Open-sourcing the law. Why our criminal law precedents are now available online for free.
For 2017, we have decided to take on the project of moving many of our criminal law precedents online for lawyers to access, read, and download for free.
Whether it is WebMD, GitHib, or WikiPedia, more and more information is moving online. Valuable information. Information that no one could have dreamed of 20 years ago could be at our fingertips. So much so that there is very little that the public cannot access immediately, from anywhere, within milliseconds, and all for free. Whether it is knowing the actor from a B-rated movie in 1962, or the lyrics to a special recording of a Bing Crosby song, its there.
What would have taken many hours, perhaps weeks to research in sophisticated areas of science, medicine, or software engineering, now take a matter of moments. There are very few exceptions to this ease of access. But, as many lawyers know – law remains bastioned for many in secure databases or expensive subscription services available only to those who can afford it.
However, if law wishes to adapt and stay relevant to our rapidly changing society, we all need to think of what we can give back without charge, and also where our true value lies.
Many see precedents as the “trade secrets” of a firm. That they hold some special advantage over unrepresented individuals, or even towards other firms. Yet, as many good litigators and solicitors know, a precedent is only as good as the person revising or arguing it. They are basic materials. Brick and mortar. Nothing more than the wood and nails to the awesome work that eventually is carved out from laborious efforts, careful planning, and professional execution.
The value lies in the intellect of the lawyer, not in the materials they use.
There is no question that good materials make life easier, more efficient, and can save many hours of repetitive work. But the best material in the world is useless without a master to craft the product from. In part, this is why we have started added our criminal precedents for those who know how to use them. We think of it like a good lumber yard with free supplies for those that want to build.