Funding the LIIs

Out of the blue (well to us anyway) House of Butter learnt that BAILii was teetering after it became clear that UK government sources of money were to become increasingly difficult to access as the (UK) coalition austerity belt tightened.

On 10 June we learnt from a number of UK LIS LAW posts and BAILii themselves that although they’d still receive UK government funds until March 2012 the organization would have to appeal for more funds from other parties.

Their funding page was updated with the following appeal notice a few days later

Why is BAILII appealing for funds?

BAILII’s operating costs have been running at approximately £160,000 per annum, excluding replacement of computer hardware and other items which are not incurred annually. This figure will be reduced following an offer by The Institute of Advanced Legal Studies to reduce the quarterly overhead charge which it makes to BAILII for use of office space at the Institute and other services.

BAILII’s future is uncertain because of the lack of secure funding to meet these costs. 

A major funder has decided not to continue funding BAILII, and there is uncertainty about the continuing provision of funding by other major funders.

 If BAILII is to survive, it is essential that BAILII should obtain new sources of funding before its funds run out. We need much more support, partly to replace major sponsors who have indicated that they are not able, or may not be able, to continue funding, and partly to make up for the fact that in any event BAILII’s expenditure has been exceeding its income from sponsorship in recent years.

This appeal is mainly directed towards sets of Chambers and solicitors’ firms. Legal associations, academic institutions and publishers are also invited to contribute. We are confident we can reach our target provided that all those who use BAILII and who want to go on using BAILII respond to this urgent call for help.

You can make a donation to BAILII on-line via the Charities Aid Foundation. Make a note of the charity number, 1084803, and enter it in the “Charity Number” box on the CAF site.

For more detailed information regarding BAILII’s appeal, click here, or contact us at:

For more information, contact:
Joe Ury, BAILII Executive Director:

It appears that BAILII has seen through this crisis in the short term with a healthy £30,000.00 donation from Practical Law Company and on their sponsors page we can see that in 2011 they’ve also received the following donations.

  • Law Society Of Scotland £2000
  • Bar Council of England & Wales £6000
  • Inner Temple £6000
  • Greys Inn £6000
  • Middle Temple £6000
  • Institute of Advanced Legal Studies £4000
    Essex Court £2000
  • Landmark Chambers £2000
  • Bird & Bird £1000
  • Lewis & Silkin £1000
  • Sahota Slctrs £150
  • Wilmer Hale £1000
  • Crime Line £2,500
  • Criminal Lawyers £1000
  • Rating & Valuation Reporter £500

The various sets do have to be congratulated for their donations but the simple fact of the matter is that, as the BAILII website states, it costs £160,000 to run the site and adding up 2011 donations listed on the website they’ve only managed, so far, to raise £71,150 for the year. Less than half what they need to just keep ticking over.

But before we all put our hands up in the air and admit defeat it’s worth noting that back in May 2007 AustLII, the daddy of all the LIIs, experienced exactly the same problem. 

The Australian Financial Review reported at the time

Austlii may have to scale back its operations because it has failed to secure a grant from the Australian Research Council for the first time in seven years. The service is $A400,000 short of what it needs and has already had to lose five of its twelve staff members.

Support from professional legal organizations in Australia does not look as though it will be forthcoming.

In the last week of April the NSW Law Society told Austlii in a letter that they would not provide any funding for 07-08. The AFR reports that chief executive at the Law Institute of Victoria, Michael Brett Young, said Austlii would struggle to find support for its proposal of a $20 levy per lawyer per year with its membership. ‘Quite a lot of our members don’t use the service. I’m sure they would feel aggrieved having to pay for a service they don’t use.’

The AFR also quotes, Jan Martin, the Law Society of South Australia’s executive director as saying that she would have to create an extra levy to support Austlii and wasn’t sure whether her members would support that.

It appears that all state law societies and bar associations in Australia who do not already support Austlii have referred the funding issue to the Law Council of Australia. The Law Council’s president, Tim Bugg, told the AFR that he was ‘very concerned’. 

Fast forward 4 years and we can see that Graham Greenleaf has been very busy consolidating financing issues 

Here on AustLII’s funding page we can count close to 200 donating organisations drawn from Australian federal and state governments, the courts, universities, ;aw firms, banks and even a major publisher such as Kluwer who donated $A50K this year. 

Even more pointedly in 2011 AustLII have managed to raise $A275,038 just from the Aus Legal Services Board, which means Greenleaf has managed to raise from one organisation twice as much as BAILII has from all its sponsors so far this year.

He’s also managed to spread the burden so that most major Australian law firms as well as public institutions now commit some money.t And we note that he’s managed to pull in money from a wider range of companies including the National Australia Bank, Flight Centre, AusTax accountants and even Appliances Online.

Yet again it appears that Greenleaf has been leading by example. He was the first to put the LII idea into action and the prophet that has ensured that LIIs have come to life in jurisdictions the world over.

His organisation was the first to face a serious funding crisis and obviously the first to ensure that funding budgets are not entirely reliant on one or two government-based organisations.

BAILII now needs to put a similar plan into action. There’s enough money flooding the square mile to fund a service like this, as much as the law firms and in-house legal departments cry poor.

So who’s next . We’ve heard that PacLII is struggling, but then again if your funding is restricted to the following it’s not surprising that the pot is emptying:

They write:

The Pacific Islands Legal Information Institute (PacLII) receives ongoing funding from New Zealand’s International Aid and Development Agency (NZAID)

Other contributors to PacLII have been:

  • University of the South Pacific, School of Law
  • Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID)
  • The Commonwealth Secretariat
  • Papua New Guinea Law and Justice Sector Program (AusAID)
  • Vanuatu Law and Justice Sector Program (AusAID)
  • Pacific Judicial Development Program (NZAID)
  • Queensland Law Society
  • Sasakawa Peace Foundation

And we extend great thanks to those aid donors, who have had the vision and determination to create and maintain PacLII for the benefit of the people of the Pacific island nations.

Not one private company in sight.. Doesn’t bode well for the future

If there’s anything to be learnt from these three LII experiences it is that each LII needs urgently to learn how to raise money from the private sector and become less reliant on government, aid organisations and the tertiary education sector.

Here at House of Butter we’d also suggest that Greenleaf use his organisational skills to create a central funding office for the LIIs as a whole and then start to tap law firms, banks, accountants, online and the corporate sector generally for regular annual payments into the LIIs that serve the jurisdictions they work in.

If 2007/8 hadn’t already alerted the LIIs to their sometime precarious funding situations the Greek / Portuguese / Irish potential default situations should make people realise that public money should be seen as the last option for funding rather than the first

Finally we decided to have a quick run through some of the more established Lii sites for funding information only to find that we couldn’t find any at all:

Funding Pages For Other LIIs


They don’t tell us much just that “CanLII is funded by the members of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, in other words, the law societies of Canada’s provinces and territories and the Chambre des notaires du Québec.”


In usual HK style we’re told that it’s supported but not by whom or for how much


They write: “We are grateful for the kind sponsorship provided by the Law Faculty University College Cork and by the Arthur Cox Foundation.” That’s not going to last long then, is it . Come on where’s Bono when you need him.


As far as we can see there’s not a jot about funding on their site

LII of India:

In very Indian fashion we’re told we’ll be told about the site’s funding in a report that isn’t yet available.

Lii Cornell:

The link above will take you to a online donation page and you can find out about making corporate donations at But we were unable to find a page listing who’s actually funding the site.


  1. I was lucky enough to be in Hong Kong a couple of months ago to participate to the meeting of LIIs (I missed the indies scene though so I could say nothing about Chinese DJs and Cambodian garage bands). I think that what can be heard in the meeting is relevant in the context of Sean’s posting.

    First of all, people from many part of the world are trying to establish new Legal information institutes. In Hong Kong, there were people from Asia, Africa, Pacific, North Africa who came to describe their first success or plans for establishing an LII for their country. The idea to make the law accessible for free on the Internet seems to be as attractive today as it was 20 years ago when Bruce and Martin started it at Cornell.

    Secondly, older organizations, the more mature ones, are all going through various sort of reconfigurations as they set themselves for the long run. Many LII started in universities. Universities are great to start things. However, they are not always as good for building viable organizations. Universities could eat they babies, it has been seen. So, at some point, the innovations created in universities must be able to fight for their independence and run. You will see many LIIs doing so in the years to come.

    Thirdly, a sound funding model must be found for each LII. My research team at the UdeM has worked in the last couple of years on the sustainability of free access to law. The results of this research funded by the CRDI are still to be published. However, the main hypothesis, that the USERS satisfaction will lead to more investments and more free access seems to be verified.

    Now about CanLII. I don’t speak for CanLII anymore, but the facts are that I participate to its creation with representatives of the Federation of law societies of Canada in 1999-2000. At the time, I was already publishing Supreme Court of Canada decisions and various other legal databases for free for many years without a sustainable funding model. I can tell you that when CanLII was created, identifying a sustainable funding was at the heart of the effort. It was central to me and central for my partners at the Federation. It was proposed and accepted by law societies that CanLII funding would be based on its users (under the assumption that lawyers are the main users of legal information resources). Then, the viability equation become simple, serve them well and they will want more of it.

    In my view, this remains one of the best approaches to ensure long term sustainability for free access.

    Let’s hope that BaiLII will emerge stronger from the current difficulties. They always did a very good job at making law accessible with very few resources.