March 2, 2010
Government Information as Infrastructure: Call for Comments on LAW.GOV's Legal Sources Inventory (Or How to Help Get the WEXIS Monkey Off Law Students' Backs)
In 2009, TR Legal and LexisNexis US Legal's combined revenue was $5.354 billion with an estimated combined operating profit of $1.61 billion, for a combined 30% profit margin to provide access to primary and secondary legal sources in print and online. And 2009 was a down year. Details here and here.
Everyone Pays. Even the Administrative Office of the US Courts pays WEXIS -- $156 million over ten years. “The law is locked up behind a cash register,” says Carl Malamud, but "government information is a form of infrastructure, no less important to our modern life than our roads, electrical grid or water systems." Quoted in The Economist's Special Report on Managing Information, The open society: Governments are letting in the light (Feb. 25, 2010).
Hat tip to Stanford's Paul Lomio for calling attention to the The Economist article. On Legal Research Plus, Lomio writes that the article is required reading for his ALR course. Getting the WEXIS monkey off law school students' backs by introducing the notion that sooner rather than later in their careers there will be stable and usable alternatives to very expensive legal search, that using WEXIS is not required to practice law, complements the LAW.GOV project.
Call for Comments of Legal Sources Inventory. Now that our professional association is supporting the LAW.GOV by revising the goals of AALL's State Working Groups to Ensure Access to Electronic Legal Information to include "collaborat[ing] on the ground-breaking effort led by Erika Wayne at Stanford University’s Robert Crown Law Library and Carl Malamud of PublicResource.Org to develop a national inventory of all primary legal resources at every level of government," it's time to get down to work. Wayne has issued a call for comments on an inventory of California primary legal sources. The California inventory is developing into a prototype for LAW.GOV's national inventory of state resources. Go here to participate. Hat tip to Legal Informatics Blog.
If primary legal sources are viewed as infrastructure, there will be costs just like there are for road-building, water systems and the power grid but the financial barriers to access to legal information will be substantially less than they currently are. [JH]
Is AALL working at cross purposes? The name of the working groups are "State working groups to Ensure Access to Electronic Legal Information." The first goal or action point is "take action to oppose any plan to eliminate an official print legal resource in favor of online-only . . ."
The effort should actually be "take action to ensure that any state or local information published electronically is certified as offical and authentic by the issuing body" . . .
Posted by: Scott DeLeve | Mar 2, 2010 8:27:31 AM