Internet Access to Primary Legal Materials: Making it Happen

January 1, 2000

Since the Free the Law meeting on 8 November, realprogress has been made in turning an exciting possibility into a reality.

Laurie West-Knights has followed through on his viewthat there was need for immediate action. His actions have been supported by alarge number of others, many of whom attended the meeting itself, and by a rangeof funders – from personal offers of £50 through to institutional pledges of£20,000.

The progress has been unbelievably swift and continuesat such a great pace that whatever you read here is inevitably outdated. For anupdate


The initial funding for a pilot/first step has beenfound from a variety of sources. SCL itself has pledged £20,000. The BarCouncil Practice Management and Development Committee has recommended fundingand the Bar Council GMC has committed £20,000. At the time of writing it seemslikely that the Law Society of England and Wales will match that sum.

Two leading firms of solicitors, Clifford Chance andHammond Suddards, have each pledged £10,000 and Jordans Publishing have alsocommitted that amount.

Since other offers from individuals and smallerorganisations already total £5,000, the initial funding target of £100,000seems certain to be met.

Data and Strategy

A series of meetings have followed the initialdiscussions which the Graham Greenleaf presentation inspired. In particular,Lord Saville, Lord Justice Brooke, Richard Susskind, Amanda Finlay and LaurieWest-Knights have met to devise a strategy and outline a business plan. Theyhave begun to identify the sources of data and thrown their very considerableweight behind its acquisition: House of Lords, Court of Appeal and Court Servicematerial seems sure to be available at stage one.

Discussions with the Institute of Advanced LegalStudies and the University of Warwick make Warwick’s Law Technology Centre aleading candidate to host the databases.

Discussions continue to develop contacts in Scotland,Ireland, Northern Ireland and with European sources in Strasbourg. AustLIIremains firm in its crucial support on technical matters.

There is a firm commitment to warehousing capturedmaterial both as a back-up and to allow alternative exploitation by otherlike-minded organisations.

The aim is to have an organisation with a workingdatabase early in the New Year.