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 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 is the largest online publisher of legal information in the country. CanLII provides jurists and the public from around the world free access to Canada’s decisions, statutes and regulations.
The selected approach was to automate processes as much as possible to reduce manual tasks and operating costs.
Lexum developed all of the software solutions required for operating the CanLII website. These solutions include the search engine, the keyword generator, the legal citator that automatically inserts links to the cited legal documents and the document convertor that converts Word documents into HTML and PDF. These tools are constantly perfected by Lexum’s team of software analysts 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, conversion and control of restrictions on publication, are entirely or largely automated, and the technology ensures that documents are handled efficiently.
Today, Lexum provides all of the software and services required to operate CanLII: editorial services, design and implementation of the back-end and front-end of the site, software development, and scanning and archiving.