Maritime Law Book Wins Hugh Lawford Award for Excellence in Legal Publishing

At this week’s annual conference of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries in Ottawa, the Hugh Lawford Award for Excellence in Legal Publishing was awarded to Maritime Law Book.

Since 1999, the Award has been given by the Association every year to acknowledge the work that is done by publishers to provide the Canadian legal profession with high quality materials for use in understanding and researching the law.

From the announcement:

“Maritime Law Book is a Canadian owned and operated company located in Fredericton, New Brunswick. It started operations in 1969 by publishing Canadian caselaw from jurisdictions not covered by other publishers. It now publishes 14 law reporters encompassing every common law jurisdiction in Canada. These reporters are available both online and in print. Maritime Law Book has developed a Key Number System to classify all its reported cases. This detailed and analytical indexing system was a fundamental legal research tool in the days before sophisticated online databases and search capabilities, and it continues to be a tremendously efficient and important way to research and find relevant Canadian caselaw online”.


  1. Thanks, Michel-Adrien; that is happy news. I began my legal research career in Alberta, where Maritime’s Alberta Reports are a staple for research, largely because of the excellent index. (The ARs was the semi-official reporter – there was no official reporter in Alberta. I speak in the past tense because I have no current knowledge about such things.) When I came out to Ontario I was disappointed MLB is not so widely used here – the print OTRs went away, and I don’t know how well-used the OACs are. (Are these still around?)

    Every law librarian I know (including me, now that I’m one, sort of) loves MLB. The firm librarians always used to push the ARs to articling students as the best place to start case law research because of Maritime’s wonderful key number system. And to use the key numbers online was fantastic, once that became possible in the mid-90s. I recall MLB becoming an early adopter of an own electronic search platform when they pulled their content of QL. Before their web site search, they even issued “diskettes” (remember those?) for this purpose. I have heard (but I don’t know if it’s true) that West based its Key on MLB’s concept.


  2. No Kim – while Eric Appleby’s achievement is major – and he well deserves his Hugh, the West Publishing Company has been using the Key Number System for over a century:

    I say over a century because the web references refer to late Nineteenth Century “Perhaps its most influential and valuable contribution was its late 19th-century invention of the Key Number System, a means of methodically organizing and summarizing the thousands of judicial rulings delivered each year. This indexing grid became so widely used by lawyers that it virtually transformed the adversarial and adjudicatory processes in the United States. West Group continues to use the Key Number System in a number of its products, including such longstanding and widely used series as the American Digest System and the National Reporter System.” See

    There is a fine piece on the Multiplicity of Law Reports in the Law Lib. J. for 1909 at which explains the problems.

    Wikipedia explains how the system worked – essentially to manage the volumes of the Decennial Digests:

  3. The OACs (Ontario Appeal Cases) are still alive and kicking…we carry this series in my office.

  4. They may be alive and kicking but 95% of our lawyers would prefer the Ontario Reports and at McMillan Binch it was a relatively easy series to stop subscribing to, under budget pressure.

    Where the company comes into its own is the APRs.