Elena Maria Coyle, one of our students in the winter advanced legal research class, has written a wonderful paper, “Law Schools and the Open Access Movement: An Article Review of Aux Armes Citoyens.” We have published this paper as part of our library’s Legal Research Paper Series.
Here are the introduction and conclusion (with footnotes removed – please see the posted complete research paper for footnoted citations):
“The advent of the Internet in 1994 inaugurated a “revolution” in legal research. For the first time, the legal profession became poised to disseminate limitless levels information — both within its own community and to the public at large. Ironically, free access to legal information has become increasingly fettered. In recent years, the contraction of the publishing market has left only three corporations as the custodians of a deep repository of legal knowledge. Although this market consolidation, coupled with staggering technological developments, has facilitated the expansion and improvement of online legal research services, such innovation has a price.
In Aux Armes, Citoyens, Ian Gallacher explores the implications of these changes with respect to their potential societal costs. Gallacher identifies the “seeds of a future problem,” which, if unaddressed, could further compromise equal access to justice. His analysis situates the legal research revolution within “a longstanding tradition of making the law inaccessible to the citizenry.” This tradition, which has favored insularity rather than access, and elitism rather than understanding, presents a twofold challenge: first, increasing the availability of the law; and second, making that law intelligible.
Beyond mere analysis, Gallacher’s manuscript is a manifesto – a call to America’s law schools to take their place on the vanguard of the open access movement. Yet who will bear the consequences of such a commitment? In this paper, I will use the framework taught in Advanced Legal Research (ALR) at Stanford Law School as a touchstone for analysis of Gallacher’s call to arms. First, I will address his proposition that law schools are uniquely situated to respond to the problem of limited access to the law. Second, I will assess which of the resources employed in ALR have comparable, open access substitutes to LexisNexis and Westlaw. Finally, I will briefly reflect on how Gallacher’s ten principles for the liberation of the law fit within and the objectives of a contemporary legal resource course and the comprehensive mission of a law school.”
In her conclusion, our student writes:
“ . . while the status quo of open access legal research may seem bleak, it is already possible- with effort, patience, and know-how — to conduct much of one’s legal research without reliance on the online services of LexisNexis or Westlaw. As technology continues to improve, and more individuals join the open access movement, the ease with which low and no cost research may be conducted with also improve.
The fodder is ready to feed the revolutionary flame. Following Gallacher’s lead, it is time for those with a stake in the future of the law to take arms!”