organisations – academic institutions like myself, law firms, barristers chambers, government libraries, inns libraries, businesses even. The last 10-15 years has meant a massive change in the nature of legal research and the tools available to us. Librarians have always been free spirits despite our often austere stereotype and have been at the forefront of recommending free resources alongside the paid-for commercial services we are somewhat chained to. Within universities repositories are the big talking point, often driven by librarians keen for access to all, and less reliant on expensive journals!We play a role in promoting resources and advocating; representing our users against often aggressive commercial publishers. Quality and authenticity pivotal here – in the US the AALL has had enormous influence on the way federal and state documents are put out there with their ‘Principles and core values concerning public information on government web sites’. Covering aspects of accessibility, reliabliity, comprehensiveness and preservation. Also important is the issue around what is ‘official’. Should a e-version be declared official? (France) Most of european official databases of official gazettes free.
  • The early part of the new millennium saw the emergence of the legal gateways; websites which acted as directories to free legal information put together by librarians to guide their users to the wider legal web. These began with SOSIG (Social Science Information Gateways) in the late 1990’s, which went on to become Intute. Intute has now closed after the withdrawal of JISC funding but will its catalogue is being added to the Eagle-I service at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies. My own portal Lawbore started out life as a gateway to free legal information, mainly prompted by my worry for graduates who would be lost when they went to work at smaller high street firms, charities or not-for-profit organisations.
  • The big two – lexis and westlaw still dominate, however other smaller publishers have emerged. Danger that they will be bought up by lexis/westlaw. In the past year or so the tables have turned a little, with smaller publishers (Jordans, Informa) withdrawing their content to run on their own platforms. For libraries this has been very tough, as we still need access to lexis and westlaw but then have to purchase new services to retain our coverage. The costs of this provision is sometimes prohibitive. They have us by the throat, especially as libraries often have a policy of e-first, not purchasing the hard copy to cut costs. Customer service often degraded – database providers focus their services around what their biggest customers (e.g. law firms) require. Academic customers lose out – e.g. westlaw journals.
  • Legislation: Many governments, at all levels, publish their legislation online, often going back some years as well. Issues to be aware of include whether subsequent amendments to legislation will be included in the free versionsLaw reports of court cases:There are national court systems in many countries; some of them publish the judges decisions in full text. They usually do not have any value adding such as hyperlinks to earlier cases, or key words, so are more useful for those who are looking for a specific case, rather than searching a topic of law.Access to treaties and other instruments of ratification with legal impact is also spread across the web, and one needs to know where to look.The problem that exists is the disparate nature of all these resourcesJournals:There are several sources of free online legal journals, with the DOAJ the most widely known. Journals are included in the LIIs as well. Google Scholar indexes the free journals. NOT great for UK though.
  • Way too many developments to squeeze into 10 mins, but when I first entered the profession late 1990’s, early 2000’s there was a real buzz in the air about the way legal information would be ‘opening up’. BAILII was based at the IALS where I did some part-time work whilst studying and the trail was blazed for this to become reality thanks to developments in the US, Australia and Canada.CanLII = one million judgments, hundreds of thousands of legislative texts. More than 165 case law databases maintained. Legal Technology Survey ABA 201036.7% of lawyers from 100+ lawyer firms using Google rather than subscription services (Oct 2010)43% of Canadian lawyers surveyed said they could do more than half of their legal research via CanLIICanLII – 71% said that it had reduced their legal info costsAustLII – 600K per dayWhat comes across is that
  • LII’s cover Asia/Oceania, the Americas, Africa and Europe. The LIIs are a great starting point for the legal information that is produced by governments – legislatures, courts, on our behalf as citizens of a country, and they should be free and comprehensive and current, because law changes so rapidly. This is not yet always the case. And relatively few legal journals or research papers are available on them.
  • The concept behind the LIIs is to bring the free legal resources onto one plain, searchable platform, with software that indexes all the material and then searches across acts, cases, and articles as needed to expand a point of law. The search engine is powerful but also simple, and the resource is free to use. It is the indexing software that adds value usually found in commercial databases, and this is why the LIIs are so popular and important
  • Fantastic for academic institutions – Open Law Project – 2500 cases made available on recommendation from lecturers/librarians. ER on CommonLIINeed authoritative version of case to go to court – not a BAILII version – fine for background research though. In terms of format, the databases have this wrapped up. With Eur-Lex, only paper version deemed authentic. Other countries have declared their digital versions authentic (e.g. Journal officiel in FranceIn terms of Legislation.gov.uk there seems to be a good deal of mistrust – it is not up to date, coverage not great and some have talked of the specialist language that is used as being a bar to the general public. 70% of those surveyed said they would use a subscription site as opposed to a free site for legislation as amended. Worries about amendments.Often need flexibility to see the law as it was at a certain point in time too, to be able to see amended and repealed legislation. Only half of the legislation is up-to-date to present.
  • Technological expertiseInvestorsPeople Most LIL’s funded not by usage charges/adverts but by donors who want to facilitate access to legal info. Sustainable? Also Hague Conference draft principles (2008) – guidelines around preservation, provision of historical legal materials, integrity and authoritativenessNick Holmes is here today…! Prototype site around Housing Law.
  • Some would say just having the law online doesn’t go far enough – how will the man on the street interpret it? Is letter of law enough without the context? Do blogs fill this gap. France good for this.


  • 1. The free legal info landscape: treacherous quagmire or inspiring view? Emily Allbon
  • 2. Librarians and freeing the law Concerned with getting the best quality information out there to our users Skills in selection Trust and authority issues with free legal info Before digitisation hard enough to get hold of domestic law, never mind other jurisdictions In US AALL had significant influence with their ‘Principles and core values concerning public information on government web sites’ http://www.aallnet.org/main- menu/Advocacy/recommendedguidelines/principles- core-values.html
  • 3. Gateways – librarian-compiled directories SOSIG toIntute Then added toEagle-i (IALS)
  • 4. Lawbore (student portal) lawbore.net
  • 5. Gateways – international collaborations eisil.org
  • 6. The current UK situation - £ Paid-for sources still rule Big two (Lexis and Westlaw) still dominate, but other contenders now – smaller publishers are withdrawing their content. Makes sense to pay for the value-added features but not for
  • 7. The current UK situation - free  Lots out there, but not necessarily easy to find.  Not always joined up.  BAILII  Legislation.gov.uk  Parliament If only…
  • 8. What can you get for free?Judgments Most courts publish their judgments freely online. Not usually any functionality linking to earlier decisions. Searching usually unsophisticated.
  • 9. Free stuff 2LegislationMost governmentspublish theirlegislation online.Amendments are thebig sticking point inthe UK. Mistrust offree sources.legislation.gov.uk isvery limited in itscoverage of up-to-date law.
  • 10. Free stuff 3Treaties andagreementsbetweeninternationalbodies- all over the web- disparate in natureun.org
  • 11. Free stuff 4Journals –rare to findcommentaryfor freeonline in theUK.Improvedsituation inotherjurisdictions.doaj.org
  • 12. How did the free revolution all begin? With universities! In early-mid 1990’s Cornell (LII) published US Supreme Court judgments & NY Court of Appeals (1992) University of Montreal publishes Supreme Court of Canada judgments – LexUM (1993) AustLII (1995) CanLII (2000) BAILII (2000) Open Law, EAT, PrivyCouncil
  • 13. Legal Information Institutes WorldLII – portal containing data from 17 LIIs plus other databases hosted. Allows searching of 1400 databases of case law, legislation, treaties, law reform reports and journals from over 183 countries. At least 2 million cases. CommonLII – portal containing data from 56 commonwealth countries (11 LIIs). Contains the ER! AsianLII – portal covering 28 Asian countries (3 ILLs) Proposed EuroLII of 50 countries
  • 14. Different types of LIIs Different kinds of LIIs  Universities and Research centres  AustLII, ITTIG, LII (Cornell), HKLII, NZLII  Non-profit Trusts or Foundations or NGOs  BAILII (Trust comprises Courts, Universities, legal profession), SAFLII, Kenya Law reports (non-profit government)  Legal profession, as a professional and public service  CanLII (Law Societies of Canada), Juri Burkina, CyLaw
  • 15. Professionals use of free sources? 64% of those surveyed used BAILII at least a few times a week 52% used AustLII, CommonLII etc few times a week High use of Eur-Lex and HUDOC Infrequent use of free legislation sites Issues around authenticity and versions – good for transcripts for research but not for court (68% of frequent BAILII users use it for transcripts).(Sarah Jones, 2010)
  • 16. Wider initiatives Free access to law movement:  A collaborative and decentralised initiative formed 2002  More than 900 databases from over 130 countries  Support principles of free access to law – Declaration on Free Access to Law  Cooperation in software development for open standards in legal information management  Aims:  Effectiveness of use and re-usability  Sustainable models  Translation in other languages & cross-language retrieval functionalities  Adoption of open standards and metadata schemes for primary materials  Barriers?
  • 17. Keeping up to date on free sources Much more option for this now Twitter, personal blogs, Inner temple current awareness, BAILII updates No longer about getting stuff out there but having a conversation Worried about trustworthiness of source? Everyone more accountable.
  • 18. Why so important? Making legal information accessible = making justice more accessible? Allowing access to legal information for those fighting for justice, smaller law firms, legal centres, pro bono work. Savings for lawyer – savings for clients? Man on the street unlikely to pay for access to legal databases – prohibitive costs. Ignorance of the law no excuse, but what if no-one can find it? Transparency = cornerstone of judicial system. Has to be possible for anyone to see why each judgment was given, guaranteeing openness.
  • 19. References Claire M. Germain, Digitising the world’s laws Chapter 9 from Richard A. Danner & Jules Winterton, The IALL International Handbook of Legal Information Management (Ashgate 2011) Graham Greenleaf, Free access to legal information, LIIs and the Free Access to Law movement Chapter 10 from Richard A. Danner & Jules Winterton, The IALL International Handbook of Legal Information Management (Ashgate 2011) Various papers from the Law via the Internet conference in Hong Kong (8-10 June 2011) http://www.hklii.hk/conference/programme including Daniel Poulin, Free access to law in Canada http://www.hklii.hk/conference/paper/1D1.pdf Free the law meeting (1999) http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/elj/jilt/2000_1/free_the_law/transcript Declaration on free access to law (1995, updated 2007) http://www.worldlii.org/worldlii/declaration Graham Greenleaf, Free access to legal information – Lecture 17th Jan 2012 http://ials.sas.ac.uk/news/Graham_Greenleaf_at_IALS_2012.htm Sarah Jones, Freeing the law: a study of free online legal resources and their use by barristers (2010) Msc Dissertation, City UniversityThanks also to Ruth Bird (Bodleian) and Jules Winterton (IALS) for informal discussionson this subject.
  • 20. Image credits Slide 1 – ‘Mud’ by theclyde http://www.flickr.com/photos/theclyde/2673928133/ Slide 4 – ’20 pound note roll’ by Images_Of_Money http://www.flickr.com/photos/59937401@N07/5930028 236/ Slide 5 – ‘One Stop Shop Sign 1’ by marc e marc http://www.flickr.com/photos/marcemarc/2385399277/ Slide 10 – ‘Assume the position (black and white) by Sashala http://www.flickr.com/photos/sashala/312173300/ Slide 12 – ‘Tempus fugit project 365(3) Day 294 by Keith Williamson http://www.flickr.com/photos/elwillo/6452275823/