The Legal Information Institute - A Quick Overview

“law-not-com” web site

The LII is known internationally as a leading “law-not-com” provider of public legal information. We offer all opinions of the United States Supreme Court handed down since 1992, together with over 600 earlier decisions selected for their historic importance, over a decade of opinions of the New York Court of Appeals, and the full United States Code. We also publish important secondary sources: libraries in two important areas (legal ethics and social security) and a series of “topical” pages that serve as concise explanatory guides and Internet resource listings for roughly 100 areas of law.

Search engines and ranking systems identify the LII as the most linked to web resource in the field of law (see, for example, Google). Sites ranging from CSPAN to Fedlaw to the Dow Jones Business Directory, as well as numerous off-line references, e.g., Web Feet, the New York Times, and The National Jurist (4/2000), recommend starting with the LII for law. Who are we and where do we fit in the rapidly evolving ecology of the Net? And how is the LII's work supported?


The Institute is a non-profit activity of Cornell Law School supported by grants, the consulting work of its co-directors, and gifts. No subscription fee limits access to LII services. They are not cluttered with commercial messages or banner advertising. As server traffic and the range of LII services have grown gifts have become critical. Without the support of LII members our work could not continue. Since the LII's first site-wide campaign in June 2000 hundreds of users have become contributing members. All who benefit from the Institute's work are in their debt. Recent substantial gifts call for special mention.


Benefactors ($1000+)
  • Hon. George Anagnost, Peoria, AZ
  • William Arms, Annapolis, MD
  • Timothy Stanley, Palo Alto, CA
  • Stephen Tatum, Fort Worth, TX
Partners ($500+)
  • Hudson Cook, LLP, Hanover, MD
  • Joan LeRoux, Fresno, CA
  • Samuel St. James, San Diego, CA
  • Leslie Wheelock, Washington, DC
Sustainers ($250+)
  • Dan Bariault, Guaynabo, Puerto Rico
  • Brinks Hofer Gilson & Lione, Chicago, IL
  • Robert Bruce, Las Vegas, NV
  • David Castle, New York, NY
  • David Cohen, Washington, DC
  • Meyer COHEN, Phoenix, AZ
  • Edward Coltman, Washington, DC
  • Dave Doss, Tacoma, WA
  • Edward Gavin, Boothwyn, PA
  • James Hillhouse, Austin, TX
  • Julia Jackson, Chicago, IL
  • Kathryn Kerchof, Birmingham, AL
  • Jennifer Lupo, New York, NY
  • Daniel McAuliffe, Phoenix, AZ
  • Martin McCue, Pittsford, NY
  • Mark Mendel, Cork, Ireland
  • Frank Nikolaus, Essen, Germany
  • Arthur Oleinick, Ann Arbor, MI
  • Paul Hastings, LLP, San Francisco, CA
  • Pamela Samuelson, Berkeley, CA
  • William Todd, Columbia, SC
  • Jerry Walz, Reston, VA
  • Lynn Wise, Seattle, WA
  • Sally Wise, Miami, FL

Further Background on the LII

  • Structure and Finance:
    • Established with a $250,000 multi-year startup grant from the National Center for Automated Information Research
    • A collaboration of Co-Directors and Co-Founders Peter W. Martin and Thomas R. Bruce
    • A non-profit activity of the Cornell Law School rather than an outside consulting or publishing enterprise or a multi-institution entity
    • Currently supported by grants, gifts from individuals, firms, and other sponsors, consulting projects for others, and fees charged for LII courses and course materials
  • Mission:
    • To carry out applied research on the use of digital information technology in the distribution of legal information, the delivery of legal education, and the practice of law
      • Our research is applied in the sense that it is carried out by means of creating key collections of primary legal materials and commentary and information retrieval and resource location tools for use by a large and diverse population of users.
      • Our mission is research rather than mere information delivery in the sense that we continue to seek improved ways to use a rapidly shifting set of technology tools in a constantly changing information environment.
      • We attempt to lead through example, consulting and contract work, and workshops.
    • To make law more accessible not only to U.S. legal professionals but to students, teachers, and the general public in the U.S. and abroad
    • To carry out these activities in partnership with but not under the control or direction of such other key actors as law firms, bar associations, public law making and applying bodies, commercial publishers, and other academic institutions
  • Premise:
    • That revolutionary changes in information technology have opened new opportunities for law schools of Cornell's stature and strength - opportunities undertake directly activities that had previously been possible only through intermediaries (commercial publishers) or impossible due to barriers of distance and cost
    • That the very developments which present these opportunities also pose a serious threat to the long-term strength and autonomy of law schools that fail to respond to them

Accomplishments of the Startup Years (1992-1996)

  • Establishing the foundation
    • Technology - Created the first law site on the Net and the first Windows-based Web browser (Cello)
    • Content, Information Architecture and Delivery Strategies - Established high standards of format and functionality for basic law document and collection types, now widely emulated and implemented by others on the Net and on disk, built a core collection useful to a wide audience, and created the first e-mail based legal current awareness service (liibulletin)
    • Audience - Brought an immense and diverse national and international audience into a relationship with and awareness of the Cornell Law School
    • Working Relationships - Secured sponsorship and joint study funding from all the major law publishers, cooperation from some of the public institutions whose output the LII had begun to distribute, and serious involvement on the part of various constituencies making use of LII products and services (e.g., teachers of high school and college courses dealing with law)

The Present Years - Scaling Up to Keep Pace with Use, Learning from Constituencies (Old and New), Plotting a Distinct Course in a Crowded and Rapidly Changing Environment

  • Holding and learning from the Institute's diverse audiences
    • Moving from an experimental to a production standard of reliability and performance
    • Avoiding overreaching or building what cannot be sustained
    • Dropping or cutting back on functions begun by the LII but now ably assumed by others (e.g., the Directory of Legal Academia)
    • Drawing faculty and students into the process
  • Current products and services (impact, source, and maintenance)
    • Web-based legal information:
      • Over 10 million hits a week, over 40,000 user sessions a day, spread over a collection both broad and deep
      • During a typical week accesses from over 70 foreign nations
      • Over 180,000 links to LII materials from other Internet sites, according to AltaVista
    • Disk-based products (both downloadable and on CD-ROM) - CD-ROM Collection of Historic Decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court (used in many high schools and colleges), American Legal Ethics Library (a new and important resource resulting from a unique cooperative authorship arrangement bringing together private law firms, state and national bar associations, a major malpractice insurer, and law school faculty), plus a collection of core statutes, codes, and treaties (from the U.C.C. and Federal Rules of Evidence to the GATT, all downloadable in several formats from the LII website)
    • E-mail delivered case notes - Anchored by the liibulletin which goes out to more than 20,000 direct subscribers and many more by redistribution, but also including two student-prepared bulletins, liibulletin-ny (covering the New York Court of Appeals) and liibulletin-patent (reporting on patent decisions of the Federal Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals)
    • Other mail-based services - Teknoids, the leading list for law school and law firm technical support personnel, and Dispute-res, the leading list for individuals interested in alternative dispute resolution
    • Internet-based law courses offered to students at other institutions - Copyright Law (fall term 2000) and Social Security Law (spring term 2001)
  • Relationships
    • LEXIS (more recently Matthew Bender) and Harvard Law School (The LII, through Bruce, is coordinating a major multi-media project that draws upon seven members of the Harvard Law School faculty.)
    • New York State Bar Association (The LII has created and now maintains resource pages on the Web for many of the New York State Bar Association sections. It's liibulletin-ny is now sponsored by NYSBA.)
    • New York Court of Claims (The LII has completed a major project under contract with the court that has produced a decision database system now on the Web serving the court's judges and clerks as well as those who appear before them.)
    • law firms, bar associations, and others involved in the creation and distribution of the American Legal Ethics Library
    • the U.S. Peace Corps (The LII is responsible for the technology component of the Lawyers for Africa program and serves as backup resource for the Zambian Legal Information Institute, home of the first comprehensive digital law collection in southern Africa.)
    • numerous other law schools (the institutions participating in the LII's Internet courses plus many others interested in those path breaking projects)
    • Harvard Law Library and the Ames Foundation (Nuremberg digital library project and Bracton on-line)

Future Plans and Challenges

  • Undertaking a three year plan to explore integrated editorial and software strategies for facilitating the use and understanding of law materials by those who are not expert researchers of U.S. legal documents - including students, professionals from other fields heavily touched by law, lawyers and judges from outside the U.S., and ordinary citizensand
  • Working with peer institutions both within the U.S. and outside and public information providers to develop and promote standards for interoperable, distributed, transnational collections of legal information
  • Building on the LII's experience in Internet-based legal education
  • Expanding on the number and range of LII international projects

Reviews, Ratings, and User Comments

  • From the February 1998 edition of Internet Lawyer:
Just about any lawyer who's spent more than three minutes online knows that Cornell Law School's Legal Information Institute site is fantastic.
  • The LII was named the "Best Law School Web Site" by in 1998, and it received honorable mention in the following categories (judged without regard to type of institution):
    • Best Legal Information Starting Point
    • Best Legal Research Site - Cases
    • Best Legal Research Site - Laws
  • From a legal-research teacher at the University of Wisconsin:
Next week another 265 law students will bookmark the Cornell LII and law library homepage. You are making a significant contribution to legal education and to our access to information. As a fellow educator, I'm extremely grateful (as my students will be also).
  • From a lawyer in Texas:
I just wanted to thank you for your on-line law library. We are a small law firm in north-central Texas and rarely need federal law, but when we do, I know exactly where to come. Your on-line U.S. Code is wonderful; the current format is very user friendly. Thank you!
  • From a self-described "working grunt":
I'm not a student. I'm not a lawyer. I'm not a college graduate. I'm just a lower-middle-income-class working grunt. I've never seen the inside of a law library (except on L.A. Law, of course. :-)) and would never consider entering one because I find it so intimidating.. Because of your site and your work, I've read more of the US Code in the past 6 months than I had ever even contemplated reading before in my 36 years on this planet.
So, thank you. You're doing a great service here. You're following the true philosophy of education.

LII - Leadership

  • Director - Thomas R. Bruce - Prior to co-founding the LII (with Co-Director Emeritus Peter Martin) in 1992, Mr. Bruce served for several years as Director of Educational Technologies at the Cornell Law School. He is the author of Cello, the first Web browser for Microsoft Windows, and of a variety of other software tools used by the LII and others. As part of his LII activities Mr. Bruce has consulted on Internet matters for Lexis-Nexis, West Group, IBM, Folio Corporation, and others. He is currently a member of the board of directors of the national computer-assisted legal-education consortium, CALI, and a Fellow of the University of Massachusetts Center for Information Technology and Dispute Resolution. Currently, he is working with seven members of the Harvard law faculty on the development of a comprehensive first-year curriculum to be delivered by electronic means.
  • Co-Director Emeritus - Peter W. Martin - Professor Martin is the Jane M.G. Foster Professor of Law at Cornell Law School where he has been a member of the faculty since 1971 and was dean from 1980 to 1988. He is the author of an electronic treatise, Martin on Social Security Law, released on LEXIS in November 1990 and published on CD-ROM by Clark Boardman Callaghan in July, 1994, as "Social Security Plus"; an electronic reference work, Basic Legal Citation (hypertext 1993); and numerous electronic articles on the history and future of legal information technology. The first of these was published on the Internet in January 1994 by GNN Magazine. His 1994 Internet article on Five Compelling Reasons for Lawyers and Law Firms to Be on the Internet has been widely cited and in revised form appeared as a cover article for the Sept. 1995 ABA Journal. Martin is the author of numerous print works, as well. His most recent journal articles have dealt with the implications of computer technology for legal research, law libraries, and legal education. He received the 1992 Law Library Journal Article of the Year Award and his Social Security treatise received the 1994 Infobase Industry Award for "Best from the Field of Education."

    Professor Martin is a past president of the Center for Computer Assisted Legal Instruction and past chair of the Association of American Law Schools Section of Law and Computers. His electronic treatise work was supported in part by the National Center for Automated Information Research (NCAIR), which awarded him the center's first Dixon Senior Research Fellowship in 1988. In 1992 with support from NCAIR and others, he (and Thomas R. Bruce) established the Legal Information Institute at Cornell (the LII).

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