Simply put, CanLII Connects was developed to improve access to legal commentary on Canadian court decisions. Both as a jumping off point from decisions reported on CanLII.org, and as a searchable collection of authoritative sources on Canadian legal issues.
For me, there are two things about this site that will eventually make it a winner:
1) Authority Control — Anyone can access these materials, but not everyone can contribute. The focus is squarely on the legal community — upvoting, comments, and publishing of new materials — are all restricted. That doesn’t mean ‘lawyers only’, but it does mean prospective members must demonstrate their ability to create viable legal analysis. Closed communities, in my view, play an important role on today’s web; and the end product becomes far more valuable when quality controls are put in place early.
2) Publisher and Author Administration — Lawyers are mobile these days, and I don’t just mean in a technical sense. Over a ten year period, a lawyer can easily work for a number of firms, contribute to numerous publications, and work as faculty at an academic institution. With this type of website, there is a definite need to capture the varying relationships between authoring lawyers and the respective publications (a “one-to-many” relationship). Publishers in turn, need to be able to control who claims affiliation (and displays their logo). Though I suspect there will be some bugs to be worked out, CanLII Connects has created a pretty solid foundation for structuring the author and publisher ownership of content.
The initial group of founding contributors have seeded the site with close to 30,000 documents; and include a variety of sources: regional and national firms, academics, leading practitioners and research specialists, bloggers, commercial publishers and law societies.
For those interested in becoming involved, I would encourage you to visit the website and review the FAQ/help section for detailed instructions. CanLII Connects will also maintain a blog and a newly launched twitter account @CanLIIConnects.
I’m genuinely excited about the future for CanLII Connects. It has the potential to become an important tool for monitoring Canadian legal commentary. Is it there today? No; and no one should expect perfection on “Day 1″. Quite frankly, the only way you create a community-driven website is to … get it into the community.
But what about in 3-years? 5 or 10-years? I believe we can expect a lot more. The CanLII name is gold here in Canada, especially for primary source research. The trend towards shorter, public-facing digital commentaries is certainly a growing aspect of secondary source research; and it’s possible with today’s launch (and the first-mover advantage) that CanLII will position themselves right in the middle of that trend. As I said, exciting times!
Both Jordan Furlong and I would like to offer our congratulations to CanLII, Colin Lachance, and Sarah Sutherland. Also, a kindly shout-out to the project’s designers Objective Subject and developers Functional Imperative, who were both excellent on the project.
Now, go take a look! And consider how you might get involved.