August 29, 2007
Caselaw for Everyone
Most of us have access to the vast majority of caselaw, statutes, and other legal materials through free Lexis and Westlaw accounts, but what about everyone else? When CALI started laying the groundwork for eLangdell, we found that acquiring the text of cases -- which by all rights are public domain -- would cost us real money. In the menu of public domain law sites,the Legal Information Institute at Cornell is now joined by AltLaw, a collaboration between folks at Columbia and University of Colorado Law Schools.
My colleague Bill McGeveren has written up a good explanation of why AltLaw is an important addition to our arsenal of legal research tools.
While a Boolean search engine is important, as McGeveran points out, what's really exciting is the possibility that, once enough law is out there in the public domain, sophisticated users (from practicing attorneys to students) will begin tagging and cataloging all of it with their own folksonomies. Ultimately, if they're properly handled, these tags and links will be far more valuable than the text itself.
And, as McGeveran mentions, what's also exciting is how innovation at law schools can happen when profs and students approach opportunities with a DIY attitude.
- Gene Koo