Delia Venables trawls the Internet to uncover the most useful resources for Web-phobic lawyers. Lawyers in the United Kingdom have been rather slow to get involved with the Internet. This may be partly because there have been, for some time, a number of well established online services for lawyers which are properly structured, reliable, well behaved and quotable - all good characteristics from the lawyer's point of view.
These well-behaved sources include Lexis, the largest international legal data base in the world, and various UK based services such as Lawtel, LINK, Lix and Context.
In comparison to these structured databases, the Internet is vast, disorganised, unreliable and likely to throw a tantrum if not approached in the proper manner. It is perhaps not surprising that lawyers have been slow to adopt this medium.
Another reason why the Internet has not taken off with the legal communityis that all UK statutory materials, including all draft bills, information on legislation in process, and Hansard, are controlled by HMSO copyright. With a few exceptions, this material is not available on the Internet.
However, in February, the Government conceded that publishers would be able to reproduce primary and secondary legislation in value-added electronic form. This has not resolved the issue of the copyright and charging policy for statute law and it will be some time before all legal materials are in fact available.
Despite these rather negative points, there are an increasing number of resources on the Internet of use to lawyers in all countries and here are some of them.
The Law Society's pages provide links to worldwide resources and also provide links to legal information sources and various information technology topics.
http://www.link.org Legal publishers Legalease have placed their major register, the "UK Legal 500" on the Internet as well as information on major European law firms. Legalease also provide legal commentaries on current topics of commercial law.
http://elj.warwick.ac.uk/elj/jilt/ The universities of Warwick and Strathclyde's Journal of Information, Law and Technology, with its first two issues now online. This specialises in law in an IT context.
http://www.benedict.com/ The Copyright Website has information and references on copyright issues, including, but not limited to, Internet aspects of copyright.
http://www.penlex.org.uk/ The Penal Lexicon is a comprehensive source of information on prisons and prison policy.
http://www.businessmonitor.co.uk/ Business Monitor provides information on business, financial, economic and legal topics. Users have to register but it is free at present.
http://www.open.gov.uk/lab/legal. htm##help Extensive information on Legal Aid, including who can apply, income limits and how to get it - an interesting use of the Internet for the dissemination of information to the general public.
International http://www.lawsoc.org.uk/ links/ query.html The Law Society's new searching facility for international links.
http://www.law.osaka-u.ac.jp/legal-info/worldlst.html Another extensive set of international references at Osaka University called The World Law Resource List (non-United States). The only snag is that the sections are rather long and each can take a minute or two to load, depending on modem speed and Internet traffic. Access this list in the morning, when access times are faster. Once loaded, and assuming that your browser has a good cache system, you should be able to load this list from your hard disk cache before going online for the browsing time.
http://www.law.indiana.edu/law/ lawindex.html Indiana University School of Law at Bloomington provides pointers to legal resources around the world, including search tools and lists of material by subject and by source.
http://www.hg.org/currwr.html The "Lex Mundi" World Reports, published online by Kluwer Law International and a group of international solicitors, provides articles on legal developments across the world (not just IT developments).
European http://www.noord.bart.nl/bethlehem/law.html A source at Groningen University, Holland includes links to international organisations, particularly European ones, and links to international law journals and universities involved in international law.
http://europa.eu.int The European Union's history, aims and institutions are all covered on a site called EUROPA and there are links to EU publications, statistics and on-line services.
http://www.cec.lu/en/comm.html The European Commission presents its work programmes, speeches of key figures and access to various official documents.
Pacific http://www.lawhk.hku.hk/ A Hong Kong source of information called Law-On-Line covers Asian databases and newspapers, including Japanese and Chinese sources.
http://www.fl.asn.au Australian Legal Resources are collected here in an ambitious national project. Full text of federal and state law is presented as well as bills, digests, law reports and weekly Hansard. Various Australian legal directories (led by those of New South Wales) are also available.
United States http://www.house.gov The House of Representatives' home page provides access to federal and state law in a searchable form with various disclaimers. No copyright problems here. Information about bills and resolutions in Congress, contact details for members and committees and links to other government sites and sources.
http://www.law.indiana.edu/law/ v-lib/lawindex.html Comprehensive listing of legal sites and sources by the Indiana School of Law as the "Virtual Law Library". Lists of material organised by legal topic and also by type or source. Contains an alphabetic list of law schools and libraries.
http://www.abanet.org The American Bar Association site includes ABA information, including its own divisions, forums, groups and events. References to government, academic and commercial resources with a very good list of law related Internet books.
Delia Venables is an independent computer consultant in the legal field. She is the author of the Guide to the Internet for Lawyers and the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers. Email firstname.lastname@example.org