In this Part, we first look at three case studies of the development of large-scale
legal hypertext and text retrieval systems, and then turn to a number of systems
with special features relating to legislation and to case law.
[This Part is complete for 2000 ]
Lawyers were one of the first professions to make extensive use of hypertext,
from the late 1980s, and they may have done so more in Australia than anywhere
else. DiskROM's CDs of hypertext Australian legislation were available from
the early 1990s. The Guide (UK) hypertext software was used for legal applications
from the late 1980s.
'Hype' component of the DataLex software was first used in a demonstration
at the 1989 'Laws of Australia' inaugural conference - as a dial-up system using
a text-based interface. The automation techniques used with Hype later became
the basis of AustLII's hypertext markup.
There are three main approaches that can be taken to creating very large legal
hypertext systems where rich interlinking of documents is desired:
In practice, few web publishers would use only one of these approaches. For example,
AustLII encourages document creators to standardise their document creation as
much as possible (while falling short of HTML or SGML tag insertion). Butterworths
online employs some automated means as well as a high level of editorial control.
- Document creation: control: Where the creator of the legal
source documents exercises a considerable degree of control over their creation
according to standards that then allow automated creation of hypertexts. Examples
are when offices of legislative drafting, and courts, mark up legislation
or cases themselves using markup languages such as SGML or XML. An example
is the Tasmanian government's legislation project.
- Editorial control: Employ editorial staff to mark up by hand (as
HTML, XML or SGML) legal documents that originate from other sources (including
OPCs, courts, and authors). Commercial legal publishers (eg Butterworths Online)
often do this. See also the LEXUM paper below concerning the Canadian Supreme
- Automated mark-up: In the absence of documents with mark-up at source,
or the resources to employ large editorial teams, the only alternative is
to automate the mark-up process by attempting to recongnise textual regularities
in texts that you do not control, and automatically mark-up the data that
is available to you.
There is no available survey article which gives a history of hypertext in
legal applications. However, three of the earliest large web-based systems,
Cornell's Legal Information Institute (LII) created in 1992, the Australasian
Legal Information Institute (AustLII), created in 1995 (but with a prior history
back to 1985 as the DataLex Project), and Montreal's LEXUM, created in 1994,
are unusual in the extent to which they have documented their approach to building
large-scale systems. They are all free access 'Public Legal Information Institutes'.
Cornell, AustLII and LEXUM therefore provide three good case studies of the
development of large-scale hypertext and retieval systems in a non-commercial
The following articles describe the current approach of the Cornell
Legal Information Institute (LII):
The Australasian Legal Information Institute is one of the world's largest free
access law sites, and one of the most automated in its approach.
For general overviews of AustLII, see the following:
AustLII's web site now (1999) has over 28 M automatically created hypertext links
between pages on the AustLII site, and automatic processing of the cases and legislation
it receives into about 1 M separate web pages. It is therefore a leading example
of the automated creation of large-scale legal hypertexts. It is still an unusual
example of the degree of density in its internal hypertext linking.
is based at the University of Montreal in Québec, Canada
( Some background and photos).
It si involved in a wide range of projects, some with its own software. It is
at the moment attempting to expand its existing coverage of Québec and
Canadian federal law into a more comprehensive coverage of Canadian law.
The following papers illustrate a variety of aspects of LEXUM's approach:
There are few papers publshed on the creation of large-scale legal hypertexts.
The following papers take a variety of approaches:
[This Part is not yet completed for 2000]
- Daniel Poulin (LexUM, University of Montreal, Canada) A
neutral citation standard for case law  CompLRes 38 (Paper presented
at AustLII's "Law Via The Internet '99" conference)
- Daniel Poulin, Alain Lavoie and Guy Huard
'Supreme Court of Canada's cases on the Internet via SGML' - (1997) E
Law - Murdoch University Electronic Journal of Law, Vol 4, No 3 -
This paper explains the advantages of SGML as a markup language for legal
documents, and how its use is semi-automated in Canada by the LEXUM team.
- Martin Choquette, Daniel Poulin and Paul Bratley
'Compiling Legal Hypertexts' (1995) LEXUM, University of Montreal, Quebec
- This article (from the same research team in Montreal) discusses automated
hypertext construction and its history. Unlike the approach taken by AustLII,
they stress the need for a formalisation of source documents (as in the SGML
They also assume that 'chunking' (breaking source documents into manageable
parts such as sections of Acts) and automated construction of tables of contents
'(construction of tables of link end points') are easy. In fact, these are
often the hardest parts of the conversion of poorly structured documents (which
OPCs and Courts often supply). Automated methods of giving documents sensible
names (to aid retrieval) is also not considered. However, this paper was written
before many organisations had experience in this task.
EnAct is a legislation drafting, management and delivery system
that has been built to enable the Tasmanian Government to provide improved legislation
information services to the community. EnAct provides the community with a facility
that enables cost effective public access to reliable, up-to-date, searchable
consolidated Tasmanian legislation. The 'point-in-time' capability allows users
to search and browse the consolidated database as it was at any time since 1
February 1997. Tasmania achieved these goals by automating much of the legislative
drafting and consolidation process. This paper discusses why the Tasmanian government
implemented EnAct, the concepts behind EnAct, and the technology that makes
all of this possible.
[This Part is not yet completed for 2000]
developed as part of the
FLAIR Project at the University of British Columbia (UBC) Faculty of Law.
It is described on its web site as follows:
Flexicon is an automated legal information system for searching full text
legal data. It goes beyond current search tools by providing automatic case
summaries, while ranking found cases in order of relevance.