Golden Anniversary

I’ve just returned from the 2012 CALL/ACBD Conference where I always enjoy engaging with my colleagues from across the country and further afield, renewing old acquaintances and making new friends. This year’s conference marked the kick-off of CALL/ACBD’s 50th Anniversary celebrations as part of that celebration we were encouraged to share our reminiscences and I would like to share one of mine here.

My first CALL/ACBD conference was in 2002 in Victoria. My memories from that conference include being somewhat awed by the conference itself and impressed with my new-found colleagues but what rings more than that was the announcement that was made in the middle of that conference that shifted the face of legal publishing in this country. In the words of CALL/ACBD Honoured Member Denis LeMay from v 27:3 of Canadian Law Libraries (as it was then):

Quicklaw makes an announcement! The moment was grave and solemn when Professor Lawford in person informed us that he was forced to “sell the family farm.” This is a crucial move in the history of Canadian legal publishing. Lexis/Nexis was chosen to form a new partnership where both parties are firmly committed to offer the best of their culture, knowledge and technology. Professor Lawford noted common views in the philosophy of both enterprises. Quicklaw’s loyalty, generosity and excellence were recognized by a standing ovation – a testimony to the place that they will always have in the hearts of CALL/ACBD members.

My memories from that announcement include a murmur in the room and the feeling that something had happened to a member of the family, a figurative bombshell had been dropped in the room. I was early in my career at that point but I understood the significance of this event but perhaps not all of the implications that went along with it. Given all the change that has occurred in the past ten years it is safe to say that this announcement was a hinge-point in how we think about Canadian Legal Information. In many ways it is difficult to believe that it was ten years ago. 2002 was CALL/ACBD’s 40th anniversary, I wonder what might be in store for the next ten years and the forty after that; regardless, it would take a significant event to top the announcement that was made in Victoria in 2002.


  1. Gary P Rodrigues

    Hugh Lawford clearly had a gift for deciding when to introduce changes in the market for online access to legal information. He demonstrated this time and again, from when he first launched Quicklaw, to the introduction of subscription pricing, and finally to the sale of the “family farm” to LexisNexis.

    In making his decisions, Hugh acted in the best interests of his customers. The choice of LexisNexis over other suitors ensured that there would be balance in the online services provided by the major legal publishers, ensuring meaningful competition on an ongoing basis in the market for legal information in Canada.

    I agree with Mark that the announcement was certainly one of the most dramatic moments in the history of CALL as well as one of the most significant.

  2. Not that I disagree with the assessment of the momentousness of Hugh’s announcement, but Hugh’s rare talent was to keep the good ship QL aloft, at times when economic reality should have brought it tumbling to earth. From the earliest days in Kingston, he was negotiating to add new content, and to parlay access, by any deal possible. He was indefatigable in pounding pavements to talk to anyone with content.

    Was this always in the best interests of customers? No – I think Hugh was more focused on QL’s survival. That and a passion for demonstrating – and expanding – the potential for electronic legal research.

    When the business was sold, he and Dick profited handsomely. But they had sacrificed so much on the way, that the returns were modest if viewed as deferred.

    One of a kind.

  3. Gary P Rodrigues

    Trust Simon to introduce some balance to the story. The survival of Quicklaw in some very tough times had to be topmost in his mind.