From the Editor’s Chair

January 1, 2000

Millennium Legal Motorway

The lasting mark for the millennium in my immediate neighbourhood is asweeping bridge and revitalised railway track – Black Dog Halt, the redundantstation, is now part of the scenery on the Millennium Cycleway. It seemed to mea fitting way to celebrate the event – something useful and lasting whichwould improve the quality of life for those of us nearby and for all those whohad cause to enjoy a long-distance bike ride. It has been a long battle forthose involved but now it is an impressive route through the countryside whereonce there was impenetrable bramble and thorn.

I never believed that we might have an opportunity to celebrate themillennium with a special access route through the thicket of law. I amdelighted, and genuinely amazed, by the progress which has been made towards thecreation of a new legal institute for the UK and Ireland over the last fewweeks. When in June, prompted by the success of online case provision forScotland, I expressed a hope that the argument in favour of a primary databasefor our jurisdictions would be back on the agenda, I anticipated a long-drawnout battle. The spark of the Free the Law event has in fact led to an explosion of activity and we seem to be staringat the real possibility that an AustLII equivalent will be in place early in thenew year.

There will be many difficulties to overcome, and it will be some time beforewe have a three-lane highway cutting through from case to case and linking everystatute and SI, but the foundation is beginning to be laid. Those who havechampioned the cause for years in SCL deserve special credit, and indeed everySCL member has cause to celebrate that achievement and claim some credit for it.There have of course been crucial contributions from elsewhere, both fromindividuals and from institutions such as IALS and the Bar Council – I wouldlike to express my genuine gratitude to all those involved. There are probablymany names that deserve to be mentioned but three spring to my mind: Ruth Baker,for forcing what might have been a low-key event into a high-profile evening ofcritical influence; Graham Greenleaf, who might so easily have been adisappointment but who was an inspiration; and Laurie West-Knights, who hasshown incredible energy and persistence beyond the call of duty – I amgenuinely in awe of what has been achieved and he has been fundamental to thatachievement.

The new initiative will I hope provide a lasting mark, of great use tolawyers and the public as a whole – a fitting celebration of SCL’s 25thanniversary and, incidentally, the millennium too!