BAILII, Legal Education and Open Access to Law

Philip Leith, Cynthia Fellows

Abstract


The British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII) entered the online legal information landscape in 2001 with charitable status   as a provider of UK and European judgments, and has over the past decade or so moved from a system quickly put together with any materials which could be found, to a system which provides a core resource to professionals in law.  In this article we provide an overview for the law teacher of the system’s first years and we then look at whether usage in law schools has matched that of the professional, how the JISC funded Open Law project enabled development for law students, and where we might go in the future as part of the Legal Information Institute collective which operates under the ‘Free Access to Law’ banner.

As members of the Open Law team who sought funding, carried out the research and implemented the project, it seems to us that the project was generally successful.  Our indications were that prior to Open Law the use of BAILII by students was low – it was not readily found or discussed by lecturers, was difficult to use, and generally less user friendly than it could have been.  The changes implemented by Open Law appear to have changed that position considerably.  However, our findings also indicate that there is much work to do to re-energise digital legal information as a legal education research field.

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