Monday, 20 April 2009
free v expensive legal information
Tom Bruce from the Cornell Law Library and the Legal Information Institute has a very thoughtful and interesting blogpost called "What are we about?" in which he discusses the motivation and purpose behind proprietary databases like Westlaw and free legal information sites like LII. He is proud that the LII has contributed substantially to breaking the intellectual and engineering stranglehold that West and Lexis had on legal information twenty years ago. And while admittedly West is "winning the Grand Prix", there is a place for LII and similar sites that are just trying to help a lot of people get to work; because West and the LIIs are thinking about very different kinds of research consumers.West imagines — as most law-school instruction in legal research seems to — that the aim of research is to support argument in high-stakes litigation, or in some other setting where potential hazard justifies the expense of a high-end service. LII, on the other hand, serves a different type of legal research - it provides legal information for everyone, something like a legal version of WebMD.