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Legal Information Management in a Global and Digital Age: Revolution and Tradition

  • Claire M. Germain


This article presents an overview of the public policy issues surrounding digital libraries, and describes some current trends, such as Web 2.0, the social network. It discusses the impact of globalization and the Internet on international and foreign law information, the free access to law movement and open access scholarship, and mass digitization projects, then turns to some concerns, focusing on preservation and long term access to born digital legal information and authentication of official digital legal information. It finally discusses new roles for librarians, called upon to evaluate the quality of information teach legal research methodology and be advocates in information policy. Law librarians are encouraged to join professional associations and undergo continuous professional education. A recent development in the U.S.A., to add a legal research test on the bar exam, is of interest to the whole world, because it signifies the importance of sound legal research training to the competent practice of law.



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1 My Curriculum Vitae and publications can be found at

2 AALL has over 5,000 members, who work as law librarians in law firms, law schools, courts, corporations, government offices, or as solo practitioners. For more information, see

3 The globalization phenomenon has been covered extensively in the literature. For short, recent books, see Alex MacGillivray, A Brief History of Globalization: the Untold Story of our Incredible Shrinking Planet (2006); and Manfred Steger, Globalization: A Very Short Introduction (2003).

4 See the definition in Encyclopedia of American Foreign Policy (2002).

5 Id.

6 Id.

7 The Symposium Issue of 14 Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies (forthcoming 2007) focuses on how globalization is fundamentally changing the work lives and professional opportunities of lawyers in the U.S. and abroad, and explores various interrelated themes, such as law firm strategy, the relevance of geography, the lawmaking role of transnational lawyers, and how cultural norms affect or shape our perceptions of ethical lawyering.

8 For contributions from the U.S.A., Canada, and Europe, see “Globalizing Legal Education—Symposium Educating Lawyers for Transnational Challenge,” 23 Penn St. Int'l L. Rev. 753 (2005); Wesley Pue, “Globalization and Legal Education: Views from the Outside-In,”, 81 International Journal of the Legal Profession 87–102 (2001); Jens Drolshammer, The Effects of Globalization on Legal Education – An Agenda from a European Perspective for the Interdisciplinary Training of a New International Commercial Lawyer, 2003.

9 See Ruth Bird, “A Moveable Feast – Law Librarianship in the Noughties” (December 2006). Oxford Legal Studies Research Paper No. 52/2006 Available at SSRN,

10 The history of the term “transnational” is retraced in Germain's Transnational Law Research Ch. I, section 1.01.3 (1991-. Loose-leaf). The term is often attributed to Philip Jessup in his book Transnational Law (1956), but the first author to use it was actually Gustav Walker, an Austrian law professor, in 1934, and then Ernst Rabel in The Conflict of Laws: A Comparative Study (1945).

11 See Sir Basil Markesinis, Judicial Recourse to Foreign Law: A New Source of Inspiration? (2006); On the debate in the U.S.A., see Sir Basil Markesinis, “National Sufficiency or Intellectual Arrogance? The Current Attitude of American Courts towards Foreign Law, “ 65 Cambridge Law Journal 301 (2006); “Symposium: “Outsourcing Authority?” Citation to Foreign Court Precedent in Domestic Jurisprudence: Aristotle, Cicero and Cardozo: A Perspective on External Law,” 69 Alb. L. Rev. 645 (2006).

12 See, for instance, Michael C. Dorf, “The Use of Foreign Law in American Constitutional Interpretation: A Revealing Colloquy Between Justices Scalia and Breyer, (Jan. 19, 2005).

13 University of Paris XII, France, and Louisiana State University Law School, U.S.A.

14 Ardsley on Hudson: Transnational, 1991-. Loose-leaf. Joseph Andrews Award Winner, 1992.

15 A small sampling: Kenneth L. Port & Gerald Paul McAlinn. Comparative Law: Law and the Legal Process in Japan. Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic Press, 2003. Herbert Hausmaninger. The Austrian Legal System. 2d ed. The Hague; Boston: Kluwer Law International; Wien: Manz, 2000. George P. Fletcher and Steve Sheppard. American Law in a Global Context. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

16 Sir Basil Markesinis, QC, Hannes Unberath & Angus Johnston. The German Law of Contract: A Comparative Treatise. 2d ed. Oxford; Portland, Or.: Hart, 2006; Sir Basil Markesinis, QC. & Hannes Unberath. The German Law of Torts: A Comparative Treatise. 4th ed. Oxford; Portland, Or.: Hart, 2002.

17 Oxford University Press. International Law in Domestic Courts (ILDC) is described as an online database containing domestic cases in international law from over 65 jurisdictions, featuring the full-text of judgments in their original language, translations of key passages of non-English judgments into English, and expert commentary, going back to 2000. Users may sign up for e-mail case alerts.

18 Nicholson, Peter, “The Changing Nature of Intellectual Authority,” the author is currently President, Council of Canadian Academics.

20 The definition proposed by Tim O'Reilly is: “Web 2.0 is the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the Internet as platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform. Chief among those rules is this: build applications that harness network effects to get better the more people use them. (This is what I've elsewhere called “harnessing collective intelligence.”)”

21 Storey, Tom, “Moving to the Network Level,” Next Space: the OCLC Newsletter (No. 4, 2006)

23 Berman, Professor Douglas A., Ohio State College of Law, Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A.,

24 Several web sites have by now categorized blogs. For instance,, with a special focus on law blogs. Several law library blogs are of interest, e.g., and in Canada, Slaw is a co-operative weblog about Canadian legal research and IT.

25 See ranking in

27 The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations. Random House, 2004.

28 See English translation of an interview published in Der Spiegel in 2006, at

30 Cohen, Noam, “Courts Turn to Wikipedia, but Selectively,” New York Times 3 (January 29, 2007, Section C)

31 A Wiki type portal, JurisPedia is an encyclopedic project of academic initiative devoted to worldwide law, legal and political sciences. Its objective is to create a universal legal encyclopedia. Jurispedia has developed on the initiative of Équipe de Recherche Informatique et Droit (Faculty of Law of the University of Montpellier I, the Faculty of Law of the University of Can Tho, the Faculty of Law of the University of Groningen, the Institute for Law and Informatics (Saarland University) and the team of JURIS (Université du Québec à Montréal). The project is open for cooperation with other partners.

33 As examples, the two major French official government portals are Legifrance ( and Service Public (, the citizens’ guide to law and administration. In the U.S.A., (GobiernoU.S.A‥gov is the Spanish version) is the official portal of the U.S. government to find all federal, state, local government information and services.

34 The European Union official portal comprehensively covers news and information about its activities, institutions, policies and programs, including full texts of official documents.

35;; Cornell Law School collaborated in the start of some of these web sites. Cornell Law Library helped create the first web site of the International Court of Justice, after a visit at the ICJ in the Hague in the summer of 1996. Jay Greco, JD’ 98 spent a summer at the Court and provided advice, and then did the same thing for the ILO, in Geneva, Switzerland. The then ILO webmaster in turn visited Cornell. Cornell Law Library subsequently created mirror sites for the ICJ and the ILO web sites, for redundancy. It was helpful when too many requests went to the host website. “Web Mirror Sites: Creating the Research Library of the Future, and More…,” in Law Library Collection Development in the Digital Age 87–104 (Binghamton, NY: Haworth Information Press, Michael Chiorazzi and Gordon Russell, eds. 2002) (co-published simultaneously as 21 Legal Reference Services Quarterly Nos. 2–4 (2002).

37 Greenleaf, Graham, Chung, Philip and Mowbray, Andrew, “Emerging Global Networks for Free Access to Law: WorldLII's Strategies,” 1 Journal of Electronic Resources in Law Libraries (forthcoming 2007).

38 The Legal Information Institute was the pioneer in these efforts and inspired the creation of other institutes. It started at Cornell Law School in 1993, under the leadership of Professor Peter Martin and Research Associate Thomas Bruce.

39 Members’ Briefing. Open Access by Paul George and the AALL Open Access Task Force 9 AALL Spectrum (April 2005 Center Insert).

40 Several law reviews now have introduced a blog-like online companion to their law review, that includes additional materials and commentary, e.g. Environmental Law Online (, Yale Law Journal has Pocket Part (, Harvard Law Review has The Forum (, Michigan Law Review has First Impressions (<, Northwestern University Law Review added Colloquy (, Texas Law Review has See Also (, Virginia Law Review added In Brief (, and University of Pennsylvania Law Revie has PENNumbra (

41 SSRN Legal Scholarship Network; BePress Legal Repository

43 “Symposium: Open Access Publishing and the Future of Legal Scholarship,” 10 Lewis & Clark L. Rev. 733–924 (2006). Miller, Joseph Scott. “Foreword: Why Open Access to Scholarship Matters,” 733–739; Carroll, Michael W. The movement for open access law. 741–760; Hunter, Dan, “Open Access to Infinite Content (or “In Praise of Law Reviews”)” 761–778. Litman, Jessica, “The Economics of Open Access Law Publishing” 779–795; Arewa, Olufunmilayo B.,” Open Access in a Closed Universe: Lexis, Westlaw, Law Schools, and the Legal Information Market” 797–839; Solum, Lawrence B. “Download it While it's Hot: Open Access and Legal Scholarship” 841–867 (2006); Bartow, Ann, “Open Access, Law, Knowledge, Copyrights, Dominance and Subordination” 869–884 (2006); Bodie, Matthew T. “Open Access in Law Teaching: a New Approach to Legal Education” 885–898; Madison, Michael J. “The Idea of the Law Review: Scholarship, Prestige and Open Access” 901–924.

45 See supra footnote 39.

46 Thomson Gale. The online, image-based, PDF collection can be searched or browsed, by case citation, docket number, party name, or keyword, or Boolean searching, or date.

47 Derived from the Nineteenth Century and Twentieth Century Legal Treatises microfilm collections, features a fully searchable digital database of nearly 22,000 full-text Anglo-American legal works including casebooks, local practice manuals, form books, works for lay readers, pamphlets, letters, speeches, and more. Subscribers can buy the cataloging records and have each individual title in the database is represented in their online catalog, with a direct link to the resource.

48 Hein Online contains over 900 U.S. law reviews, image-based (PDF) and fully-searchable, providing exact page images, as they originally appeared in hardcopy, and including all charts, graphs, and photographs, which is not the case for Lexis or Westlaw (which provide coverage of fewer journals full-text from about 1980 to the present). In addition to the law reviews, Hein Online provides an ever growing collection of materials on U.S. law, as well as foreign and international law.

49 Microsoft is working with the OCA on this project.

Quint, Barbara, “Microsoft Launches Book Digitization Project—MSN Book Search,” Info Today, posted On October 31, 2005

51 For an analysis of mass digitization projects, see Richard K. Johnson, “In Google's Broad Wake: Taking Responsibility for Shaping the Global Digital Library,” ARL Special Report (Feb. 2007).∼doc/arlbr250digprinciples.pdf

53 Toobin, Jeffrey, “Google's Moonshot: The Quest for the Universal Library.” New Yorker (Feb. 5, 2007).

54 Rée, Jonathan, “The Library of Google,” Prospect (February 2007).

55 Id.

57 See infra, Section C, on “Authenticity of Official Legal Digital Sources.”

58 Leiter, Richard, “Musings on the Future of Law Libraries,” 26 legal information alert 7–8 (Jan. 2007).

59 See examples at the end of this section.

60 For a good history, see Berring, Robert, “Legal Research and Legal Concepts: Where Form Molds Substance,” 75 California Law Review 5 (1987). See also Richard A. Danner, “Legal Information and the Development of American Law: Writings on the Form and Structure of the Published Law” 99 Law Library Journal (forthcoming 2007).

61 For some tips, see Doyle, Tony, & Hammond, John L., “Net Cred: Evaluating the Internet as a Research Source,” 34 Reference Services Review 56–70 (2006); Vaughan, C. Judd, Lucy I. Farrow, & Betty J. Tims, “Evaluating Public Web Site Information: A Process and an Instrument,” 34 Reference Services Review 12–32 (2006).

62 Ellis, Anne V., “The Joy of Paper and Ink,” Legal Times (July 17, 2006).

67 Annotated guide covering U.S., international areas, and individual countries, The Guide to Law Online, prepared by the U.S. Law Library of Congress Public Services Division, is an annotated guide to sources of information on government and law available online. It includes selected links to useful and reliable sites for legal information. International and Multinational Nations of the World.

68 Public database of laws, regulations, judicial decisions, and other complementary legal sources contributed by governmental agencies and international organizations

69 An excellent guide to authoritative web sites and helpful research guides to international law on the Internet, including a database, Electronic Information System for International Law (EISIL).

70 The service identifies and evaluates legal resource sites offering primary and secondary materials and other items of legal interest.

71 The service annotates new law related web sites.

72 The twenty different web sites either publish guides, or index and link to guides.

73 A monthly selection of annotated citations of current literature in information technology.

74 A web site run by librarians who find useful resources.

75 Peer reviewed journal on the Internet.

77 I have been involved in that issue for many years, having served as Chair, AALL/Library of Congress Task Force on Preservation of Digital Law, in 1998–1999, on AALL's Special Committee on Authentication and Preservation of Digital Law, in 1999–2001, and organized a Summit meeting in Ithaca, N.Y., in the Summer of 1998, with Dr. Rubens Medina, Law Librarian of Congress. “The Future of Legal Documents,” Library of Congress Official Bulletin (October 1998) For current information on efforts in the U.S., see Membership Briefing, Preservation, by The Special Committee on Permanent Public Access to Legal Information, chaired by Judy Meadows, Montana State Law Librarian, 10 AALL Spectrum (Dec. 2005 Center Insert).

78 “Legal Information on the Internet: U.S. Perspectives,” (Paris, Oct. 1998, French Association for the Development of Legal Informatics) (ADIJ, Association pour le developpement de l'informatique juridique). Available at

79 Called TRAC (a Trustworthy Repositories Audit and Certification Checklist), it is the result of the experience and knowledge of various digital repositories in the U.S.A. and Europe, including the E-Depot at the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in the Netherlands, the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research, Portico, the Digital Curation Center (U.K.), DigitalPreservationEurope (Continental Europe) and NESTOR (Germany). The 93-page report is available in PDF from the Center for Research Libraries

80 Anne Kenney, Interim University Librarian, Cornell University Library, serves on the Advisory Committee of Portico, and is a world renowned expert in digital preservation, having written extensively and taught tutorials in this area.

83 Nicholson, George, Associate Justice, California Supreme Court, talked about the problem at the 2005 AALL meeting in San Antonio, at a presentation called “The Great Disappearing Act; Preserving URLs Cited in Judicial Opinions.” Audiotape available. Summary at MALL Newsletter 16–17 (August 2005).

84 Passos, Edilenice, “Doing Legal Research in Brazil, “Feb. 2005.

86 Germain, Claire M., “Digital Legal Information: Ensuring Access to the ‘Official’ Word of the Law,” 26 Cornell Law Forum 11–14 (1999); “Digital Legal Information: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow?,” Syllabus (ABA) 17 (Spring 1998).

87 See Authentication Survey Executive Summary. The definition is drawn from the latest editions of Black's Law Dictionary and Fundamentals of Legal Research (by J. Myron Jacobstein, Roy M. Mersky, & Donald J. Dunn) and adopted as a guide to survey participants.

88 A Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) is “an asymmetric cryptography security environment that supports the transmission, delivery, and receipt of digital communications over a non-secure communications channel. PKI uses a pair of cryptographically related keys known as public and private keys which verify the identity of the sender (signing) and/or ensure privacy (encryption).” Information provided by Mike Wash, Chief Technical Officer, U.S. Government Printing Office. For further reading, see Public Key Infrastructure Assessment Guidelines, American Bar Association, Electronic Commerce and Information Technology Division, Information Security Committee (2003).

89 Id.

90 See The Authentication White Paper and the Version Control White Paper, prepared by the U.S. Government Printing Office in 2005. The Authentication White Paper addresses planning and implementation issues related to authentication of electronic content. The Version Control White Paper addresses planning and implementation issues related to version control of electronic content within the scope of the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). For an earlier commentary, see “Le projet GPO visant à conserver l'ensemble des données juridiques publiques américaines,” Cornell Law School Working Paper Series, Paper 17 (November 2004).

91 Information provided by Mike Wash, Chief Technical Officer, U.S. Government Printing Office, at the AALL Authentication Summit, Chicago, April 20–21, 2007. See also

92 Leiter, Richard, “Musings on the Future of Law Libraries,” 26 legal information alert 7 (Jan. 2007).

93 Id.

94 Freely adapted from a remark made by Robert (Bob) Berring, Jr., the Walter Perry Johnson Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, at a keynote address at the AALL Centennial meeting in St Louis, Missouri, in July 2006. Bob Berring was director of the law library at Berkeley from 1982 to 2005.

95 The expression of “good housekeeping seal of approval” was coined by Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley, a professor of chemistry, who is credited for the passage of the Pure Food and Drugs Law in 1906 and served as the first commissioner of what would later become the Food and Drug Administration. In 1912, he took over the laboratories for the Good Housekeeping Magazine, and established the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, still in use today, for well designed products and appliances. The term is now used for many other examples of quality product.

96 Summary provided by Matt Braun in ALL-SIS Newsletter (Fall 2006) at

97 Abram, Stephen often writes on future-oriented topics, and is Vice President of Innovation at SirsiDynix, and President Elect of SLA.

98 Abram, Stephen, “Web 2.0, Library 2.0, and Librarian 2.0: Preparing for the 2.0 World,” 2 SirsiDynix OneSource (January 2006).

99 A Special AALL Committee on Legal Research, chaired by Blair Kauffman, Librarian and Professor of Law, Yale Law School, focused on enhancing the value of law librarians as the information experts in their institutions, whether law firms, academic, corporate, or government settings, fostering the expertise of law librarians providing a core competency for their institutions; and promoting the teaching role of the law librarian as faculty member in the law school, or equivalent-instructor, trainer– in law firms, courts, and other law library settings. The Special Committee on Legal Research published a Members’ Briefing in AALL Spectrum (July 2006 Center Insert)

100 This initiative was the result of a team effort, involving Professor Roy Mersky, University of Texas law School, President Erica Moeser's strong interest and vision, and the active participation of several law librarians and AALL support.

101 This section draws on information provided in Germain's Transnational Law Research, Ch. II, especially Sections 2.06–2.08.

102 See Germain's Transnational law Research, Ch. II, Section 2.08.1.

103 For some good pointers, see Yates, Sarah, “I Need This in English,” 9 AALL Spectrum (April 2005), pointing out with examples that Web translators are useful tools to find context, but not precise translations.

104 See Germain's Transnational Law Research, Ch. II, Section 208.3

105 The Special AALL Committee on Promoting Law Librarians to the Legal Community, chaired by Gail Warren, State Law Librarian, Virginia State Law Library, focused on promoting the visibility of librarians, and stressed the importance of working closely with the legal profession and law-related associations, and communicate their value effectively to the practicing bar, judiciary, the media, and law school deans. “Promoting Libraries,” 10 AALL Spectrum (April 2006 Center Insert).

106 For more information, see

107 See Listing of International, Regional, and National Law Library Associations at, and with thanks to Lyonette Louis Jacques, Foreign Law Librarian & Lecturer, University of Chicago Law School, who created it and keeps it up-to-date, as well as a very useful Calendar of Events.

111 AALL has started a new continuing professional education program, which will include a distant learning component, and make use of new technologies when appropriate for its members. It has also committed financial resources to helping CPE programs at the regional and state level.

112 The Institute on Advanced Legal Studies in London has a regular program of internships., as well as the Max Planck Institute. See Claire M. Germain, “The Librarian Fellowship Program at the Max-Planck-Institute for Foreign and International Private Law in Hamburg, West Germany,” 8 International Journal of Law Libraries 223–24 (1980).

* ©Claire M. Germain, 2007. Edward Cornell Law Librarian & Professor of Law. Cornell Law School. Ithaca, N.Y./U.S.A. . This article is an expanded version of the keynote address delivered at the invitation of Chief Justice Ellen Gracie Northfleet, at the 1st Seminar on Juridical Information Management in Digital Environments, Brasilia, Brazil, Monday, February 12, 2007. I wish to thank Matt Morrison, Research Attorney, Cornell Law Library, for providing useful references, and the expert staff of Cornell Law Library, for their thoughtful remarks on this article at various stages. I also wish to convey my gratitude to Blair Kauffman, Law Librarian and Professor of Law, Yale Law School, and Joe Hodnicki, Associate Director for Library Operations, University of Cincinnati Marx Law Library, for reading the text and making useful suggestions.

Legal Information Management in a Global and Digital Age: Revolution and Tradition

  • Claire M. Germain


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