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Playing in (web) traffic

This year, big changes in how Google records and reports traffic in its analytics platform caused us to reconsider how we think about, and talk about, traffic to our website. Remember when a certain fast food chain switched from counting the billions it had served to just saying “billions and billions” served? We’re basically doing the same thing. If you saw our Fiscal Year 2023 Annual Report from this summer, for example, we simply noted that once again “more than 45 million people visited” the website. We expect to take the same approach at the end of the calendar year, then again next summer when our current fiscal year ends, etc.

It’s not that we’ve stopped cherishing each and every visitor, or that we’re assuming our ubiquity in your search results and browser bookmarks will never change. Far from it. Instead, we want to put more focus on how people use our resources, and less on how many. After all, we’re long past the point where it’s just an incomprehensibly large number that trends ever larger over time. And it’s not like any of the challenges we face in publishing law online for free will change all that much when we hit 50 million annual visitors, or 60 million, or 100 million.

So, we’re paying more attention to what kind of events spark heavy traffic days and just how much traffic those events tend to yield over a “typical” day, and then we’re using those insights to think about what we can do differently and do better to bring as much legal information to the public as possible in the simplest and most connected way we can.  

Shout Out to Suffolk

From time to time, we feature others working in free law whom we admire.  This time, we want to shine the spotlight on the wonderful work being done by our friends Quinten Steenhuis, David Colarusso, and their team at the Legal Innovation & Technology Lab at Suffolk Law School.  (You might remember that we recently wrote about a conference they hosted.)

In addition to being a unique way to teach law students from all academic backgrounds to embrace (and improve) the technology they’ll encounter in law practice, the “LIT Lab” creates impactful legal tech in its own right, such as this software for assembling court forms in Massachusetts and this software, which is an experiment in extracting legal issues from a plain-language description of a problem. 

Quinten and David are well-known to the LII team.  In fact, we’ve known Quinten, the Lab’s Practitioner in Residence, since he was a student at Cornell Law School in the Aughts.  Since then, he’s accumulated many accolades for his work at the intersection of public interest law and legal technology, including being named a finalist in the “A2J [access to justice]: Individual” Category for the 2023 American Legal Technology Awards and earning a place on the 2023 Fastcase 50.  He blogs at

We haven’t known David Colarusso, who directs the LIT Lab, quite as long as we’ve known Quentin, but his contributions to the future or legal tech are no less impressive.  A long time “legal hacker” in the best sense, David’s name appears on pretty much every list of important legal tech movers and shakers, including the Fastcase 50 (2016), and the ABA Journal’s “Legal Rebels” and “Best Law Tweeters.”  David was also a finalist for this year’s 2023 American Legal Technology Awards, earning a nomination in the “Education” category.  His website,, features his work not only as an educator and a coder, but also as an attorney, an scientist, a writer, and even a maker of furniture!  

We’re proud to know Quinten, David, and the entire LIT Lab team.  We hope you’ll join us in admiring their work and cheering them on as they produce not only their own software but, perhaps more importantly, the next generation of lawyers who are educated and empowered to leverage technology to improve access to justice.

Conference gleanings: experimenting with emerging technologies

As technologies evolve ever more rapidly, conferences have accordingly become an ever more important way for us to interact with other groups who are working on the same kinds of problems.  We’re a small group trying to make the law more understandable for the public, and comparing experiences lets us gain tremendous leverage on the efforts of our small team. This summer, LII software engineer and former research attorney Matt Carey represented LII at the International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Law. Among the presentations, one,  presented by Daphne Odekerken of Utrecht University (coauthored with Floris Bex and Henry Prakken) intrigued him enough to take the software for a test drive. With the usual caveats about this being experimental, he’s shared his experience in a post entitled “A Python Package for Legal Case Based Reasoning” at his blog Python for Law

Tempus Fugit, Memento Mori

Time flies.

Since 2020, 81 Cornell Law students have contributed to the creation and revision of nearly 5,000 entries for Wex, our free legal dictionary and encyclopedia. While you can find the full list of contributors on our Wex Definitions Team page, we would like to spotlight a few who have made significant contributions to our collections over these last few years. 

Wex Student portraits
Korica Simon ‘21 Blaine Fix ‘22 Riley Morrow ‘23

Korica Simon is a 2021 Cornell Law School J.D. graduate. While in law school, she was an acquisitions editor for the Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy. She was also a Pro Bono Scholar and completed her externship at The Legal Aid Society, Digital Forensics Unit. During the summer of 2021, Korica worked for the Legal Information Institute, where she defined legal terms and provided summaries for landmark court cases. She updated nearly 100 entries, including conservatorship, and wrote new entries for freedom of speech, Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L., and People v. William Freeman (1847), among many others. Korica also worked hard to create a list of existing laws, notable cases, terms, and concepts that would eventually become the mortuary law collection, which is just beginning to roll out on our website now. Korica is currently working as a Court Attorney for the New York State Unified Court System.

Blaine Fix ‘22

During his time at Cornell, Blaine Fix served as the President of the Business Law Society and externed with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Wisconsin. Blaine started working on Wex in the fall of 2021. He created over 100 new entries, primarily in finance and for our securities collection including; debt, initial public offering (IPO), Section 5, and gun jumping before graduating in the spring of 2022. Blaine currently works as a corporate finance attorney at Foley & Lardner, LLP representing borrowers in private equity deals, refinancing and renewable energy financings.

Riley Morrow ‘23

Riley received his undergraduate degree at Samford University studying political science and international relations, and he received his J.D. with a specialization in International Affairs from Cornell Law School in 2023. Riley has worked on the Wex definitions team since May 2021. He has written and updated hundreds of Wex entries, helped bolster our trusts, inheritances and estates collection, and started our brand-new mortuary law collection. Riley will be starting as a corporate associate at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP later this Fall.

The LII would like to thank Korica, Blaine, Riley, and the entire Wex Definitions Team for all of their hard work updating and creating collections. 

Remember death. 

That’s right, we are in the process of publishing a collection that we were missing – mortuary law. No matter how fortunate we all may be, there is one event that is guaranteed to happen to every single one of us, and that’s death (Happy Halloween). Funerals and death may not be a topic everyone is comfortable talking about, but the mortuary collection will be here for you to peruse as needed, or for the morbidly curious (As Taylor Swift would say: “It’s me, hi, I’m the problem, it’s me”). Some of the foundation of our new Wex entries come from 16 CFR Part 453 – Funeral Industry Practices and case law. While this collection is in its infancy, some notable entries are the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Funeral Rule, right of disposition, and quasi property rights of a human body

Another Year, Another Birthday Party

Last year, we had the not-quite-extraordinary idea to throw ourselves a birthday party at Cornell Law School.  We had so much fun, and handed out so many treats to students, staff, and faculty, that we decided to do it again.

So, earlier this month we once again put out the clarion call of “free cake and cupcakes!” and once again the Cornell community showed up in droves.  This year, we doubled our cupcake order and still had no leftovers.  All-in-all, we distributed 144 cupcakes and as many roughly-cupcake-sized pieces we could manage from a full sheet of gluten-free birthday cake–all in under 45 minutes!

We hope you’ll enjoy these photos and won’t be confused if we add a new motto to the website:  “Free legal information every day, and free birthday treats once a year!”  

Annual Report 2023

LII Co-Directors Sara Frug and Craig Newton preparing to hand out treats during our 30th anniversary celebration at Cornell Law School.


Again in Fiscal Year 2023, more than 45 million people visited  They engaged in 73 million sessions and viewed 166 million pages of content.     

More important than the raw traffic numbers, though, are the stories we hear from folks who use the LII:  

“The Legal Information Institute is an incredibly valuable, free source. I use it frequently in my work as a reporter and editor. I have included links to the Institute’s explanations in my articles far more times than I ever could count.”

Rachel H., Editor and Publisher of a local news website

“[Y]our service has been invaluable to me for the past 30 years.”

Timothy P., appellate counsel

“This was an invaluable resource when I was teaching, and I still consult it in retirement.  Thank you!”

Lea V., law professor emerita 

“I’m very grateful to Cornell LII and its tireless staff for providing free and up-to-date access to the United States Code and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Federal Rules of Evidence, plus its US Supreme Court advance sheets provided under its Hermes Project. Many thanks.”

Stephen G., attorney

“I use your site with my students and it is invaluable. Thanks for your hard work.”

Dianna B., Ph.D, professor 

“[P]roviding legal information to citizens, without pricing them out, is essential. A non-partisan, legal information-resource, available to all, is a huge step to having an informed, and empowered citizenry.”

Kurt G., skills trainer and case manager

“Thanks for making U.S. law accessible and for supporting global access to legal information!”

Mary H., law professor 

“Been using these resources for almost 20 years!!!”

Maya D., attorney

“Thank you for always being there 24/7/365. Your site has helped more Veterans than you can ever know.”

Alex G., veterans advocate

“The work you do is very valuable to me as a non-lawyer/business owner and student of matters political/judicial. Thank you!”

Jonathan C., executive

“I use LII constantly in my work. Thank you for working to make the law accessible and open!”

Chase H., attorney

“I’ve used the comprehensive LII resources of statutory laws and regulations for decades and have found them to be indispensable to my practice. Keep up the great work you do!”

Mark D., tax attorney

“This is an enormously helpful free resource to those of us in grassroots community legal matters. Thank you.”

Paul J., advocate

Who entrusts us with their readers

We are proud to say that nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, news outlets, and all levels of government continued to extend their vote of confidence in our resources by sending us their readers. In the past year, we received referrals from large government agencies we’d expect like the IRS, VA and HUD, but also smaller ones like the Selective Service Board (pointing visitors to the 1991 Supreme Court case upholding the practice of registering only men for the draft), the Consumer Product Safety Commission (linking to various federal regulations in our CFR), and (“a forum for Federal Chief Information Officers” who used our site to point to the US Code’s definition of Chief Data Officers).  At the state level, agencies in Massachusetts, Texas, California, Indiana, and Oklahamoa had the top referring websites, though the city of Charlotte, NC was also high on the list.  We also received traffic from respected organizations like the American Bar Association, Pro Publica, and the American Civil Liberties Union, as well as popular media outlets such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, NPR, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News.  Learning management platforms like Google Classroom, Blackboard, and Brightspace sent us traffic from hundreds of school districts, colleges and universities.  Though these sorts of “referral links” make up a very small part of our overall traffic (less than 5% in the aggregate), we are proud of the trust in our work that they represent.

Global reach

Beyond the United States, LII welcomed visitors from across the world in 244 countries and territories. Although the ranking of traffic by country of origin does not change much from one year to the next, it shifted a bit in FY23: China moved back into sixth place behind the US, India, Philippines, Canada and the UK.  Nigeria, which in last year’s report had climbed into the #10 slot, moved up to 8th with an impressive 29% increase in visitors.  Russia made perhaps the most impressive jump, as 142% more visitors–close to a quarter million–came from there this year, vaulting it into the 10th spot.  

Project Updates

As we celebrated our 30th anniversary of providing free legal resources online, it was particularly gratifying to see the collections in which we’re investing the most resources make huge gains in usage as we continue to help people everywhere find and understand the law through our unique multidisciplinary approach. 

A team of Cornell graduate engineering students explain their work on building features in our database of state regulations
A team of Cornell graduate engineering students explain their work on building features in our database of state regulations.

State regulations

Our state regulations collection, made possible by Public.Resource.Org’s multi-year Code Improvement Commission project, continues with the collaboration of LII, Fastcase, Inc., Justia, Inc., and others. In the past year, more people used this collection than ever before, as evidenced by a 54% increase over FY22.  We relentlessly refine our tools for ingesting, processing, standardizing, enriching, and publishing the regulations of the 50 states in a user-friendly and accessible format, while maintaining access and timely updates for an audience that visited more than 6.3 million pages in this collection. Most importantly for our effort to improve the discoverability and readability of the regulations, we worked with two teams of M.Eng. students to explore new techniques to analyze and mine the text of the regulations for legally significant features (e.g., definitions) that are not marked up explicitly in the text. These applied research projects both leverage what we have learned from our prior work with federal regulations and enable us to take in a much broader range of drafting conventions among the many agencies across the 50 states. We look forward to bringing the resulting features to the public on the LII website in the coming months.

Supreme Court Bulletin

As always, the thirty-six Cornell Law students who researched, drafted, and edited our Supreme Court Bulletin Previews for the 2022 – 23 term provided the public with important analysis of the arguments made by the parties in every SCOTUS case. Unsurprisingly, the highest-profile cases yielded the most pageviews, with tens of thousands of people reading our students’ explanations of 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, Students for Fair Admissions Inc. v. President & Fellows of Harvard College, and Counterman v. Colorado, along with others from the term such as Gonzales v. Google and Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts v. Goldsmith.  The other half of our Bulletin service, where we immediately publish and circulate to subscribers all Supreme Court opinions from a direct feed from the court’s administrators, was also busy in Fiscal 23. As an interesting insight into how many news services now publish new opinions, as well as the progress the Supreme Court itself has made in publishing its own output, it’s worth noting that our most viewed opinion of FY23 was once again Roe v. Wade.


Fiscal ‘23 saw clear results from the emphasis we have placed in recent years on improving Wex, our collection of plain language explanations of legal terms and concepts. Our students have now revised or created around 5,000 Wex entries since this renovation initiative began in 2020. As a direct result, readers are finding Wex in much higher numbers than ever before. Wex usage in Fiscal ‘23 jumped to more than 25 million pageviews. The most popular Wex pages in that time were articles explaining the Second, and Fifth Amendments to the US Constitution, as well as the commerce clause, but also definitions of “contract,” “federalism,” “due process,” and “defamation.” 

Women and Justice Collection

Our Women & Justice Collection (WJC), which saw a 34% increase in traffic over last fiscal year, continues to provide open access to legal resources related to gender justice from around the world. The first vetted and searchable database of its kind, the Collection hosts domestic, regional, and international caselaw, legislation, and other legal instruments. Each resource is accompanied by a plain-language, one-paragraph summary to help ensure that everyone can understand the laws that govern them. Student researchers edit summaries provided by pro bono law firm associates from two of the world’s largest law firms; translate summaries; and perform comparative law research for the Collection’s NGO partners.  Project partners include the Democratic Governance & Rights Unit (DGRU) at the University of Cape Town and Cornell University’s Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide.  


LII staff members continued to serve as a resource to the free access to law movement and legal technology projects, collaborating with a number of groups in government, non-profits, and industry—including the Government Publishing Office, the Center for Computer Aided Legal Instruction, and a range of startup companies. We continued to serve as a formal advisor to the National Science Foundation-funded project FAI: Using AI to Increase Fairness by Improving Access to Justice; and, two of our technologists with experience in legal informatics research continued their work with the FAI research team, exploring techniques and providing feedback on evaluation. We also maintained representation on the editorial boards of two journals: the Journal of Open Access to Law, and Law in Context, which “publishes socio-legal articles that explore the social, historical, economic, political, and technological aspects of the operation of law.”  


LII remains exceedingly proud of all that it accomplishes without direct financial support from Cornell. As always, friends like you make that success possible.  Our mix of advertising revenue on the website, funds from our project partners and collaborators, and gifts from thousands of website users like you each year allows us to increase public understanding of the law without ever charging anyone anything to find and read it.


Did you know that, the official website of the Internal Revenue Service, points visitors to our website? In fact, so far in 2023 it trails only the major search engines, social media platforms, and wikipedia for the number of visitors it has sent to

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when all of the traffic referred by was to our US Code collection, and that traffic made up almost 5% of visitors to that collection. While the IRS still points to our US Code, there is much more. In fact, only 5 of the top 10 pages on our website for receiving traffic from are U.S. Code sections. Four others are in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).

Most exciting, though, is the top page on to receive traffic from  this one. That is the statutory definition of “recovery startup business,” as extracted from 26 U.S. Code Section 3134(c)(5) by an automated technique we first developed more than a decade ago. And this seems to be the IRS webpage that points there. 

While it’s always gratifying to see anyone (and especially government agencies) point to our website to help information seekers find what they are looking for, it’s especially exciting to see our Definitions Feature gaining traction with the outside world. (We’ve long watched with satisfaction as an increased number of visitors each year have clicked on the machine-extracted definitions while reading our U.S. Code and CFR collections.) Part of that excitement stems from our current focus on expanding the Definitions Feature to our newest major collection–state regulations. When we get that up and running, you’ll definitely read about it here!

Conference Season Part Two: New York Civil Legal Aid Tech

The New York Civil Legal Aid Tech conference is another favorite of ours. A few times we’ve been able to attend in person. This time, the conference was designed to be attended virtually, making it affordable for a much broader audience than ever before. The virtual conference was also structured to enable attorneys to earn Continuing Legal Education credits, thus maximizing the utility of the time attendees were able to spend. 

Topics ranged from access to justice and technology leadership to cybersecurity and web accessibility.  A number of presentations reflected on the ways in which the experience of the pandemic shifted the ground with regard to online forms, remote legal services, and remote legal proceedings.  And, of course, no conference this year would be complete without a presentation on artificial intelligence and access to justice. There, the topics ranged broadly from algorithmic bias to accuracy and data privacy concerns arising from rapid adoption of large language models via services like ChatGPT. 

We were delighted to see Cornell represented at this conference, which has lately been hosted at Cornell Tech.  Matt D’Amore, Director of the Law, Technology & Entrepreneurship Program at Cornell Tech and Cornell Law,  moderated a panel on building cultures of innovation, focusing on the ways in which legal service providers can learn from the experiences of law schools in developing innovation programs, as well as the ways in which they can foster collaboration.  Cornell Law students Kyle Burrus and Eliza Hong presented the application their team developed for the Cornell Law School Tenants Advocacy Practicum, the Tenant Rights Chatbot.

Conference Season Part One: It’s LIT

It’s no secret that we’re big fans of Suffolk Law School’s Legal Innovation and Technology Lab (LITLab). This year’s LITLab conference, which coincided with the Lab’s tenth anniversary, showcased another year of exceptional achievements in building software, training students, and supporting government and non-profit initiatives which serve the public.

The conference started with an address by Suffolk Law School Dean Andy Perlman, who reflected on how much has changed in the Lab’s ten years, noting the continuity of innovation in legal services and the access to justice goals such innovation supports.  LITLab Director David Colarusso and Practitioner-in-Residence Quinten Steenhuis designated the first presentation session as a showcase for the people they called the “hidden stars” of the lab — the students who engage in hands-on technology innovation projects as part of their clinical work serving clients. Each of the presentations showed completed work that arose from a challenge to providing service. Tools developed by students included tools that automated the assembly of documents to help clients with needs ranging from tribal court participation to FOIA requests to uncontested divorce to housing voucher discrimination.   

The presentation on secrets to collaborating at scale was another standout. Sheriece M. Perry, Director of Court Services and Law Libraries for the Massachusetts Trial Court’s Office of Court Management, Matt Newsted of Illinois Legal Aid, Rochelle Hahn, Director of the Massachusetts Legal Aid Websites Project, and Amanda Brown, founder and executive director of Lagniappe Law Lab, a new legal aid technology nonprofit serving Louisiana’s justice community, shared hard-won wisdom about identifying problems, building support, trying out ideas, bringing them to fruition, gathering feedback and then going through the process again. 

Throughout the presentations, the topic of new AI-based tools arose frequently. Refreshingly, the projects presented had all given careful thought to the exact capabilities of the tools they were using and how to align these capabilities with their goals. One tool from the Lab was a plugin to some of the form fields that enables users to ask a question in their own words or request a simple explanation or summary of a set of rules or instructions.  

There were also some memorable quotes from the presentations – some favorites included:

  • – “If ChatGPT had existed 10 years ago and you’d asked it for a list of oxymorons, “Legal Innovation” would have been on the list.” (Dean Andy Perlman, Suffolk Law School) 
  • – “Humans are bad at guessing about what other humans want and need.” (Daniel Yi, Senior Counsel for Legal Innovation, Civil Rights Division, US Department of Justice). 
  • – “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” (African proverb quoted by Sheriece Perry, Director of Court Services and Law Libraries for the Massachusetts Trial Court’s Office of Court Management).

We look forward to seeing where they go next. 

Free Law Litigation Update 2023

Around this time last year, we used the occasion of the second anniversary of the Supreme Court’s favorable ruling in Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org to spotlight some other early-stage litigation relevant to open access to law.  One year later, it seems appropriate to revisit that litigation and provide an update.  

Last year we focused on three cases: American Society for Testing and Materials v. Public.Resource.Org., Inc., 13-cv-1215 (D. D.C.);  International Code Council, Inc. v. Upcodes, Inc., 1-17-cv-06261 (S.D. NY); and National Fire Protection Association v. Upcodes, Inc., 2:21-CV-21-5262 (C.D. Cal.). We’ve also previously written about a company called ROSS AI and its litigation with Thomson Reuters, the owners of WestLaw.  This is an update on all four cases:

Public.Resource.Org (PRO)—the same group that won the right in the US Supreme Court to publish the official Code of Georgia, Annotated in 2020—remains in litigation with the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). ASTM appealed the trial court’s March, 2022 ruling that deemed most of PRO’s publication of ASTM standards fair use where those standards were incorporated by reference into the law of several jurisdictions, and ASTM could demonstrate neither any actual damages nor any profit by PRO resulting from the latter’s publication. The Court of Appeal for the D.C. District heard oral arguments on March 23, 2023 and will issue its opinion in due course.      

According to its website, UpCodes, Inc. provides “a comprehensive code compliance platform for anyone involved in the design, construction, or occupancy of buildings.” It has been locked in litigation since 2017 with some of the private entities who draft building codes that are later incorporated by reference into the codes of various jurisdictions. In July of 2022, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a trial court’s grant of a motion to dismiss in one of three cases between UpCodes and the International Code Council (ICC). Now, three cases brought by ICC against UpCodes–two alleging copyright infringement and one alleging false advertising–are consolidated and in the discovery phase in the Southern District of New York.

The National Fire Protection Association also sued UpCodes in 2020 in the Central District of California for direct and indirect copyright infringement. Motions for summary judgment are expected and due in mid-May, with a hearing set for late July. Early motion practice makes clear that ICC’s defense of copyright fair use will be front-and-center in those motions.       

While these cases are all important to Free Law, primarily for the way they will test and shape the doctrine of copyright fair use in these sorts of materials, nothing looms so large on the horizon as Thomson Reuters v. ROSS Intelligence, 1:20-cv-00613 (D. Del.). That is because, in addition to defending itself on the basis of fair use (among myriad other affirmative defenses), ROSS has alleged via counterclaims that WestLaw violates Sections One and Two of the Sherman Antitrust Act as both as an unreasonable restraint of trade and an unlawful monopoly in the “legal search platforms market.” The gist of these claims is that WestLaw uses “anticompetitive sales and licensing regimes supported by a web of sham copyrights and intimidation tactics to crush potential rivals like ROSS.”  (Dkt No. 225 at p13, para. 9.) These claims survived a motion to dismiss in 2022 and are not part of the dueling summary judgment motions on other claims now pending before the court.  

While the implications of all this litigation should be fairly obvious to supporters of Free Law publishers like LII, the ramifications feel quite a bit larger. For example, we’ve written about our work in supporting an academic artificial intelligence project at the University of Pittsburgh. Copyright law potentially implicates how machine learning and neural network projects are able to access and use primary and secondary legal materials, and these cases will definitely provide clarification on the contours of those limitations.

We’ll keep you updated as these cases resolve. When they do, we’ll have thoughts on what we and others think they seem to mean for Free Law and the legal AI initiatives.