Disruption is a word that gets thrown around easily these days. But the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School truly was a disruptor. Founded in 1992 with the mission of making legal information available to everyone without cost, it was literally the first legal site on the Internet. It continues strong today, with readership last year of 32 million individuals in 246 countries and territories.

On this episode of LawNext, we talk with Thomas R. Bruce, who is retiring June 30 after 27 years leading the LII. In 1992, Bruce and former Cornell Law Dean Peter W. Martin founded the LII. They codirected it until Martin retired in 2003, after which Bruce continued as sole director. The LII blazed the trail of publishing law online for free, inspiring the creation of some two dozen similar organizations throughout the world, and carrying the banner for the right of citizens to have access to the laws that govern them.

Bruce says he is most proud that he was able to break the monopoly on legal information held by commercial publishers. “The time was ripe for change, and we were the first to use the Web to try our hands at it.”

A graduate of the Yale School of Drama, Tom started his career as a stage and production manager before joining Cornell Law School as director of educational technologies. The first seeds of the LII were sowed, Bruce once wrote, with two gin-and-tonics, consumed by someone else. The rest, as they say, is history — a history Bruce recounts in this episode.

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Photo of Bob Ambrogi Bob Ambrogi

Bob is a lawyer, veteran legal journalist, and award-winning blogger and podcaster. In 2011, he was named to the inaugural Fastcase 50, honoring “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders.” Earlier in his career, he was editor-in-chief of several legal publications, including The National Law Journal, and editorial director of ALM’s Litigation Services Division.