Crowd Law?

There is a lot of interesting talk these days about tapping in to the wisdom of the crowd. Among the most surprising examples is which was designed to find diagnoses for illnesses that have eluded physicians. It reports “astonishing” results.

There are no liability risks on the individual “medical detectives” (not required to be physicians) who submit diagnostic suggestions: they are anonymous and submissions are pooled and combined into diagnostic suggestions to be discussed with the patient’s physician.

A quick internet search did not reveal anything similar for law. Let me try drawing on the collective wisdom of SLAW readers – are there parallels here for the legal profession?


  1. Yes, listservs. I belong to the Refugee Lawyers Association of Ontario, and people post questions related to legal interpretation and strategy daily. Lawyers can anticipate at least one response within hours. Often, there will be several replies, not always in concurrence with each other. Thus, the posting lawyer is given a number of different options to contemplate. And, although it is an Ontario association, there are members across Canada and into the USA, so lawyers who have been approached by someone from outside Ontario can still ask advice (eg. someone wanting to come from the USA to Canada to join a family member who has already made a refugee claim here). I am constantly learning something new, just by following the posts.

  2. In B.C., the Trial Lawyers Association of B.C. listservs provide a tremendous resource similar to that mentioned by Ronalee. TLABC runs topical listservs (Family Law, Corporate/Commercial Law, Criminal Law, etc.) primarily focused on litigation topics. Not only are these listservs a great way to get crowdsourced opinions, but they also provide an informal network and support system for practitioners. I am always amazed by the generosity of the contributors, and the quality of the posts.

  3. See for an example of a structured legal discussion forum.

    Medical diagnosis might not depend on jurisdiction, but legal analysis often does.

  4. As David Singer kindly pointed out, we at Mootus are doing what you suggest: inviting the crowd to participate in structured debate of legal issues. We accept citations to primary legal authorities (court decisions) and short, concise arguments in favor of cited authorities, along with community voting of responses.

    For an example, take a look at our active debate over the First Amendment issue raised by the NSA’s recently disclosed spying program.

  5. John O'Sullivan

    Ronalee, Carm, David and Adam thank you for these very helpful contributions and references.

  6. LexPop is referenced somewhere on this site.
    Adam, I’ve looked at the link you’ve provided re First Amendment issues and the NSA, etc. In June/July 2013 the internet is exploding with related issues that don’t seem to be recorded on your site. For instance, Chris Hedges and Daniel Ellsberg were unsuccessful in their action to have the NDAA declared unconstitutional, and are now considering whether to seek standing at the United States Supreme Court. (Under the NDAA, ordinary citizens can be, and are being, detained/imprisoned without charge.)
    “Crowd Law” in the context of what is transpiring all around us, might refer to The People moving forward en masse in response to the infringement of our individual and collective rights.

  7. I’d like to add a couple of other links. There are initiatives bubbling up everywhere, as the traditional legal mechanisms cannot deal with the overwhelm. The Freedom of the Press Foundation began in the spring; their blog page: The writers are well-known in their own right. I think it was on that site that they used a phrase “crowd-sourced stenographers”, or some such, when the regular journalists were being blocked at Manning’s trial. August 18th’s article on that blog page re Glenn Greenwald’s partner detained for 9 hrs. at Heathrow under Terrorism Act. /// J.Assange’s friend Jacob Appelbaum was showing slides of an NSA storage facility half a year before confirmed by E. Snowden. (lengthy but worthwhile; more than 52,000 views) Street-Level is dynamic.