We are a small research, engineering, and editorial group housed at the Cornell Law School in Ithaca, NY. Our collaborators include publishers, legal scholars, computer scientists, government agencies, and other groups and individuals that promote open access to law, worldwide. We are supported by private donations, corporate sponsorships, and our parent institution, the Cornell Law School.
- Who's on our staff ?
- How do we think about our mission?
- What programs and activities carry out that mission?
- What has the LII accomplished?
- Is this site reliable?
- Where does the LII's funding come from?
We are a small not-for-profit group that believes everyone should be able to read and understand the laws that govern them, without cost. We value accuracy and objectivity. We carry out this vision by:
Publishing law online, for free.
Creating materials that help people understand law.
Exploring new technologies that make it easier for people to find the law.
The LII publishes electronic versions of core materials in numerous areas of the law, primarily on the Web. They range from the Constitution to the U.S. Code, from Supreme Court decisions to the Code of Federal Regulations as well as the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Bankruptcy Procedure, and Criminal Procedure. We maintain this Internet site and its many resources, which include legal commentary and explanations contained in our WEX legal dictionary and encyclopedia, and the LII Supreme Court Bulletin, which provides analysis of cases that are about to be argued before the Supreme Court. Last year, those services were used by more than 32 million unique individuals in 246 countries and territories.
On the technical front, we were the first to put judicial opinions into HTML and the ones responsible for the presence of section and paragraph symbols in the HTML standard; we also wrote the first Web browser for Microsoft Windows. Recent technical projects have included the creation of software that automatically identifies and links defined terms in statutes and regulations to their definitions using advanced natural-language techniques, and the development of scalable technology to link all of the identifiable entities in the Code of Federal Regulations to relevant Wikipedia entries.
The Legal Information Institute (LII) was founded in 1992 by co-directors Thomas R. Bruce and Peter W. Martin (now Director Emeritus, respectively). It quickly racked up a series of legal online "firsts" -- we offered the opinions of the Supreme Court ten years before the Court had a web site, published the first online edition of the US Code in 1994 (and the first XML version in 2001), wrote the first Web browser for Microsoft Windows, and offered the first distance-learning courses for the graduate study of law.
Our work was initially supported by the National Center for Automated Information Research and the Keck Foundation through grants and funded joint studies, and by our parent institution, the Cornell Law School. Since 2007, it has pursued a multifaceted program of sustainability through diverse activities and funding mechanisms, including private philanthropy and a very few grants. Most recently, it has initiated a program for corporate sponsorship. You can find out more about how we are supported here.
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 and Code of Federal Regulations as well as all of the Federal Rules. We also publish important secondary sources: a 6,000+-entry legal dictionary and encyclopedia that contains, among many other things, a series of “topical” pages that serve as concise explanatory guides and Internet resource listings for roughly 100 areas of law.
The LII builds software tools assisting Internet users and publishers. And through workshops and consultation it works to aid others who want to explore the full potential of electronic publication and communication. We have done work with the Library of Congress, the Open Society Institute, the Swedish International Development Agency, and a score of other open-access publishers on four continents, most recently in Africa. LII principals have been invited experts for the United Nations, the Committee on House Administration, the House Judiciary Committee, the Hague Conference on Private International Law, and the European Commission among others.
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.
Our current staff roster is here. Further details on our history and our corporate resume are available.
The LII is funded by mostly private contributions, with some revenue from the advertising on the site and a small amount (around 10% of our annual operating budget) from our parent institution, the Cornell Law School. We aim for long-term sustainability of our activities, maintaining support over the long term by avoiding reliance on any one source or class of sources. We do not receive money from government and we do not seek it. We are deeply committed to maintaining objectivity and accuracy and therefore avoid overdependence on any one source of funds.
More details about our funding are available here. If you are interested in sponsoring us, there is more information here; information on past collaborations and research partnerships (pending) will be here.
The LII is relied on by tens of thousands of legal professionals around the world, and millions more, including journalists, technical professionals in regulated industries, and government officials in the US and abroad. The primary legal materials we offer -- for example, the US Code, the Code of Federal Regulations, and our Supreme Court materials -- are as up-to-date and accurate as any available from official sources, whether via the web or print. Our location in a top-ranked American law school allows us to draw on the expertise of faculty and the considerable research and writing skills of students to create materials that explain the law and its workings. We are the most linked-to legal web site in the world; our definitions of legal terms are both recommended and used by the American Association of Law Libraries' "Guide to Evaluating Legal Information Online". A longer, somewhat outdated list of kudos is here (we'll revise it soon). We have worked as invited experts for the Library of Congress, the House Administration and Judiciary Committees, the Hague Conference on Private International Law, and the European Commission. LII explanations of the law are frequently quoted wholesale by the press, including the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and the Washington Post.