Bruce Gellerman/WBUR News
Not too long ago, a statement like this spoken in the hushed, hallowed hallways of the Harvard Law School library would have been considered heresy: “I think for court decisions, law books are becoming obsolete and even to some some degree a hindrance.”
That’s Adam Ziegler, and he’s no heretic. He’s the managing director of the Library Innovation Lab at Harvard. Ziegler is leading a team of legal scholars and digital data workers in the lab’s Caselaw Access Project.
“We want the law, as expressed in court decisions, to be as widely distributed and as available as possible online to promote access to justice by means of access to legal information,” Ziegler said. “But also to spur innovation, to drive new insights from the law that we’ve never been able to do when the law was relegated to paper.”
Historically, libraries have been collections — books, multimedia materials and artwork. But increasingly they’re about connections, linking digital data in new and different ways. The Caselaw Access Project is a state-of-the-art example of that shift.
“So what’s going to result from this project is a huge database of electronic, digital court decisions,” Ziegler explained. “And the world of law has never seen that before.”