Not so long ago, Canadian legal documents were not readily available at an affordable cost to the public or even to legal professionals. The internet was a game changer in many fields, and access to legal information in Canada was no exception. The Federation of Law Societies of Canada and Lexum were at the forefront of this transformation.
Towards the end of the 1990s, the Federation of Law Societies of Canada sought to guarantee permanent, free access to Canadian legal information for the benefit of legal professionals and the general public. The Federation approached Lexum, which had led a number of studies on the feasibility of such a project and was already established as the primary publisher of Canadian legal information on the internet. The required library would have to provide free online access to court decisions from across Canada, as well as to provincial, territorial, and federal legislation and regulations.
The challenges were numerous – the system would have to support remarkable quantities of documents. Navigation had to be efficient and user-friendly. At the same time, the product had to offer the reliability and quality necessary for it to be a viable alternative to commercial publishers at a fraction of the cost.
CanLII has become the largest online publisher of legal information in the country. CanLII provides free access to Canada’s case law, statutes and regulations, as well as a growing volume of secondary material to jurists and the public from around the world . CanLII’s approach consists in automating processes as much as possible to reduce manual tasks and operating costs.
Lexum developed all the software solutions required for operating the CanLII website. These solutions include the search engine, the legal citator that automatically inserts links on legal citations, the side-by-side version comparator, and the file convertor that converts word processing documents into HTML and PDF. These tools are constantly perfected by Lexum’s team so as to keep CanLII the most visited legal information website in Canada.
Lexum’s publishing staff benefits from a powerful computing environment developed by Lexum’s IT team. Processes, such as metadata extraction, archiving, logging, traffic monitoring and control of restrictions on publication, are entirely or largely automated, and Lexum’s technology ensures that documents are handled efficiently.
Today, Lexum provides all of the software and services required to operate CanLII: design and implementation of the back end and front end of the site, software development, ongoing editorial services, scanning and archiving.