The 2009 Hugh Lawford Award for Excellence in Legal Publishing awarded to Slaw.ca is well deserved recognition of the innovative and substantive contribution that Slaw is making to Canadian legal literature. Wendy Reynold’s comment that “A Blog winning a legal publishing award shows that this model is mainstream now” is very telling.
Online legal research was pioneered by Hugh Lawford who not only launched one of the first online legal research services anywhere, but also built a commercial enterprise from a university research project that dominated the Canadian online market for two decades. Through his genius, drive and determination, Hugh Lawford tried just about everything on Quicklaw, except of course blogging which he graciously left for the founders of Slaw.
It is not an exaggeration to say that Hugh Lawford created the market for online legal information in Canada. He trained the legal profession in online legal research by training generations of law students over two decades. He promoted the use of online legal research by providing free access to Quicklaw to law professors, law students, and the judiciary, in the expectation that students would become paying subscribers to Quicklaw when they started to practice law.
Hugh Lawford was a byword for responsiveness to the suggestions of customers. His vision had no limits. To him, every idea was a good idea, or at least an idea worth trying. At one time or other, Quicklaw databases included:
Public Records – Databases of federal and provincial legislation, the judgments of Canadian courts, and the decisions of Canadian administrative tribunals, as well as case law from the U.S. and the Commonwealth.
Licensed content – Print law reports from every important English language commercial legal publisher, as well as newspapers and law reviews.
Value added and secondary content – The Dominion Report Service, the McGraw Hill Ryerson Case Citator, and the Irwin Law “Essentials” series.
On more than one occasion he sought to have Quicklaw become the clearing house for the distribution of all court judgments in Canada. While falling short of this objective, he did establish the Quicklaw “J” citation (i.e. “CJ”, “AJ”, “OJ” etc…) as the universally recognized citation for Canadian cases reported online.
The business model Hugh adopted for Quicklaw was “one product fits all”. All content online was made available to every subscriber to the service for an annual subscription fee. That fee was then increased annually based on a combination of increased usage of Quicklaw by the customer and by the addition of more and more databases to the Quicklaw service. In short, Quicklaw tried and succeeded in covering all the bases, making it unnecessary and difficult for anyone else to play a role in providing online access to legal information in Canada. For a time, anyone and everyone interested in online Canadian legal research subscribed to Quicklaw.
While different in scale, Slaw.ca follows in the same spirit and tradition that led to the creation of Quicklaw. Slaw.ca is an innovative next step in the Lawford tradition and the natural recipient of an award given in Hugh Lawford’s name.