A first-of-its-kind nonprofit launching today seeks to broaden public access to Canadian primary law and other forms of legal data in order to advance access to justice, advance legal innovation, and help balance the sometimes competing concerns of open courts and personal privacy.

Called the Legal Innovation Data Institute, the organization is modeled on open-data projects in the U.S. such as the Free Law Project and Harvard Law School’s Caselaw Access Project.

“LIDI lowers the barriers, changes the equation and expands the circle of innovation in Canadian legal data beyond the small and closed group of legal publishers that currently possess extensive primary law collections (i.e., judgments, legislation and regulations),” said Colin Lachance, the organization’s founder and executive director.

Lachance has extensive experience in Canadian legal publishing. He is co-founder and CEO of the research service Compass, former general manager for North America of global legal publisher vLex, and former president and CEO of the Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII).

LIDI is supported by members who fund its core mission of expanding the amount of legal data available in an “innovation ready” format. Its founding members are Compass, Justia, vLex, AltaML, and BG Communications.

It is also supported by research and development partners and collaborators. As of today, these include: Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute xAI Lab, Legal Technology Lab at the uOttawa Centre for Law, Technology and Society, ThinkData Works, Private AI, and CiteRight.

These members and collaborators get access to the LIDI Data Trust, which Lachance said contains an extensive and growing collection of court decisions. The base collection is supplied by Compass, which is the source of the Canadian case law in the vLex legal databases. It includes nearly all judgments published by 43 Canadian courts over the past 30-50 years.

But the collection goes beyond mere copies of court rulings, Lachance said. In addition to case law metadata, the collection includes nearly 200,000 case law headnotes and over 580,000 topic digests ordered according to a 150 topic key number system.

The content is available to members and collaborators as bulk data and through highly extensible and customizable API’s using the ThinkData Works Namara platform. They will be able to use the content and tools for any internal or non-commercial purpose, such as KM database enrichment, development of public access-to-justice tools, training machine learning models, and empirical academic research.

Lachance said that LIDI plans to expand the collection well beyond its starting point to eventually include all Canadian courts and tribunals. All content added will be cleaned, normalized and enriched by LIDI and its supporters to accelerate the research and development efforts of members, collaborators and the supplying courts and tribunals.

All of this will be aimed at addressing four core objectives:

  • Protection of personal privacy, including co-development with Private AI of intelligent de-identification machine learning models that differentiate between justice system participants and private citizens engaged as parties or witnesses.
  • Data clean-up, normalization and enrichment.
  • Development of free public legal apps.
  • Advancing French language access to justice through extending to French materials the innovations and legal artificial intelligence models developed for English content.

You can learn more about LIDI at its website.

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.