Legal Libraries Go Digital During Pandemic

While the courts haven’t closed, they’ve certainly slowed down. And if one thing that litigators are used to doing, it’s reading case law.

The Great Library at Law Society of Ontario has announced on Twitter that all licensees can obtain free access to Westlaw and Proview for 30 days. The initiative is intended to support remote workers and promote self-isolation, but us legal geeks will likely use it just to read interesting things.

Digital access to these resources are normally an extension of the services available to licensees through annual fees. LIRN subscribes to publisher collections to make this access available to licensees on library computers.

Of course this access does not extend to the members of the public, who in normal times would frequent law libraries across the province. Most, however, would not have access to these databases when in the library physically, as they typically do not have access to law library computers and have to abide by special rules.

Kerry Fitzgerald describes in Legal Reference Services Quarterly how the original law libraries in North America were private collections, and as they became bar libraries, they largely excluded the public until the 20th c. An early concern of librarian malpractice in the academic literature, where members of the public rely on direction by librarians in a manner that effectively constitutes legal advice, never really materialized.

She argues that law libraries should be devoting more time and money to self-represented litigants, because the need has been steadily increasing, and it provides a basis for law libraries to attract greater funding.

Although the need has only increased further since she wrote this in 2003, the emergence of legal content on the Internet has in some ways vitiated against the need for additional legal resources. However, the book collections through ProView remain an incredibly valuable resource that many self-represented litigants typically access in physical form alone, and will not be able to access at this time.

This initiative is only possible due to the support of Thomson Reuters and the Legal Information and Resource Network (LIRN), which is the new structure governing the delivery of library services in Ontario. All law librarians in LIRN libraries will also have this access.

See here to obtain this free access.


  1. Its worth noting that LexisNexis also make 30 day free access to QuickLaw available to law library users over a week ago as well. Contact your local law libraries to find out more.