Leg@l IT Live: Enjeux Juridiques de Demain

The Association du Jeune du Barreau du Québec (AJBM) is conducting today an innovative and forward-looking conference on “Legal Information Technology” in Montréal, Québec. The conference is co-presided by Justice Bastarache from the Supreme Court of Canada and Daniel Poulin from the Law Faculty, University of Montreal.

This is the first post of a series covering the conference, live.

Me Dominic Jaar from the AJBM (and blog author of Wines and Information Management) opened the conference. He was followed by Justice Bastarache, who shared with the audience an interesting insight from the bench – lawyers beware: the uninformed submissions of thick appeal reference books containing too many decisions do more harm than good. Justice Bastarache commented upon the fact that because IT makes it easy to find all decisions citing precedents, some lawyers submit en bloc all such decisions, without having read them… This example, and others, provided an interesting lead into the underlying theme of the conference as set by Me Jaar: the better use of IT in support of the practice of law.

The first session was presented by Daniel Poulin and titled “Information juridique: les enjeux de demain”. Professor Poulin is well know in the Québec and Canadian Legal IT environment (among other reasons – because of his management of LexUM).

Professor Poulin set the historical context of the conference by recalling the milestones of Legal IT development in Québec:

  • 1970’s: the practice of law was largely supported by paper codes and the Rapports judiciaires de la Revue du Barreau only publish a few hundred decisions per year, the question arises more and more often: are practitioners sufficiently informed?
  • 1976 and subsequent years: SOQUIJ is created, then Wilson & Lafleur, Éditions Yvon Blais – legal information becomes increasingly available.
  • 1990’s: the Internet is increasingly used, SOQUIJ publishes 3,000 judgments per year; the access to legal information is still considered insufficient by many.
  • 1993: LexUM starts publishing decision of the Supreme Court of Canada
  • 1997: the Répertoire électronique de la jurisprudence du Barreau (REJB) appears in the Québec legal arena.
  • Later: CanLII, after 13 years, offers free access to 400,000 decisions.
  • 2000: SOQUIJ offers jugements.qc.ca, thereby offering free access to Québec court decisions.

Professor Poulin concluded on the topic of case law with casting the challenge as follows: because the access to decisions is free and easier, which represents a significant shift from the former monopolies on legal information in Québec; how can lawyers deal with this overabundance of decisions?

About doctrine, Professor Poulin noted that in Québec, “legal best-sellers” sell only about 500 copies. The economic model for the publication of doctrine is bleak. However, new ways of disseminating legal information are now available, for example, blogs and wikis.

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