Australasian Law Reform Agencies Conference (ALRAC)
Access to Justice : Rhetoric or Reality Wellington, New Zealand , 13 - 16 April 2004

WorldLII’s Law Reform Project
- Improving access to law reform on the Internet

Graham Greenleaf and Philip Chung (Co-Directors, AustLII & WorldLII)
and Donna Buckingham (Co-Director, NZLII)
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This brief paper is intended as an introduction for law reform agencies to the free access, non-profit Legal Information Institutes (LIIs) across the world who are interested to publish law reform reports, and to the World Legal Information Institute (WorldLII), which provides a central search facility for law reform reports on the various LIIs, and an extensive Catalog /Websearch of law reform websites from around the world. Taken together, these facilities make up WorldLII’s Law Reform Project.
The paper concludes with an invitation to all law reform agencies attending the ALRAC Conference to consider having discussions with the most appropriate LII in their region about republishing their law reform reports and discussion papers via that LII. This would make them searchable not only on that LII but also as part of WorldLII’s Law Reform Project.

What are legal information institutes (LIIs)?

Legal Information Institutes (LIIs) have developed since 1994 in various countries around the world, as free-access, non-profit, Internet providers of public legal information. They are usually but not invariably University-based.
The following LIIs jointly provide the content of the World Legal Information Institute (WorldLII) <>:
They will shortly be joined by the New Zealand Legal Information Institute (NZLII), which is currently in the process of formation.
AustLII provides the technical operation and coordination of WorldLII .
The LIIs have adopted The Declaration on Free Access to Law <> as a statement of their objectives and cooperation.

WorldLII’s Law Reform Project

To search over the reports of all law reform bodies available through WorldLII, a user can go from the front page of WorldLII to the ‘Law Reform Project’ page shown below. (An alternative method is to choose ‘All Law Reform Databases’ from WorldLII’s full search menu).
As can be seen, the full text of the Reports (and in many cases, Discussion Papers) of the law reform agencies of Australia, Hong Kong, Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa and the United Kingdom can be searched simultaneously from this page. This is not possible anywhere else on the Internet. The databases come from AustLII, BAILII, HKLII and SAFLII, illustrating how WorldLII is able to integrate the contents of its collaborating LIIs so that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
Law Reform Project page on WorldLII
The coverage of the databases is often extensive, but varies because some databases are still being built. It is as follows:
As a result, the full text of hundreds of law reform Reports and Discussion Papers may be searched, either simultaneously over all law reform bodies or individually for each law reform body.
Law reform materials on LIIs can receive very substantial quanties of accesses. For example, for calendar year 2003 the Australian Law Reform Commission’s reports on AustLII received over 800,000 ‘hits’ from AustLII and WorldLII users. The hit rate is probably considerably higher, in fact, because we can only measure those hits that come to AustLII itself, and not where a page is accessed from a copy cached by an ISP.
An example search for ‘unjust* enrichment’ (with truncation so as to also find ‘unjustified enrichment’) gives the results page shown below. The 58 law reform documents found are sorted into likely order of relevance, and in this case the seven most relevant documents originate from six different law reform bodies.
Provincial , State and Territory law reform agencies, and law reform agencies in special subject areas, are not yet included on any of the LIIs. It is the intention of WorldLII’s Law Reform Project that they will be included if and when they become available via the appropriate regional or national LII (or on WorldLII itself if no other LII is appropriate). AustLII, for example, intends to approach Australian State and Territory law reform agencies during 2004 to discuss with them whether they would be willing to republish via AustLII.

The Law Reform Catalog/Websearch pages

In additional to the law reform databases on the LIIs, WorldLII’s Law Reform Project also includes the WorldLII Catalog >> Law Reform pages, an extensive catalog (or index) of websites from around the world dealing with law reform. The first page is shown below.
Front page of WorldLII >> Categories >> Law Reform
The Hong Kong LRC assists AustLII to maintain the content of these pages, so its logo is shown. Indexing assistance from other law reform bodies is also welcome. A lot of work remains to be done on subject indexing, but HKLRC has a substantial print index.
This catalog links to the websites of all law reform agencies represented at this Conference that have websites (we could not find them for the law reform bodies for Lesotho , Namibia , Cook Island, Samoa, Kiribati or Bangladesh – apologies for any inadvertent omissions). The law reform agencies from 48 countries and 10 multi-national bodies are included.
Each page then provides detailed links for each country or subject, for example for Canada:
Extract from the Law Reform >> Canada page in the Catalog
As well as simply linking to the website of each law reform agency, WorldLII’s Catalog is used to send a web spider to each web site so that we can make searchable the ful text of each page of the website that the spider is capable of indexing. As shown in the example above, the search can then be limited merely to the ‘Law Reform’ part of all the websites in the Catalog.
As the search results on the next page illustrate, such a websearch finds some law reform reports not previously found by the search over WorldLII databases, on the first page in this case from the British Columbia Law Institute, and from the UK Lord Chancellor’s Department.
The option ‘Repeat search over ... Google’ will translate the search into Google’s search syntax (but not for truncation), and limit it to law-related content on Google (but not necessarily to law reform). This is part of WorldLII’s aim to provide the most comprehensive legal search facility possible from the one location.

An invitation to law reform agencies

We would like to conclude by encouraging all law reform agencies attending the ALRAC Conference whose Reports are not yet published or republished on a Legal Information Institute to consider having discussions about this with the LII most appropriate to their jurisdiction (or directly on WorldLII if no other appropriate LII yet exists).
Such publication will make a law reform agency’s publications far more widely accessible to both national and international audiences:

Contacts at LIIs for law reform agencies

Extract from results for ‘unjust* enrichment’ WorldLII Websearch limited to law reform