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Peter Kopp

When Peter Martin and Tom Bruce decided to publish legal information for the handful of people on “the Net” back in 1992, neither could have predicted the magnanimity of that decision. Their small research group at Cornell Law School would eventually give millions of people access to the federal law, which their government still fails to provide today.

Over the years, as our programs and impact have grown enormously, our staff remains small. Only a handful of full-time employees conduct research and run a five hundred thousand page-website. Last year, after a decade of dabbling in fundraising, the LII brought on Peter Kopp to explore more sustainable, diverse funding sources. We thought we’d ask him a few questions.

What did you do before coming to the LII?

A lot of things. Most recently, I raised operational support via direct response methods for public broadcasting in Arlington, VA. Before that, I worked in development in the arts and higher education, book-ending the few years I spent teaching kids how to sail small and large boats.

One of those careers is not like the other. What made you decide to return to the harbor?

A few reasons. Although a sailor’s life sounds awfully romantic–and it was, for the most part–I grew tired of feeling disconnected from the world. Also, my child supervision skills had reached their ultimate height after playing parent for three week stretches to a dozen boys and girls living aboard a 50’ sloop, so I had nothing left to prove–or give–in that realm. Plus, the girl I married probably wouldn’t have said yes to getting me 8 months out of the year.

Were you already familiar with the LII before you applied for your position?

No, but it took only minimal research to recognize the important role it plays in society, via its staggering usage statistics. I was very familiar with Cornell, having grown up just 20 minutes outside of Ithaca, and my experience in both online fundraising and higher education development prepared me well for the position. Those things combined — a mission that I could get behind, a familiarity with the parent organization and the chops to make a difference — have made up for my lack of program content-specific knowledge or training. Our success this year demonstrates that.

So you’re returning home. Had that always been the plan, and was this position the deciding factor?

Getting out of DC was the plan. My wife and I decided to move to Ithaca when she accepted an unrefusable offer to work at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. When the LII posted its fundraising position just days after she accepted hers, it felt like fate. There wasn’t another job in upstate New York — and probably the country — I would have found more appealing. The LII has formed its solid reputation and substantial impact by efficiently pursuing its mission. I was — and still am — excited to contribute to that effort by building and maintaining relationships with those who value the organization.

Do you have a legal or technical education?

Nope. All three of my siblings went to law school, so getting a legal education was the last thing I wanted after college. At Hamilton College I received a liberal arts education, where I spent most of my time either on or behind a stage. When I wasn’t performing, I was usually writing a history paper. Since graduation, my varied experiences have prepared me to listen and engage with the LII’s constituents to advance its mission, something a law degree or technical training may not have done as well.

What have you been up to in your first year?

I spent the first few months learning about legal information and the role the LII plays. Since then, with the help of several LII staff members and minor strategy and operational tweaks, we raised more net revenue this year from individual and corporate support than ever before. I’ve spent the balance of my time wading through constituent relationship management (CRM) systems and processes — both the LII’s and Cornell’s — to document, update and optimize them for more efficient operation. It’s not perfect yet, but it’s getting there.

What will be your biggest focus in the coming year?

This year the LII will celebrate twenty-five years of helping people access and understand law via the Internet. Broadly, my goal will be to celebrate this milestone in a way that enables our audience to better understand and appreciate the organization behind the mission. As part of that celebration, we hope to establish connections–in the form of sponsorships–with organizations that value our work. For years, we have benefited from advertising revenue to help fund our research and publishing efforts. If we could replace it all with direct, tax-deductible support from corporations looking to make a difference, we would. So, if anyone reading this knows an organization who might sponsor us, they can share that information by emailing

Why does the LII need donor support? Isn’t Cornell well-funded already?

The financial model in higher education has received a lot of press in recent years, for a good reason: college has become prohibitively expensive for many students and their families. Cornell and most other institutions have turned their focus to tuition and scholarship to improve access. Subsequently, ancillary research programs like the LII get bumped down the priority list. Plus, our operational costs only increase as our user audience grows.

So, the LII is more dependent now than ever before on individual donations. We’re fortunate to have so many people out there who care about our work. They’re making a difference. With their help, we’re decreasing our reliance on the law school more every year.

When someone asked a 5 year-old you what you wanted to be when you grew up, was “fundraiser” your answer?

Believe it or not, I had my heart set on being either a politician or a comedian. Unfortunately, I didn’t turn out to be sleazy or funny enough. As I learned how difficult performing could be, I discovered some of the harsh funding realities nonprofit organizations face. I benefited directly from a college scholarship, and I’ve been fascinated with the philanthropic support model and connecting people to causes they care about ever since.

We hear you’re raising chickens. Are you setting a deurbanization trend for your Millennial generation, and should we be worried about hipsters taking to the fields?


No, and no.

6-ways-to-increase-your-page-views-per-visitorMuch was happening across the country this summer and the Legal Information Institute has the stats to prove it. Thanks in large part to our presidential candidates and professional athletes, 25,672 websites linked the Legal Information Institute as a cited source.

This summer alone we have had over 7 million new users brought to our site. Although a majority of those users come from organic search (thank you, Google), almost 1 million of them have been led to us by referral (thank you, bloggers, journalists and most importantly Social Media). When it comes to referral traffic, social media brings 42% of it to the LII and just shy of 50% of overall new users. On average, we receive 1,500 social referrals a day; however, certain days this summer, we received spikes as high as 50,000 social referrals in 24 hours. The top social network that contributes to this data is Facebook. Below is a list of our mentions on the World Wide Web based on what was happening in the news.

We saw our first major spike of the summer in early July when FBI Director, James Comey recommended no criminal charges be filed against Hillary Clinton over using a private email server. In so many words, Comey’s statement suggested that Clinton did not violate the Espionage Act, which was then viewed over 57,000 times on our website. This decision led to 54,000 Americans quoting, sharing, and writing their opinion on the matter while linking to LII’s reference of 18 U.S. Code § 793. Ultimately this section of the U.S. Code resulted as the third most visited page on our website this summer.

In the second week of August we pick up another spike of 120,000 social sessions, mainly due to Donald Trump suggesting that “Second Amendment people” could prevent Hillary Clinton from appointing new federal judges. When word broke, our entry on the Second Amendment from our Wex online resource, reached second place for the most visited page on our website. Trump’s statement became a major headliner in the news as his suggestion was viewed threatening. Threats against a former President or an immediate family member of a former President falls under 18 U.S. Code § 879, which was linked in news articles and social media outlets generating over 100,000 pageviews between August 9th and 10th.

A third spike occurred from 68,000 social sessions to 36 U.S. Code § 301 – National Anthem. This statute also happens to be the top landing page of the summer. Athletes such as Gabby Douglas and Colin Kaepernick certainly accounted for its sudden popularity. Overall this page has collected 153,000 pageviews and counting as more athletes begin to join in what started as Kaepernick’s solitary protest.

As is evident from above, traffic from social media increases greatly when it comes to trending controversial topics in the news. Links in social media are a classic example of something we have always ardently believed–that the public discourse is enriched and improved by the availability of primary source materials such as the US Code and the Constitution. We are thrilled to be a go-to source for reliable and valid reference material, and your involvement with us helps ensure that will continue to be the case.

education-clipart-education-clipart-1When law students need to learn what the law says on any given topic, they commonly come to our website for collections such as the US Code, the CFR, the Federal Rules, and Wex. Over the years, however, we’ve come to realize that the education community values our site for a variety of reasons and uses it in a number ways.

For example, we hear from teachers of topics like civics and government and even debate who say our Supreme Court Bulletins are excellent teaching tools to illustrate both sides of the argument when important cases impacting issues like the First Amendment, health care reform, or the death penalty make their way to the Supreme Court.  And speaking of civics and the Supreme Court, we always see a sharp spike in topics related to the Constitution and especially the Bill of Rights this time of year as National Constitution Day rolls around.  We know that the audio found at is also popular among educators, and we are looking forward to integrating it with our collections as we move forward in taking over operation of Oyez.

But we’re also a resource in ways that might seem less obvious.  Our tax code is quite popular among institutions teaching in that specialized field, so much so that we’ve begun talking with one graduate school that wants to capture our materials in an environment that will allow secure access during examinations.  We’ve had similar inquiries in the past about our version of the Uniform Commercial Code, which is an important tool not just in law school contracts classes but also in classes for students in fields like banking, accounting, and business.

And it’s not just the words on the page that find value in the classroom.  Educators and academic researchers are interested in you, our audience, as they seek data to help them understand how citizens interact with and understand the law.   Computer science and information science students from such far-flung places as Lapland, Serbia, Spain and South Africa have in recent years taken up residence in our offices to learn from our technical team, and that’s in addition to the graduate students right here in Ithaca whom we regular mentor to help them fulfill project-based requirements in the Cornell curriculum.  

Of course we are thrilled to contribute to the formal and informal education of so many students all around the world.  And, of course, it would not be possible without the involvement and support of people like you.  If you use the LII in the classroom, we’d love to hear from you.  Please feel free to email our Director at

Remember MeOne of the great things that happens at the LII is working with the amazing students who come to study at Cornell — and finding out about the projects they’ve been cooking up while we weren’t distracting them by dangling shiny pieces of law before their eyes. This spring, Karthik Venkataramaiah, Vishal Kumkar, Shivananda Pujeri, and Mihir Shah — who previously worked with us on regulatory definition extraction and entity linking —  invited us to attend a presentation they were giving at a conference of the American Society for Engineering Education: they had developed an app to assist dementia patients in interacting with their families.

The Remember Me app does a number of useful things — reminds patients to prepare for appointments, take medications, and so forth. But the remarkable idea is the way it would help dementia patients interact with people in their lives.

Here’s how it works: the app is installed on both the phone of the dementia sufferer and their loved ones and caregivers. When one of the people whom the dementia patient knows comes into proximity to the patient, the app automatically reminds the patient who the person is and how they know them by flashing up pictures designed to place the person in familiar context and remind the patient of their connection. Given the way that memory is always keyed to specific contexts, this helps patients stay grounded in relating to people whom they love but which their disease may hinder their recollection of.

One notable feature of the app is that it was designed not for a class in app development but in cloud computing, which means that the app can be used by a large number of people. The nature of the app also presented additional requirements: the team noted that “as our project is related to health domain, we need to be more careful with respect to cloud data security.” Further, although the students were software engineers who were tasked with developing a scalable application, their app reflects a thoughtful approach to developing a user experience that can benefit people with memory and other cognitive impairments. Associate Director Sara Frug says “among the many teams of talented M.Eng. students with whom we have worked over the years, Karthik, Vishal, Shivananda, and Mihir have shown a rare combination of skill and sophistication in software engineering, product design, and project management. Their app is a remarkable achievement, and we are proud to have seen its earliest stages of development.”

The Remember Me app has been developed as a prototype, with its first launch scheduled for August.


This month, the prize will go for the best answer to the question, What’s wrong with this picture?


We’d hoped that the CFR caption contest would work like a kind of inkblot test for our fans, and if it did… well, we’re not sure whether to be exhilarated or terrified.   There were identifiable tribes among the contestants:

1) Literalists.  This krewe was bound and determined to come up with something that would spell out “CFR”.  So, for example,  we got “Communicating for Righteousness”.

2) Panglossians. All regulations are for the best in this best of all possible worlds, it seems, so you guys gave us, “Researching regulations has never been easier”.  The next group would probably agree that that is true…

3) Cynical so-and-so’s.  You guys are seductive, but so, so… not into rules.  Personal favorite: “If you’re not confused, you will be.”

Now, for the winners. It was, believe it or not, a tough choice:

1st Prize (and an adult beverage, should we ever meet) to John Gear for “Because ignorance of all this is no excuse”.

Runner-up kudos (and a Virtual Straw Boater)  to Scott Matheson for  “Making Ideas Concrete (and regulating concrete)”

Thanks everybody.  Let’s see if we can get an even bigger turnout this month!

I just got back from the 2016 CALI conference at the
Georgia State University College of Law in Atlanta, Georgia.CALI2016update

This report of my time there is by no means an exhaustive or even chronological record of the conference. It’s more of a highlight reel.

This was my second time attending and it still holds the title as my favorite conference. The food was great, the talks were excellent and there was a lot of time between sessions to have interesting conversations with many of the diverse and smart attendees who came from all over North America. Kudos to the organizers.

The conference officially started on Thursday, June 16th, when Indiana Jones, aka John Mayer, executive director of CALI, found the golden plaque of CALI after a harrowing traversal of the conference room, dodging obstacles. He gave a brief but warm welcome address and introduced the keynote speaker, Hugh McGuire, founder of PressBooks and With anecdotes from his biography, Mr Mcguire encouraged us to be proactive in solving big problems.

We had another keynote speaker on Friday, Michael Feldstein of Mindwires Consulting and co-producer of e-Literate TV. He confessed to being something of a provocateur and he succeeded in raising a few hackles when he asked “Do law schools exist?” among other questions.

He challenged us to do better at teaching students with different learning styles and skill-sets.

My two favorite presentations out of many excellent sessions that I attended were “The WeCite Project” by Pablo Arredondo from Casetext and “So you’ve digitized U.S. caselaw, now what?” by Adam Ziegler and Jack Cushman from the Harvard Library Innovation Lab.

Pablo described teaching students to be their own legal shepherds by gamifying the creation and categorization of citator entries. The result of this effort is a database of every outgoing citation from the last 20 years of Supreme Court majority opinions and federal appellate courts, unambiguously labelled either as a positive, referencing, distinguishing, or negative citation. This data will be hosted by us (LII) and made freely available without restriction. In addition to the valuable data, he also shared how to engage students, librarians and research instructors as partners in the free law movement.

After a brief presentation of some of the ways they are beginning to use data from all the digitized case laws, Adam and Jack invited us to imagine what we could do with data. I can see possibilities for topic modeling, discovery of multi-faceted relationships between cases, and mapping of changes in contract conditions, etc. Many more features, tools and use cases were suggested by the other attendees. We welcome you to send us your personal wish list for features to make this information useful to you.

I also participated in a panel discussion on software management of large digital archives, moderated by Wilhelmina Randtke (Florida Academic Library Services Cooperative), along with Jack Cushman and Wei Fang (Assistant Dean for Information Technology and Head of Digital Services, Rutgers Law Library).

There was so much interest in the Oyez Project moving to the LII, that Craig’s presentation on LII’s use of web analytics, was replaced by a discussion hosted by Craig and Tim Stanley (Justia) on the transition. The rather lively discussion was made all the more entertaining by an impromptu costume change by Craig. The prevailing sentiment after the discussion was that the Oyez Project was in the best possible hands and ‘safe’.

An unexpected bonus were the number of LII users who made it a point to complement the LII and express how useful they find our services. One particularly enthusiastic fan was DeAnna Swearington, Director of Operations at (Learning tools for law students). I also met Wilson Tsu, CEO of LearnLeo and a Cornell alum, who had fond memories of when the LII first started. There were also several former law students who told me how invaluable the LII collections had been to them in school and continues to be in their current occupations.

All in all, a successful and enlightening conference. A big thank you to the organizers. They did an excellent job. I am already looking forward to next year!

LII Text Systems Developer

Thank you — all of you — for your generosity during our June fundraising appeal. hattip
Your exceptional generosity made this the most successful June campaign in the LII’s history by a very wide margin ( a 15% increase over its next nearest competitor, in June of 2014).
Your donations make it possible for us to do what we do in important, innovative ways.  The LII is, and always has been, more than an online service offering the raw text of American statutes and regulations.  We spend a lot of time thinking about how to make legal information easier to use and understand, and it’s your contributions that let us put those ideas into action.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be quietly rolling out two important improvements to our Code of Federal Regulations collection.  It will now use the e-CFR as its base text, making it the most up-to-date and usable version of CFR available online.  Experiments with the eCFR text have been underway for a few months, and we now think it’s reliable and full-featured enough to put in the “top spot”.  And — after three years of experimentation and development work with natural-language processing techniques — we’ve extracted and linked all of the defined terms in the text of CFR to the definitions that apply to them.  This is a very basic — but very important — step in helping people to understand the law.  Definitions are, after all, the first step for most people in figuring out whether a reg applies to them or not.
It’s your donations that make all this possible.  Thank you, once again.

In 2008, more than 70 judges from around the world attended the
Senior Roundtable for Women’s Justice in Women & JusticeWashington, D.C. They expressed a desire for a permanent place where they could continue their fight to improve the status of women and girls around the world. Cornell answered the call, lined up funding from the Avon Foundation for Women, and opened the Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School.

For most of the last decade, the Avon Center pursued four major initiatives in support of its mission: holding events, undertaking clinical projects; providing legal research assistance for judges; and developing an online database of relevant case law from around the globe.

Unfortunately, outside funding has come to an end, and the Center is closing.  This is where the Avon Center’s story becomes an LII story.

At the request of the outgoing Executive Director and with the approval of Law School Dean Eduardo Penalver, we will take over the operation of the Women & Justice caselaw collection.  

“We do a lot at the LII, but this one is special” says Associate Director Craig Newton.  “One of my best friends during law school was the first Avon Center Fellow, and I called her right away when I learned we might have a role in keeping the Center’s work alive.”  But, the mission is more than personal: “this is a unique and valuable collection of case law, and we are perfectly positioned not just to host it but to grow it.”

Newton plans to leverage the LII’s network of volunteers to help find and summarize additional cases for the database.  To help, please email us at

Once we have the database ported over to LII’s servers, we’ll begin organizing our work to make this important database downright essential to those in pursuing justice for girls and women on a global scale.  

If you can’t contribute your time and expertise to this project, please consider making a financial contribution that will enable and enhance our abilities to manage this and other projects in the future.  

The Power of the Hyperlink, May 2016 Edition

Newsletter Comments Off on The Power of the Hyperlink, May 2016 Edition
Jun 072016

add_link-512Each month, we plan to share with you a cross-section of the websites that have referred traffic to our collections–collections that you help maintain and grow with your support of the LII.  These are actual examples of how journalists, bloggers, and scads of folks on social media all amplify our efforts to provide free legal reference information by sharing our materials on the Internet.  In turn, they magnify your support of those efforts.

In May, visitors from 16,392 different websites around the world followed links to our content.  At the top of the list are the usual suspects like major social media sites and Wikipedia.  While we love those sites–and their traffic, of course–we thought this sampling of other websites who sent traffic our way might interest you. Our focus this month: News outlets.

There’s the “fourth estate” folks:

Baltimore Sun

  • Linking to Federal Rules of Evidence 413 & 414


  • Linking to a section of the Affordable Care Act

Los Angeles Times

  • Linking to a section of the Communications Decency Act

NY TImes (here, here, here, here, here, here & here)

  • Linking mostly to U.S. Supreme Court Decisions

Washington Post  

  • Quoting and linking to our Wex definition of defamation

Then, there’s the little guys:

Bangor Daily News

  • Linking to a section of federal labor law

Picayune Item

  • Quoting the federal definition of an “open alcoholic beverage container”

Rome (Ga) News Tribune

  • Linking to our Bulletin Preview of Foster v. Chatman

And, of course, there’s plenty of “new media” too:

Ars Technica (here & here)

  • Quoting the four-factor test for fair use in federal copyright law

Huffington Post (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here & here)

  • Linking mostly to U.S. Supreme Court Decisions

Slate (there were 130 from, this one sent us the most traffic)

  • A little bit of everything….


These were just some of our favorites.   Feel free to let us know when you see the LII quoted by your favorite websites.

cfr-logo-final-3.0.2015-07-13-104248No, it’s not a logo and tagline for the Code of Federal Regulations we all know and love (it actually belongs to an IT firm in Kuala Lumpur).  But it got us thinking:  what tagline should be on the CFR?  So we thought we’d run a caption contest and see what you come up with.

We can’t offer prizes beyond bragging rights, but the first, second, and third-place winners will be reported in our next newsletter, and if you’re ever in the same town as Tom Bruce, Craig Newton, or Sara Frug, they’ll buy you a beverage of your choice.   

Have fun!