May 1996

The Legal Information Institute -
1995-96 Activities and Future Plans

Thomas R. Bruce & Peter W. Martin, Co-Directors, LII

I. Introduction | II. 1995-96 | III. Some Next Steps
Appendix - 1995-96 WWW Site Additions

I. Introduction - The LII

Established in the spring of 1992 as an open-ended experimental venture in electronic publishing and research, with startup funding in the form of an allocation for equipment from the Law School itself and grant money provided by the National Center for Automated Information Research (NCAIR), the LII now confronts, very directly, the burdens and opportunities of success. At the outset the institute was essentially a two-person operation, aided by a small band of student assistants and after a year or so a UNIX systems administrator. But our long-term aim reached to the entire complex of research and teaching activities and all the people that make up the Cornell Law School. On behalf of the entire school, we set out to explore the new opportunities opened by computer-based distribution of legal information and communication. As we explained in the Cornell Law Forum (March 1994 - "The Legal Information Institute: What Is It and Why Is It?") our purposes were, in no small part, similar to those that prompted the school to publish a law journal in 1915. We undertook, in particular, to experiment with the application of hypertext technology to the publication of legal materials, using both disk and the Internet platforms. New delivery technologies were not our sole focus, for we expected that our projects, if successful, would entail as much institutional as technological innovation. Quite self-consciously the Institute set out to explore a variety of institutional, administrative, and personal collaborations unusual within a law school setting. Drawing on models we saw elsewhere in the university we established frameworks (and sought resources) to support the LII's technology-based explorations. While conceiving of the endeavor as research (rather than just a new form of institutional support for publication), we have pursued research of a distinctly experimental and participatory cast -- research carried out through the creation of an open-ended series of actual electronically-published work products aimed at real constituencies, both old and new.

We built it (at the right time) "and they came" in numbers and with expectations that at times seem overwhelming. We are now operating with infrastructure (hardware and software) never meant for the volume it now confronts. But our greater challenges are those of ends rather than means. They include the need:

This report on the academic year just past attempts to place the LII's activities of this period within the context of these larger questions of focus or priority. It also sketches the LII's plans for the coming year.

II. 1995-96

A. Internet Publication

1. A Cornell Law School Presence and Growing Global Audience

It is through the Internet that the world knows of the LII -- a world that ranges from a US lawyer venturing on the Net for the first time clutching a copy of "The Lawyer's Guide to the Internet" or the September 1995 issue of the ABA Journal, to the high school student in Michigan, New York, or Colorado who is told by a government teacher how to obtain Supreme Court decisions by e-mail, to the Australian judge or overseas state department representative seeking key provisions of the US Code. In a week's time more people connect to Cornell Law School electronically for one of the services of the LII than have been students of the institution in its entire history.

This widely disparate collection of people and interests are nearly all newcomers to the "cyber" place where the LII established the first law site in 1992. That 1992 site, a "Gopher," was followed in 1993 by -- the first site to offer legal information via the WorldWideWeb. The venture was so novel at the time it forced us into software development. There being no Windows-based Web browser, we created the first, Cello. From those beginnings the LII has grown exponentially, much as the use of the Net has done. As of this writing roughly 34,000 other sites point to us as a source of legal information. On any given day, our computers process more than 75,000 data requests representing perhaps 30 to 40 thousand "visits".

We have limited direct information about our visitors, but there is much that we can deduce; and since the Internet is a communications, not simply a broadcast medium, we do "hear" from good numbers of them. Many of our users are "US law people" -- lawyers, legal academics, or law students in the United States. Yet these have joined the weekly crowd of LII users far more slowly that some other groups we had initially thought less about. In retrospect that doesn't seem surprising. To those with seemingly costless, limitless access to the commercial on-line systems (US law faculty and students) or with the revenue base to afford heavy use of those well developed services (large US law firms), the initial law offerings on the Net seemed small and largely redundant. By contrast, to others lacking comprehensive and timely electronic access to US law, event modest amounts of important legal material on the Internet offered a radical improvement. Groups falling in this latter group included: 1) those involved with secondary and higher education (other than law schools); 2) lawyers in public offices, public interest, and small firm settings; 3) professionals in fields heavily affected by law; 4) ordinary citizens wanting more detail on a high profile decision or issue; and 5) all sorts and conditions of people outside the US. Going where WESTLAW and LEXIS did not go, we discovered a tremendous demand for accurate and timely legal information they were not meeting.

What has brought such throngs to our Web site? Quality law content and a coherent, usable structure. Numbers -- roughly 80,000 data files comprising 3 gigabytes of information -- suggest the dimension of the story, but little more. Even as to dimension they understate because much of what we offer the LII servers do not store. At this point we are the leading Internet site for distribution of the opinions of the US Supreme Court (which, in fact, reside on a computer at Case Western Reserve), and the only Internet site offering decisions of the New York Court of Appeals. Our single most heavily used resource is the US Code, which we acquire for under $40 from the Government Printing Office, but then reformat, adding navigation and finding aids not available in other versions. In addition, we offer a large collection of core statutes, regulations, treaties, and decisions including all of those published by the LII on diskette. (See infra.)

The LII's current collection still strongly reflects our initial priority -- creation of a broadly useful foundation of primary material. Broadly useful required not just the mounting of key primary materials but careful and continuing attention to issues of document design -- of format and functionality. Sections of a code and important appellate decisions have a far greater role in the distributed information environment of the World Wide Web than as components of one site's data collection. Many putting law on the Net still have not learned the importance of setting it up, primary material especially, so that others can link (cite) to particular documents or points within them. We have sought from the beginning to design coherent collections that facilitate internal navigation and links ("electronic citation") from other sites. To illustrate, we didn't simply dump all the fragments that comprise the US Code into a database and attach a full-text search engine (not an unfair description of the version to be found at the House of Representatives site, Instead, we have taken great pains to preserve all the structure that has been built into the code (and all similar material). We have implemented its numerous cross references as hypertext links, created linked tables of each title and of the Popular Names Index, plus a full text search. More importantly we devised an architecture which allows anyone publishing legal writing on the Net, anywhere in the world, to link to the relevant sections of the code at our site. A reference to 42 U.S.C. § 405 translates very directly into

The structure is explicit and "eye-head" compatible, encouraging commentary that builds on top of this primary layer. The hypertext version of the liibulletin-ny and the topical pages discussed below take full advantage of this foundation. But so do many, many others. A very high percentage of the links to the LII sites (Our services are currently distributed across four different servers) point not to our "home page" but to an individual information resource, ranging from the full U.S. Code or collection of Supreme Court decisions down to a single document, whether code section, decision, or summary page covering banking law.

2. LII Format - Setting Standards by Example

As evangelists for the application of electronic publication techniques to legal education and legal information, we hoped from the beginning that we would be widely imitated, and we have been (sometimes a little too closely, as with the recent appearance of a commercial organization calling itself the "Legal Internet Institute"). Our fundamental work on hypertext formats and styles has been widely adopted by others, both at law schools and in commercial publishing houses. We have aggressively encouraged this process by serving as a resource center and point of reference for many other law schools engaging in this work, by conducting workshops and doing presentations. We have also, quite simply, set an open and explicit example. An early feature we implemented was to provide a "Structure" document detailing the directory and file name pattern of each document collection -- a map for those wishing to link, a blueprint for those wanting to emulate. We have also prepared process papers and placed them on the Net.

In the commercial world, we have evaluated hypertext software, provided style guides, process papers, and training. We even have two authorized namesakes: the Australasian Legal Information Institute, begun two years ago by Graham Greenleaf and the Zambian Legal Information Institute, established this February. (See infra.)

3. Adding Value -- Selection, Structure, Indexing, Editorial Value -- to Materials Placed on the Net by Others

As we have been joined on the Net by a host of other primary law providers (state and federal agencies, other law schools, and law firms or publishers) the need for us to attend to the foundation material has sharply diminished.  For example, a loose consortium of law school Internet publishers has now succeeded collectively in bringing the current decisions of all circuits of the U.S. Court of Appeals to the Internet. Our role in this effort was not to compete with other law schools interested in mounting the Second Circuit decisions, but rather to explore ways to add value to the full collection now spread across different sites, wrapped in different search software, and provided in different formats. We followed through by creating the first full-text index allowing search across these Court of Appeals sites, creating a virtual collection of distributed data of which we hold not a single document. [For that index click here.] Along with other consortium members Cornell was presented with a citation from the Coalition on Government Information for this effort.

Selecting, organizing, and integrating information held on many sites is a role the Institute has pursued since we began providing access to Supreme Court decisions in the winter of 1993. We began with documents stored on an ftp server at Case Western in a form that rendered them inaccessible except to the most expert researcher and Internet user. We left them there but began to build multiple layers of value -- tables, a search engine, a current awareness bulletin -- on top of this collection for which we had no responsibility (and no control). [To see that collection in its current form click here.] This model itself lies at the core of the future role we see for the LII on the Net.

The LII will continue to explore new ways to link, to organize, and, increasingly, to add expert value (drawing upon the faculty, students, and professional staff of the school) to the vast information resources of the Internet. This year past we launched several initiatives that take this shape. They include in addition to the all circuit index and the student written bulletin (discussed immediately below): a) BigEar a current awareness service for which we actively sought and secured library staff collaboration, b) LII's Eye on the Courts (cases in the news), c) a cluster of tables and search tools facilitating work with both state and federal statutes, including cross-comparison and updating, and d) a growing collection of topical pages that combine elements of legal encyclopedia and research "pathfinder" surrounded by the Web where more and more of the references can offer "point and click" access. Cutting across U.S. law from admiralty to welfare the present topical pages and more sophisticated successors call for as much involvement by faculty and as much quality student research and writing as is available and we can coordinate. The growing library of primary material and commentary in the field of Legal Ethics, begun by Roger Cramton and the LII this year, with support from the Keck Foundation (discussed below under LII disk publication activities), demonstrate both the scale of potential collaboration possible and the growing value of coordinated disk and Internet publication.

4. Information the User Need Not Search For -- Mail-based Services

Three years ago, realizing that Internet access for many was still limited to e-mail and that even for those with high bandwidth, certain types of information were more valuable if delivered as available rather than in response to a query, we began publication of the liibulletin, an e-mail based service which delivers synopses of the decisions of the US Supreme Court within hours of their release by the court. A companion service, liideliver , offers e-mail delivery of the full text of the opinions upon request. As of this writing (May 1996) there are 6,650 subscribers to the bulletin, and the rate of growth is increasing. Production of liibulletin is almost completely automated; decisions are "detected" by LII-devised software when they are first placed at Case Western Reserve. Once detected the syllabi are retrieved and reformatted by software which requires only that one of us make minor editorial corrections and approve the release of the bulletin (a human step that as necessary we can and do omit). A related software tool creates the hypertext links to the new decisions and rebuilds the index at our Web site.

The success of liibulletin led us to consider other types of current-awareness service, and this past September we began publication of liibulletin-ny, a mail-based service driven by the decisions of the New York Court of Appeals. In several important ways this second venture goes beyond its predecessor, on the one hand, and competing print services, on the other. First, liibulletin-ny offers not only synopses, but analytic material written by second- and third-year students under our supervision; one might think of them as electronic case notes. While similar in content to a variety of print-based services, it is far more timely, being issued, usually, within five working days of the decision's release. Unlike liibulletin, this one is selective; we choose a limited number of decisions from the hundreds issued by the court. Response has thus far been good. As May 1996 there are 862 subscribers, with significant portions of the subscriber list representing media organizations and law firms. The same work has a second electronic version and through it additional potential users. Each case write-up is mounted as a headnote, rich with hypertext links, to the companion full-text decision residing on the LII server.

Students working on the liibulletin-ny during its inaugural season worked carefully and well at solving the problems of format, presentation, style, and editorial quality control which attend any new publication. As we approach our second year of publication we are, collectively, wrestling with those questions of personnel selection and continuity on which the long-term success of any effort based largely on the work of students will depend. We are also considering various ways in which the service might be extended to a wider audience and expanded. One notion, obvious in hindsight, is to deliver the same content by fax. We have finished working on a prototype and solved most of the software and delivery issues involved with doing this on a large scale, as well as much of the work which needs to be done in developing a cost and pricing structure. (E-mail delivery, which involves no phone charges, will remain free.) We fully expect to be able to offer fax delivery with the start of the court's next term.

The LII is also host to several key Internet "discussion lists." TEKNOIDS, a listserv list for legal technologists, is the premiere forum for discussion of computer support and technology issues in law schools. Other discussion groups to which we provide a home range from alternative dispute resolution to general legal studies (academic work on law outside of law schools).

B. Software Development

The LII is widely known outside the field of law as the home of Cello, the first Web browser for Microsoft Windows. While Cello has now been surpassed by commercial products, and is no longer the subject of further development, it continues to meet needs of some users that Netscape and other present generation browsers cannot. Approximately 75-100 copies of Cello are still downloaded from our site daily, a rate that is probably between a third and a fifth of the full number of copies being distributed worldwide.

Today, most of our software development work is focused on publication tools and small utilities to improve the functionality of Web-based collections, particularly things which simplify the use of search engines. We do, however, contemplate one or two other pure software-development projects, including a visual interface for caselaw retrieval to be written in Java.

C. Disk Publication

For the past three years the Legal Information Institute has published electronic editions of core materials for important law school courses. Each year we have updated existing materials and expanded the collection of titles. (For 1995-96, we added GATT '94, the revised Article 8 of the UCC, and Federal Securities legislation.) [For a full listing of current titles click here.] Without extensive marketing, these disks have gradually gained wider distribution. This year in addition to direct distribution by the Institute, the LII core materials were included, under license, on two CD-ROMs distributed by others: one, a disk offered by CALI for individual purchase by law students, the other, a collection sent by Lexis-Nexis to all US law teachers to introduce the "Office" suite of software and materials that could be used with it.

This past fall the LII also produced a CD-ROM of its own, a disk holding the initial version of the Legal Ethics Library being prepared under the leadership of Roger Cramton with support from the Keck Foundation. Martin and Cramton demonstrated this preliminary publication for deans and teachers of professional responsibility at a Keck sponsored invitational conference hosted by Duke. Their account of the electronic library project, accompanied by the disk itself, will appear in a forthcoming issue of Law and Contemporary Problems. (We believe this will be the first computer disk of any kind to be bundled as part of a US law journal.)

This coming summer seven leading law firms, each based in a different state and recruited by Roger Cramton, will prepare narratives to be included in the next, radically expanded, version of the Legal Ethics Library. Each firm will write about its own jurisdiction within a shared topical structure constructed by Cramton, in consultation with the full group. Their work will be entered in word-processing templates, following formatting guidelines prepared by the LII, and then converted by the LII to hypertext. Collection and updating of the governing codes or rules and link connections between narratives and these primary documents will also be coordinated by the LII. By the end of 1996 a unique collection of legal ethics materials covering the jurisdictions with the largest populations of lawyers will be available on CD-ROM and via the Internet. The narratives for each jurisdiction will be linked to relevant primary authorities (rules, statutes, principal cases), to a shared set of background documents like the ABA Model Rules and important print references on each topic, and to a topical index that will enable point by point cross jurisdiction comparison. Discussions with the ABA and state bar authorities about possible forms of cooperation, including cross licensing, have begun.

A second CD-ROM project is planned for this summer. The LII will prepare and release a disk holding several hundred landmark decisions of the Supreme Court. The LII has licensed the necessary digital texts for this collection from a small electronic publisher and has begun to mount some of the decisions at its Internet site. We have sought advice and decision lists from high school and college teachers who use our Net site and have consulted the principal Constitutional Law casebooks. Our aim is to offer a first-rate "vanilla" disk that will support a wide range of educational uses at a price (tentatively $25) that will set it apart from commercial disks targeted on the legal market.

While hypertext on disk and hypertext on the WorldWideWeb represent different distribution paths and, up to now, different software, they share a common set of problems and methods. The design of effective formats for hypertext presentation of statutes, regulations, and judicial opinions, development of tools and procedures for creating hypertext documents from files designed for print and for moving large collections of hypertext documents from one format or software platform to another are generic tasks confronting any electronic publisher. In important ways, the LII's effectiveness on the Internet has drawn on its experience with disk-based hypertext, and vice versa. During the start-up period of this field, most publishers have the limited perspective that comes from working within a single software environment.

Many of the features, software tools, and work procedures developed by the LII are now widely used by other non-profit and commercial electronic publishers.

D. Legal Education

One of the heaviest users of our disk-based materials has been the Chicago-Kent Law School, widely known for its commitment to the integration of computer technology with legal education. Now in its second year of offering one section of its full first-year program in electronic format, Kent has been ahead of other law schools (and commercial law publishers) in exploring the impact of providing law students with course materials in digital formats similar to those used in the information products now sold to the profession.

Throughout 1995-96 the LII worked closely with Chicago-Kent to study the benefits and problems associated with pervasive student use of electronic course materials. Visiting Chicago-Kent once a month during the academic year, Martin investigated how the one hundred students in the school's laptop section worked with their computers and how law teachers, many of whom did not themselves prepare or teach any differently, responded to a classroom filled with laptop note-takers. This study included regular classroom observation, interviews with faculty and students, and detailed questionnaires, one administered in January, another, in April. The resulting report, not yet complete, has already drawn keen interest from other law schools and law publishers. [To review the final report click here.]

E. The LII in 1995-96 -- Practicing What We Preach: A Distributed Organization

With Martin on sabbatic leave, moving between, New York, Chicago, and Zambia, and Bruce based in Ithaca, but traveling extensively, as well, the LII became a truly distributed organization in 1995-96. On a daily basis, Martin and Bruce remained in close contact through e-mail and the Internet-based video conferencing technology that will be used in next year's experimental course described below. Students working for the LII drew fresh decisions of the New York Court of Appeals from the law school network, where they had been placed the night before, via the Internet, by LII advisor Jack Lippert. Their subsequent write-ups were submitted electronically to Bruce and Martin for review, again via the Net, and returned for further work or released to subscribers in the same fashion. Throughout Martin's month in Africa, as well as before and after, message traffic and file transfers between the LII and Zambia flowed heavily.

More widely dispersed than connections like these linking the LII principals and co-workers are those between the LII and those users who take enough interest in the LII's services to offer information, advice and other assistance. Feedback flows steadily from the LII's diverse and often quite expert users. Some of it is very useful; much of that is acted upon.

F. Joint-study Arrangements and Private-sector Activities

When we began our activities four years ago, we wanted to explore the notion of "industry partnerships", a term frequently used by our neighbors on the Engineering quadrangle to refer to research and study undertaken in collaboration with private corporations. We were uncertain though which industry (or industries) were likely partners. It appeared there was a potential role for us in acting as a research and development shop for law firms, legal publishers, and some of the computer industry as well. As it turns out, we have entered into different relationships with all three of these "industries" at one time or another.

The first type of arrangement is one of simple corporate sponsorship, in which a company agrees to contribute an annual amount in support of our activities. Sponsors of this type have included most of the major legal publishers (including currently Lawyers Coop, Lexis-Nexis, Matthew Bender, Shepard's McGraw-Hill, and West). Very often this simple sponsorship has led to more substantial joint activity.

A second type of arrangement is the licensing of computer source code. We do very little of this now that Cello has been surpassed by products of commercial concerns with much greater development resources (e.g. Netscape). However, at one time or another we have licensed code to a variety of software companies including California Software, Distinct Corporation, Softronics, and Folio Corporation. All of these companies developed products "on top of" our work which they have subsequently taken to market; most are engaged in ongoing development for which we receive (at this point) attribution if not (any longer) actual dollars.

The remainder of our activities with the private sector can be divided into three areas: those which primarily make use of our expertise as content developers; those which involve us mainly as technologists; and those which are based on any expertise we might have acquired concerning how the first two affect business development in the Internet market.

Our relationship to lawyers and law firms has largely been that of proselytizer, explainer, and information resource. Since 1992 we have made an unbroken string of presentations on the Internet at the annual ABA Techshow. A presentation we made in April of 1994 on the reasons for lawyers and law firms to be on the Net, initially delivered to some 200-300 attendees at a New York City Bar meeting, became a widely "cited" Web document ( used in countless presentations to firm technology committees. Its direct lineal descendant, a cover article for the September 1995 ABA Journal, has seen similar use. Burgess Allison who reports on the Net and technology to the bar highlights developments at the LII on a regular basis. In short, both the organized bar and lawyers in general hear about the LII, and often hear from the LII, as they learn about the Internet. But to date lawyers and law firms have largely been customers not participants in or sponsors of LII activities.

That can and should change in several ways. Individual lawyers, no matter how distant from Ithaca can join in the collective authorial and editorial activity centered in the Institute. Our collection of New York Court of Appeals decisions rests critically on the voluntary effort of an upstate practitioner, Jack Lippert, whose sole connection with Cornell Law School is electronic. For over two years he has checked the court's dial-up bulletin board religiously, downloaded any decisions there, and forwarded them to the LII. He also donated his personal archive of the court's decisions dating back to 1990 to our site. There are countless imaginable ways we could integrate the effort and expertise of our alumni and other experts with faculty and student work. Ideas quickly outrun our current capacity to organize. The Keck-funded legal ethics project is our first major effort of this sort.

A second way we can draw upon our broad lawyer constituency is far simpler to implement. As lawyers and others draw value from our services they can, we think, be brought to understand that though those services may carry no charge contributions are quite in order.

III. Some Next Steps - Personalized Current-Awareness Services, Moving Across Platforms (The Disk/Internet Connection), Expanded Editorial Content, Courses Reaching Beyond Ithaca, The International Connection

A. Personalized Current-Awareness Services

We are in the early stages of collaboration with a company called Paracel, Inc., a manufacturer of very high-performance text-searching engines. Their primary market at the moment is live-filtered news and information providers (such as Dow Jones), as well as other companies which need technology to do very rapid pattern-matching and searching (such as biotechnology companies working with complicated genetic sequences). We are slated to receive a loan of hardware from Paracel during the coming summer, and it is our intention to use it to develop a sophisticated "real-time" filtering service for the output of the US Circuit Courts of Appeal and perhaps other time sensitive law material delivered to the Net in volume. Beyond the offering of the service itself, the construction of appropriate "summarizing" algorithms is an area of great research interest to us and others.

B. Expanded Editorial Content

The liibulletin-ny and legal ethics CD-ROM are significant first efforts to publish student and faculty work not directly produced by the LII. We anticipate and wish to speed arrival of the day when all faculty journal writing appears in parallel or special hypertext version at the Institute site and the full range of faculty expertise is reflected in the Institute's disk and Net offerings in other ways.

C. Teaching Students and Drawing on Faculty Beyond Ithaca

The LII's work on legal education to date has focused on how technology can be used within existing institutional structures. The LII's legal education venture for the coming year will explore how digital technology can be used by law schools to reach students (and involve faculty) who are distant from their campus. Using the Internet, the LII will offer a law course, for credit, at four law schools (Cornell plus Chicago-Kent, Colorado, and Kansas). The other schools are all paying to participate and each has approved the course as part of its own curriculum. Some key elements of this experiment include:

The experiment's underlying aim (shared by all the participating schools) is to discover ways that network communication, that at once nullifies barriers imposed by distance and advantages provided by proximity, can be used to reach students (of many kinds) and to give our resident students wider educational options.

D. Pursuing the International Connection

In January and February of 1996 the LII worked with the University of Zambia Law School and two Cornell Law graduates now serving on its faculty to establish a Zambian legal database and Internet site. Providing access to Zambian Supreme Court decisions and important statutes of recent years, previously inaccessible to most law students and lawyers throughout the country, the fledgling Zambian Legal Information Institute may prove in time to have greater impact than our own. The LII will continue to support ZamLII from afar. We shall also look for future opportunities to export our experience and to link LII activities with the law school's diverse international programs and connections.

New and Significant Arrivals During 1995-96 at

Current Awareness Services

LII's Eye on the Courts

Resources Organizing, Indexing, Providing Access to Material Stored at Other Sites

Important Decisions of the Supreme Court's Last Term
Index Allowing Full-Text Search of U.S. Court of Appeals Decisions on the Net
Hypertext Archive of Selected Law Discussions Lists
State Statutes Organized by Topic
Uniform Laws As Enacted by the States
Forms Enabling Retrieval of Recent Federal Legislation

Substantive Material Placed on the Net by the LII

Expanded Topical Pages
The Beginning of a Hypertext Glossary of Puzzling Terms for Non-Lawyer Users
Historic Supreme Court Decisions (Linked to Background Material Including Recent Citing Opinions)
Several Papers Dealing with Technology's Impact on Law

International Site Assisted by the LII

Zambian National Law Server (ZamLII)