Taking everything into consideration, it could be argued that states are doing more harm than good in providing legal information to the general public. Given the distributed nature of legal information publication, any changes to current publication processes requires the buy-in of several people per state. Furthermore, the fact that there are so many technical, legal and social restrictions to access of law means that there is no “magic bullet” change that can be made that will solve all the problems. It will require several choices to be made by the publishers of legal information.
For future efforts in publication of legal information, it is recommended that states consider the following publication alternatives and best practice suggestions:
- States should create law portals, analogous to state data portals, which would allow for federated searching across the types of legal information. This would also allow for a one-stop shop for those seeking legal information.
- States should publish their legal information openly, in ways that allow for third parties to transform the information into more usable formats and collections and create tools such as citators. This encompasses not just the physical creation of the legal information, but also barriers to reuse such as claims of copyright and other use restrictions.
- Official publications of law should move from print publication to electronic, web based ones to allow for greater access by the public. While these could be published either by the state or via private corporations, the access to the information should remain free and open.
- For the sake of usability and complete content, states should consider outsourcing the web based publication of legal information to corporate partners.
- Until publication practices are improved, basic disclaimers about the use and usefulness of the legal information collections should be prominently displayed on the states’ websites. An example would be “Please note that the validity of case law can be altered by later cases. Please use a citator to check validity.”
- While enacting the Uniform Electronic Legal Materials Act (UELMA) is not absolutely necessary, states should heed the UELMA’s requirements for preservation of legal information materials. If UELMA is enacted, states should ensure that all three types of primary legal information are included in the act.