Feedback and Advice on the use of LIIs (Legal Information Institutes)

Hi all

I am new to the Global Legal Empowerment Network. I am the Director of PacLII - the Pacific Legal Information Institute. Our website is www.paclii.org PacLII is committed to making laws of the Pacific region freely and easily available to the public - when we started 20 years ago it was almost impossible to fund up to date laws in many Pacific countries.

We are part of the Free Access to Law Movement and all our data gets aggregated into WorldLII www.worldlii.org

I am posting this for 2 reasons - if anybody uses PacLII, or any of its corresponding LIIs globally, any feedback on what we could do better would be appreciated.

Second, PacLII has now got its core business of publishing laws to improve access into a good system. But - making laws available is not the same as meaningful access - providing the tools to help people to be able to understand and use the laws, now they have access to them. So the question becomes what an we be doing to “add value”. We have many ideas, a virtual community legal information centre, acting as a clearing house for legal literacy material, producing case summaries are the top 3 that we are pursuing at the moment. But, if people have experience of using LIIs and have any feedback on what sorts of services you think we can and should develop that would be very much appreciated.

General ideas as to how to use websites to build legal empowerment would be helpful (in Vanuatu there is a good uptake of facebook - so a website with facebook linked is something we are thinking of to allow for 2 way communication - but conversations need to be controlled, and we have to be careful to provide information, not give advice)

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Hey Anita,

When I was a law student in Australia I would often use Austlii’s LawCite as I found it to be one of the most accessible and fast case search systems.

However, I will always remember my first ever assignment in criminal law when I relied on a piece of legislation from AustLii that turned out to be out of date :sweat:. My fault for not realizing of course, but it’s somewhat reflective of how most law students via the Lii’s: useful in some special cases, but never rely on it.

The biggest thing in my book is better APIs for the wealth of legal resources the LIIs have. You have something you refer to as an API - SINO CGI API - but it’s not an API in the traditional sense, more of a fancy search form builder, and without trying to be mean about it, the brief documentation is a bit ‘academic’ in tone :slight_smile: (i.e. conceptual rather than practical).

A true API that provided a REST interface to query your open source resources would be very valuable. It could be used for legal technology ranging from the provision of low level online legal services to machine learning.

As I’m sure you know (better than me), getting access to “the data”, i.e. the cases and statutes, is one of the most significant barriers in leveling the legal playing field. By providing true API access to your resources you would be enabling a whole ecosystem of developers, companies and organizations to build technology that provides better access to justice.

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Thank you for these comments Angus

The challenge of teaching law students how to do thorough legal research is ongoing, and it is interesting to know that Australian law students make the same mistakes. In the Pacific where we do not have the paid database services it is critical that thorough research is taught. We will be creating a series of videos, information sheets and practice exercises to take people (not only law students) from very basic searching through to how to “self-consolidate” legislation in countries where there are no consolidations, how to use the indexes to check that you have the most recent law, what other checks should be performed… I will make sure to throw in some resources for searching AustLII, WorldLII et cet too so our resources directly address those LIIs. People often do not realise that if you can search one, you know how to search them all.

I am out of my depth on APIs. I am the report writer and strategic direction person – when I have been thinking about creating meaningful access to the law I have been thinking about content, rather than the technical level. I will pass this on to the technical team here and at AustLII.

Regards

Anita

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