CanLII to Introduce API

The Canadian Legal Information Institute, CanLII, has just announced that it will be introducing an API (application programming interface) in mid-March. This will allow developers and others to obtain direct access to the CanLII database in order to use the resulting data within their applications or web pages.

This is very good news indeed — and a very smart move by CanLII. If you’re in the “business” of giving data away, as CanLII is, you want to make the transfer as easy and enticing as possible. As the announcement says:

We hope law schools, legal information and legal aid resources, legal publishers, courts, governments, and creative individuals will use these tools to create new and improved ways to access our content.

I’m looking forward to getting my hands on the API. How do you foresee using this?


  1. David Collier-Brown

    This is really wonderful news: one can “write a book” with the reference material immediately at hand, to include quotations from, to include by reference or to merely cite.

    The first users of it will probably be people writing briefs, who will be able to use a gui to access the api, and have all the boring manual tasks automated. If one needs a table of laws and cases, it’s a two-line command in a programming language to get it from a api. I write such things multiple times a day using the “Google Tables” api, and I expect the CanLII one to be even better-suited to specifically legal tasks.

    The hidden benefit is that, if one needs to appeal, one can re-run the operations you pasted into the original brief, and see if anything new has turned up.

    Similarly, if one does a lot of cases in a specialty, you can save all the usual searches you do to a template brief, and then the next time you encounter such a case, rerun it and see what’s new and helpful (or not)

    If you have several people in a specialty, a collection of everyone’s template briefs would be like having a knowledge-management system of your own, without the expense of maintaining it.

    Looking past that, imagine a “Gold’s Criminal Code” that is a program, and is constantly updated. If a new case of interest occurs, the editors can get it written up and included in a matter of days. Classic references can be as up to date and topical as loose-leafs.

    And I haven’t even started thinking about non-book uses. How about an automated research assistant? A multi-document cross-correlation manager? An automated standard-document assistant?

    –dave (book nerd) c-b