Articles filed under Cases

The legal professions, however unwillingly, and indeed the English legal system itself, are undergoing profound changes. Law reporting is bound to adapt.

The range and type of information which needs to be published is changing. The model of a carefully curated selection of momentous precedents – cases which marked out a path of stepping stones in the development of the law – though still valuable, is no longer enough in an age of online aggregation and Big Data analytics.

Lawyers and students need cases for a variety of reasons, not just to witness a change in law. And, in electronic form, the storage and retrieval of vast hoards of information is both easy and cheap. This obviates the need and to some extent the rationale for only selecting and preserving the most important cases.

But is there still merit in the idea of selection, or at any rate some sort of evaluation system for judgments? And how else can a publisher of legal information add value in the digital age?

“Headnotes reign supreme when it comes to digesting cases because they tell you what happened and what the result was. They give you the facts,” a London-based barrister said to me last year.

A true and succinct assessment – just like a headnote. In the digital age where there’s so much case law online and, in turn, so much that potentially needs to be read, a headnote is just what you need. Are they enough, though?

This is the second in our series on independent publishers providing law update services and their views on BAILII and legislation.gov.uk. In the last issue we covered CaseCheck, Law Brief Publishing and Daniel Barnett.

BAILII has been providing free access to case law for 14 years and legislation.gov.uk provides advanced (if not yet up to date) open access to all in force legislation. These resources have changed the ground rules for law publishing: smaller publishers are relying on them, adding their own value and developing new update services. We asked several independent publishers to describe their services and comment on the free primary sources.

On 20 November 2012 Lord Neuberger, President of the Supreme Court, delivered the First Annual BAILII Lecture, entitled “No Judgment – No Justice” in which he dealt with three important aspects of improving access to justice through improved access to judgments: their clarity, free dissemination and enhancement.

CaseCheck intends to compete with some of the largest publishers in the world, such as LexisNexis and Westlaw, with a new premium version early in 2013.

As part of the questions relating to one of our CPD courses last year we asked “Who owns copyright in judgments in the UK? What are you views on this?” Here are edited versions of some of the answers received which reflect the variety of opinion on the issue and how it should be addressed.

In October 2011 the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting launched the new ICLR Online service, for the first time publishing their own reports digitally: previously they had been available on CD and online only through third party publishers: Justis, LexisNexis and Westlaw.

It is ironic that BAILII, which came into being to free the law, has been called out recently for restricting access to the law.

JustCite), the multijurisdictional citator from Justis, has been rebuilt from the ground up, with the new version released in December 2010. More recently it has been enhanced to incorporate details of barristers in England and Wales, cross-linked to their cases. But perhaps the biggest shift is that now the first page of JustCite results is available without sign in, so that non-subscribers can benefit from JustCite’s search results.

Delia Venables reviews the key free websites for following case law.

Free case law is old hat now. The House of Lords posted its first judgment on the web in 1996 and BAILII “freed the law” in 2000. But how far have we come since then? This article sums up the current position.