We've discussed the transition of the Canada Law Book Company caselaw materials from Lexis-Nexis to a new BestCase product providing electronic access to almost all the caselaw that CLB has ever produced ((Due to licensing restrictions in the arrangements that CLB has with Thomson-West, the Canadian Patent Reporter is excluded)).
Today it launched. Tomorrow Lexis-Nexis' Canadian materials will have an entirely new set of source materials.
Along with the other Toronto research lawyers, I had an advance look at the interface last week.
The good news is that in an amazingly short period of time, CLB has managed to develop an elegant and effective entry to case series like the Dominion Law Reports. In many ways, it's as neat as Ulla de Stricker's neat code in the original Canlaw product that was CLB's last entry into this space.
Lots of hard work, and late night coding. Simplicity and elegance. Manifest intelligence. The designers have clearly learned from the frustrations users have experienced with other interfaces. They've read Slaw too!
And yet, and yet. It's very much a product of a print culture. It's just caselaw, no statutes, and as yet, no secondary materials. To really use the tools effectively, you would need to have been a sophisticated user of the index volumes of the DLRs, to understand the logic of its classification system, and to appreciate that when CLB uses the term index, it means a short string of entries synopsizing the judgments. The search engine is largely boolean, with helpful templates, but it doesn't appear to be exploring the wilder shores of natural language searching or the unorthodox uses of ranking and relevance to provide the really best cases. One still faces the danger of drowning in case law that for one reason or another really isn't worth publishing or citing. So my enthusiasm is slightly tempered.
The challenge will be to persuade the profession that one really needs to look at 4 different websites to do comprehensive caselaw research. And in the long run, the students graduating from law schools will not be viewing the world through the reporter series that used to be on the shelves in their parents' day.
Pricing may be one way of attracting a market. With solo pricing starting at $750, it is a lot cheaper than the commercial competition.
One and a half cheers!
Here is what's out there:
Canada Law Book content no longer available on Quicklaw
This web-based research service contains Canada’s leading law reports including, among others, Canadian Criminal Cases, Dominion Law Reports, Labour Arbitration Cases, as well as a comprehensive collection of unreported decisions dating back to 1971. It also includes Canada Law Book’s renowned case summary services, such as the All-Canada Weekly Summaries and the Weekly Criminal Bulletin, as well as a note-up citator feature.
Unique to BestCase – No more photocopying required to get copies of decisions exactly as they appear in a law report.
Only on BestCase will you find images of reported decisions as they appear in our law reports, in a pdf file, complete with headnotes that are ready to be presented in court or to a board. Also available are images of original judgments as released by the court, with the official court stamps and signatures. Download the reported or unreported decisions in seconds and include them with your factum, memorandum or in your file.
* Canadian Criminal Cases – 1898 to present
* Dominion Law Reports – 1912 to present
* Labour Arbitration Cases – 1948 to present
* Land Compensation Reports – 1971 to present
* Ontario Municipal Board Reports – 1972 to present
* Alberta Decisions, Civil Cases – 1979 to 2007
* Alberta Decisions, Criminal Cases – 1979 to 2007
* All-Canada Weekly Summaries – 1977 to present
* British Columbia Decisions, Civil Cases – 1977 to present
* British Columbia Decisions, Criminal Cases – 1977 to 2007
* British Columbia Labour Arbitration Decisions – 1982 to present
* British Columbia Labour Relations Board Decisions – 1979 to present
* Canadian Labour Arbitration Summaries – 1986 to present
* Charter of Rights Decisions* – 1961 to 2007 (*includes Bill of Rights)
* Federal Court of Appeal Decisions – 1980 to 1999
* Manitoba Decisions, Civil Cases – 1978 to 1999
* Manitoba Decisions, Criminal Cases – 1978 to 1999
* Saskatchewan Decisions, Civil Cases – 1980 to 2007
* Saskatchewan Decisions, Criminal Cases – 1980 to 2007
* Supreme Court of Canada Decisions – 1978 to present
* Weekly Criminal Bulletin – 1977 to present
All in all a straightforward and simple to use online service ((But then the same could be said for CanLaw fifteen years back)). Will it survive? Will it thrive? The next year will be fascinating.