Last Thursday, LII Director Tom Bruce gave the inaugural talk in a series of workshops on legal information hosted by the University of Montreal's CRDP. Invited (and on occasion provoked) by old LII friend Daniel Poulin (pictured here), the founder of the LexUM legal-informatics research group and of CanLII, Bruce spoke about the initial vision for open access to legal information, its flaws, and the realities of the present day. The general challenge now, he said, is similar to that posed by behavioral economics. Our formal notions about how legal information is generated, structured, and searched are useful so far as they go, but in some respects fail to take note of what it is that people actually do. This poses important challenges for our thinking about legal research in general, and document modelling in particular.
On Monday evening, Sara Frug and Tom Bruce gave a sneak preview of a new LII product for a small audience at the Federal Depository Library Council October meeting in Washington DC. Luminaries in attendance included Michael Wash, CIO of the US Government Printing Office; Michael White, Managing Editor of the Federal Register, and Mary Alice Baish of the AALL along with many interested govdocs librarians and LII friends. What were they showing? Well, we could whisper something about the Code of Federal Regulations, but then you'd just want to know when it will be available to the public (our best answer: Real Soon).
Work on this project has been undertaken as part of an ongoing agreement with the Federal Depository Library Program, who have been kind enough to make data available to us in exchange for expertise. The project is the first we've undertaken that builds on the new FD/SYS initiative. We are very excited to be working with FDLP and GPO on a project that involves the largest contact surface between the American public and Federal law.
The LII's guest-blog for the legal informatics community, VoxPopuLII, has an interesting piece by Joao Lima. Lima heads the team that has built LexML Brazil, an integrated portal for legislation and law from many Brazilian jurisdictions. An ambitious project aimed at achieving semantic interoperability across numerous federated collections of law, LexML Brazil is a state-of-the-art illustration of what can be done when the legal-information community takes advantage of the latest techniques from the digital-library and information science communities. We recommend it highly. The article also contains a list of related systems-building articles published in VoxPop over the last year, a virtual Who's Who of legal-information systems builders.
LII Director Tom Bruce is giving a talk about law.gov today at the National Association of Bar Executives Communications Workshop in Portland, Maine. Tom's appearing with LII BFF Ed Walters, CEO of FastCase. We think it's important that those who communicate and market on behalf of lawyers understand what law.gov is, and what it's going to mean to the legal profession. One hint: it's more than just "free legal information stuff"... think WebMD, and what an informed clientele might mean to lawyers generally. Time will tell, of course, but we think that mass availability of law is going to change interaction between the public and the profession for their mutual benefit.