“Free the Law” Opens Door to Legal System

law libraryCome 2017, anyone with access to the internet can freely study the American legal system via the Harvard Law School Library.

Recently, the Ivy League school announced that it is digitizing its complete collection of US case law into one major database accessible to all online. With the help of Ravel Law, Harvard will compile the largest collection of online legal materials in the world – a project dubbed “Free the Law”.

Of course, case law is in the public domain. Searching, indexing and cross-referencing it however has long been in the province of a few paid providers, including LexisNexis and WestLaw. Harvard and Ravel Law will change that.

With 40,000 books containing nearly 40 million pages of court decisions (including original materials from cases that predate the U.S. Constitution), the Harvard Law School Library is the largest academic library in the world.

Harvard Law School Dean, Martha Minow firmly believes in this project. In her eyes, its execution reaffirms that the law is free and accessible to all.

Using technology to create broad access to legal information will help create a more transparent and more just legal system.”

Case law for New York and California will be online later this year. The remaining jurisdictions will gradually be made available over the next two years.

By mid-2017, Harvard’s entire body of American case law will be available online at Ravel Law. The search results will be freely available to all. The underlying database will only be available for non-profits and scholars for the next eight years; after that, anyone will be able to use the database for any purpose for free.

Erika Kubik

Erika Kubik

Former Communications Specialist at Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism

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Erika Kubik

Erika Kubik

Former Communications Specialist at Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism

2 thoughts on ““Free the Law” Opens Door to Legal System

  1. And even better, see this blog post from Bob Ambrogi:
    “For any jurisdiction that makes all of its law available online in a fully authoritative and citeable format, then all of the law from that jurisdiction that Harvard has scanned will come fully free and available online immediately, without having to wait the eight years. Currently, only two states qualify: Illinois and Arkansas.”

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