2015 Roundup

The daily Pinhawk newsletter is one of the best ways to keep up with the torrent of information about legal information, tech, and publishing. Every day an email appears including links and highlights of the latest news from the blogosphere. (Slaw columns often get a mention.) In the spirit of Pinhawk, this column is a roundup of some of the more interesting recent developments in our world of legal information:

  • Fellow Slaw columnist Sarah Glassmeyer is spending a year at the Harvard Law Library Innovation Lab as a Research Fellow. Her latest column was a masterful discussion of the state of access to law south of the border. Although the Canadian legal information landscape is quite different (thank you CanLII and all who support this important resource), Sarah’s observations about the hurdles to open access to law are on point for legal information professionals everywhere.
  • Also from Harvard … not only is Harvard Law School digitizing its entire collection of US case law, it’s also planning to make that collection available online and for free. What an incredible project! Louis Mirando has covered this in an excellent column; what’s really exciting, though, is the comment from Xavier Beauchamp-Tremblay, CanLII’s new CEO. He hints that something is in the works … I am watching with interest!
  • Legal tech startups are getting access to funding and possibly to content; the Globe reports that ROSS now has the support of Dentons and its NextLawLabs, and Thomson Reuters and LegalX have announced a partnership in which Thomson will “accelerate the dialogue between lawyers, technologists, designers, engineers, and entrepreneurs to drive change”. The language of the announcements may be sparkly and excited, but I see a long road ahead before any useful and affordable tools are introduced to the marketplace. Here on Slaw, John Gillies has highlighted the limitations of the first ROSS demonstrations; apparently ROSS doesn’t yet have access to enough primary or secondary law to really show its stuff.
  • One of my favourite recent columns was found in the Lawyerist, entitled “Legal Tech is Solving All the Wrong Problems”. As Lisa Needham writes, “we seem unable to figure out how to leverage technology for the greater ease of the profession”. She speaks about the potential of Big Data, but also notes that developing tools that access Big Data is expensive. As I’ve said before: do we need further complicated and expensive tools that are not for saving time and money but for doing more?
  • Here in BC we are all following the development of the Civil Resolution Tribunal, Canada’s first online dispute resolution tool. As of late December, they are testing their Solution Explorer and its guided pathways to help navigate legal disputes. With some very limited exceptions, parties must represent themselves before the tribunal; even so, there’s no doubt that lawyers will still be able to advise their clients as they work their way through the tribunal’s process. Launch is expected in 2016.

There’s plenty to look forward to in 2016. Here at CLEBC, we’re busy replacing our publishing platform and implementing a content management system. This is a big job for a small organization, but we have ambitious plans: we want to meet our users’ expectations for choice and control over content consumption. (I’ll reveal more in the coming year about what that really means.)

One last thing: the 2015 CALL conference in Moncton was outstanding. This year’s conference will be held from May 15 to 18, 2016 in my home city of beautiful Vancouver; I hope you’ll plan to join us here.

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