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CanLII – Canadian Legal Information Institute

By Kristopher A. Nelson in

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I am very impressed by CanLII – Canadian Legal Information Institute search service: “CanLII is a non-profit organization managed by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada. CanLII’s goal is to make Canadian law accessible for free on the Internet.” The service is similar to the U.S.-centric Westlaw or Lexis-Nexis, although limited to only Canadian judicial decisions (Westlaw and Lexis-Nexis offer a great deal in addition to just case law). However, it’s free, very well done, and very useful.

The interface is refreshingly simple, and makes excellent use of AJAX-style coding to switch between French and English, for example, as well as to provide quick access to the “Reflex Record,” which shows “noteup and cited decisions.” This is rather like Sheperdizing in the U.S., combined with a useful list of citations found within the case. Decisions are available both in PDF and HTML formats, and in both French and English (it’s rather fun to read cases en français). Searching is based on a streamlined interface that feels quite different than the clunky Westlaw and Lexis-Nexis search screens.

CanLII also offers RSS feeds of Canadian courts and tribunals, so you can keep up on the latest decisions. (Also free.) Nice! It could be made even better if there was a mechanism for accessing RSS feeds by topic as well as jurisdiction, but that’s a minor quibble.

Overall, as a U.S. law student looking into Canadian law for the first time, I’m impressed!