A free access, automated law citator with international scope: the LawCite project

Andrew Mowbray, Philip Chung, Graham Greenleaf

Abstract


The LawCite Project, developed by the Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLII)  since 2008, aims to maximise the value of documents located on, or known about by, free access legal information institute (LIIs) involved in the project. The principal application of the project to date is the LawCite citator, which currently contains index records of the citation histories of almost five million cases, law journal articles, law reform documents and treaties. The citator is international, containing citation records in significant numbers from court decisions in 75 countries (primarily but not exclusively from common law countries).  The citator is free access to all users, and built for and by non-profit legal information institutes (AustLII and other collaborating LIIs), which also have access to the project’s other resources. This free-access context provides benefits – and imposes constraints – which make it unique.

This article examines how LawCite citator and the databases from which it is generated have been built by entirely automated means without editorial intervention, using data mining techniques based on heuristic recognition of citations in source documents.  Although the citator is the first and most visible product of the project, the data mining techniques used, and the data sets generated by their use, have other valuable applications. Current additional applications are explained, and possible future extended uses examined.

Keywords: Citations; citator; data mining; free access to law; Legal Information Institutes; heuristics; hypertext; text retrieval


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