Project: Free The Law – Increasing Access to American Case Law Through Technology

Harvard Law School has announced that, with the support of Ravel Law, a legal research and analytics platform, it is digitizing its entire collection of U.S. case law, one of the largest collections of legal materials in the world, and that it will make the collection available online, for free, to anyone with an Internet connection.

The “Free the Law” initiative will provide open, wide-ranging access to American case law for the first time in United States history. “Driving this effort is a shared belief that the law should be free and open to all,” said Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow. “Using technology to create broad access to legal information will help create a more transparent and more just legal system.”

Project: Free The Law

Our common law – the written decisions issued by our state and federal courts – is not freely accessible online. This lack of access harms justice and equality and stifles innovation in legal services.

The Harvard Law School Library has one of the world’s largest, most comprehensive collections of court decisions in print form. Our collection totals over 42,000 volumes and roughly 40 million pages. The Free The Law project aims to transform the official print versions of these court decisions into digital files made freely accessible online.

To realize this ambitious vision, we’re teaming up with Ravel Law, an innovative legal research and analytics company. Ravel is funding the costs of digitization and will be making all of the resulting cases publicly available for free search and API access. You can learn more about the key terms of our collaboration with Ravel by reading a detailed overview here.

Free The Law is possible only because of the dedicated work of a long, distinguished line of librarians and other staff members over the last 200 years, who expertly collected and preserved the print volumes now available for digitization. The project continues to rely heavily on huge contributions from many at the Law School Library, the Law School and from across the University.

As stated in the NY Times;

While Harvard’s “Free the Law” project cannot put the lone defense lawyer or citizen on an equal footing with a deep-pocketed law firm, legal experts say, it can at least guarantee a floor of essential information. The project will also offer some sophisticated techniques for visualizing relations among cases and searching for themes.

To find out more about this project, visit http://librarylab.law.harvard.edu/projects/free%C2%AD-the-law