Langdell_Hall,_Harvard_Law_School,_Cambridge_MAA new project at Harvard Law School could help if you’re cash-strapped and need to do legal research.

The school will digitize “its entire collection of U.S. case law, one of the largest collections of legal materials in the world,” to make this “available online, for free.”

Harvard’s “Free the Law” initiative “will provide open, wide-ranging access to American case law for the first time in United States history.”

Imagine the benefits if you’re a nonlawyer or nonmillionaire interested in copyright issues or others of public interest.

“Driving this effort is a shared belief that the law should be free and open to all,” said Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow. “Using technology to create broad access to legal information will help create a more transparent and more just legal system.” It also appears to be exactly what free online access is all about.

According to Harvard Law School , “Our common law – the written decisions issued by our state and federal courts – is not freely accessible online. This lack of access harms justice and equality and stifles innovation in legal services.” Its own library comprises “one of the world’s largest, most comprehensive collections of court decisions in print form. Our collection totals over 42,000 volumes and roughly 40 million pages.” All of this should be put online by the project.

Harvard Law School states:

It is the most comprehensive and authoritative database of American law and cases available anywhere except for the Library of Congress, containing binding judicial decisions from the federal government and each of the fifty states, from the founding of each respective jurisdiction. The Harvard Law School Library—the largest academic law library in the world—has been collecting these decisions over the past two hundred years.

This archive is now being scanned in Harvard Library Innovation Lab “by high-speed imaging equipment capable of scanning 500,000 pages per week, and the text of each decision is then extracted into machine-readable files.”

Partner in the project, Ravel Law, is  “a new legal search, analytics, and visualization platform” which “enables lawyers to find, contextualize, and interpret information that turns legal data into legal insights.”

Image credit: Here.


The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail